jeu de mots

A pastiche of roof tiles & our pastis-loving roofer, Michel.

jeu de mots
(zhuh duh moh) noun, masculine

  a play on words, a pun

Meilleur que mille mots privés de sens est un seul mot raisonnable, qui peut amener le calme chez celui qui l'écoute. Better than a thousand words void of meaning, is one sensible word that can bring calm to the one listening. --Bouddha

On the second night we ate out. Forget leftovers, oubliez* the piles of packing boxes, and never mind the fact that we could not properly lock up our new nest (what with half the farmhouse missing doors and windows). Braise, who recently turned seven (in dog years), would have to step up to the plate (or portail,* however cracked and in need of repair) to play the guetteuse.* And I do mean "play" as it is not in her golden retriever nature to stand guard over anything but a meaty os.*

Perfumed, neatly parted, and no longer sporting la poussière,* our entourage (including brother-in-law, Jacques, and Michel, our friend/builder from Les Arcs) piled into the Citroën before the latter snaked through a vine-flanked country road leading to town.

When we passed a baba cool* pedestrian (long scraggly hair, flip-flops, tie-dye trunks), Michel shouted, "Hé-oh!* You're a long way from the beach!" before dissolving into Gallic guffaws.

Jean-Marc found parking along Portalet Street just across from l'Angelus restaurant. Inside, tables were arranged around a stone fireplace. A pottery vase, just beside the entrance, doubled as a wishing well (providing precious entertainment for the kids who pitched solicited centimes* into its coppery depths).

I read the menu to Michel, who is a bit dyslexic. Accustomed to reading French menus to Anglophone visitors, this is the first time I've read one to a Frenchman.
"Tiens, est-ce qu'ils ont un banana slip?"* Michel wondered.
Banana split? These were surely the first two English words that I had ever heard Michel speak.
"You mean they have banana splits in France?" I questioned, never having noticed before. I skipped past the pizza section to the list of desserts, looking for a childhood favorite. That's when visions of chocolate syrup and diced peanuts brought me back, back, back....

For a moment, I was no longer in a tiny French village, but a bustling desert metropolis, eyes wide open before a gigantic "boat" of ice cream. The year was 1976; the place, Phoenix, Arizona where Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor at Metrocenter mall offered an all-you-can-eat sundae decorated with red, white and blue paper flags and whipped cream à gogo.* After an afternoon spent skating in the ice rink below the ice cream parlor, I would head upstairs to test the capacity of my 9-year-old stomach.

The French waitress arrived and, poof, I was back in France, back to the present moment.
"Vous avez un banana slip?" Michel was inquiring.
"Split," the young woman corrected, confirming that they did.
"Alors, un banana slip, s'il vous plaît," Michel ordered, politely.
"SPLEET," my brother-in-law pointed out, to the best of his limited English knowledge.

When Michel kept repeating what in French amounted to "banana pants" (slip, a masculine noun, means "underwear") I got the clue that he was only pulling the waitress's leg. It looked, too, as if someone had been pulling on her cheeks which by now were the color of the cherries that would eventually top our Frenchified spleet.

References: oubliez (oublier) = to forget; le portail (m) = gate; la guetteuse (le guetteur) = watchman; l'os (m) = bone; la poussière (f) = dust; le (la) baba cool (mf) = hippy; hé-oh! = hey there!; le centime (m) = cent; Tiens, est-ce qu'ils ont un banana slip? = Hey, do they have a banana [split]?; à gogo = galore

:: Audio File ::
French pronunciation: Listen to my son, Max, recite today's French quote: Download mots.wav
Meilleur que mille mots privés de sens est un seul mot raisonnable, qui peut amener le calme chez celui qui l'écoute.

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