French Expressions: Chicken Time

I have lots of little stories about the French words and expressions and nowhere to put them. Okay with you if I micro-blog them?

There’s this funny expression in French – manger l’heure des poules. It means to eat dinner really early – like “Les américains mangent à l’heure des poules.” (Literally, it means “to eat at the hour of the chickens.” Haha.)

One time we were Skyping with Hugo’s family, including his little two-and-a-half year old nephew. Hugo was telling them that we eat “à l’heure des poules” here and his nephew perked up and said in his tiny little toddler voice, “Elles sont où les poules?!” (Where are the chickens?!) It was pretty cute.(You have to picture a little voice like this.) He seemed disappointed when we explained that it’s just an expression.

(The same nephew taught me the French words for wrench and the little paper top you peel off the yogurt. He’s a smart cookie.)

 

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Little Snippets: Whole 30 + Back to School

Hi there! It’s February and GUESS WHAT? I’m doing my first Whole 30 this month. If you haven’t heard of Whole 30, you can read more about it here. Basically, it’s a month-long dietary cleanse where you eliminate sugar, grains, dairy, soy, and lots of other stuff from your diet. After the 30 days are up, you carefully reintroduce these foods to understand how each one affects your body.

I was planning to eliminate gluten and dairy for a month anyway to see if it would help my painful hand eczema, and when I read Anne’s account of her Whole 30, I decided to try it too.

February seemed like a good month to do a Whole 30 cleanse since there are only 28 days. (Kidding – I started on January 31 and plan to end on March 1.)

I’ll let you know how it went at the end of the month (I’m on day 9, so far so good.) I started a new Instagram account to micro-blog the experience – I post about my #Whole30Struggles, what I’m eating and what I WISH I were eating, haha. You can follow along @wherearemycarbs.

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First Semester at MIIS

Wow, this is the first time in two years that I’ve gone more than a month without a post! I am pretty low-key about blogging, but I aim to write at least once a month. I’ve only missed one month since I started blogging two and a half years ago – make that two months now.

That should give you a good idea of just how busy school has been keeping me. Now that it’s officially school vacation, I’ll try to catch up a little. Some people expressed interest in hearing more about my program at MIIS, so I thought I’d explain what I’m studying and what the program is like so far.

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Queen of Quiche

I don’t make too many embarrassing mistakes in French anymore. (I still feel like it’s a battle to be taken seriously as a foreigner in France, but that’s a separate issue.) But here’s one that still cracks me up a little when I think about it.

Last year, I lived with some lovely French girls while Hugo was in England, and one evening, another lovely French girl came over for dinner. We all helped whip up this and that in our cramped, hallway-shaped kitchen, and our visitor prepared a delicious quiche. She even made the crust and everything, instead of using the pre-made pâte feuilletée that I roll out every time. Without thinking, I proclaimed her the “reine des quiches” with much American enthusiasm.

She looked startled. It seems like a compliment to say that someone is the queen of quiche, but the problem is that calling a person a quiche in French is an insult – I basically called her “Queen of the idiots”! And I knew that, but I had just forgotten for a second in my excitement over the delicious quiche!

Luckily, she understood I meant no harm and gently reminded me of the alternate meaning of “une quiche.” Whoops. I felt like a total quiche myself!

Accidental insults aside, I do love quiche. As long as there’s no goat cheese hiding in it. My favorite quiches to make are leek, onion, and lardon quiche, and this bacon and spinach quiche. Yum yum yum. What’s your favorite quiche recipe?

 

Two things you should never say to your French boyfriend

I’ve made my share of silly mistakes in French. I’ve progressed a lot in the last few years, but (much to my chagrin), I’m still not perfect. Sometimes just accidentally adding a single consonant to a word leaves les français giggling at my expense. (The word for down jacket is “doudoune” not “doune-doune,” in case you were wondering.)

Usually, my slip-ups just leave me subject to ridicule, but sometimes they get me in trouble. Here are two ways to accidentally offend your French copain or copine.

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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 faux pas: piquer

When I moved to France and started spending more and more time with French people, I rapidly picked up a new vocabulary that I hadn’t learned in school. Things that people use all the time in conversation that I hadn’t run across reading Flaubert (unless Flaubert talked about kiffing his meuf, and if he did, oh dear lord please tell me where.)

One word I heard over and over was “piquer”which previous I had only known as in a ballet move I was super awesome at (on the right leg, anyway). Literally, it means to prick or sting, but it’s often used to mean borrow or steal. As in, “Je peux te piquer la cuillère?” “Can I grab that spoon from you?” and “Hé, je t’ai piqué tes chaussures pour la fête hier soir.” “Hey, I borrowed your shoes for the party last night.” Or if you’re in Paris, “Ce connard m’a piqué mon portefeuille dans le métro!” “That jackass stole my wallet in the metro.”

Anyway, one weekend I was staying with my BFF and her French roommates, and their two cats. One of the cats took a liking to me and was my personal cuddle bug all weekend. She even sat on my belly while I was sleeping, requiring me to lie perfectly still on my back all night. (Imprisonment of this sort is a sign of the deepest affection in cats, if you didn’t know.*)

At the end of the weekend when I said goodbye to the cat’s owner, I wanted to thank her for letting me borrow her cat all weekend, so I said, “Merci de m’avoir laissé piquer ton chat.” She looked at me oddly, then gently explained, “Actually, when we say ‘piquer un animal’ it means to kill it with a shot, to put it down.”

Oh! Not exactly what I was going for.

So if you want to borrow someone’s pet without getting your kitty privileges revoked, stick with “emprunter” – to borrow. Much safer!

*You can learn more about strange cat behaviors here and here thanks to The Oatmeal.