franecdote 1684 : La Salle’s Last Hurrah

The image is a painting by Theodore Gudin depicting the
the entry of La Salle’s expedition into Matagorda Bay in 1684.
The ship on the left is La Belle, in the middle is Le Joly,
L’Aimable is to the right.

It’s time for the next “franecdote” — an interesting fact or story from “THAT year in French history“ where “THAT year” is this year minus the number of Facebook fans je parle américain has every Thursday.

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Today’s franecdote is from July 18,
when je parle américain had 329 Facebook fans.
So …

The year 2013 — 329 fans = 1684, and the franecdote is …


The Final Expedition of
René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle Continue reading franecdote 1684 : La Salle’s Last Hurrah

franecdote 1685 : I Won’t Tolerate It

Detail from a 1701 portrait of Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud

It’s time for yet another “franecdote” — an interesting fact or story from “THAT year in French history“ where “THAT year” is this year minus the number of Facebook fans je parle américain has every Thursday.

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Today’s franecdote is from July 11, when je parle américain had 328 Facebook fans. So …

The year 2013 — 328 fans = 1685, and the franecdote is …


The Edict of Fontainebleau Continue reading franecdote 1685 : I Won’t Tolerate It

Where’s the Fire?

This weekend, I celebrated my fifth Bastille Day in France, and I’ve done something different every single year. Back in 2007, I was en route from Marseille to Washington after a vacation in Provence: nothing too special to report from the short layover at Charles de Gaulle. In 2009, I picnicked with Michel and his friends in the Bois de Vincennes and happened to catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower fireworks from the Louvre on our way home. In 2011, Michel and I trekked down to Pont des Invalides to watch the fireworks from a better vantage point. They were pretty impressive. Last year, we just stayed home … but by doing so, we got to watch from our window fireworks in four different Paris suburbs: La Courneuve, Le Bourget, Drancy, and Bobigny. This year, we kicked it up a notch. We went to my first ever …

Firemen’s Ball Continue reading Where’s the Fire?

franecdote 1688 : King William’s War

You might remember from this recent post that a “franecdote” is an interesting fact or story from “THAT year in French history” where “THAT year” is this year minus the number of Facebook fans je parle américain has every Thursday night.

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You might also recall that I’m in the process of publishing these little tidbits on the blog itself after having published them already on Facebook. Today’s franecdote is from last Thursday, in fact, when je parle américain had 325 Facebook fans. So …

The year 2013 — 325 fans = 1688, and the franecdote is …


King William’s War

<cue dramatic music> Continue reading franecdote 1688 : King William’s War

franecdote 1694 : In So Many Words

Used under Creative Commons
Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic License

I started a new Thursday night tradition a few weeks ago called “THAT year in French history” where I publish a “franecdote” (an interesting fact or story from French history) on the blog’s Facebook fanpage. The key is that “THAT year” depends on the number of Facebook fans je parle américain has every Thursday night. Without going into a long explanation since you can read more about it here …

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… the first franecdote was published on June 20, 2013, when je parle américain had 319 Facebook fans, so it was for the year


And now, here it is for the first time on the blog itself … Continue reading franecdote 1694 : In So Many Words

Le petit chapeau

Disclaimer: I’m not a linguist (yet) so, if you are one, please be gentle in your reactions if I’ve gotten something completely wrong …

As English speakers, one of the first things we notice about French is the widespread use of diacritical marks — or “accents” to be less linguistic about it. For students of the language (native speakers and non-native speakers alike) they can sometimes be the bane our existence. Accents obviously aren’t necessary — we don’t really use them in English, after all* — but they serve important functions in the languages that do use them. Sometimes, they denote a change in the pronunciation of the underlying letter. In French, for example, ça and ca don’t sound the same. Sometimes, though, accents don’t change the pronunciation at all; instead, they serve an orthographic (spelling) function to distinguish homophones. For example, la and là sound exactly the same in French but have entirely different meanings. Even though modern French is full of accents (the accent aigu, the accent grave, the tréma, etc.), they were introduced relatively late to the language. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find many diacritical marks in a text from the Middle Ages. So what explains their introduction? Well, a comprehensive account of the evolution of French accents is thankfully far too complex to go into here, but I do want to talk about one in particular that has an interesting story and implications for English-speaking students of French:

le petit chapeau … the little hat … the circumflex Continue reading Le petit chapeau

“I can’t believe it’s not butter!”

SPOILER ALERT: This post may contain spoilers for fans of Mad Men who aren’t up to date with the episode that aired on May 12, 2013.

So, I’ve been watching Mad Men pretty religiously since the sixth season debuted on April 7, but I have to be honest: I’m having a tough time getting into this season. There are a few things that are bugging me, but nothing more so than Don Draper‘s affair with his neighbor, Sylvia Rosen. I’m so over that storyline that every time I see Linda Cardellini onscreen now, I just sigh and roll my eyes. Thankfully, though, it seems the tryst may have finally met its long overdue death. There have been a few bright spots for me so far this season, of course: the wake for Roger‘s mother in the season premiere was one. The history nerd that I am, I’m also digging the show’s tangential nods to the events of 1968. It’s given me an opportunity to discuss that turbulent period of US history with Michel: from Tet, to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., to Chicago ’68. But even though Sunday’s episode ended with the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, I found myself talking about a completely different history, a French history … the history of margarine. Continue reading “I can’t believe it’s not butter!”

Enter Stage Left

Molière in the role of Caesar in Corneille’s “The Death of Pompey,”
by Nicolas Mignard

If you’re a fan of je parle américain, you’ve probably noticed a recent decline in the frequency of my posts. That’s primarily because I’ve been so busy with what has to be my final semester of French language classes. Instead of writing for je parle américain, I’ve been summarizing French news articles, drafting letters to imaginary newspaper editors about the controversies of the day, outlining arguments for oral presentations, synthesizing multipage French documents into concise 100-word summaries without omitting anything essential … oh, and writing a play in French. Continue reading Enter Stage Left

Remem-ber, Remem-ber the 8th of May

Today is one of four French national holidays during the month of May, including May Day (May 1), Ascension (May 9 this year), and Pentecost Monday (May 20 this year). May is, it seems, the most “holidayed” month of the year for the French. Given that it’s usually the most beautiful month of the year in Paris, that’s just fine with me!

If you’ve ever wondered why May 8 is a holiday here, read on

(Originally published May 8, 2012)

je parle américain

May is a month chock full of holidays here in France. Just last week, we celebrated May Day. Since it fell on a Tuesday, lots of French took Monday off as well so they could have a four-day weekend — that’s what the French call faire le pont (“to make the bridge”). This year, May is also the month that brings us such Christian holidays as Ascension on May 17 and Pentecost on May 27. While the latter is no longer a public holiday in France, the former is … but let’s not get into a discussion about laïcité, okay? Instead, I’m writing about today’s holiday:

le 8 mai

A blogger friend of mine noted in a post today that it was “Victory Day” … but no one could tell her exactly which victory it commemorated. Being the history nerd that I am, I passed along the needed…

View original post 503 more words

A morning at the Opera

So, when was the last time you took a school field trip?

For most of us, it’s probably been a while. For me, though, it was just yesterday, and it was pretty cool.

I haven’t written much about my studies this semester, but I will in the near future. In a nutshell, after four semesters of French courses at one school, I’m now enrolled in another one for what should be my final semester of French. My classes are very different this time around. There’s much less grammar and literature and much more written and oral expression. Yesterday, in fact, our grammar professor was absent, so our oral expression professor used that two-hour time slot to take us on a field trip to …

the Paris Opera!  Continue reading A morning at the Opera