Two To Too Tutu

First thing yesterday morning Kish pointed out that it was 2/22/22, a “palindrome date.” (Or, if you live in a part of the world where the date precedes the month, the even more palindromic 22/2/22.) The fact that it fell on the second day of the week led some people to call it “Twosday.” And numerologists and those who are sensitive to the significance of this kind of thing contend that it was an auspicious day for reflection on relationships, good fortune, cosmic karma, Zen, and other highly spiritual things.

I therefore hope you all had a lucky, happy, spiritual, relationship-building Twosday.

My mind went in a slightly different direction, however, thinking instead of how the “two” sound, by itself, forms multiple words with totally different meaning. “Two” is a number. “To” connotes motion in a particular direction. “Too” reflects excessiveness (as in “eating too much”) and is also synonymous with “in addition.” And “tutu” is a specific kind of outfit for a female ballet dancer. No doubt the linguists among us could trace the distinct roots of each word to explain how they all developed with exactly the same sound.

Whatever their roots, I think there must be something that people particularly like about that “two” sound that would cause it to produce so many different standalone words. And it is not just true of English, either: in French, “tu” is the familiar form of “you.” Part of the attraction of yesterday’s palindrome must therefore simply lie in repeatedly making the “two” sound–which admittedly is pretty satisfying if you try it.

I also think that I am glad that I learned English as a kid growing up and assimilated all of the different “two” words as a matter of course, without giving it much thought. If you were someone who needed to learn English as a second language, trying to figure out what the person you were speaking to meant when they made the “two” sound might leave you flummoxed.

The Golden Age Of Dog Food

We’re watching Russell’s dog Betty while Russell heads down south for the wedding of some friends. Over the last few days, I’ve been responsible for serving Betty her evening and morning meals, which has caused me to pay careful attention to her dog food.

It’s no wonder that Betty wolfs down her food with voracious speed as soon as the dog bowl hits the floor of the pantry. She’s getting some pretty high-end chow here. Her cans of Pedigree state that they are made with real beef, and some include “filet mignon flavor.” And her Fromm brand food is labeled as “grain free” pate–chicken pate, to be precise. To add to the sophisticated air of the Fromm offering, the Fromm can labels include disclosures in both English and French.

In case you’re interested, Betty’s “dog food” in French is “pate de poulet nourriture pour chiens” that is “sans cereales.” It even sounds classier, doesn’t it? I’m surprised Betty doesn’t request a cloth napkin and a candlelit place setting before she sticks her head into the bowl and starts gobbling it.

We’re clearly not alone in the tony dog food department When you walk around German Village and notice deliveries on doorsteps, pet-related boxes tend to dominate, and since GV clearly is dog territory, many of the packages contain dog food. Chewy.com seems to be a popular on-line venue for dog food, and it offers a huge array of different brands that include contents like “big Texas steak,” salmon, and chicken. That’s pretty tempting stuff for Fido.

We may be living through tough times for humans, but it’s a golden age for dogs.

Mais Oui, Henri

Our weather app advises that, for now at least, tropical storm Henri is supposed to make landfall somewhere in southern New England, several hundred miles below Deer Isle. We’re forecast to get three days of rain as the remnants of Henri pass through, but are supposed to avoid the high winds and storm surge that would accompany a direct hit.

As we’ve heard about the path of Henri over the last few days, I’ve wondered why they would name a tropical storm “Henri” in the first place. I know that, long ago, we stopped giving exclusively women’s names to hurricanes and tropical storms, but now we seem to have crossed the threshold into foreign name territory, which opens up an entirely new realm of possibilities. To my mind, “Henri” isn’t a particularly threatening name for a potentially devastating storm; instead, it conjures up images of annoying French mimes and suggests that you should welcome the arrival of the storm with some brie, pate, and a good Bordeaux. It also causes those of us who took French in high school–the “language of diplomacy,” as our French teacher constantly reminded us–to dig deep into the lingering remnants of our French vocabulary and work on our pronunciation skills.

In my view, tropical storms should be given names that encourage feelings of fear and concern, in order to incentivize people to take the storm seriously, prepare for the worst, and evacuate if necessary. Hurricane Genghis would do that, or tropical storm Rasputin. I think Hurricane Svetlana would be a good choice, too.

But tropical storm Henri? Non!

In Old Montreal

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The historic district of Montreal is called, aptly enough, Old Montreal. We walked its streets today on an absolutely perfect day, weather-wise, with temperatures in the mid-70s and a bright blue sky. The district is filled with scenic Old World vistas, cobblestones, and quaint brick and stone buildings. Mix in the fact that most of the people here are speaking French, and you begin to get the idea of just how exotic and wonderful this little corner of Canada is.

French For A Dummy

I’m going to be spending some time in France in a few months, so I’ve decided to brush up on my French language skills.  Actually, calling them “skills” isn’t quite accurate — unless the meaning of “skills” can be stretched to include a capability that really doesn’t exist.  I can read a little French, and I remember that jambon means ham, but that’s really about as far as it goes.

IMG_4898I took French in junior high school, in high school, and at OSU until I met my language requirements.  Despite these years of patient instruction, I never moved past the most basic levels.  Not surprisingly, my French class memories don’t involve having rapid-fire conversations with proud and dazzled teachers.  Instead, I remember trying to get some “extra credit” by helping my high school French teacher decorate her classroom for Christmas.  To my befuddlement, she wanted me to hang up the letters of the alphabet.  After I did so, she asked me if I got the reference.  When  gave her a confused look in response, she gestured at the letters, barked out a short Gallic laugh, and said “No L!”  I shrugged at this weak example of French humor, then remembered that sophisticates in that country considered Jerry Lewis a genius.

In college, our pleasant if somewhat beefy French instructor wanted to give the class an example of the importance of precise pronunciation.  She explained that, during a recent visit to Paris, she was being pestered by a beret-wearing, cigarette-smoking man.  She meant to dismiss him with a gruff cochon, which means pig, but instead she said couchons, which unfortunately suggested a desire to do the horizontal bop.  She then barked out a short Gallic laugh as the members of the class snickered at her embarrassing predicament.  The only other things I remember from my college French classes are that we students thought mangez mes sous-vetements, which means “eat my shorts,” was a hilarious insult even though the exasperated teacher pointed out that the French never use that phrase, and we also put n’est ce pas? at the end of every conceivable statement because it at least ended our halting sentences with a smooth closing.

So, trying to get up to speed on French in a few months is probably futile — especially since studies indicate that trying to acquire new language skills becomes more difficult with age.  I’m going to try anyway.  I’ve reserved some French language instruction CDs from the library and am going to listen to them on our morning walks.  I’m starting with French for Dummies.  The title is a bit insulting — but it’s probably accurate, n’est ce pas?