Tag Archives: Aquitaine

Learning new things

Thus far, this month has been one of learning.  I was watching the weather forecast the other day and was struck by the use of the word “grisaille”.  It is one of those words that doesn’t require a dictionary, I think, as it instantly brings to mind a grey, drizzly day.  The sort that makes feeble-minded souls such as myself grizzle and whimper for bright, sparkly, glittery, crisp mornings and sultry, condensation-making (on a long glass of gin & tonic with cucmber) afternoons.  The dictionaries give the straight translation as “drabness,” or “greyness,” and etymologically, the English word “grizzle,” as in grey, greyish, devoid of hue is derived from grisaille.  Sadly, it has nothing to do with whimpering or grizzling (but I think it should, don’t you?)

Walking the dogs one morning while staying with friends who live about 30 km from us, I encountered a set of rustic fitness things by a super-pretty stream (the Caudeau).  There were helpful little signs that explained how to use each piece of apparatus.  One in particular caught my eye because it highlighted quite a difference in language.  What do you call this activity in your language?

What do you call this game/activity?

I call it “Leap-frog.”  But here in France, it has a different name (of course):

So, here in France one jumps sheep. Saute-mouton (on a grisaiille day to boot)

Well, with that thrilling linguistic revelation behind me (under me?), what next?

I’ve been doing quite a lot of driving to and from Les Terraces recently and, to my shame, it has only been in the last few weeks of making the same journey every day that I have registered some signs by the side of the road on each side of many villages and actually thought to wonder what they represent.  I’m not really as bad as I’m making myself out to be, but worse: I think ,”Oooh, I wonder what those signs mean.  I must look them up when I get home,” and promptly forget.  Yesterday, I didn’t forget.

Mystery road sign. Well, mystery no more – sort of.

Thanks to the lovely resources of the Internet, I was quickly able to learn that this represents a community that has collectively agreed to participate in an organ donation program that exists across France and has its origins in SW France (sorry, the link is in French).  I’m intrigued by the communal aspect of the endeavour – perhaps I’m misunderstanding some of what I’ve read, but the inference is fair (I think).  However, this scheme has been usurped by a new law (this year) whereby one must opt-out of organ donorship, which I think is the right way of addressing the issue.

And my last bit of learning for the week comes about as the result of being perplexed by the recent  “auto-fill” of “Nouvelle Aquitaine” on many websites.  Hang on a minute….. did I move?  Nope.  It turns out that Aquitaine became a mega-department a while ago, joining together the departments of Aquitaine, the Limousin and Poitou-Charentes into the largest department in France in 2014.  Seemingly, and understandably, there was a little jockeying for naming this greatly expanded region but eventually the suggestion of Nouvelle Aquitaine was agreed just last year.  So I’m only a few months behind the curve!  I wonder what Eleanor (of Aquitaine) would think?