Sunday, March 18, 2012

if you don't know me by now

How long have I been speaking French? At least 23 years, with another 10 years of French at school before that. How is it that I never learned these words? I know that there are 25000 words that are shared between English and French, with the exact same meaning and usually almost the same spelling, and yet...

You try to figure these out!
1. économe
2. police (from an earlier post)
3. enceinte (not the pregnant kind)
4. pleine
5. interrupteur
6. mail
7. émail
8. puériculture

Some of you may know these words already, but here are their meanings.

1. économe
An economist, perhaps? Nope, it's a vegetable peeler!

2. police
The people who stop the bad guys? Nope, it's a font/typeface (I had mentioned this in an earlier post, so you might have remembered!).

3. enceinte
Pregnant? Well, yes, as an adjective, but as a noun it means speaker (as in, what you plug your stereo into).

4. pleine
Feminine version of full? Well, yes to that as well, but it can also mean pregnant (mostly used for animals and considered a vulgar term). "Faire le plein" is a fill-up at a gas station.

5. interrupteur
That annoying person who interrupts you all the time? Nope, it's a light switch. You know, you interrupt the electricity with it (or is it the light you interrupt?).

6. mail (or mél)
The obvious postal variety? Nope, it's an email.

7. émail
Well, it can't mean email (although it's starting to - spelled without the accent). It means enamel. This whole email business kind of thew the French for a loop because the word 'email' was everywhere, but it meant something different in French, and so they tried courriel, mél, mail and are coming around to email.

8. puériculture
Is it the official word for fish farming? Nope, it's childcare. Seriously? Seriously! Seems kind of scientific and technical to me.

There are numerous examples of words that take a little getting used to in French, especially when coming at the language from English. I would say that I'm fluent, but there are still words that completely stump me. I have noticed that when I'm tired my ability to speak French coherently diminishes, which I find extremely frustrating. Sometimes it would be nice to be able to express myself 100% and not have to struggle with getting my thoughts across. Some things really are lost in translation. The worst thing? My English is getting rusty!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

winter vineyard

There is a small vineyard below the building where I work. For the most part I never see people in it, but the other morning I saw a group of workers pruning the grapevines and burning the branches. You can see the figures of the workers hidden in the fog.
And then later that afternoon as I was leaving, there was a lovely light hitting the vineyard. Same place, different time of day.

As an aside, this is the kind of work that Jean-Marc has been doing for the last couple of months. He's been clearing the pruned branches from the vines, after someone else has done the pruning, and once the branches are freed he breaks them and puts them on the ground in bundles, where they are ground up for mulch.  It's hard work because the vines are attached to the guide wires and other branches, so it means a lot of muscle is needed to separate everything (while not damaging the vine!). I think Jean-Marc is appreciating wine and the work that goes into it in a whole new way!

The bonus is that he sometimes gets paid in wine.