Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Curious Confluence Chapter Twelve: La Rondelle

The several unsettling experiences that I have logged in the last few posts have caused this Blog to stray far from its intended purpose. I intend to remedy that here.

Not being able to speak French while living in France can be quite a pain in the ass. Or it can be looked upon as goad to personal creativity and a source of untold and unbridled continuous merriment. I have chosen to look upon my lack of French language capability from the latter, rather than the former, viewpoint. So rather than speaking English and getting whatever it is that that approach to life in France might deliver, I constantly try to do that which I most obviously cannot do: speak French.

Sometimes I get away with it for a sentence or two.

Like this morning.

I have been eating salmon that I buy from the poissonnerie and cook in the apartment, roast chicken that I buy from the boucherie and to which I don't need to do any preparation, cote de porc from Carrefour which I cook myself and quiches from the boulanger which can be eaten at room temperature or turned soggy warm in the microwave.

I have enjoyed all of those, but I keep eying the whole beef filet wrapped in bacon at the boucherie. Its price is 38 Euros le kilo.

Beef is kind of important to me. It is less so when I am in France, but ultimately I need some rare beef.

To that end a couple of days ago I decided to spruce up my vocabulary with the acquisition of the French word for "piece". I thought that something that must sound a great deal like "piece" must be one word that I could mumble to cover my lack of knowing exactly what the word was. Since lots of items are marked as priced by a word that looks as if it must mean and sound like what I hoped to be its English cousin "piece" I thought I might mumble that word. But that seemed to me to be a kind of cognate copout, and a copout that probably had no basis in actual French vocabulary usage. I thought I that I remembered having had some success a few years back buying cheese employing the word "morceau" but I hadn't used that word in the interim and I remembered that I had gotten unexplainably mixed reactions for the same transaction, same word and same desired product on different occasions. So I looked in my dictionary. Top of the list was "morceau". "Great" thought I, "but isn't there something better?" Next in line was "parcelle" but that was for land.

But then there it was; it was a beautiful word: "rondelle" to be used with round pieces. It was feminine so I could roll out "une rondelle" following my less frequently used old standby "je voudrais" and finish the whole thing off with a thumb and forefinger gesture indicating a size of about an inch and a half and a resounding "comme ça".

So this morning I did just that. And it worked just as I had envisioned that it would work. In fact it was even more beautiful than it had been in my imaginings: after my "comme ça" the boucher grabbed the tenderloin, got his knife, looked at me, having placed the knife and said "comme ça?" "Comme ça" I replied.

It had been a three element exchange.

What a linguistic windfall!

The correct word turns out to be “tranche”.

The boucher probably thought me a poet.

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