Sunday, August 22, 2010

Paradis Du Porc

France is something of a Pork Paradise. I know that sounds like the worst 1970s porn movie ever, but it is a very good way to describe the things on a French lunch table. Especially if I have set said table. Most forms of Saucissons contain at least 3 types of pork, as do pâtés of any flavour, including no doubt the "surprise végétalien." And then there's Rillettes du Mans, which is basically spreadable pork in a pot. The ingredients list of Rillettes du Mans claims that in every 100g of the product, there is 108g of porc. Yes, the product is 108% Pork, which is actually one of the best porn movies of the 1970s.

9 More Pork-related porn movies
1. The Pâté Hearst Story
2. Pig Male-ion
3. The Porkman Always Ribs Twice
4. Babyback Mountain
5. Silver Streaky
6. The Fabulous Bacon Boys
7. The Shoulder-Shank Connection
8. I Am Ham
9. The Loin King

If anything demonstrates the porkular paradise that is much of France, it is this illustration from a packet of pork chops. It shows a pig all excited with a knife and fork in his trotters. Unfortunately, I think he didn't quite understand what was said.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sleep Deprivation

It's 3 am. Having been soundly asleep a short while before, I answered the screams of distress of a loved one. Armed with only my trusty sandal, I crushed her assailant and a couple of innocent bystanders. I say assailant, but really I mean centipede that happened to be hanging about nearby when she put her light on.

To go from deep sleep to savage killer in a few seconds leaves a man wired. So as my loved one thanked me and quickly dropped back into that same solid sleep I had recently enjoyed, I sat up, buzzing, unable to retain that state for a good while.

As ever, no rest for the heroic.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

My Old Dutch

One of the problems with my Dutch is that it sounds better than it is.  I have a good accent, however I don't have the vocabulary to back it up. Consequently people speed on a dime a dozen assuming I'm fluent and leave me trailing behind trying to work out what a watjenoemhet is and whether not knowing it is important to everything else being said. I'm a long way from fluent. I do understand quite a bit, but people frequently throw words in that I can't fathom. Words like "doorgronden."

Example of mass Dutch communication (c) 2009 Peter More
What happens even more is that I'm speaking and I can't remember, or simply never knew, the Dutch word for something. I have, however, developed some tools to deal with this.
  1. Say the English word but pronounce it in a Dutch way.
    The rule of thumb with Dutch is that if a word looks the same as the English word, then it is pronounced completely differently. But knowing a few simple pronunciation guidelines will allow you to remanglify the word into Dutch.
    (There is a corollary rule that states that if an English word and Dutch word sound the same, then, when written, they bare almost no resemblance to each other, for example: "fluent" and "vloeiend.")

    1. Say the English word in an English way.
    Most Dutch people speak English at a level I will never attain in Dutch. Plus when Dutch borrows words from English, it pronounces them almost the same for a few years before it remanglifies them. So the second method is to simply say the word the English way, and I usually revert to my native accent. It's remarkable how well this also works.

    1. Wordfabricationism
    The preferred method the Dutch use for getting a new word into their language is to make one up out of existing words. Thus ziekenhouse is hospital (literally, sick house), and wapenstilstandsonderhandelingen (supposedly the longest word in the standard dictionary) is cease-fire negotiations (literally, weapon standstill under-handling). So the third, and most fun, method to guess the Dutch word is to consolidate shorter words that describe the thing in the hope that it is correct or conveys enough of the meaning to work as a substitue word. Thus if you don't know the word for envy, you could try translating "stuff-want-ness" or "ox-covet-ism." You'll probably be wrong, but you'll amuse the listener and, if you're lucky, they might even think you're Belgian.

    Thursday, August 05, 2010

    Oh, Voiture (French Driving)

    I have discussed before the French attitude to driving. The French drive like tomorrow is for wimps and today is the last day of the rest of their lives. As the very French Philosopher Descartes put it, "I think, therefore I am; I drive, therefore I probably won't be much longer."

    Scene From French Road (c) 2010 Peter More
    In driving down the small roads of rural France, one meets two classes of "other road users." Those who drive three times slower than you and those drive three times faster than you. The former is usually a nonchalant, sun-weathered rustic driving some enormous piece of farm equipment; or it's a little, old couple on holiday from somewhere outside of France. Little, old, French couples are so surprised they are still living, they speed along the narrow, country backstreets like aging bats out of Old Peoples' Hell.

    So while us tourists grip the simulated leather of our vehicles as we scoot along, not wanting driving on a French road be the last thing we ever do, the French are content in the knowledge that, at some point, driving on a French road will be the last thing they ever do. So once again the French win on philosophy, even if that philosophy is "Drive fast; die young."