Independence Day: My son Max is headed to Italy!

crapulerie (krap-ew-lair-ee) noun, feminine
  1. villainy
  2. a dishonest act

[from "crapule" (scoundrel) and borrowed from the latin "crapula" (intoxication") -- synonyms include "la canaillerie" (a low trick) and "la fripouillerie" (roguishness)]

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Car on sent là...toute l'écume du monde, toute la crapulerie distinguée, toute la moisissure de la société parisienne... For we smell there...all the scum of the world, all the distinguished villainy, all the mold from Paris society... --from Maupassant & the American Short Story By Richard Fusco

Where do French fifth-graders go on their annual field trip? They cruise down the glittering canals of historic Vuh-neez.* Geez! you say. Don't French kids have all the luck?

Well, not every French kid at my son's collège* gets to go to Venice. Only those who signed up for the art program do. Students who took Environment are on their way to wet and wild Camargue. There, pink flamingos and wild Camarguais horses are poised to assure them that art is for the birds (the non-pink ones) at a time when the very water-based paints some artists use might one day be as numbered as the feathers on their backs!

Last night Max boarded a bus for the all night trajet* which will end in the City of Light. Along the way, the car* will stop in Romeo and Juliette's hometown of Verona where students can practice the art of woo. "Je t'aime...Je T'AIME!" they'll chance to declare, bright eyes glued to so many empty Veronese

While the kids are excited about the four-day trip (Max even bought a new tube of scented, cement strength hair gel in case he happens upon a modern day Juliette), back at the school library the parents were given the lowdown on how five teachers planned to keep fifty-five chatty, tête-en-l'air* tweens in line, or strictly channeled, while navigating the famous City of Water.

In addition, parents were told what to pack and what to preach. As for packing, we should provide for the long bus ride a sac à dos* in which to store a small carnet* for sketching, twenty to thirty euros cash, a jetable* camera and a sac poubelle* (for any projectile voh-me*). Moreover, it would be our job to preach the values of global citizenship, namely, to remind our cement haired citoyens* that they would be representing France, that their every move would be closely scrutinized by an unblinkable, ever-present Italian eye; that, above all, the pint-size would-be scoundrels must keep their wandering hands under control while in the souvenir shop, for if so much as one knobby-kneed kid walks out with an unpaid for glow-in-the-dark gondola stuck to the inside of his pocket. Well, hell hath no fury like a country scorned!

Listening there in the library, fearful and frantically scribbling down notes, my pen stopped in its tracks, caught on the first four letters of an amusing French word. The teacher-chaperone was concluding his warning speech.... "...Alors," he said, "pas de crapuleries!"

Crapuleries? I wondered about word origins and if the French word "crapulerie" had anything to do with a certain four letter word (rhymes with scrap) that we have back home. Whatever it meant, the kids weren't to give him any of it. Rather, they were to cut the crapuleries out of their agenda.

References: vuh-neez = French pronunciation for Venise (Venice); le collège (m) = junior high school; le trajet (m) = journey, trip; le car (m) (autocar) = bus, coach; la tête-en-l'air = head in the clouds, distracted; le sac à dos (m) = backpack, rucksack; le carnet (m) =notebook; jetable = disposable; le sac poubelle (m) = trash bag; voh-me = French pronunciation for vomit; le citoyen (la citoyenne) = citizen

:: Audio Clip ::
Hear how to pronounce the French word "crapulerie" in today's quote: Download crapulerie.wav
Car on sent là...toute l'écume du monde, toute la crapulerie distinguée, toute la moisissure de la société parisienne...

Terms & Expressions:
la crapulerie humaine = human villainy
commettre une crapulerie = to commit a dishonest act

In Store for you:
language software
Alain Souchon
French / Italian film: Il Postino with Philippe Noiret
Môme (magazine) language practice for students of the French language

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