DAILY BRIEFINGMore On Translation
May 19 - We've got a four-day weekend coming at us this week. Thursday is "The Perennial Festival of the Third Thursday in May" and Friday is "Quadrennial Leap Year Celebration of the First Friday after the Third Thursday of the Fifth Month." Or maybe not—there are so many springtime holidays in Denmark that it's impossible to keep them straight. It's a remarkable coincidence, though, the way they all seem to adjoin the weekend. Almost all of them, anyway—what idiot came up with Ash Wednesday?
* * *
One email my spam filter didn't manage to catch this morning had a subject line that read "Join the Naughty Party!"
Given the failure of my own Moron Party (despite its recent resurrection by a stranger of a different political persuasion), I've been shopping around for a new political movement and actually thought I'd finally found one. The Naughty Party! It would be so cool to walk into a polling station, be asked my party affiliation, and answer, "Naughty!"
Unfortunately it was just another appeal for me to establish a relationship with a couple of "hot young roommates" looking for a man to play with them—at a new, special rate.
If some political malcontent want to found the Naughty Party, however, count me in.
* * *
Another language story, this one from regular correspondent T. Eugene Day:
This isn't prepositional stuff, but it is a funny story that happened to my high school Spanish teacher when she was about 18 and living in Mexico.This story reminded of an episode from my high school exchange trip to France. I was not only fortunate enough to participate in the exchange in my senior year, but to find myself one of only two males making the trip: the rest were all girls in their junior year. Most of them were beauties belonging to a clique of especially popular girls collectively referred to as "the wolfpack." Most of them spoke terrible French, and it was my good fortune to be called upon to help translate their way out of trouble from time to time in Paris.
She met a matador. They fooled around a while, and then he gave her a ring. She didn't comprehend the significance of this, and took it and put it on her hand. Her left hand.
So naturally, he wants to introduce his fiance to his parents and family, and they have dinner. They're all fawning over this pretty little blond American (she was still hot twenty years later when I was in high school). She is embarrassed by all the attention and says: "Yo soy tan embarrasada!" Thinking it means: "I am so embarrassed!" But it actually means: "I am so pregnant!"
Needless to say, the engagement was off. Much to her astonishment, considering she hadn't known she was engaged.
One of the first mornings there I got a phone call from one of these girls, whom I'll call Lucy. There was panic in her voice. "You have to come over here right away," she implored me, "it's getting really weird and I don't know what to do."
She was staying with a family a few blocks away from mine. We were all being hosted by working-class families in a fairly industrial suburb of Paris; Lucy had been assigned to a relatively poor family in what appeared to be some kind of public housing complex.
I relished my role as the heroic White Knight, defender of helpless American maidens in France. When I reached the apartment, Lucy was a trembling and hysterical wreck—and extremely sexy. I would have done just about anything to impress her. She led me into the kitchen muttering something about being disgusted and embarrassed and terrified. Her host mother was sitting in the kitchen with a bewildered expression on her face.
Lucy introduced us.
"I don't understand the problem," the woman said. "She doesn't seem to want to bathe."
There had obviously been a terrible misunderstanding here. Lucy was one of the most desirable girls in our high school—which was saying something. She was clean and groomed to a fault. She probably spent more on clothes and accessories in a year than I've spent on my wardrobe since 1983.
"What do you mean she doesn't want to bathe?" I asked. This was all in French, obviously. Lucy didn't understand a word of it, but merely stood there pouting in one corner of the kitchen.
"I asked her if she wanted to shower, and she said no. I thought that was strange. I asked her several times. She became upset. So I thought maybe she didn't like a shower, maybe American girls like to take baths. So I set up the bath and she became even more upset. I don't understand."
I'd been watching Lucy while the host mother spoke to me, and noticed her eyes widen every time the host mother mentioned the shower. I began to understand the first part of the problem.
"Lucy," I said, addressing her in English, "what's French for shower?"
She shook her head. "I have no idea."
"It's douche," I said.
A glimmer of understanding flickered across her face.
"Douche, douche!" the host mother chimed in helpfully.
"Douche means shower?" Lucy asked.
"Was the lady asking you if you wanted to douche?" I asked.
Lucy nodded, her face reddening, then smiled, then laughed a little.
"But then she says she offered you a bath. What freaked you out about that?"
Lucy merely lifted her chin to direct my attention toward the kitchen table, on which sat a large tub which I'd assumed, in my American naivete, to have contained potatoes or something. I now noticed the soap and towel on the table beside the tub.
"Oh," I said.
"There's no way," Lucy said. "There is just no way."
I nodded. I explained that she'd only been offered the "tub" because of her adamant refusal to shower. Lucy nodded sheepishly and thanked me for the help. I didn't know what to tell her host mother, so I just said Lucy had misunderstood everything and left it at that.
"Have a nice douche," I said to Lucy as I left.
She smiled and said she would—and I believe she did.
Sixty-nine years ago today, on May 19, 1935, Thomas Edward Lawrence was killed in a motorcycle accident. Lawrence was a British officer who rose to prominence during the Arabian campaigns of the first World War. He can also be seen in "The Lion in Winter," "Becket," "The Stunt Man," and "My Favorite Year."
Honore de Balzac was born in France on either May 19 or 20 in 1799. Balzac created a vast body of literature that he called La Comédie Humaine ("A Vast Body of Literature"). Set almost entirely in Paris, it consisted of dozens of novels, short stories, and plays interwoven with many of the same characters and events. One of his most popular characters was the brilliant and great-hearted Dr. Bianchon. Balzac's dying words were reportedly, "If Bianchon were here, he would save me!" The anecdote is probably apocryphal, however, because Balzac didn't speak English.
The word of the day is brusebad, literally "spray bath" (or "roaring bath" or "sprinkle bath"), meaning shower.
Birthdays and Holidays
Pete Townshend turns 59 today, and will hopefully be distracted enough by his birthday to ignore the Turkish holiday of Youth and Sports Day. Balzac and the legendary rocker share their birthday with Grace Jones (1952), Nora Ephron (1941), Malcolm X (1925), and Ho Chi Minh (1890).
Happy Hump Day! And enjoy your douche!
© 2004, The Moron's Almanac