Legends, Legends

photo: cafe aux la bourgogne

Near the marché by Saint-Médard, the Bourgogne.

How To Say 'W' In French

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 22. January 2001:- Yesterday I needed one more poster photo of the week for this issue. There hadn't been a great choice so I had let getting the full set slide to the last - wet - minute.

There weren't any strollers on the avenue because it was pouring rain. Wind was pushing it too and by the time I got back it felt good just to be inside. It was the end of a week of grey chill, winter sun and winter rain - all without the daily promised rise in temperatures.

This morning I saw Dimitri stomping off to the café, so I caught up to him. His atelier is too hot when it is warm, so I imagine it is just as chilly when it is cold.

But when I asked, he said it has been the warmest winter he can remember.

For this, I take off the Merlin the Magician hat I usually put on to write the opening of this column. My winter in Paris is cold and damp and Dimitri's isn't.

The TV-weather news is still forecasting more wet fronts from the Atlantic, and more rising temperatures - to 'four degrees above normal' for tomorrow. Humbug!

Café Life

The Legend of Saint-Trompez

There is no reason why a trip to the barber's should be considered anything other than necessary, unless you are going to Claudio's hair shop and tropical fantasy salon.

When I went in on Saturday around noon to get an appointment for later in the day it seemed odd that the place was full of ladies sitting under those Martian-headgear-like dryers. I have been kind of unaware that Claudio does ordinary civilians' hair.

When I got back in the evening, the salon's situation had returned to normal. Unnormalphoto: cite fleurie, bd arago was Claudio's new assistant, who was actually doing some hair-work on one lady.

Otherwise, the place was filled up with its usual quota of people sitting around with wet hair waiting for something to happen, and a near-usual quotient of odd loafers listening to the free music.

A 'find' in the Boulevard Arago - the Cité Fleurie.

If you don't remember Claudio's - this is the coiffeur place where all sorts of neighborhood folks drop in to shoot the breeze between visits to actually get their hair done.

Claudio got the red-haired lady with wet hair to tell me the outline of the plot of the 'Bicyclette Bleue' to distract me from an attempt to spray plastic stuff on my hair and to keep her mind off the wet hair on her head.

Apparently, the key scene is the baker in the movie having a quite long conversation with his cat. This is only something that could happen in France and I can appreciate the idea of it - but because I wasn't familiar with the plot of this French remake of an earlier French film, it was considered that my grasp of French culture lacked something vital.

In order to fill in one of these major gaps, the lady asked me if I knew the legend of how Saint-Trompez got its name. Claudio urged her to tell me this, so she wouldn't notice he was giving a guy a stand-up spruce-up trim on a set of hair that already looked darn short and tidy to me.

According to the lady, it was pretty common at one time for Roman soldiers to chop off Christians' heads so that they could become French saints.

This happened to some guy - say his name was Marc-Antoine - somewhere on the Riviera, which was Italian at the time. Then the Roman thought it would be an idée-chic to toss the headless corpse in a rowboat, along with a live dog and a rooster and shove it out to sea.

The dog and the rooster didn't eat any of headless Marc-Antoine or each other and finally the rowboat drifted ashore at some village which didn't have a name.

The villagers came down to the seaside to see the strange travellers and they were so disgusted that they pushed the rowboat out to sea again. "Vous avez trompé l'endroit," one villager said.

When the rowboat and its weird crew drifted ashore again a bit further on at another, much more nameless village, the villagers there were so desperate for a name that they called the headless man in the boat Saint-Tropez, and elected the rooster mayor.

Thus, about 1658 years later, when Brigitte Bardot discovered Saint-Tropez and made it famous, the villagers knew they had made the right choice. To this day, almost nobody has ever heard of Les Issambres, which was called Saint-Trompez for a long time without becoming famous.

I'm not sure, as I leave, if Claudio is pleased that he's broken his old record of taking 75 minutes to give me a kind of haircut. The lady with the wet hair, does agree with my idea to cover the salon's floor with sand in warmer weather, so we can be barefoot, to match the ambiance of the palm trees.

George 'Dub'el-Yoo' Bush

Radio France-Info put the US inauguration news into heavy rotation on Saturday morning. As usual, all recorded audio quotes by Bill Clinton and other inauguration fans were turned into gibberish by voice-overs in French.

This is a common practice with all languages which are not French, which most aren't. Radio-France's audio engineers have fine tuned it so that 50 percent of the foreign voice comes through, with the volume of the French voice-over set to 65 percent, so that neither language is completely understandable.

However, a major exception has been made in honor of the new President, George W. Bush, even though he is the only US President with this name at the moment, with or without the 'W.'

When French radio and TV speakers pronounce the 'W' they pronounce it 'dub'el-yoo.' Excuse me for not having all the special accents a good dictionary uses - in W's case, two or three of them, including a strange backwards 'e.'

The French announcers say this several slightly different ways, but it is pretty recognizable as 'dub'el-yoo' evenphoto: fruit cart if there is a bit of a wobble in it.

Ordinarily, 'W' in French is pronounced as 'dubleve' with the first 'e' being backwards too. Roughly it sounds like 'dubl-Ve,' almost like the shorter German version of 'Vey' for 'W.'

I'm not sure I can stand four years of hearing 'George "Dub'el-Yoo" Bush.' Dub'el-Yoo, Dub'el-Yoo.

Oranges waiting calmly for the marché to reopen.

With all the jamming of foreign languages that normally goes on here - and emember it has been eight years of simple 'Bill Clinton' without accents or backwards 'e's - the only conclusion I can come to is that French feels the need of 'W.'

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