Posts Tagged ‘meanings’

Baguette Club

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Being accepted into a foreign society is hard and Parisians are tough nuts to crack. You are never dressed correctly, you have a strange accent, you drink coffee while eating food, or you nibble on bread before your meal has arrived. All of these things make you stand out as a weird outsider who doesn’t understand the culture and never, ever will.

However, every now and then, the sun comes out from behind a cloud and somewhere you can hear the sound of angels singing as a miracle of all miracles occurs – you feel SLIGHTLY accepted. Yesterday I heard angels.

Every lunch time, we purchase a baguette from our favourite boulangerie around the corner. There are so many boulangeries nearby for us to choose from, but we have narrowed it down to this boulangerie for our baguettes. The baker and his wife (I presume it is his wife) are both fairly grumpy people – they never really smile and they are very ordered and forceful in their approach to serving customers. However, I have great respect for this as often the boulangerie is full of people buying sandwiches and cakes and they take forever to make up their minds. So when people arrive wanting to just buy a baguette, they are told (ordered) to go to the front of the line and then quickly served and sent on their way. Love it.

When we first started going to this boulangerie, I always felt like I had done something wrong as the lady was very brisk and would shove the baguette in our face and turn to the next customer. Recently, however, things have changed as every now and then we get a half smile and she welcomes us with a bit more enthusiasm. Yesterday was the ultimate – as we walked into the boulangerie, she saw us, turned and grabbed un tradition (the baguette) from behind her, put it into a bag as she said “Bonjour Monsieurdame!” and by the time I had reached the till she had prepared our baguette and was awaiting payment. She knew what we wanted, was happy to see us and wished us well for the day. Tom and I left the boulangerie with smiles on our faces as we knew we had made it in the boulangerie. This is a momentous occasion! Your local baker is the person you want to have on your side at all times. If they like you they will give you the good baguette, the tart with more strawberries on top or the pain au chocolat with the crispiest pastry. Loyalty pays. And it only took us 8 months to feel truly welcome. We are on our way to becoming true Parisians.


It's worth 8 months of grumpiness

Café de Diable

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

It was Tuesday Lunch Club Day yesterday and Tom, Josh and I were kicked out of our apartments by the cleaning lady (ooh-la-di-da, Jess) at around 11.30am and we headed off on a weird trail set by Josh. It is interesting to see how other people visualise how streets connect in Paris – I don’t think anyone really knows the most efficient way of getting from one place to the next. The streets are far too confusing and diagonal here. No Perth-like grid systems for Paris!

We eventually arrived at Rue de la Roquette, a street full of restaurants and bars frequented by locals. The street eventually arrives at Place de la Bastille and then you will discover the phenomenon of “tourists” but for most part the street is tourist-free. Bliss. I had been recommended a restaurant called Café des Anges, which is French for cafe of the angels. Such a name suggests good things and so we decided to give it a go.

Considering there are no Parisians in Paris at the moment, the cafe was relatively busy, clearly with people who go there every lunch time during their two-hour break. We managed to secure an outdoor table “à la terrasse” – something that is apparently very important in France during summer. You’re low life scum if you choose to sit in the shade or inside during summer – unfortunately, outdoor eating in Paris also means passive smoking so I am often that low life scum, hiding away from the toxic fumes. So we had a table and then we waited for something to happen. And we waited.

Cafe des Anges

Our view from the terrace

Eventually a waitress arrived, looked at us with a puzzled look on her face and when I eventually said “Can we have a menu please?” she said “Oh! You want to eat? Ok.” and ran away. About five minutes later we saw her walking off down the street having just finished her shift. So we waited again. By this time we had decided to stretch our necks out of their sockets and read one of the blackboard menus and decided what we wanted to eat. But another waitress eventually spotted us and declared she would bring us menus as we helplessly said “No, we know what we want!” to her disappearing back. It took three waitresses and a lot of “Excusez-moi”s to finally get the waitresses to realise we wanted to order our food. It also took as much effort to get a bottle of water.

Luckily the sun was shining, we were at lunch club and we were all generally content so we weren’t that fussed by the strange behaviour. What amused and confused us greatly was when Josh (a vegetarian) asked if it was possible to exchange the chicken on the salad he wanted for smoked salmon. There was another salad on the menu that had smoked salmon in it but the other ingredients weren’t so great so we were at least certain that salmon existed in the kitchen. Here was the conversation (translated from French):

Josh: Can I have the Cob salad but with salmon instead of chicken?
Waitress: No. It’s too hard.
Josh: Really? But I don’t eat chicken.
Waitress: No, no, it’s not possible. The kitchen staff would get too confused and it would take a long time to make.
Josh: Ok… well I will just have the Cob salad with no chicken.
Waitress: Really? Are you sure?
Josh: Yes… it’s fine.
Waitress: Ok.
*Waitress walks away, turns around and comes back to the table.
Waitress: You can have potatoes in the salad if you like.

What is the difference between changing the chicken for potato instead of salmon? Apparently that wasn’t going to be an issue for the chefs in the kitchen and they would be able to handle it. ANYWAY.

Considering the speed of the waitresses, the chefs were clearly miles ahead and it didn’t take long for our food to arrive. And it was goooood. Tom was excited about his cheeseburger which had about five different sorts of cheese in it, all of which he declared were ‘real’. No plastic hamburger cheese here.

Cheese burger

Tom's burger

The bun was still full of sugar and out of a packet. I really don’t understand why the French think it is ok to serve such awful bread with their burgers considering how pedantic they are about bread normally. Tom still managed to make all sort of moaning noises while eating it so I believe it was good.

Josh’s salad was quite impressive including an entire sliced avocado and the magic potatoes. I didn’t photograph his food so I can’t show you but think salad, think olives, think green, think yum. It was worth the chicken/salmon/potato discussion.

I ordered a vegetarian lasagna and it was fan-awesomely-tastic. It was rustic, cheesy, and full of delicious vegetables, plus it was topped with a heap of rocket and parmesan cheese. What more could a vegetable and cheese loving girl want?

Vegetarian lasagna

Look at it! I want more.

The food was great and very reasonably priced so we certainly weren’t disappointed. However, we then wanted to pay and we had to rely on slow and incompetent waitstaff to deliver us our bill. The waitress who had been serving us the most (we’re fairly certain she was also the manager of the cafe) had to walk past us at least six times, each time saying “Oh yes! The bill! I will bring it!”, until she finally managed to print it off and bring it to the table. By this time we had looked at the menu, worked out how much we needed to pay and had scrounged together some money. My lasagna was 11.80Euros and I managed to put together the exact amount with a few small coins. I went off to the bathroom while we were still waiting for the bill to arrive and left the boys in charge of paying. When I came back, the waitress was rolling her eyes and grumbling because I was paying with ‘les petites pièces” and she wasn’t impressed that I had dared pay her the exact amount. So we left. If she expected a tip for her excellent service it would have been “Learn how to serve clients”.

It’s a shame when a cafe offers great food but is let down in another department. I can’t say I will rush back to Café des Anges but I did really enjoy my lasagna. So far the Tuesday Lunch Club has had some up and down experiences but I can’t wait for our next exciting adventure.


I was so excited about lunch club that I did a cartwheel. Or at least pretended to.

Tower Time

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Today the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and Tom was in the mood to climb a tower. And so he took me on a hot date to the top of the Eiffel Tower. If that isn’t cheesey romance, I don’t know what is.

Eiffel Tower

The tower of love

We had put off going up the Eiffel Tower until the weather improved and today was glorious – clear blue skies and sunshine. Tom has a habit of making off-the-cuff decisions and so I was unprepared for the trip up the tower and chose to go for a run in the morning. I also chose to push myself on the run and came home to discover Tom ready to climb 600-plus stairs. My legs are a tad sore but I will sleep well tonight and wake tomorrow with buns of steel.


I live in this city.

At the top of the tower, Tom gave me the inspirational idea of writing a book on the theme of “Stupid Things American Tourists Say”. Joining the quote we heard at the Vatican on our last trip when an exasperated girl looked at the continuing stairs in front of her and said, “More stairs? You’ve got to be kidding me!”, today I overheard many American tourists gravely concerned that they had been separated from members of their group. Clearly they had buddies and were all supposed to stick together, but I really wanted to reassure them that the levels on the Eiffel Tower aren’t actually that big and the person they had ‘lost’ could only be within 100 metres of them. The problem with writing a book on this subject is that you lose the accent. Perhaps it could come with a tape.

In other great Parisian news, it is currently Printemps du Cinema – three days where all movies in all cinemas are just 3.50 Euros. Wonderful. You would think the cinemas would be impenetrable but we have just returned home from seeing True Grit and there were lots of seats left in the cinema. Tom went and saw some alien invasion movie yesterday and tomorrow night we’ll probably go and see something else. Have to make the most of a bargain!

How Rude!

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Over the past few weeks I have been having various discussions with people about swear words. Usually people look at my hair and general complexion, assume I am angelic and fear that my heart may explode if explicit language is used with a 500 metre radius of me. They find it genuinely difficult to associate vulgar language with me but I find swear words and explicit phrases fascinating. And while I may not be one to regularly curse in my native language having a few derogatory terms up your sleeve is quite handy when it comes to dealing with sleazy French men. Swearing in a foreign language is so much easier because the words hold no meaning – they’re just sounds that come out of your mouth and you haven’t grown up being told never to say them. It surprises me that despite living in France for seven months AND working at a school full of naughty teenagers I don’t know many swear words. So some of my French-speaking friends have been kind enough to teach me a few.

My Dad even got on board and bought me a book for Christmas entitled “Talk Dirty French” that is full of cursory terms and slang that may just come in handy one day. I thought I might share a few so that if I swear at you in French, you know what I am saying.

Ma Porsche, c’est un vrai aimant à femmes. – My porsche, it’s a total chick magnet.

J’vais pas chanter pour ces blaireaux. – I won’t sing for these morons.

Ce pécno n’a même pas de voiture. – That country bumpkin doesn’t even have a car.

I think that will do for now. We don’t want to get too nasty.

I See!

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

I had a moment of ‘Ohhhh!’ yesterday while trying to find synonyms of the word “Business” in order to come up with a FANTASTIC title for a research brochure I am putting together for UWA. Some of you may remember an entry I wrote on 29 March (I can hear you all saying “Ahh… yes. I remember it well!”) where I complained about business not being spelt how it sounds. Well yesterday I discovered thanks to my good friend Wiktionary that the word business is derived from the Old English word ‘bisigness’, which is where we get ‘busy’ from. Where that damn ‘u’ fits in, I’m not sure, but at least we can now all see where the ‘i’ sound comes into it. Of course it also raises more questions such as “Where did that U comes from?” and “What sort of odd word is bisigness?” but no one has filled in those pages on Wiktionary so the answer remains unknown.

Learning Latin is FUN!

Friday, May 7th, 2010

On Wednesday night I started my four-week Latin course with the UWA extension program. I spent the entire two-hour class mesmerised and with a stupid grin on my face because LATIN IS AWESOME! I have always been keen to learn but have never had the opportunity, and so when I discovered this short course I was very excited. The class is taught by a 30-something year old, long-haired, ex-jazz musician, historian, PhD student who is currently teaching his eight-month baby the names of body parts in English, Greek and Latin. So cool.

To be honest, I knew NOTHING about Latin before I started the class. I didn’t even really know where it was first used and how it has had such an influence on most western languages. I had gone into the class worrying that I would be the young, ignorant, blonde girl who knows nothing about anything but not so! My keen interest in grammar and my knowledge of French meant that I was actually ahead of most of my class mates! Not that it is exactly a competition but I like to show off.

The greatest thing that I have discovered thus far about Latin is that it conjugates verbs to include the pronoun – so basically instead of saying “I love” they join it all together so the “I” is suggested by the verb’s ending – amo. That ‘o’ means “I”! Amas means “You love”. GENIUS! And apparently they formed sentences by putting the most important word first. And the letter ‘J’ didn’t exist for awhile and they used “I” instead so my name would be Iessica. Brilliant. So it is all quite fascinating and I can’t wait until next week when I get to learn more! There’s something so great about learning – sometimes I miss being a student and gaining new information. I suppose I’m learning lots of things at the moment with my new business ventures and experiments with resin, but there’s something so special about sitting in a lecture theatre and having someone teach you.

Meanwhile, I have just experienced a moment of that can only be accurately described by a 15 year old girl saying “OH…MY… GOD.” I wanted to add an image to this entry and I thought “Oh I know! I’ll put an image of the Vatican because that’s the only place in the world where Latin is still the official language.” And WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT but on this exact day last year, I was in Rome and I went of a tour of the Vatican. If that’s not spooky, I don’t know what is.

The Pope's House

The Pope's hangout

When Words Deceive Us

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

The bi-line for this entry is “When advertising companies make up stuff to make us want to buy things.” or “Evil Marketing Scum.”

Having worked in a position where it was my job to make an educational institution sound good so that people would invest money into studying there, I know what it means to manipulate language. Words can speak the truth or they can be cleverly used to create hidden, and often false, meanings. A building that is old and run down is sold by real estate agents as ‘a character home’ or ‘a renovator’s delight’. A food product that has been pumped full of additives and fake sugars in order to lower the fat content but in return has increased the sugar levels is known as “Light”. Everyone does it – it’s called lying. Or stretching the truth. Or forgetting the bad bits. It is part of our daily lives and there’s no way to escape.

On the weekend I went to a seminar run by Jude Blereau from Whole Food Cooking. Jude runs cooking classes and has written books about whole foods and choosing healthy, organic produce over processed and hormone-filled products. There were three speakers at the seminar who each touched on the importance of choosing ‘real foods’ over processed and made a generally convincing argument. What was scary was the difficulty we face in Perth in accessing truly wholefoods – products that actually are organic or free range or ‘real’. A recent push from food producers has been to label foods as ‘organic’ when really they’re not. The term ‘organic’ has become a tagline that is flung around and used at whim and there aren’t enough guidelines to stipulate when the word can be applied to a food product. This is particularly a problem when ‘happy’ and ‘healthy’ words are connected to foods that are full of preservatives and chemicals that are most likely giving us cancer. I’m not a food hippy but I do like to eat healthily and so it was a bit of an eye opener to see that marketers were once again influencing my food choices. I wonder if the day will come when an advertising company will be sued for stretching the truth about the health benefits of a food. Actually, it has probably already happened in America!

Putting on the Hat

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

I am currently taking a break from writing an award application. I am helping a family friend apply for an architecture award and I am trying very hard to be an architect at the moment. Pity I have no idea what thermo mass or passive solar design principles are. And did you know there is a term to define the separation of internal and external environments in a building? The “building envelope“. I would have called it a ‘wall’ but hey! I’m not an architect.

Anyway, I’m sinking fast so I needed to escape. I used my Bear Grylls skills to pull my legs up and out of that quick sand of words and I am currently trying to get the mud off me as quick as possible before it dries in this desert  heat. He’s a smart man, that Bear.

Each time I sit down to write about a new topic, it is like learning a new language. There are different words, terms, ways of speaking that I need to discover, understand and then use. You soon realise you can’t just throw these new concepts around like wet fish – you’ll be caught out as an impostor in seconds. You have to encompass this new way of speaking/writing and ‘become one of them’. Unfortunately this often takes time and third and fourth drafts are required. As this application is due tomorrow, I need to get it right the first time so the recent news that “simple is good” and to avoid too much architecture babble is music to my ears. Back to work I go!

J is for…

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

As a child (and even later in life), I recall being asked to find words that started with the same letter as my name. There was that memory game you played when you started school where the class would sit in a circle and you’d have to say your name and that of the person next to you and then it would go around the circle until the last person had to say EVERYONE’S name. Tricky stuff. I hated that game. Purely for the reason that no good words start with J. I was stuck with “Jumping Jess” or “Jellybean Jess” or “Juggling Jess” while Sarahs and Tims and Rebeccas had endless words to choose from. Even now it hurts when I have to participate in an ‘ice breaker’ (now there’s a topic to write about!) and I have to introduce myself to a room of co-workers as “Juvenile Jessica”. It’s just not fair.

So I have decided that for this blog entry I am going to complete one of my favourite activities – reading the dictionary – and find myself a word. Yes, reading the dictionary is fun. You don’t realise how many words you don’t know until you do it! My ex-work mates had to listen to me prattling on about the fantastic new word I had found and Do They Know what a ‘Quincunx‘ is? I do now!

Today I will be reading from the Collins English Dictionary and Thesaurus which promises me “Unique format for one-stop lookup, comprehensive language coverage, and a wide choice of alternative words.” Exactly what I’m after.

Well! Here’s my problem! In a dictionary with 1363 pages, the letter J has 11 pages! The injustice! Ok, we have:

Jabber and Jabberwocky which really make me feel much better already. One of the greatest poems ever written with those slithy toves and the frumious Bandersnatch!

Then come all of the Jack words – Jackal, Jackanapes, Jackass (that would have gone down well in Year One), Jackpot, Jack Rabbit…

Jactation/Jactitation – The act of boasting or the false assertion that one is married to another. Also means the restless tossing in bed, characteristic of severe fevers.

Jainism – an ancient Hindu religion that believes the material world is progressing in a series of cycles. Very true when you think about 80s clothes coming back into fashion despite obvious reasons why it shouldn’t.

Jaunty – Sprightly and cheerful.

Jaywalk. Jealous. Jenjunum – part of the small intenstine between the duodenum and the ileum. Jelly Fungus. Jerk.

Jess! Excellent! I’m in the dictionary! I’m a short leather strap, one end of which is permanently attached to the leg of a hawk or falcon. Meanwhile a Jessie is an effeminate, weak or cowardly boy or man.

Jetsam. Jezebel. Jibe. Jiggery-Pokery. Jimjams – A state of nervous tension. Jinx. Job satisfaction. Jockstrap. Jocose – characterised by humour. Jodhpurs. Joggle. Joke. Jolly Roger (Arrr!). Journalist. Joyless. Jube. Juggernaut. Jumbo. Jump suit. Junior. Junk. Jurassic. Juxtapose.

And that’s it. I’ve never read the dictionary and learnt so little before. What a disappointment! All I’ve learnt from that experience is that next time I have to put a word next to my name it’s likely to signify that I am negative, somehow related to the digestive system or a piece of very bad clothing. Can’t wait!

And now for something completely random and Belgian.

Lost Translations

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

When I was at high school, my best friend and I used to send each other emails that had been “Babelfish“ed into French. In year 9, the concept of translating from one language to another seemed possible with free web translators and the mistranslations were just a joke. At the time using these translators to help with assignments was very naughty but time savy and would the teachers really notice?

Now that I am helping my boyfriend learn French and listening to him attempt to translate French songs and sentences straight into English, I realise how naive I was. Having since lived in France and learnt the language to a much greater extent, the differences in sentence structure, emphasis, word choice and general phrasing is clearer to me. There are no English words to describe the “Bofffff” sound the French make when they’re exasperated or just can’t be bothered. At the same time, there aren’t enough adjectives in French to account for the millions of choices in English. In order to speak another language you must understand the cultural intricacies of the native speakers, and become one of them yourself. Whilst living in France I grew a distinctive pout and would shrug my shoulders a lot. I also developed an adoration for stinky cheese but that’s a story for another day.

All of this said, the joy and amusement of translating and re-translating back into the original language can never be ignored. Let’s have some fun…

E: One day, while walking through a forest of tall tress, I spied a little rabbit digging a burrow.

F: Un jour, tout en marchant par une forêt de tress grand, je remarquais un petit lapin creusant un terrier.

E: One day, while walking by a forest of very large, I noticed a small rabbit digging a burrow.

E: “What is your name, little rabbit?” I asked. He simply stopped digging, looked at me with one eye brow raised and told me to get lost.

F:” ; Quel est votre lapin nommé et petit ? ” ; J’ai demandé. Il a simplement cessé le creusement, m’a regardé avec un sourcil augmenté et m’a dit d’obtenir perdu.

E: ” ; Which is your named and small rabbit? ” ; J’ asked. It simply ceased the digging, m’ looked with an increased eyebrow and m’ d’ said; to obtain lost.

Good work, Babel.