Maîtres mots

  • Il y a longtemps que notre pays est beau mais rude.

       --Newspaper editor Olivier Séguret, 25 January 2012

    The USA are entirely the creation of the accursed race, the French.

       --Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), writing to Nancy Mitford, 22 May 1957

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French Freedom of Speech

Today the cheminots are:

  • "À nous de vous faire préférer le train!"
    "Voyager autrement"
    "Avec le SNCF, tout est possible"
      --Former ad slogans of the SNCF (French national trains), each in turn quickly dropped

Fun French words

  • ouistiti

    (literally: marmoset)
    Etymology: onomatopoeia from the sound a marmoset makes. Actual meaning: this is what you say in France when you want people to smile for the camera.

    Selon une étude réalisée par le fabricant d’appareils photo Nikon, le « ouistiti » utilisé en France au moment de se faire prendre en photo est le petit mot le plus efficace pour s’assurer un joli sourire.

Who's en colère today?

  • Private sector

    First strike in 43 years at an aeronautics company in Toulouse, Latécoère

    Public sector

    The SNCF (toujours eux), regional train employees in the Lyons area guaranteeing unpleasant travel from the 17th-21st December
    Also yet another strike by Sud-Rail, a particularly truculent SNCF union in the south of France, this time five days in January: 6,7, 21, 22 and 23. "We have no choice." Right.

    Marseilles trams on strike until February

Go back to school in Paris!

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I've decided not to get a French driver's license. It is too expensive and way too difficult. After reading your posting, I definitely don't want to try.

I beg to disagree with the tailgaiting translation problem, though it took a trip to Sicily with my French boyfriend to reveal the term : "se coller sur les pare-chocs de quelqu'un" literraly : to stick oneself to another's bumper.

From Sedulia: Of course you can eventually express any idea in any language by explaining it, but English does have a word for tailgating, and French does not!

I agree it's a very interesting paradox. I just received my French license last year (I am 20 now), and after only a couple of weeks with a car I notice that I am getting sucked in to this aggressive driving style and forgetting what I learnt... Fortunately I got mine on the first try, but it was very stressful. I must admit that French education is one of the reasons I decided to leave for college in the US.

I am so very grateful that I come from a state that has an agreement with France regarding drivers licenses. I owe Michelin a great debt, because thanks to them, I was able to turn in my American license and receive a French one for only a 22 euro administration cost. At first, I was concerned about handing over my American license, but then I realized that if I ever move back, obtaining a new one will be as easy as pie, whereas I'll be able to carry my French license forever!

From Sedulia: That's right, Vivi, that's what I decided to do too, only I had to take the French test beginning from scratch because my state does not have this agreement!

Sedulia, I love what you have to say about traffic and driving here (and what you have to say in general). The last one about Paris and what is going on now — Delanoe's invention of the Night Traffic-Jam : a nightmare it is. Just experienced it tonight again. About the "code" exam, I believe it's deliberately insane (one of my friends got his DL one year ago and showed me the thing, I couldn't believe it, its deliberately warped — got mine in '75). As for "tailgating", the right translation can only be "coller au cul" — unanimously understood.

yup-- had an ex who spoke a fascinating franglais; when being tailgated one day on Nationale 7 he suddenly started exclaiming "he's gluing me, he's gluing me!" I couldn't stop laughing and was looking for some freak with a glue-gun attacking the car.

any idea which American states those are who have agreements with the French? eventually I will want a permit to drive here and don't know the first place to begin figuring it out (I'm from New York). I guess I should learn to drive stick while I'm at it.

Hi Maitresse, Not New York, unfortunately! I don't know how to drive a stick either and my first French license said "automatic only" (used to know how, but haven't driven one for many years because stick is stupid and primitive! but when my French license was stolen, the replacement license had no restrictions as they assume everyone drives stick!)

Here's the list:

Caroline du Sud
New Hampshire

As a Canadian who doesn't hale from Quebec or Saskatchewan, I had to redo the test too. Insane.

Quebec I can understand...

But Saskatchewan?... Seriously warped.

My husband got his DL while doing his military service in Chad. I think the test entailed driving a truck in reverse between a bunch of pilons (that he knocked over). He eventually just bribed the inspector for the license and when he got back to France, the prefecture gave him a license without limits... Seriously, he can drive everything except semis!!!

Sometimes he asks ME what certain signs mean since I actually studied the Code de la Route!

Many French learners are flocking to El Desperados driving school in Barcelona, all done and dusted in 4 weeks but it does cost 800 euros -- or did two years ago:

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Today's quotation

  • In Paris, the purest virtue is the object of the filthiest slander.

      –Honoré Balzac (1799-1850), in Scènes de la vie privée

    À Paris, la vertu la plus pure est l'objet des plus sales calomnies.

Le petit aperçu d'Ailleurs

  • Annual Geminids meteor shower (shooting stars!) coming this weekend, if it's not too cloudy out at night.

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