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 must say that I've never been disappointed with Paris's internet connection. I have a 200mbps fibre optic connection that costs me relatively little compared to what I would have had to pay in the UK. I'm not sure what it's like in the rest of France but never have I had a problem with mobile telephony, particularly 3G service, either. Furthermore, not only can you access data networks on the metro, many of the stations are WiFi equipped too.

Admittedly, many websites are indeed poorly designed. But they've come along way since 2005 when I first started trying to understand how the university system worked and what it was that we actually had to do to apply. Even university websites have come a long way in that timeframe.

Annoying as it may be, having to answer security questions when paying for something online is, I believe, a cultural point. France still won't relinquish cheques and, despite trying to introduce it, Moneo hardly took off. The French don't like debt; they like security with their finances.

I am dealing with a university whose website is back in the Stone Age, so I'm prejudiced. The wifi in Paris is pretty good, though! I love being able to use my smartphone in the metro. I didn't really mean wifi connectivity; that isn't the problem. It's more that the tech mentality is still a bit oldfashioned.

Yes, it is so annoying that Internet service in France is so behind the times. And slow. I'm told that (which we use for our home service and phones) deliberately slows down access to video services like YouTube at peak viewing hours in the evening. It's such a pain!

I did want to drop some Internet (or internet) trivia though. The Internet has normally capitalized as a global standard when it refers to the world-wide network overall. We then say "internet" (lower case) when referring to smaller local networks that do roughly the same thing as the world-wide 'Net. So it's not just a French thing to capitalize it, but it is also true that more organizations are blurring the lines of this naming convention so you will certainly see exception to this original "rule".

Our theory has been that their attachment to and refusal to give up the minitel caused the French to be late in embracing the internet and handicapped the development of the kind of sites we see elsewhere.

I never thought of that! That may be true. I remember one of my uncles coming to visit in Paris when the Minitel was in its heyday. He worked for Southern Bell and was quite impressed with the technology. I used to brag about it to Americans! Then I remember an American who moved to Paris in 1996 and couldn't believe no one had email.

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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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