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Us translators and wordsmiths are all pedants!

Are teachers pedantic?

The answer to this question is obviously yes. Why? Because I say so! I can hear a few groans from some of you. Who is this pedantic person? Teachers are not pedantic. Yes, they are. I can say that knowingly and I can prove it. I know that most of you don’t know the origin of the word “pedant” or of the adjective “pedantic”.

This word is French

Pedant comes in fact from the French “Pédant”, which comes from the Italian “pedante”, meaning “teacher, schoolmaster”. It probably comes from the Latin (Late Latin) “pedagogans” (present participle from the verb “pedagogare”). I can imagine what you are thinking. This is where the word “pedagogue” originates. Correct. But, and it is a big but, originally, a pedagogue was not a teacher of children. Far from it. In the late XVIth century, a pedagogue was somebody who “was trumpeting the minor points of learning”. Think of the word “Demagogue”. Same suffix.

Positive to negative and negative to positive

Here we are. Whereas the word “pedant” has now a negative meaning, although it started very positively, the word “pedagogue” travelled in the other direction. It started with a negative meaning and is now used to describe somebody who is very good at teaching children.

Government by pedants

There is another word belonging to the same family of words: pedantocracy. It was coined by John Stuart Mill, around 1859, in of his most famous philosophical book: On Liberty. It means “Government by pedants”. No teachers in there. Personally, I think that quite a few countries are in a “pedantocracy”. No, I will not give you a list. I am quite sure you can make your own list.

French and English meanings identical

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The most astonishing sites in Aude?

Cabrespine and Limousis

We are in Aude, France, where we have a house (cum office) in a tiny village, Saint-Louis et Parahou, nestled in the Pyrénées. The scenery is spectacular. The weather is enjoyable, even in the middle of an amber warning severe drought period (“vigilance canicule”). Whatever your favourite leisure activity, you should find something much to your liking here. There are long walks in woods and mountains, horse riding across the mountain, the sea, lakes, art, canoeing, history, dinosaurs, the local food (this area is the centre of organic agriculture -or “bio” as the locals call it), etc.. The further you move away from the coast, the more fascinating it becomes.

Natural and Historic Interest

This year, apart from long walks across magnificent and huge woods (you need a good map, if you intend to walk from one col to the next while avoiding roads) we decided to explore some of the many sites of natural and historical interest. Wild life is abundant: foxes, deer, wild boars. By the way, do you know that we have 3 words in French for wild boars (and they are not even similar!!!). We do our best to try to confuse people who are learning French. The male boar is “un sanglier”. The female boar is “une laie” and, wait for it, the cubs are called “marcassins”. To avoid getting shot by  hunters, wear something turquoise or purple)

Four type of Caves

This year, we  decided to visit some of the many caves in the area. You need a minimum of fitness, but it’s not particularly  strenuous. There is nothing better than leaving a car park, baking under a relentless sun, and walking inside a natural feature where the temperature is constant (14 to 18°C, depending on the location of the cave). There are basically 4 types of caves in the area: natural caves where the human species has been living for close to 15,000 years (such at Limousis), “Gouffre” – a form of hollow mountain (such as Cabrespine, which is defined as a GIANT gouffre), caves available to people who like to go pot-holing (such as Cabrespine, again, where you can go for an organised walk alongside the bank of a river crossing the mountain.  It is known that this river is some 17km long across this mountain, but only half of it has been discovered so far. Feel free, but be warned that the problem is caused by narrow underwater passages).  Fourthly, there are caves which are no longer visited because the locals cannot remember the exact location (there are 2 of them in our local woods, la Forêt des Fanges).

Stunning Visual Experience

In Limousis and Cabrespine, the guides were very good and informative, provided you know enough French. The guide in Limousis was not only excellent and informative, he was also really funny. For instance, he jumped up and down to prove the quality of the acoustics (you don’t want to miss that). He also played music by hitting a set of stalactites called “drapes” (very eerie and strangely melodious). Apart from this, both sets of caves are visually stunning. Cabrespine for its huge – cathedral like and stunning in its beauty; Limousis for the journey-under-the-earth experience through different chambers.

You can visit Limoussis and Cabrespine in one day, as they are quite close to each other. There is even a special price, if you do so. Both of them are close to Carcassonne. Kids are welcome and would be fascinated by both of them.

My career as an international musician

Never heard of me?

You are probably wondering: “If he is an international musician, how come I have never heard of him?” It could be that my international career as a musician was very short-lived… or I am known under a different name…or I am lying.

My career, as described above, was very short-lived and if not exactly lying, I am exaggerating.

A bit of guitar experience

First of all, I cannot competently play an instrument (about from spending a few years learning classical guitar), I can barely read music, I cannot really sing (or, at least, not professionally), I am no composer…but I toured 23 towns in the USA in the early 70s as a professional musician!

I toured 23 towns in the US

Some of them were small towns, such as Las Cruces in New Mexico (just above 50,000 people at the time); Dumas in Texas (probably less than 10,000 inhabitants). Some were much bigger, such as Amarillo, also in Texas (around 150,000 people, in the early 70s) and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania (1.5 million residents).

We played to full houses every day and every night (or rather to full stadiums). But we were not top of the bill, as several other bands were involved,  like the Mothers of Invention,  Creedence Clearwater Revival and so on).

Her gift was a mystery

How did I get involved? The mother of one of my friends, as a parting gift, gave me a pair of bongos. Very nice ones. I had no idea why she gave them to me. I knew she liked me but that does not mean you give bongos to people you like. This is still a mystery to me…

My talented Argentinian girlfriend

At the time, I had a girl-friend from Argentina. We went to the same Californian university. She was a very talented singer and guitar player. She sang in a very good South-American band consisting of musicians from various Latin American countries. The leader was from Paraguay. They were all excellent musicians (as far as my musically inept ears could tell).

I knew the words

They were invited to play in these 23 towns spread across the USA. For some reason, my girl-friend decided I should be on stage with them. I argued that I could not play an instrument, I was not a trained singer and I had no stage presence or experience. She insisted. She really wanted to be on stage with me. I did not know what to do really… She decided that I could somehow play the bongos and do a bit of backup singing as I knew the words, having gone to many rehearsals and concerts with her band before.

Over 50,000 people

And this is how I became an international musician playing in front of sell-out crowds, sometimes in front of well over 50,000 people (for instance, in Amarillo, on a 4th of July)!

You will have noticed that I have not given the name of the band or of my then girl-friend! This is to protect the privacy of my friends as their professional careers were not in the musical field and they joined the world of academia, where some of them are well known.

 

Can henhouses blow up? The conclusion

 

"Blimey...hope mine isn't going to blow up!"

 

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about exploding henhouses. It turns out I got some of the facts wrong.

My sister didn’t believe me

Last week, we went to visit my uncle Georges (88) and his wife, my aunt Marie (84) in Toulon (my hometown). Both are still mentally sharp. The day before, I had talked to my sister about the exploding henhouse incident. She did not know anything about it. She, in fact, expressed some doubt about the whole story!

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Can hen houses explode…?

Happy French hen

Can henhouses blow up?

Yes, they can and in fact they do (sometimes). Ask my aunt Marie. She can confirm it.

I can hear you thinking: “Who is this fool? Hen houses do not explode. It would make the news or something.”

I think I’d better explain my statement about exploding hen houses.

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The French started their election before the UK

Presidential Candidates 2017

 

French Presidential Candidates

I have just received a very thick envelope from the French Embassy. It contains a 4-page document for each of the 11 candidates for the French Presidential election. The first round is this Sunday (April 23rd, 2017). The top two candidates will go to a second round (May 7th, 2017) as it is very unlikely that a candidate will get 50% of the vote + 1 on the first round. None of the seven previous presidents of the 5th Republic (the current) were elected during the first round. The closest to do it were General Charles de Gaulle in 1958 (close to 45%) and François Mitterrand in 1974 (over 43%).

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