So how exactly am I supposed to pay for anything online if TSB consistently block me from making online payments? You'd think things like click-safe, double-password protected cards would get processed without much ado by your bank - seeing as the secondary "clicksafe" password is there to ensure you are who you say you are when you attempt to pay for something? Alas, it seems that many banks have a safety algorithm programmed into their systems that says something along the lines of: If this payment is taking place from outside the UK - there must be a Nigerian/Bulgarian gangster holding our client at gunpoint and therefore approving this sale would not be a safe thing to do. Reject. Reject. Reject! Why a Bulgarian gangster would want to buy a TFL oyster card or a music CD worth 12.99GBP is neither here nor there, obviously. Gone are the days when I used to get a call from the bank saying "Someone just tried to use your card from France!" - to which I almost always answered "Yes it was [...]
There are many Anglicisms that have made their way into the French vernacular. I have already mentioned the 'F' word - which the French seem to think is no more offensive than saying 'bottom'. My latest find in this regard is a digital radio station self-baptised "Fuckin' Good Radio" or Radio FG for short on which they play "Fuckin' Good Music" - apparently. But if you ask me, the only time the F-word should feature in the same sentence as this music station is in the word "fuckwit" - which no doubt epitomises the individual who came up with the name. On NRJ a few weeks back we heard an advert for a new party service called "Myfuckingbirzday" - who, one presumes, organise club-nights for fuckwits. Anyway, the word I wanted to bring to your attention is actually far less offensive: stop. Yes, the verb "to stop". In French this means precisely what it means in English. I stop, you stop, they stop, we stop, he/she stops. In it's infinitive form it is written "stopper" (pronounced stoeppay). The French [...]
You may have noticed a slight down-shift in the number of blog posts here over the past two years. This is because I have been somewhat busy doing a Masters at the University of Strasbourg during this time. It is over now however, so I can finally find time to bring AEIS back to life. Indeed, writing for pleasure is once again a possibility. Over these past 24 months I have been regularly putting a thing called a "pen" onto sheets of "paper" in order to complete these things called "assignments". Much to the protestations of the muscles in my writing hand - who'd forgotten what it was like to move a pen across a page for hours on end. I've also had to take "exams" and write "dissertations". (What made the latter of these particularly taxing was that I had to do so in French.) I've had to read countless books and articles and have spent many days sitting resolutely in the languages library pawing through pages and pages of research. I've had to get my spoken and [...]
The staggering level of hypocrisy and anti-EU venom gushing forth from the political mouthpieces of the United Kingdom at the moment is really starting to get my chèvre. What makes matters particularly nauseating, for those of us who are little more seriously invested in the European project, is that the rhetoric is not confined to right-wing Europhobes. Shame on you Ed, Nick et al...
I first stumbled across the World Music section in Tower Records in my late teens. This, I thought, is where all the hippies must come to buy their whale and pan-pipe music. Considering it was supposed to represent the musical capacity of the majority of planet earth - it was pathetically small. [...]
A few weeks ago I noticed that the wheel rims on my town bike were looking rather mucky, and although I didn't resolve to clean them at the time, today they are sparkling like new. However, this is not because my Virgo natured self could not live with such uncleanliness but because, in the space of two weeks, I was forced to replace both wheels following two separate collisions with motor vehicles. These two incidents bring my total tally of cycling accidents since moving to Strasbourg to 5. Now, to put this in perspective - I don't own a car so go just about everywhere on my bike and I've lived in the city since 2005. That's less than one accident a year and, I reckon, about one every 1000 kilometres cycled. Three accidents have involved cars, one - a fellow cyclist and one - a pedestrian (neither of whom seemed to have read the highway code). Each time, bar one, I have been forcibly dismounted; three of the incidents resulted in my head making contact with the tarmac/car [...]
The French are rather fond of their acronyms. If you've spent any significant amount of time in the country you'll already know SMIC (minimum wage), CAF (family allowance), CMU (basic health cover) and maybe FFF (French football federation). Unlike these 'official' acronyms VDM is more likely to be discovered in posts on Facebook, in emails and on blogs - and like all acronyms there's no way to know what it means without a little explanation. A French friend recently tried to explain it to me: It's basically French for FML. What? FML. F*ck my life. It was here that I had to point out that no Anglophone I knew said FML or F*ck my life. Shome mishtake shurely? In order to convince me that FML was standard English - I was directed to a website forum where people shared stories about how crappy their lives were. It's title: FMylife.com. However, it turns out that this website is in fact created by a not-so-clever Frenchman under the illusion that English folk wander around saying FML at every opportunity. I cannot [...]
Any visit to the Strasbourg-Alsace region wouldn't be complete without a quick nip across the border to the famous spa town of Baden-Baden for a dip in the waters. There are two sets of baths that you can check into for a few hours of relaxation: the Friedrichsbad, which is advertised as a "Roman-Irish" spa, and the Caracalla, an all-encompassing spa for the masses. The Roman-Irish experience, although I have yet to experience it myself, combines classic hot baths (Roman) with sadistic cold ones (Irish) [...]
My current status as a student, and teacher of students, has recently required me to make a bit of an effort in the hipster department. I am no hipster, and I usually wear regular trousers, but having some grasp of what's hip in France is becoming more important as I try...
The verb for "to fart" was something I learnt early on in my studies of the French language. I don't remember why now - but it probably had something to do with an awkward situation in a lift. Anyway, the verb in question is "péter" (pronounced petay) and it is, for obvious reasons, seldom heard in everyday adult conversation. It goes without saying then that when you do hear it in polite conversation this can only mean that someone is chipping-in with a bit of toilet humour - right? Well, not necessarily. Elle a pété une cable. When I heard this phrase for the first time I logically deduced that it must mean "she farted a cable" - clearly some sort of idiom that parallels the English one for a very long turd (she laid a transatlantic cable). But the context seemed not to support this idea as it was about someone who was very angry on the telephone. It was when I met someone who had... Pété le mur du salon ... that I realised that perhaps my [...]