Americans misuse French

Sometimes it’s nuanced. Sometimes it’s blatant. Mostly it’s hilarious. Americans have taken some French words or sayings and made them something they aren’t to the French. If you know of any not on this list, please leave a comment, and I’ll add it!

Ooh la la!

To Americans, this phrase means “Well, isn’t that fancy.” It’s a response to a friend showing off a new designer purse, for example. When the French say it, there are usually more “las.”  It sounds like “ooh la la la la la la!” It doesn’t mean they’re impressed. It means something like “What a mess. How annoying.” It’s a common response when a child drops something and it breaks all over the floor, or when a child falls and starts screeching.

Casserole

This one has a hilarious backstory. My boyfriend’s mother asked him to hand her a casserole from the kitchen cabinet. I stared at them both. “Don’t you refrigerate your casseroles? The French make shelf-stable casseroles?!” They stared at me, and he got a “casserole” out of the cabinet. It was a cooking pot. It wasn’t even the flat, rectangular baking dish that Americans bake casseroles in.

Rendezvous

To Americans, this word has a romantic or sexual connotation. So when I heard a French person say they had a rendezvous with their hair dresser, I was curious. “You’re sleeping with your hair dresser?” That’s when I was told that in French, it just means any kind of meeting or appointment. Not necessarily sexual. Probably not sexual, in fact.

A la mode

In America, this phrase means “with ice cream.” In French, it isn’t used to mean anything other than its literal meaning, “in the fashion.” If you ask a French person to serve your dessert “a la mode” they’ll just give you a funny look. “In the fashion of what?” they might ask you.

Lamontre

Apparently, this is a name in America. In French, it means “the watch” (la montre). The most common reaction I’ve heard from French people upon learning that this is used as a name in America is “Really? But why?”

 

10 Reasons Fasting is Fantastic

1. It’s FREE. Diets, especially fad diets, come with specialized foodstuffs that taste only vaguely edible and cost more than actual food. There’s often a subscription-only service to a website, an app, a community. The only thing you need for fasting is some salt to replenish electrolytes.

2. Simplicity. There’s nothing to keep track of. No calories, no carbs, no macros to count. There’s no list of foods to reference.

3. Diabetes reversal without drugs. I’m not that kind of doctor, so don’t take medical advice from me. Those wishing to find out more can check out Dr. Jason Fung’s book The Diabetes Code: Prevent and Reverse Type 2 Diabetes Naturally.

4. Increased energy. This sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true. If think about fasting, you’re probably imagining starvation. And when you’re starving, your body will conserve energy so you’ll feel tired and slow, right? Not quite. Imagine if that happened every time our ancestors couldn’t find food for a few days. We wouldn’t exist today. Instead, fasting increases energy — it’s that extra boost we need to get out and hunt some food.

5. Lower food costs. Common fasting protocols recommend fasting for 2-3 days a week. Or eating only during an “eating window” of up to 8 hours a day. Even if you try, it’s hard to cram the same amounts of food you eat when not fasting into a fasting regimen. Which brings us to…

6. Decreased hunger. This also seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? It was a revelation to me that hunger doesn’t increase linearly or exponentially the longer you don’t eat. Hunger is controlled by hormones, and is cyclical. I’m sure it’s happened to you: you were hungry but too busy to stop and eat. After 10 minutes or so, you weren’t hungry anymore. It’s the same when fasting. You’ll get hungry in response to cues like normal meal times or food smells, but if you don’t eat, it goes away. For those who do extended fasts, hunger will generally go away entirely as the body switches to ketosis (burning fat for fuel).

7. Flexibility. There are many ways to fast. Alternate day, 2 days a week, eating windows, extended fasts a few times a year. Since there are no special foods, you can easily bring fasting with you on vacation. If you’re on a road trip and the only food available is unappetizing, like day-old pizza from the gas station, you can fast.

8. More free time. How much time does it take to do meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning up? Even going out for each meal doesn’t save as much time as fasting. If we estimate that 2 hours per day are spent preparing and eating food, then fasting 2 days a week saves you 4 hours. How much is your time worth to you?

9. Improved mood. No, this can’t be right. Don’t people get “hangry”? Sure, but it’s a response to wild swings in blood sugar (which happen after eating high-carb foods without the balance of fiber to slow down the release of glucose into the blood stream, and the concomitant flood of insulin which crashes blood sugar levels). When you don’t eat, your blood sugar is low, but stable. No wild swings in blood sugar means no accompanying swings in mood.

10. Less bloating. As mentioned in 9, fasting keeps blood sugar low. In turn, this keeps insulin levels down. Insulin causes water retention (because it causes our bodies to retain sodium).

There are some folks who shouldn’t fast, but for the vast majority of us, it’s a good idea. This is not, in any way, a sponsored post, but a lot of great information about fasting can be found here.

10 thoughts on a Wednesday [5]

one. Ask 100 people to define “success” and you’ll get 100 different answers. Most will involve some combination of money, power, status, happiness. Ask me, and I’ll say this: the only way to be successful is to be paid to kiss Alexander Skarsgård.

two. Stormi is a strange choice for a name. It seems like it should be defined as

Stormi (v.) – Past participle of regular French verb “stormir” meaning “to enter a space in an angry or aggressive manner.

three. Men are wearing flood pants. Or capris. I don’t know what to call the trend, but these are fashionable men with pants that end several inches above their shoes. Sometimes, this shows off colorful socks (and is supposed to indicate colorful personalities?) but sometimes what I see is 5 long ankle hairs. San Francisco is too cold for this trend: please notify these poor men that their mothers think they’ll catch their deaths exposing that much ankle.

four. Speaking of trends, has the culinary world gotten over putting foam on food? I would so love to have a tasting menu where not a single course has what appears to be cat vomit on it!

five. I found an 8gb usb thumb drive on the sidewalk that says “BELTRAI” on it. Maybe it’s someone’s name. Maybe there are secrets on it and this is the beginning of a mystery spy novel. But probably it fell out of a trash can that was being emptied. And just has old pictures of landscapes and things once put up for sale on Craigslist.

six. I have been spending most of my evenings working on jigsaw puzzles. Why? It’s strangely meditative. I am trash at meditation because I am unable to not think thoughts. One trivial thing chases the next and I either can’t empty my mind, or I fall asleep. But when I work on puzzles, I don’t think anything — my brain’s busy hunting. Also, finding a piece and feeling it click into place is rewarding. The topic deserves an entire post, but why is it that useful pursuits never feel as satisfying as things no one needs to do? It’s really too bad that useful things like work or chores can’t reward the brain circuitry the way that candy crush or scrolling on Instagram does.

seven. While I still agree with the idea that there is nothing religion does for humanity that can’t be accomplished in a secular way, I’ve come to recognize that there are areas where some religions are doing a better job. One is community. I follow a few Mormon family blogs, and I saw this post. Middle school and high school students in the community were able to raise $20,000 by throwing a festival for a friend in a coma. I would be surprised to learn of a secular community of students accomplishing the same, even with similar levels of wealth and education.

eight. I learned something fascinating about starches: if you let them cool and then reheat them, you are only able to absorb about half the calories as if you ate them immediately after cooking. I know, it sounds like fake news. But it’s real: I read it in The Death of a Calorie.

nine. For some time, I’ve wanted to be an advice columnist. Isn’t it fun to tell people how to deal with their problems when you’re the world’s premier expert on ignoring your own? Anyway, please comment with things you’d like advice on. This should be fun.

ten. According to Pete Buttigieg’s campaign, his last name is pronounced “boot-edge-edge.” But when I heard it, it definitely sounded like “Buddha-judge.” I was pleased that my interpretation is the 2nd on on Chasten Buttigieg’s list. I was also pleased that he knew his first name would bring its own pronunciation questions so his bio says “Chas-ten” (as opposed to the verb chasten, which rhymes with Jason).

Exchange BP gift cards for Arco

BP gift cards used to work at Arco, but in some areas, a system upgrade now prompts users for a PIN when they try to use a BP gift card at an Arco gas station, and these cards do not come with PINs. Here’s how to exchange your BP gift cards for Arco gift cards.

  1. Call the number on the back of the BP gift card: 1-800-519-3560.
  2. Follow the menu prompts to get to an operator. Tell the operator you have BP gift cards which no longer work at your local Arco stations, and you would like to exchange them for Arco gift cards. They will ask for a name, phone number, email address, and mailing address. Then they’ll instruct you to do the following:
  3. Email sservices@alorica.com (no, that’s not a typo, it is “sservices”) with:
    • your name
    • a copy of the original receipt (when you purchased the BP gift card(s))
    • picture of the front of the gift card(s)
    • picture of the back of the gift card(s)

That’s it! According to customer service, you should receive a response/replacement within 7-10 business days.

Am I a typical MoviePass user?

I know that the analysts are all down on MoviePass, saying it’ll die by the end of summer. I know the stock of its parent company HMNY has tanked and investors are having trouble finding enough shares to short. But I love MoviePass, and I wonder how many other users are like me.

Before MoviePass, I would see maybe 1 movie a year in theaters. A blockbuster like the latest Bond film. I never ever bought concessions because the ticket price was already over $10. I only watched big-budget films with action scenes that would make it “worth it” to watch in a theater.

Now, I see movies 3-4 times a week. I buy popcorn about half the time because the ticket was “free.” And I’ll watch anything, even indie films I’m not sure I’ll like.

AMC has “no intention” of sharing profits with MoviePass. If all large theater chains decide the same, the analysts will probably be right about MoviePass dying soon. But AMC would be making a mistake. Even if they give up 20% of ticket sales and concessions to MoviePass, they’re still making 80% on my activities. Let’s make a conservative estimate that I go to AMC theaters twice a week and buy a large popcorn every other time with MoviePass. Then over the course of a year, they’re making about $1600 (80% of $2000) from my activities. Versus my previous habits, where they’d be making about $15 a year (100% of $15). That’s more than 2 orders of magnitude.

If MoviePass goes bankrupt, it will have been a good run. But theater chains shouldn’t fantasize that customers like me will continue going to movies several times a week and buying the same amount of concessions without MoviePass. It won’t happen. I’ll go back to my old habits without MoviePass because movie ticket prices are a poor value proposition for me.

I can’t be all that rare. MoviePass only had about 20,000 subscribers before its price drop from $30/month to $9.95/month. Now it’s on track to get over 3 million by August. How many new users are like me? If there are enough of us, maybe we can make the case to AMC and other chains that they want to work with MoviePass before it’s too late!

Ten thoughts on a Monday [3]

one

This was the sky and city hall as Ed Lee lay in state. Maybe this was the day he was moved. Northbound Van Ness was closed for a while, causing quite a traffic snarl. I’ve seen it before: someone important dies and to honor him, the masses suffer in traffic. Say it with me, there’s got to be a better way!

two

The holiday season has me saddened that fois gras is banned in California again. I’m surprised because there’s a growing French population in the Bay Area and banning foie gras is culturally insensitive to them. Would we ever ban the sale of halal meat? Halal slaughter is arguably more cruel than gavage, but since Islam is a religion and fois gras is not, I guess California sees fit to ban one but not the other. Maybe the answer is to make a religion that has foie gras as a ritual food item.

three

People acquire a certain hardness when they’ve faced challenges in life. Especially chronic problems like abusive parents, hunger, unstable housing situations, poverty, etc. It isn’t their fault, but I’ve noticed that the hardness makes them less pleasant and terrible conversationalists. They do too much posturing to influence how others see them, and frankly, it’s dull. The people I find most dear have lived sheltered lives, laugh easily, trust willingly, and say things like:

It’s so bad being homeless in winter. They should go somewhere warm like the Caribbean where they can eat fresh fish all day.
Lady Victoria Hervey

four

Notebooks marketed towards women too often have silly “inspirational” sayings on them. But if a man were using a notebook that had “Follow your dreams” stamped on it in swirly gold foil, wouldn’t you find it silly? Is it that designers think women are silly, or is it that we actually are silly? Oh, maybe designers are silly.

five

I found a note I wrote to myself last time I was drunk.

When drunk you will forget everything. How to spell. Your own name. How to stand up on your own two legs. But you won’t forget that you need to floss.

It appears I have some strange obsession with flossing.

six

I would love to find a way to give compliments to a person without them thinking I’m flirting. Or, more generally, a way to be nice to a person (give them attention, ask them to events with me, offer them baked goods) without them thinking I have ulterior motives. I blame the skewed values system of our society. The way we talk about sexual relationships as something more than “just friendship”. For example, I have friends with lovely eyes, the cutest giggle, great fashion sense, amazing hair, and I can’t admit I think these things without it sounding like I’m flirting or like I want “something more” when I don’t. I suppose I could go back to when I didn’t realize everyone thought I was flirting. But that era had its own problems. Like people who I considered friends kissing me out of nowhere (or so I thought).

seven

I never heard of Sam Altman until yesterday when I read his blog post , which appears to imply that if we shame people for having views like “gays are evil and deserve to die” then we create an environment that is bad for innovation. Most in my friend group agreed that this was a poor argument without much evidence to support it. But one friend started spewing terms like “online lynch mob” and “thought crime” and “liberal bubble”. It was ironic to see how quickly someone who thinks of himself as a supporter of open discussion, disagreement and innovative thought sought to shut down and dismiss arguments from those who disagree with him.

eight

I have a thing for Muji. I almost got hauled in for additional questioning at Denpasar airport for refusing to give up the Muji forks I was trying to get through security. Aren’t they beautiful? I wonder what it says about a person when they buy themselves flatware for Christmas. Never mind, no I don’t: it’s probably nothing good.

nine

This snowman is visiting SFMOMA for the holiday season. I didn’t grow up somewhere snowy. So I had winter fantasies about snow based on movies. Sledding, snowmen, ice skating, magic. I am assured isn’t like that for people who actually live in it for months at a time, but to me, snow is still magic.

ten

A friend of mine asked how I lost “all that weight” and I was reminded again of how little our perceptions of ourselves line up with how others perceive us. I thought my clothes fit better, sure, but I didn’t think my weight loss would be noticeable to others. The best resource for information about lasting weight loss is Dr. Jason Fung’s book The Obesity Code. He addresses why low-fat diets don’t work, why most diets fail, and gets into the science behind what causes weight gain and why it is so much easier to gain than lose weight, especially with traditional dieting advice. But don’t take my word for it — there are about 1000 5-star reviews on Amazon and the book is an easy read: see what you think.

Aria, Bach’s Goldberg Variations

I have been told too many times that I should have goals. This started with a warning from a high school teacher who was convinced that I would never find a direction and I’d just “spin.” She wasn’t wrong.

I am not good at having goals because examples I have heard have made me unspeakably sad. Career goals, marriage? Having a house? Having X dollars in my retirement account? Is there really nothing more to life? Then there are contrived goals, like traveling to every single country. Those don’t appeal either. Again, the pointlessness is depressing. Who knew goals were so maudlin?

I’ve found an acceptable goal for now: learn how to play the Aria from Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Ideally, I’ll be able to play it more or less like Glenn Gould, minus the moaning.

Don’t let the tempo deceive you. This piece is not easy. I was trained in classical piano for nine years, and I’ve never played a song that felt this vulnerable. You can’t fudge a note, casually slide past in a hurry, speed up or slow down at will, use the pedal to hide. None of it. And the ending invites speeding because the climax is so exquisite you just want to get there faster.

I’m also reading Grit. Maybe that’s why I thought having a goal would be good. We’ll see.