Puns are truly the highest form of humour

Shortly after my little sister moved to Montréal, she was asking about how to use the word “celui” in French.

Alain gave her an example. “You can say, ‘celui-là,’ which means ‘that one there,'” he told her.

Caitlin asked, “Can you use ‘celui’ anywhere else?”

To which I replied, “You can put celui in … a sawad.”

Super creepy Ananas

Creepy Ananas
Creepy Ananas

Since my sister’s move to Montréal, she watched a lot of Téléfrançais. In an effort to keep up with her level of French, I have been watching it as well. Téléfrançais is an educational TV show designed to teach French to elementary school students. It stars a talking pineapple named “Ananas.”

Inspired by Téléfrançais, I have been working on a digitally remastered version of Ananas in Blender. Tonight I did a little camera tracking test and put Ananas on the kitchen table with my sister and boyfriend. It turned out okay. Click the thumbnail of the image attached to this post to see an animated GIF of Ananas waving at you creepily.

I feel like this creepiness is definitely in keeping with the spirit of Téléfrançais. Next up, time to do some writing. I’m not planning a feature-length film, but perhaps a (series of) short film(s)?

Ask a Québécois(e)!

Foosball
Foosball

Next time you have the chance, ask a Québécois(e) to tell you the name of the popular game pictured to the left in this post.

In English, we call it “foosball.”

In French it’s called “baby-foot.” I’m not saying that a literal translation of the French term for “foosball” would be “baby-foot”—the French don’t call it “pied de bébé.” The French say the English words “baby-foot” as their word for “foosball.”

I’m not sure why I expected the French word for “foosball” to make sense. The English word is confusing to me as well.

Answering my readers’ questions

Everyone gather ’round. It’s that time again! It’s time for me to answer my readers’ questions!

And by that, I mean, it’s time for me to see what strings of words people have typed into Google that brought them to my blog. Then I look through the search keywords that are (more-or-less) well-formed questions and answer them as best I can. It’s the least I could do, since they took the time to visit my site with these questions on their mind.

“Why can’t the space shuttle leave conventionally from an airport?” (July 26)

Mostly because it’s not an airplane. Those booster rockets that the space shuttle normally uses for take-off are not decorative.

“If I fired a laser beam at my hand would it come out the other side?” (Aug 4)

Yes.

“How to castle in chess with friends?” (July 31, Aug 7, 14, 17)

Begin a chess game with a friend, castle normally.

“How do you move your king and castle at the same time?” (July 26)

You probably meant “How do you move your king and your rook at the same time?”

“Rook” is the name for the pieces that start at the corners of the board.

In chess, “castle” is a verb. It’s the verb that means to move your rook and king at the same time, two spaces toward each other, provided that the intervening spaces are not occupied and that neither the king nor rook has been moved before in the match (and that you’re not trying to castle out of check).

“Cheat on MCAT tips?” (Aug 1) / “How to cheat the MCAT?” (July 30)

Are you really asking me to help you to cheat on the MCAT? Get out.

“Has anyone ever cheated on MCAT before?” (July 28)

No. No one in the history of mankind. No one whose motives were so pure as to aspire to medical school has ever even considered cheating to attain such a goal.

“Grammar is one of the greatest joys in life, don’t you find?” (Aug 8)

Actually, now that you mention it, grammar is the greatest joy in life.

“How to avoid getting your bike stolen [in] Montréal?” (Aug 25)

Sell bike, and buy Bixi pass with the proceeds.

“How to get your thesis bound at McGill” (July 27)

You gotta do it yourself, I’m afraid. You can get Acco-Press binders at the bookstore.

“How to take someones fortune?” (Aug 21)

Twitter-stalking.

“I bought wrong grammar?” (Aug 10)

You sure did.

“I might have strep throat I don’t got insurance?” (Aug 7)

That’s quite the predicament! Are you a Canadian citizen?

“Is there a Montréal métro pass for mature students?” (Aug 19)

Nope. No such thing. Once you’re 25, you pay full price, whether you’re a full-time student or not.

“What happens after you accept a TA-ship offer?” (Aug 4)

Heh … Do you really want to know?

“What is giving you the most problems with Microsoft Word?” (July 26)

Thank you for asking! Mostly crashing, interface glitches and the fact that there’s no separation between content, formatting, comments and meta-data.

“Where can i get hasperat?” (July 28)

Bajor, if you want it authentic.

But if you would make the brine for a really strong hasperat—I mean eye watering, tongue searing strong—you’d make an old man very happy.

Thesis abstracts in both English and French

Well what do you know? I have to write a French version of my abstract for my thesis.

This means it’s time to go out and buy some Newcastle beers. I have a friend who’s a translator who enjoys Newcastle beer, and if I’m going to exploit my relationship with her for my personal gain, I might as well make it worth her while.

There’s no way I’m going to risk writing my own thesis abstract in French. In French, I’m most confident in my ability to discuss whether pineapples can talk:

The Bonhomme Theme Song

Bonhomme Bonhomme, qu'est-ce que tu fais?
Bonhomme Bonhomme, qu'est-ce que tu fais?

Do you remember learning about the Carnaval de Québec in French class?

There’s a particular song that they used to teach us during the unit on the Carnaval. It’s Bonhomme’s theme song, I guess. When I went to Québec this winter, there was a marching band that followed Bonhomme around playing it.

I used to think that the lyrics were, “Bonhomme Bonhomme qu’est-ce que tu fais? Bonhomme Bonhomme qu’est-ce que tu fais? Je vais jouer au violon! Je vais jouer au violon! …”

Translated to English, this means, “Bonhomme Bonhomme, what are you doing? Bonhomme Bonhomme, what are you doing? I’m gonna play the violin. I’m gonna play the violin.”

Turns out, according to a native French-speaker, that is not only incorrect, but also very creepy.

That it was creepy was not at all surprising. I mean, look at him. And I suppose, given the state of French instruction in Ontario, it shouldn’t be too surprising that I got it wrong.

Makes sense to me though. “Bonhomme Bonhomme, what are you doing? Bonhomme Bonhomme, what are you doing?”

In related news, my cellphone ringtone is now the theme song to Téléfrançais.

Chez Ben in Granby, QC

Poutine Burger
Poutine Burger

Québec is full of wonderful poutine restaurants. Chez Ben is a restaurant in Granby that sells pretty good poutine, and really small hamburgers.

I was very strongly tempted to order the “poutine burger.” And yes, a “poutine burger” is exactly what it appears in the photograph to be: A big aluminium foil pie-plate full of poutine, with a hamburger patty on it.

I love Québec.

The slogan for the restaurant is, “On s’bourre la bedaine,” meaning roughly, “We stuff our bellies.”

Here’s a fun bit of French vocabulary. If you wanted to say that someone is “shirtless,” you’d say he is “en bedaine.”

In the attached video, please note that the big giant figure of “Ben” moves, demonstrating that he is stuffing his “bedaine” in front of the restaurant.

Smelly candles that don’t stink when you blow them out

I’ve always got a bunch of great ideas. Seriously. This is even better (and probably more profitable) than my idea for replacing “quatre-vingt-dix” in French with “trois-trente.” (“Trois-trente huit, trois-trente neuf, cent—prêt pas prêt j’y vais!” Anyone who has studied French as a second language will agree that this is a very reasonable first step toward reforming the French language.)

By the way, if you take my idea and make a million dollars off it, by reading this sentence, you agree, in a legally-binding sense, to give me the trifling cut of only 40% of the profits. I’m pretty sure that’s how this works. I saw it on the internet once.

Here’s my idea. I have some candles in my apartment. Smelly candles. Some are supposed to smell like fruits, some like gingerbread. When the candles are burning, they smell wonderful. This is good.

The problem comes when I blow the candles out. Every smelly candle does this: When you blow it out, it smells like smoke and something burning, and all the benefit of having lit a smelly candle in the first place is gone forever. This is bad.

Here is my proposed solution. Someone should invent a smelly candle that doesn’t stink when you blow it out. You could do this through the use of … umm … chemistry. Or maybe some sort of apparatus that contains the smoke and releases it slowly over several hours, so that I don’t notice it until it’s already over. At least there wouldn’t be the swift and dramatic difference between everything smelling good, and then all of a sudden, smoke and burning things. Maybe I just need to get an airtight jar made of a strong kind of glass whose top I can close when I want to extinguish the candle. I imagine that there would be complications because the air would all be burned up inside the glass, but we can let the engineers solve that one.

Any thoughts?

Other stuff I saw in Québec City

A church in downtown Québec
A church in downtown Québec

While I mainly went to see the Carnaval, I also went for a walk around the Old Québec a bit while I was in town. It’s a very beautiful city.

There are all sorts of wonderful old buildings, churches and historical-type things going on.

Not only that, but they have excellent lighting at night, so it makes for some good photos!

You just have to be willing to wait for an opportune moment, when there isn’t a car going past, who will leave streaks of light all through your exposure. Thank goodness for digital cameras.

Celtic cross at night
Celtic cross at night

I think I must have spent about fifteen minutes trying to get this photo of the celtic-looking cross. I’ve got a whole bunch of photos of it with streaks across it, thanks to cars.

After three or four tries, I was almost prepared to set the self-timer and go stand in the middle of the road, just out of the frame of the camera, so that I would prevent any cars from passing through it. I only wanted a twenty-second exposure, and there was only one car every minute or so.

Oh well.

I like the details on the cross, and I think it was worth the wait.

An angel with a globe
An angel with a globe

Next is an angel with a globe. I’m not sure what his deal is. I guess he’s like a busker, except that he doesn’t really perform a musical instrument.

Not a bad job, I guess.

Unless you don’t like the cold. It wasn’t too bad while I was there, anyway. It was consistently around -1ºC or -2ºC, and in the sunlight, during the day, that’s not too bad.

He seems happy, anyway.

Important people I saw at Québec City

Bonhomme de Neige
Bonhomme de Neige

While I was in Québec City, my path crossed two important people. The first and most important was of course Bonhomme de Neige himself. I nearly missed him, but I happened to arrive just as he was leaving, so that I could snap about a dozen shots of him, paparazzi-style.

Later that day, while I was walking along a road between the Plains of Abraham and the Carnaval, I saw a big SUV drive past me, and I noticed that it had a blue flag with a royal symbol on it.

I remarked that I thought that it was a royal standard on the car that passed, but my friend told me that we would have heard if the Queen was coming. After the first car came a couple other RCMP cars.

The Governor General of Canada, David Johnston
The Governor General of Canada, David Johnston

When the car stopped, out jumped David Johnston, the Governor General of Canada. Apparently he had come to visit Québec City. And he passed within two metres of me!

So, I ran up and took a half dozen photos of him, paparazzi-style, since that seemed to be the thing to do that day.