Category Archives: Speak and spell

It’s a question of… Carrie Bradshaw being wrong

Many years ago, I had a boyfriend who got turned on by watching ‘Sex and the City’. While this slightly spoiled the series for me, it did however also have advantages. For example, it meant that I didn’t have to turn down sex upfront. I just needed to answer “Hmm, no, let’s play a board game instead” when he asked, “Shall we watch a few episodes ofSex and the City’?”

The best thing about his SATC addiction though was that he purchased all six seasons – and left the whole set of DVD’s with me when we separated.

A few days ago, I quiet unexpectedly went to bed with season one of ‘Sex and the city’ after a long leave of absence with Carrie Bradshaw and her friends. I initially wanted to test my new Ikea bed laptop cushion (very satisfactory by the way) by working, but my WIFI connection refused to enter the bedroom. Which led to the DVD option.

So there I was, plunged yet again into the life of the successful, beautiful and sexually fulfilled women of New York (even further away now from my actual life than when I first watched the series…).

After a few episodes something strange happened: I realised my vision of Carrie Bradshaw had changed. Before, her relationship with the supposed commitment phobic Mr Big filled me with compassion. I knew exactly how she felt. Now? Not so much.

In fact I thought Mr Big showed a hell of a lot of patience most of the time. When she’s chasing him around wanting to be introduced to his mother (she obviously has never had a mother in law!), when he finds out she’s been spying on his ex-wife or when she has a meltdown because they haven’t had sex for several days (and he doesn’t want to in the middle of a boxing match). The worst part? When she breaks up with him because he won’t say that “she’s the one” there and then on the sidewalk.

I’m not saying I’ve never been just as clingy, jealous and stupidly in search of “proof that he loves me”. I have. Many times. Many, many times. But somehow over the years I’ve apparently lowered my expectations to men, relationships and romance. I no longer relate to Carrie Bradshaw when she dissects Mr Big’s every word and gesture. I’ve never been the “I want a big ring and a big marriage” type of woman. But I had never realised how much she was.

Being so suddenly annoyed by Carrie Bradshaw has been an unsettling experience. I’m not happy with suddenly understanding men who think women are slightly pushy. I’d much more prefer telling myself that I’m getting worked up by ‘Sex and the City’ because it reminds me of a time where I actually had relationships. Either way, one thing’s certain: I’m going to have to check out the remaining five seasons one more time to be sure.

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It’s a question of… musicals

In the “it was much better before” categories of life, I put musicals somewhere on the top of the list. I’m not saying Mamma Mia didn’t delight me more than chocolate mousse when it came out – it did (I mean come on, Abba songs!), but in general, modern musicals just don’t measure up to the ones I watched when I was young(er!).

Where have they gone, where are the reruns on television? I mean, it’s Christmas, so where’s my Wizard of Oz and Meet me in Saint Louis? (Now replaced by reruns of Home alone 1, 2, 3 and 4 – talk about “Christmas classics”!). For years and years, Christmas wasn’t Christmas without watching Judy Garland sing Somewhere over the rainbow (my all-time favourite song), hiding under a pillow during the part with the flying monkeys and secretly wishing for a pair of ruby slippers. I really miss those magical moments and feel sorry for all those children who will never be in awe before this wonderful black and white movie suddenly turning into a coloured one…

I have my mother to thank for first introducing me to musicals. She took me to see South Pacific and Sound of music when I was around 10, and those songs have stayed with me ever since. How anyone can go through life without singing about raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens is beyond me. And it’s priceless to have a song like I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair as an alternative to I will survive when you get your heart broken.

Because that’s what musicals do: they give you songs to get through life – and even a few quotes. Though I must admit that living by my favourite quote from Gigi has kept me in stupid situations a few times (that would be the “I’d rather be unhappy with you than unhappy without you” one).

Singing – and the dancing that often goes with it – has a tremendous liberating effect and no songs fit better into your life than the ones from a musical. I dare not imagine how my teen years (and twenties, and thirties) would have been if I had not had Grease songs to sing (and yes, I do know them all by heart!).

So if you don’t get reruns of musicals where you live either, I sincerely hope you’ll find a few well-chosen DVD’s in your stocking.

Here’s wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, and a happy New Year – full of old musicals.

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It’s a question of… getting lost in translation

English is not my first language; neither is French for that matter. Even after 25 years in France, I sometimes say funny things – that aren’t supposed to be. Normally this happens when different languages get entwined. When I use a word from one language and transpose it directly to another, or when I translate an expression word by word. Even something simple like “no hard feelings” or “you should take that with a pinch of salt” doesn’t really make sense when said in French. (Not to mention “I was bored stiff” or “I’m going to wet my whistle first”).

I’ve also sometimes had difficulties when the same word has different meanings in the same language. When I first came to a French-speaking country (and hardly understood a word), I was sent to the school doctor for a check-up. She asked me something about “règle” and I gave her my ruler. Had I been using my head I’d probably thought it strange that a doctor would want my ruler. But how was I to know that “règles” also means “period” (yet another word with different meanings!)?

All this to say that I have a big tolerance and a lot of affection for confusion and comical situations that happen when different languages merge or meanings get lost in translation (for example when you use a translator found online). It makes me laugh when I hear stories like the one about Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux using a slogan in an American advertising campaign saying “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux”, or about Parker marketing a ballpoint pen in Mexico with an ad saying “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant” (instead of “and make you embarrassed”).

A few days ago, I found a website where people send in photos of translation mishaps. A lot of them made me laugh out loud. If you need to smile a little (and who doesn’t?) – the link is here.

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