Thursday, August 20, 2009

Another Notch in the Belt

Today marks the second anniversary of our family's arrival in Paris. We've gone from feeling like Bambi in the headlights to being viewed as old experienced hands by expats who've just arrived. No, I'll never be considered a true Parisian but at least I've gotten the grocery shopping down to a science, am often on autopilot in the metro, and can carry on entire conversations, even on the phone, in French. And the last time I got my haircut, the hairdresser, who doesn't speak a word of English and whose French I sometimes barely understand, wouldn't let me leave the shop until we exchanged kisses on each cheek. But I still am scratching my head about other stuff, like the vagaries of French politics or why the TV will only turn on when I push "1" but it turns off when I push "power" and why "pain" (bread) is masculine and "baguette" is feminine. The good news is that there's still plenty of time to find out. Our three-year tour just got extended so instead of having just one more year left to explore Paris, we now have two. The clock's ticking...better get out there and discover.


David said...

"pain" is masculine because it comes from the Latin "panis" which is a masculine word.
"baguette" which by the way means bread only for English speakers, for French people it means a small stick and is the name of many things, one of them being one kind of bread (because it's stick-shaped as opposed to traditional bread that comes in loaves)comes from the Italian "bachetta" which is a feminine word.

Remember that gender of names has no relationship whatsoever to their meaning and what they represent, it's pure convention, and the origins are to be found in etymology, not in the extra-linguistic word.

For French TVs, I don't know, but it's not all TVs that do that, just some brands.

And what's so complicated with French politics?

Anne said...

David: This is exactly why I read your blog. As for French politics, I find it all mysterious although perhaps no more incomprehensible than the current American debate on health reform is to Europeans.

David said...

Thanks a lot...

Concerning the TV, I thought about it when turning mine on a short while later.
Do you have to press "1" or any number?
Because on mine, any nymber works, this way you don't have to first turn the TV on, and then select the channel. You can select the channel as you turn the TV on.

I have a very easy way to summarize US politics, but I'm afraid I'll displease some (if not all) of your readership.

Shelli and Gene said...

I think there are some things that seem normal only if you grow up with them. My US cable remote feels like I should be operating a spaceship. I'm only comfortable pushing 3 out of the 20+ buttons on it. Now if I were 12 years problem.

It's nice that you seem pleased with the extension of your stay; I look forward to feeling as comfortable.

Now for the important part: would you recommend your hairdresser? Finding a good one is high on the list of concerns of this about-to-be resident.

Starman said...

Funny...the TV in the apartment we rented worked the same way. I think it's the way the remote is programmed.

Eli said...

Glad to hear your stay is extended.

TV in my fav hotel is exactly the same - push a channel number to turn it on but the 'off' button to turn it off.

The gender thing is almost incomprehensible to English speakers! The one that always makes me laugh is that 'moustache' is female!

US friend is spending the whole of October in Paris and I am joining her for a few days here and there. She tells me Stephen Clarke is giving a lecture on the 7 October and I arrive on the 8th!

And my French hairdresser and I always kiss even though she speaks no English and my French is appalling - but my hair and Paris just don't get along and I rely on her to tame my curls into something approaching a smooth bob! Have to love 'la creme' with the head massage etc

David said...

Gender is incomprehensible for English speakers when they associate masculine with male and feminine with female (what I assume you do given your example). As long as you stop making this connection, it'll become way more comprehensible, you'll see.
It's all about grammar, not meaning.

Duchesse said...

You're staying another year?! How exciting!:) You must be thrilled!:) How do your kids feel about it?:)

I hope you'll keep on writing your blog until you go back to the US!:) I'm addicted;)

Anne said...

David: Trying to do my best not to get hung up on the gender of different nouns...I realize that you get used to whether "le" or "la" sounds right. But it's tough when you have no idea which is right and there's no guide to inform your guess!

Shelli and Gene: Sorry, but I wouldn't particularly recommend the fellow who cuts my hair. I keep thinking about changing but keep going back to the same guy because it's easier. Fortunately, I can go a long time between cuts.

Duchesse: We're all happy about the extension, including the kids although my youngest thought we were joking when we broke the news. ("You're kidding, Dad...right?") They realize how sweet this deal really is.

Eli said...

I too hope you continue blogging as I really enjoy your photos etc (vehicles of Paris 16 - the removal men? Always wondered how people moved from the top floors in Paris till I spotted one of them!).

Am off to Lausanne next month to see 'Les Mis' and the hotel has 240 TV channels - should be interesting if the remote is the same as in France!

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