A little lifetime ago: my daughter when she was two. Taken in Morhiban, Brittany.
sur-le-champ (sur-luh-shom) adverbial phrase
immediately, right away, without delay, directly
Si le soleil et la lune se mettaient à douter, ils s'éteindraient sur-le-champ.
If the Sun and Moon should ever doubt, they'd immediately go out.
On the last leg of a daylong journey, one beginning at a Gallo-Roman amphitheater* in Paris's Latin quarter and ending eight hours later in our medieval hometown, I sent myself flowers* (figuratively speaking, as the French do when they want to congratulate themselves via a verbal patting on the back).
"Did you guys just see that?" I questioned my kids as we cleared the toll booth. Having overtaken several long rows of cars, I sped into a fluidifil,* or automatic payment lane, as indicated by the "CB"* sign on the portico. Normally I get slightly panicked as I approach a multilaned French toll plaza, unsure
that I will have time to find the corresponding booth (amidst lanes labeled "T,"* "CB," or with an icon representing coins or a man in a hat--the latter indicating that an actual human will help you with the payment transaction).
My sur-le-champ* manoeuver that whisked our car to the front of the pack had me feeling uncharacteristically smug. Rarely do I find pleasure in one-upping the French (one, because outwitting, like math, does not come easy to me and two, because I majored in philosophy at Looney Tunes University--that is, I enjoyed too many cartoons as a kid. You know what happens to Wile E. Coyote, self-pleased smile painted across his furry face, the minute he eclipses Road Runner: dumb as a dart, he hits a pole).
Still gloating from my victory, I offered to reveal the modus operandi behind it all: brainpower.
"You've just witnessed your mommy's brains in action!" said I, leaving the line-waiters in a puff of invisible exhaust. I was still patting my own back when I received my daughter's sharp retort.
"What brains?" she wanted to know.
Max snickered and I had to admit that the quippy comeback, delivered in English, was a pretty good riposte for a nine-year-old Francophone.
A little puzzled by our chuckles, my daughter rephrased her question, this time in her native tongue: "Qu'est-ce que ça veut dire "brains? What does "brains" mean?" It turns out that she only wanted to know the French word for gray matter: cerveau.*
I realized from her reaction that my daughter is like Road Runner. Let the Dumbdarts and Know-It-Alls pass by (and eventually hit their heads on the pole), as for her, she is building her own totem of wisdom--one word at a time.
References: ampitheater: learn more here; to send oneself flowers (to compliment oneself) = (in French) s'envoyer des fleurs; un fluidifil (from "fluide" and "fil" = fluid (moving) line; CB (la carte bancaire) = bank card, credit card; T (télépéage) = automatic lane for those holding a special electronic card; sur-le-champ = immediate; le cerveau (m) = brain
:: Audio file ::
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