Words : Friends/Enemies?

Words : Friends/Enemies? This subject covers many disciplines and would need a few books to study, so, let’s say it’s a pack of seeds for a conversation.

We all meet this idea that words are reductive. They are put on things like stickers, making them simpler than they are.

It’s this idea that when you “labeled” at thing, it become true, then it’s fixed, and cages are not far.

It happens all the time, even on the lowest levels, like “Is this good or bad?”. It’s much more complicated, probably…

Words prevent things and events to be seen as complex, changing, moving and trying.

When you learn another language, you keep noticing weird things, like the fact that a word in one language never completely fit a word in the other one. Each word is charged culturally, and I own a 400 pages book only on this subject!

Travail in French is not exactly Work or Labor (proof is you have two words where only languages have one – Arbeit, in German). Labor contains a part of suffering and difficulties, right? Etc…

Now let’s have fun with Frontière : Frontier, Border, Bounday. Oh well…

Knowing this, I wrote this article because…

I watched my cat, who was watching me. I was asking myself (like many of us) :

What does she think? – and what does she think, since she does not use words in her head?

 

Hmm we blog, we talk, we email, we text, we share our day at dinner time : words are huge. Our thoughts are made of words!

Then I went to this area : Words are friends. They are powerful and pleasant tools, and there’s nothing better in life that a good conversation on a balcony with your best friend you have (with a glass of wine, of course). Words become, then, vessels for intelligence, sparkling ideas : friendly tools we use as virtuosos. Time flies.

…knowing that they are tricky and labeling

Find your good partner, talk about this : “Are words our enemies or our friends?”.

I’ll ask Wittgenstein, waiting for you answer in the comments.

Thank you! Thanks for reading!

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Vial & Stoop : Types of black holes in language

I’m French and I write in English – I make mistakes and I discover new words everyday.

When I read an article or a short story, I understand what happens, and I admit I don’t translate anymore.

But, well, I always meet new insects, which are really puzzling at times…

Today I met “Vial“. Never seen this word but I guessed. A little bottle. In French we call this “une fiole”, which I find funny. Same structure : vial/fiole. OK.

Stoop” was trickier. First, it’s a noun AND a verb. A doorstep (“perron”, in French), and also “to bend”.

There, here am I questioning English Gods : why do you have to stoop, if you have to bend or even to bow?? Can stoop be replaced by to crouch or to squat?

Worse : as a metaphor or a figurative sense, to demean, to do something “below one’s status, standards, or morals”. “S’abaisser à”.

OK, but also to slant (to stoop a bottle of wine?) – then what is to lean? – to catch a prey for an eagle (“the bird stooped and seized a salmon” – un piqué), to submit (“stooped by death” or “this people does not stoop to Rome”) – even to degrade?

 

Thus, when you read “not your language”, you see holes. Little ones can be filled by contexts, other ones make you make a face, pick a dictionary, and go travel in language, in an awe, for twenty minutes. You should try French while I study the word “slew” (4 nouns, 7 verbs, pfff…).

 

At the end, I found : Stoop : “a vessel for holding liquids; a flagon”. Come on!

Hmmm. Fetch me a stoop of liquor, please. Two new words and I’m done. Back to bed. With my book!

Thanks for reading!

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French Insults beginning with a “P”

French Insults beginning with a “P”? Why P? Why not?

Well, all letters are used for insults, as you can guess, but we French love the P ones. You just have to make it flap & whip, right?

 

  • Porc ! (pig), for those who did dirty things. You have to insist on P, OKey?
  • Peau de Vache ! (skin of a cow) for cow, or bitch (a spiteful person)
  • Pignouf ! : dimwit, slob
  • Plouc ! : rube
  • Pouffiasse ! : floozy – this one is pretty mean and strong
  • Pourriture ! (filth) : filthy so-and-so, louse

 

Some sounds vintage, like “pochard” (drunkard), or extra-mean, like “pute borgne” (blind whore)

 

We often add “espèce de” before one. It’s like when, in English, you say

  • Ne touche pas à ça espèce de petit morveux !
  • Don’t touch that you snotty-nosed little kid!

 

Thanks for reading!

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More ? :

https://fr.wiktionary.org/w/index.php?title=Cat%C3%A9gorie:Insultes_en_fran%C3%A7ais

 

 

When the pleasure is in the comparison

ONE

I just watched Seven Samurai (Japan, black & white, 1954), then The Magnificent Seven (1960).

It’s a big pleasure watching both, but each time it’s very different. Kurosawa’s movie looks very odd, because of the culture, the language and the well known Japanese actors’ intensity. The US one is much more easy and comfortable, with stars (Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner…).

But there’s a “side-pleasure” : you compare. The stories the paces, the ends, the bad guys, the fights…

TWO

Traveling! Tourists have many ways of being tourists : in a group, alone, moving around and visiting, or staying in one city (choose Paris, OK?) and walk “going whichever way the wind blows” (we say “le nez au vent” – nose in the wind).

It’s beautiful or not, deceiving or marvelous, you take pictures or you chat with your spouse. But you have to admit :

The pleasure, again, is in the comparisons game.

THREE

There’s a game I love : learning another language. It’s absolutely full of delights. Culturally. Translating. Discovering idioms. Trying to find out where translated words don’t really fit, match the other language. Finding similar words… or traitors (a library (bibliothèque) is NOT a librairie (bookstore) in France…).

It is, constantly, a game of comparisons.

FOUR

I strongly think that a big part of our inner life is linked to the world with the concept of Analogy. We endlessly get informations with our senses (about places, culture, and people, everything we meet) and then we braincompute them with what-we-already-know with analogy.

Then, we compare. Then, we decide.

This decision can be : run away, explore, smile, talk, anything.

OUTRO

Where else does it happen to you? Where could you trigger a “game of comparisons”? How is it an enrichment? Where is the effort? What about memories? Analogy with them?

Thanks for reading!

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A Red Dress and other desires : Dispositif ou Agencement?

Well this is a conversation subject for drunk overthinking friends, let’s go :

Deleuze says that a woman doesn’t desire a red dress, but the whole arrangement she makes of it in her mind : a date, the dress, a man, a summer evening, a dance maybe, a dinner…

A little boy desires a baseball bat, but also a system of what could be around : friends, summer afternoons, running, winning…

The French word he uses for that is “agencement“, which I find translated as “arrangement“. But there’s a problem : “arrangement” is also a French word, therefore I feel a bit disappointed here. It’s colored : un arrangement is a way things are placed, but it’s also a deal.

Our “agencement” means arrangement, but more in a layout process.

A red dress for a date/a baseball bat can dance in an arrangement, a system made of many things (dancing, eating, man’s eyes, walking in a summer night street…), maybe we can consider it’s a layout, a deal? What about a new splendid bat?

My problem is the radioactivity of words. They are like bees here…

If a French arrangement is an English arrangement…
if a French agencement is also an English arrangement…

…how do I explain agencement to you? It’s an arrangement but it’s not a deal. It’s something you find already placed (by destiny, or another person?). We say that an appartment is perfectly “agencé” : it’s not about the furniture, but about the map, the drawing. This big window is on the sunny side, waow, great!

Agencement is about space. Things oriented and placed in space.

The red dress, and the bat, they are all imagined moving in a special space… This is desire!

It’s colored : things in space, how they are placed, a layout. Passive voice, maybe.

If we want to talk about something prepared, it’s more an arrangement (under the form of a deal), we call this un dispositif.

Dang! A new word! Dispositif is often translated by Apparatus, but it’s wrong. I think an apparatus, in English, is a thing, a device, a machine. It is, in French, but it’s also “the name we could make from the verb to dispose”. A metaphorical apparatus, in a way. Effectiveness is coloring it.

It’s not a disposal (which means a destruction, an elimination), though we say une disposition, in French (I’m sure it makes sense, right?). It’s a positioning, voilà : a placement.

Here we are : Agencement means Arrangement, but also a Positioning.

Not positioning each little part of the agencement : it’s clearly about positioning the whole system. Things “linked” (how) to each other.

Agencement is more like that : a map of how things are and play together. The purpose is to say “It’s there, it’s like that, it’s what we have, what was prepared”.

Dispositif is the same, but it sounds more like something decided, wanted. The purpose is to say “This is what we placed and how, to be effective”.

 

Mhh where’s the red dress, here?

Thanks for following & reading!

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“Button monday with tuesday” and other French Daily Idioms

These are very common French idioms. Have fun!

  • “Pas des masses” : not some masses (no much).
  • “D’un trait (ou d’une traite)” : in a drop (in one go)
  • “Rattraper le coup” : to catch the deal (patch it up)
  • “C’était couru” : it was run (foregone conclusion)
  • “C’est l’idée qu’on s’en fait” : it’s the idea that one makes (that’s the idea)
  • “Boutonner lundi avec mardi” : to button monday with tuesday (button the wrong hole)
  • “Avoir des atomes crochus” : to have hooked atoms (to have a lot in common)
  • “Donner du fil à retordre à quelqu’un” : to give somebody some yarn to twist again (to give somebody a hard time)
  • “Il y a anguille sous roche” : there’s eel under rock (there’s something fishy going on)
  • “Faut c’qu’y faut” (pronounce “foskifo”) : must what must (we needed this). For example to warm up a coffee in a microwave you need at least one minute, faut c’qu’y faut.
  • “Quand le chat n’est pas là les souris dansent” : when the cat’s away, mice… dance!

Have a nice day!

JP

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Daily French idioms

I was good at school, I mean, with English lessons. But as an adult, as I began to… speak with people, apart from plenty of little mistakes I scattered everywhere and of course the usual lack of vocabulary, it was OK. But… not that OK : Idioms. These were hard.

Same when you learn French, I suppose. There are plenty of books about these, and some are really funny. In this article, I found things we say daily. The most common ones…

Pile-poil! : exactly, dead on time!

Et rebelote! : once more, and yet again, another run and all over again.

J’ai la dalle (I have the slab) means you’re starving.

Au pif (at the nose) or à vue de nez (at sight of the nose) : at the guess, around.

C’est n’importe quoi (that’s whatever) : that’s rubbish.

Il me prend la tête (He takes my head) means he drives you crazy. On French Tinder you’ll seek a relationship “sans prise de tête” (without head taking)!

J’en ai marre means I’m fed up. “Marre” means nothing, we just say it. Someone about to explode will simply scream : MARRE !

Je suis crevé (I’m flat) means you’re exhausted, of course.

Faire la grasse matinée (to make the fat morning) is to sleep in. We often cut it : “Ce matin, grasse mat !”.

Jeter un coup d’œil (to throw a stroke of eye) is to take a quick look.

Faire le pont (to make the bridge) is a French sport : it means you take off the day(s) between a day without work and the weekend, for example.

Occupe-toi de tes oignons (take care of your own onions), for mind your own business.

En faire tout un fromage (to make a whole cheese out of it) is to make a fuss (what the hell is a fuss??).

Je suis en train de manger (I am in the action of eating) is our common way to say your “Be + ing” -> I’m eating. We say “je suis en train de” one million times a day.

Je te tiens au courant (I hold you to the current) : I keep you up to date.

Oh la vache ! (Oh the cow!) means you’re impressed : Oh my God!

 

Bah, there’s a Wiki about these : https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:French_idioms

 

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