I learned something awesome about math and food in French

Really quick – what is this called?

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A pie chart, right?

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Now guess what it’s called in French.

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Jour J: Counting down in French

Do you know how to count down to a big day in French? I learned this shortly after I moved to Paris from Chicago. I was teaching in a language school near Saint Lazare, and I had an adorable student about the same age as me. She was planning her wedding.

One day, while telling me about her upcoming nuptials, she mentioned “D-Day.” Wait, hold on. D-day? You’re calling your wedding day “D-Day?”

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Illogical French

I love languages because you can always, always learn new things, whether it’s your native language or your second or third (or fourth or fifth, or sixteenth, you show-off).

I ponder words constantly. French makes me laugh. English makes me laugh. I’m frustrating to French speakers, because I always want to know why. Why is “start-up” feminine? (Yes, “start-up” in French is “la start-up.”) Why is the feminine of “rigolo” “rigolote”? Sometimes I get cut off from asking questions. “Non, chérie! Tu poses trop de questions!” You ask too many questions! No more for the rest of the day!

Here’s something I learned tonight that I’ll be pondering for awhile. Christmas Island is “l’Ile Christmas” in French. But Easter Island is “l’Ile de Pâques.” Why?! Why translate Easter (Pâques) but not Christmas (Noël)?! It’s illogical!

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French Gone Wrong: “I’ll have a condom.”

There are so many ways to embarrass yourself in French. And goodness knows I do.

You’ve probably heard that préservatif does NOT mean preservative in French, nor does it have anything to do with jam. It means condom. I still consciously remind myself not to accidentally talk about condoms when I want to discuss preservatives. But even if you successfully remember not to bring up préservatifs, there are so many other ways to get yourself in trouble.

Do not call this
This is la confiture. Don’t forget!

One evening, I was at the dinner table with my beau-père. We were staying with Hugo’s parents, and for some reason, his dad and I were the only ones at home for dinner that evening. After dinner, he asked if I would like I yogurt or an applesauce for dessert. Sure, I said, an applesauce would be nice.

Except that’s not what I said. I said, “Je prendrai une capote.”

“Une compote” is an applesauce. “Une capote” is slang for condom. Whoops!

Why couldn't I have just asked for yogurt?
Why couldn’t I have just asked for yogurt?

I crossed my fingers that he wouldn’t notice, or that he would chalk it up to my accent. But now I’m always verrry careful to pronounce the “om” in “compote”!