How To Know You Live In France

For all the big changes in my daily life, like the funny-colored Monopoly money in my wallet and 5:00pm becoming 17h, it’s often the smaller differences coming out of nowhere that feel the coolest. They sneak up on me like little taps on the shoulder, like reflective road signs every few kilometers reminding me that this is, in fact, another world. This is all the stuff below the surface I could’ve never scratched to as a tourist.

Take Z-6PO for example. Not familiar with him? Sure you are: D2-R2’s tall yellow sidekick. Yes, even something as dependable and immortal as a childhood movie character isn’t immune to gravitational distortion by the massive black hole of cultural filtering. So far I haven’t found a convincing argument for the name changes, and honestly there’s only so much sci-fi internet forum chatter I can stomach. Plenty of other Star Wars guys get Frenchified too — just ask bad-dad Dark Vador and scruffy wise guy Yan Solo. For these ones I wonder if the alteration was an avoidance of two English sounds that wreak havoc on French mouths — the th and h, respectively. Perhaps the wackiest interstellar translation was Jabba the Hutt originally being called Jabba le forestier, a word my dictionary translates as “forest ranger”. Call me crazy but I think that takes a bit of the edge off the guy’s street cred.

Speaking of movies, the translated title of Johnny Depp’s Edward aux mains d’argent translates to “Edward Silver Hands”. I know for a fact that scissors exist in France and there’s a perfectly good word for them, yet they didn’t go with it. Somewhere along the way somebody decided to add their own personal touch with this one, and more power to him.

Sometimes I feel they’re really missing the idea altogether though, like when Dora the Explorer becomes Dora l’Exploratrice. It’s a perfect translation and sounds pretty in French, but aren’t they kinda missing the boat with the rhyming angle that made the original so catchy? I don’t know, maybe I’m over thinking this one, but that’s what bloggers do after all.

At any rate, that was all a digression. The real reason I started this post was to pass along a neat difference that pops up during our ultra-chic Parisian game nights (Rummy on the bed in our pajamas). I’d assumed that J-Q-K-A would always be a constant in my card-playing universe; I should’ve known changing the names of royalty into French would change their letters too. Now the progression goes V-D-R-1, and during each game I have to take an extra moment to flesh out the order of all this madness. For the record: V = valet, D = dame, R = roi, and 1 = as. I can’t figure out if using a number one for the ace is logical or not. It makes sense next to 2 and 3 but leaves something to be desired when it tries to outshine a king.

These are the kinds of little discoveries waiting around every corner, challenging preconceptions and reminding there’s still a lot to uncover as I Skywalker my way through this new flap of the galaxy. It’s constant fuel for an exploratory mind if you’re into that sort of thing. Really if you think about it, it’s like a hen you can milk forever.

What? Never heard of lait de poule (hen’s milk)? Oh that’s right…you weirdo’s call it Egg Nog.


  • Excellent blog!

    I couldn’t agree more that there are some strange things going on in France that I wil never completely figure out or understand.

    Surely I have my complaints and confusion, but overall I will enjoy the experience of living here.

  • This is probably one of my favorites, Corey! I had to re-read this part though: “…like reflective road signs every few kilometers…”, because in these here United States, kilometers are too difficult to calculate and I just had to go with it, confusion and all.

    • Come on, kilometers are easy! Just take a mile, multiply by a decimal point, subtract a couple of fractions, and divide by a ratio. Then turn it into roman numerals (where X = n) and finally add salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 250 degrees Celsius. To figure out Celsius, it’s easy! Just take Fahrenheit, multiply by a decimal point, subtract a couple of fractions,….

  • Happy New Year, Corey! I enjoyed catching up on your posts now that the holiday madness has subsided.

    Beautiful pics, as always, and the French lessons just keep building, one on top of the other. You’re right–there are things you just can’t understand (or get to see) as a tourist–you have to live them.

    • Thanks, I’m so glad you think of them as lessons, that’s my hope at the end of the day! Happy New Year to you as well and happy blogging in 2011.

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