This one has bugged me for a while…

If you hear someone in France talking about the “vay-say”, which you would probably write as “VC”, it’s not the Viet Cong or the Victoria Cross or Venture Capital, or something like this.

It’s actually not even VC. It’s supposed to be “WC”, but apparently the “double” is too difficult to say. So instead of “dooble-vay say”, it becomes “vay say”. So it means WC. Which is actually English for Water Closet.

So, in France, via tortured evolution, one way to say toilet in French is “vay-say”.


Happy New Year

I’ve been back in France for a while after the Christmas holidays and am being constantly reminded of one of the odd, low-level cultural differences between here and the US.

It seems to be absolutely obligatory that you wish people happy New Year once (and only once) if you talk to them in early January. Far more so than in the US.

Here’s an example email that I just got (which has the benefit of being in English, even if it was written by a Dutchman living in France :-):


Subject: Account
Date: Tue, 10 Jan 2017 15:42:53 +0100
From: Bart
To: Ganga

Hi Ken,

Let me start by wishing you a happy new year, and my best wishes for a good and healthy 2017!

I would like to ...



Subject: Kickoff meeting
Date: Tue, 10 Jan 2017 12:04:55 +0100
From: Herb
To: list

Dear all,

Happy new year to all of you !

The wiki page...


And here are similar emails in French:

Subject: Version finale
Date: Tue, 10 Jan 2017 13:53:47 +0100
From: Al
To: list
Bonjour à tous,

Tout d'abord, je vous envoie mes meilleurs voeux pour la nouvelle année!

Par ailleurs...


Subject: Appel 
Date:     Tue, 10 Jan 2017 11:48:50 +0100
From:     Steve
To:     list

Bonjour à toutes et à tous,

Mes meilleurs voeux pour 2017 ...


Most of my messages after the new year start like this. It’s like clockwork! The difficult part is knowing when to stop. It’s January 10th and most of many of my messages still have this. I don’t think it goes longer than a couple of weeks, and you’re really not supposed to wish someone a happy new year twice, of course.

It really reminds me of my “Bonjour” problem. You’re absolutely supposed to say “bonjour” to people when you first see them, but it seems to be a total faux-pas to say it twice to the same person in the same day!

Some day I’ll figure it out…



penn_state_kickoff Here’s something that’s made me wonder a bit. At the right is a football (American, of course. 🙂 Taken from Wikipedia and edited a bit) kickoff. We all know what it looks like — ball tilted a bit towards the kicker, so we can kick it in the center of its length.

What confuses me is the difference with rugby. Below I’ve got a picture of the basic equivalent to a kickoff in rugby. Notice that here the ball is actually tilted away from the kicker. I guess this is because the rugby, while similar to a US football, is actually rounder at the ends, so you can actually kick it there, and probably get the ball further, since it’s harder.

rugby-kickBut since I’ve never met anyone who’s played both American football and rugby, I don’t know how to confirm this!

(And for those that actually know rugby and recognize the player: yes, I’ve “inverted” the picture left-right to make it resemble the US Football picture. But this shouldn’t change the discussion…).

Flu Shots

fluMy work doesn’t provide flu shots for us, so we’ve got to do it ourselves — really ourselves. You can buy a shot in any pharmacy for about $7. Then, you can get an official nurse to give it to you, but you can also get a family member or, yes, I do it myself…


ballotI think I’m being disenfranchised! It’s probably unintentional, but it’s a bit annoying… here’s how it goes…

I vote in Connecticut. To get an absentee ballot, I have to request one via snail-mail. They’re not sent until a while before a vote, and obviously you can’t wait until the last minute. So you have to plan and make sure you request it at the right time. In addition, you can’t get get them sent to you regularly — you have to request one for each election, including different requests for primaries and general elections. Basically, they make it a pain. Intentional? You tell me. Apparently, in other states you can register as a permanent absentee voter and get the  ballots sent to you automatically. Not me 🙁

I can usually deal with this 19th century technology, but this year is even more painful. I requested my ballot a bit more than a week ago, and I just got the reply. So far, so good. Usually it comes with an envelope (duh…), some instructions, a ballot, and two other envelopes. You’re supposed to put your completed ballot in one, “inner” envelope, and then send this envelope in the second, “outer” envelope they’ve given you. I guess this is to try to keep my vote secret.

But I didn’t get the “inner” envelope (they call it envelope ‘B’). I’ve written an email to the town clerk, but it’s hard to imagine that this will get cleared up in time for me to vote. It’s not hard to guess which direction absentee voters probably vote. You think this is on purpose?