Written by Marc

Dress your paper in silk stockings part 2: setting up quotes

photo by Marc Olivier

photo by Marc Olivier

In my post, “Dress your paper in silk stockings,” I gave a starter kit of logical connectors to help make your French papers have better flow. Here, thanks to my colleague, Corry Cropper, I’m going to share some advice given to [his] 300-level French students on setting up quotes in a French research paper. The fact is, writing isn’t all poetry and inspiration (especially academic writing). A lot of it is formulaic, and if someone would just give you some recipes (which they never seem to do, for reasons I won’t explain in this post), you can knock out a pretty decent paper. I’ve added rough translations in italics to help you make sense of this useful list:

• Selon Bouvard, “____” (453).

According to Bouvard, ”  “

• Comme l’explique l’historien Pécuchet, “___” (15).

As the historian Pécuchet explains, ”  “

• Dans son livre ____, Brulotte maintient que “____” (168).

In his book [title of book], Brulotte asserts, ”  ”

• Dans un article publié dans la revue ____, Bouvard se plaint que “____” (87).

In an article published in the journal [title], Bouvard contends [note: “se plaindre” is generally translated as “to complain,” but here, I would say it means something more akin to “argues” or “contends”] ”  ”

• Pécuchet s’aligne avec la pensée de Bouvand quand il écrit “___” (15).

Pécuchet’s line of thought corresponds to that of Bouvard when he writes ”  “

• Brulotte complique la situation encore plus lorsqu’il écrit, “____” (168).

Brulotte further complicates the situation when he writes, ” “

• Bien que Foucault soutienne que “____,” le texte de Bourdieu semble suggérer le contraire

en ces termes: “____” (436; 221).

Although Foucault maintains that ” ,” Bourdieu’s text seems to suggest the opposite in the following terms: ” “

• Minou évoque ce phénomène dans son livre ____ lorsqu’elle écrit “____” (725). Cependant,

cette théorie ne colle pas avec celle élucidée par Binette qui ironise, “___” (xiv).

Minou evokes this phenomenon in her book [title of book] when she writes ” “.  However, that theory is not consistent with Binette’s explanation  when she ironically conjectures, ” “

So, that last one is a bit over-the-top, and my translation is not verbatim, but you get the idea.

250 ways to prepare eggs


250 manières pour apprêter les oeufs, suivies de quelques recettes inédites de cuisine, 1898

On ne fait pas d’omelette sans casses des oeufs.

You know the saying “You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs”? Well, it is supposedly French in origin and emerged as a saying somewhere during the mid-nineteenth century, which is no surprise given the unprecedented level of egg breaking that was no doubt happening in France.

The author, Monsieur Ferdinand Grandi, parrots famed epicurean Brillat-Savarin in support of his obsession:

La découverte d’un mets nouveau fait plus pour le bonheur du genre humain que la découverte d’une étoile.


(The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of the human race than the discovery of a star). That was his way of saying “Bite me, astronomers—chefs rule.”  So, I guess Monsieur Grandi was a sort of culinary Galileo when it came to making eggs. It’s not surprising, coming from a guy who wrote an entire book on the art of folding napkins. He also dabbled in food-themed poetry. In 1893, he wrote a book about 130 ways to prepare eggs, but clearly that wouldn’t do. Especially after another author wrote a book with 200 ways to prepare eggs. Now, Grandi could hold bragging rights to being top dog among the three authors of books dedicated solely to eggs.

Grandi’s  preface ends with the bold declaration that he would quit cooking if eggs were ever banned. um…ok.



A treatise that includes everything from his thoughts on Darwin to commentary on the arts is well worth a read. You could be the most pedantic guest at your next cocktail party.

Or, if you just want to stay at home, stopping first, perhaps, at Walmart or Costco to pick up a few dozen eggs, you could try your hand at
Rissoles à la Pygmalion, Oeufs à la Olga, or any of the 248 other recipes.



Need to do a “cultural activity” for your French class? Read through the book and pick out a recipe or two. You’ll be making meals that Grandi once made for the “King of the Truffle,” Prince Demidov.

Bon appétit!

Blame this boring post on Paris, if you like

I’ve been so busy with prep for a couple months in Paris and other stuff, that I forgot it was my day to post until now. So I give you these two Paris-related youtube videos.

First, Andrew Ryan (no, that’s Andrew Ryan, not Andrew Livingston of What The French?!Although Andrew Livingston also plays a mean guitar, and assorted instruments of his own making) with Waiting for Paris”  (if you like it, he has an EP on iTunes). Not sure why he recorded this Youtube video outside with wind blowing in the mic, but here it is:

And then, there’s Rufus Wainwright’s “Leaving for Paris” presented below in a crappy live recording from a concert in Lille. You can hear him speak French at the beginning, then, for better (but still imperfect) audio, listen to the other video below.

J’ai faim!

Hungry anyone? Eat some pizza.

Hungry and masochistic? Try French cooking. Here are a couple of sources to help you plunge into the deep end of cuisine:

Cuisine Attitude

Chef Cyril Lignac’s blog/magazine has got high quality recipes that will make Martha Stewart‘s fare look like your Aunt Betty’s funeral potatoes.

cuisine attitude


Intimidated? Afraid? A wise green man once said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” But then again, I don’t think anyone was serving up soufflé on Dagobah.

So I’ll go easy on you and give you another source:

Chocolate & Zucchini

Upbeat and charming Clotilde has a treasure trove of recipes, and her site has both English and French versions. I made the blueberry coffee cake and it was easy and amazing. I pinned it to my “random pins of Frenchness board” and it clearly made other people’s mouths water as well.

Chocolate and Zucchini


Go ahead. Be brave. And, hey, if you have a spectacular fail, take a photo and send it to us so we can ruthlessly mock you. Because that’s what friends are for.

Gender Confusion

Two nouns enter the ring: one masculine, the other feminine. A lone adjective awaits its fate. The victor will assign its gender. Who will it be? Let’s ask Claude Favre de Vaugelas, the reigning grammar god of the original Académie française (founded in 1635) whose mandate was to “perfect” and standardize the French language. Vaugelas was such a big deal in the 17th century that he even got mentioned by name in a Molière play, Les femmes savantesIn that play, a woman is so obsessed with grammar that she fires her maid for having offended her ears with improper grammar. When questioned about her overreaction, she explains that in spite of 30 grammar lessons, the maid has spoken French in way that Vaugelas has condemned in no uncertain terms. Therefore, she must be fired. (Sounds like some French teachers I know):


Elle a, d’une insolence à nulle autre pareille,

Après trente leçons, insulté mon oreille

Par l’impropriété d’un mot sauvage et bas,

Qu’en termes décisifs condamne Vaugelas.

 Grammar, says Philaminte, is so powerful that even kings must obey it:

La grammaire, qui sait régenter jusqu’aux rois,

 Et les fait la main haute obéir à ses lois ?

But let’s get back to Vaugelas and the gender problem.

Remarques sur la langue française, Vaugelas.

The sentence in question is “Ce peuple a le coeur & la bouche ouverte à vos louanges.” So, you’ve got two nouns, “coeur” (masculine) and “bouche” (feminine) and then an adjective (ouvert) that modifies both of them. Ideally, you avoid the issue and rephrase your sentence, says Vaugelas. Otherwise, you’re up against a problem: usage vs. what is correct.

And here is where it gets interesting. Usage, in the 17th century, held that you would agree with whichever noun was closest to the adjective. That’s how all the royals do it, he says. But, here’s where the king and friends are wrong, according to Vaugelas. The correct way to agree is to let the most noble of the two nouns win, which, naturally, is the masculine one:

le genre masculin, étant le plus noble, doit prédominer toutes les fois que le masculin et le féminin se trouvent ensemble (the masculine genre, being the most noble one, must get the upper hand every time that the masculine and the feminine are found together).


In other words, the man must always win. So, while usage had already shifted to a more gender-equal formula, Vaugelas helped solidify gender bias (masculine=more noble). Without Vaugelas, things might have gone differently.

Today, with new debates in France surrounding what kids learn at school about gender equality tied to a new governmental plan to teach the “ABCD of equality,” some people are questioning the typical phrasing of grammar instruction. Typically, a teacher in France would say “le masculin l’emporte” (the masculine wins it), thereby reinforcing the gender bias through grammar. It seems that nobody is considering a return to what the royal crowd was doing back in the 17th century. Instead, they suggest saying “it agrees with the masculine” which is a pretty weak solution, if you ask me.

Language evolves and changes with usage. Language shapes how we see the world. If the French really want to consider teaching gender equality, even at the level of grammar, they might want to consider the direction things could have gone if Vaugelas and the Académie française hadn’t codified the game.

This woman wants to spoil your trip to Paris

mean old hag

No, not her. Although she is a mean lady. (trust me. I’ll spare you the story, but this woman is full of bile and venom.)


No, not her. She’s just a friendly zombie.


That one on the left. She’ll come up to you and say “Do you speak English?” And then her friend will pick your pocket. But that’s not who I’m talking about.


Yep. There she is. Not the security guard. That creepy woman under the glass. Lisa. Lisa Gherardini (most likely). You know her as Mona. The French call her la Joconde (the jocund one, which is just a lame pun based on her married name Giocondo). If you go to Paris, do yourself a favor and snub this woman. Just skip it. I dare you.

Here. Let me make it easier for you. This is what you’ll see:


Stunning, isn’t it?

Most likely, you will have this view:


You will be stuck behind a 16 year-old man child who bought himself a beret—ya know, to look like genuine Frenchman—which hopefully, upon his return to the US, for his own sake and for the love of taste, he will never wear again.

Or maybe you’ll get this view:


That fleshy blur of a woman in front has a more intriguing smile, if you ask me. Why? I ask you, why do you want to see what is arguable the most disappointing anticlimactic museum experience in the history of the world? To prove you were in Paris? I say, prove it by gaining 10 pounds. Prove it by showing your friends the dog-poop encrusted soles of your shoes. Prove it by wearing scarves and adopting a an attitude of slightly bemused ennui. But don’t let Mona waste your time. Instead, go here:


The Musée de l’Orangerie is a stone’s throw (if you’re really good at throwing stones) away from the Louvre, right in the Jardin des Tuileries down at the end by the Place de la Concorde. It’s open every day except Tuesdays from 9-5:30 (well, until 6, but they won’t let you in after 5:30). And I guarantee you, unlike the Mona Lisa, it will exceed your expectations. Here’s what you will see:


(via Time travel)

orangerie 2

(via New York Times: read the article)

Monet’s gargantuan water lilies span an entire room. It’s even more stunning in person, and you can walk right up close to them and inspect the brush work at your leisure. There are other treasures in the Orangerie as well, but this is the most stunning. And the number of tourists who leave Paris without ever setting foot in Paris is staggering. 10 million a year! Ok. I made that up. I don’t know how many miss it, but if the relative size of the lines is any indication, it’s a lot. Too many.

So, I dare you. If you are lucky enough to go to Paris, skip Mona and visit Monet instead.


Be My Valentine, Fanny Ardant


Just listen to Fanny Ardant talk in this interview and tell me it’s not a good thing to do on Valentine’s Day. Her voice is completely mesmerizing. What can I say? I’ve had a crush on Fanny Ardant since I was 16 and saw her in Truffaut’s homage to Hitchcock, Vivement Dimanche. Years later, I sat in the front row as she played Maria Callas in a French stage production of Master Class. “Wow!” I thought, “Fanny Ardant’s spit just fell on me!” Creepy and stalkerish, you say? Ha! That’s nothing. Check out Vincent Delerm’s rather awkward performance of “Fanny Ardant et Moi” complete with annoyingly cheesy clapping by audience members, all in the presence of Fanny Ardant herself:

Joyeuse Saint-Valentin!

French women (and men, and children) do get fat

You’ve all heard it: French women don’t get fat. It’s the famous “French paradox” that gives us just another reason to hate and envy the French. Here’s a brief report on it from 60 minutes:

So, if we drink wine and eat cheese, but don’t drink milk we’ll be skinny like French people? Not likely.

Well, what then? What are the French hiding from us, and how can we turn it into a pill that we can swallow when drinking our next Double Big Gulp?

According to the smug and somewhat condescendingly titled post “10 Eating Rules French Children Know (But Most Americans Don’t)“, French kids eat real food, don’t snack (except for a traditional 4 o’clock after school snack), don’t guzzle soda, sit down for real meals, and appreciate their food. Their school lunch menus read like the daily special at a whole foods café: first course: lentil salad, followed by roasted chicken and haricots verts, then a cheese course, and finally some fresh fruit for dessert.

I don’t know why we do this, but we “Anglo-Saxons” love to beat ourselves up with tales of French superiority. What we’re forgetting is that Americans didn’t used to be so fat either. We just radically altered our food system with sugar-laden highly processed foods compounded by stupid nutritional misinformation such as the low-fat craze that helped to inject even more sugar (because, hey!, sugar is fat-free!) into our diets. The “eating rules” of the French were once common sense in America. The French aren’t ahead of us in a secret race to the ultimate diet plan, they are a couple of decades behind us in a race to become the humans of Wall-E.


But they’re catching up.

Sure, the French love to attack McDonald’s (or “Mac-Do” if you want to say it the French way), but not as much as they love eating there. The “McDonaldization” of France is helping teach French kids the secrets that every American child knows: food should not resemble any living plant or animal; it should be deep-fried and accompanied by soda and a toy. And for breakfast? Bowls of sugar!!!


Among the most popular cereals in France are sugary gobs of a Nutella-like substance wrapped in a sugary crunchy shell. The French are slowly losing their bragging rights for paradoxical thinness, but they might make up for it in most sugar-laden cereal.

An article in Le Monde in 2012 tries to maintain the French sense of superiority by saying that although obesity is a problem in France, the French are “resisting” better than the Brits and the Germans.



via OECD

According to data from the OECD’s website, France is doing better than most, but the projections don’t look pretty. The BBC recently did a story on “The perils of being fat, female, and French,” which suggests that French women might simply have more pressure to be skinny. The “tyranny of the silhouette.” French women have the lowest BMI in Europe, but they are also second highest in anorexia, according to a 2012 study.

The recent Sundance documentary, “Fed Up” which claims to “blow the lid off everything we thought we knew about food and weight loss,” while interesting enough, basically boils it down to something that should be painfully obvious: eat too much sugar and you’ll gain weight. Duh. The problem for people buying processed foods is that added sugar seems to be inescapable. Look at the shelves of your local supermarket, read the box labels, and you will see sugar in nearly everything.

Part of the secret of paradoxically thin French women is the textbook cliché of going chez le…[insert speciality food shop of your choice]. But who’s got time for that when a massive supermarket with a lot of frozen foods is just down the street?

So to conclude, French people do indeed get fat. So start looking for other ways to mystify and envy the French, because unlike that box of choco-treasures cereal, this French paradox thing is going to have a short shelf life.

How to go through customs like a civilized gentleman

You’ve built your time machine and set it to 1876. You’ve packed your trunk and carpet bag for a trip to France, but are you prepared to go through customs? Professor Auguste Beljame is here to help with his Handy Guide to French Conversation and Correspondence for Students and Travellers, already in its third edition by 1876:

Professor Beljame

Have you anything subject to duty, Sir?

Monsieur, avez-vous quelque chose à déclarer?

—Absolutely nothing at all.

Rien du tout absolument.

Do you know what are the articles subject to duty?

Savez-vous quels sont les articles soumis aux droits?

—Yes, perfectly.

Oui, parfaitement.

Where is your luggage, if you please?

Où est votre bagage, je vous prie.

—Here in this corner.

Le voici dans ce coin.

Very well, Sir, it will be examined presently.

Très-bien, Monsieur, on l’examinera tout-à-l’heure.

—Why not immediately?

Pourquoi pas tout de suite?

Because there are other passengers before you.

C’est qu’il y a d’autres voyageurs avant vous.

—Will you keep me waiting long?

Me ferez-vous attendre longtemps?

I will attend to you in a few minutes.

Je serai à vous dans quelques minutes.

—That is right, I am going to open my trunk in the meantime.

Fort bien, je vais ouvrir ma malle en vous attendant.

What have you in your trunk, Sir?

Qu’avez-vous dans votre malle, Monsieur?

—Clothing, a few books, and some small articles of no importance.

Des vêtements, quelques livres, et quelques menus articles sans importance.

And what is there in that carpet bag, Sir?

Et dans ce sac de nuit, Monsieur, qu’y a-t-il?

—Linen, shoes, etc.

Du linge, des chaussures, etc.

Very well, be kind enough to open it.

Très-bien, veuillez l’ouvrir.

I see that you have some cigars.

Je vois que vous avez des cigares.

—Yes, but only five or six.

Oui, mais seulement cinq ou six.

Not more?

Pas davantage?

—No, and you see I took care to put them on the top.

Non, et vous voyez j’ai eu soin de les mettre en-dessus.

That is right, Sir. Now you can shut your trunk and your carpet bag, and have them carried away.

Voilà qui est bien, Monsieur. Maintenant, vous pouvez fermer votre malle et votre sac de nuit, et les faire emporter.

—Who will undertake that?

Qui se chargera de cela?

One of the porters that you see here.

Un des commissionnaires que vous voyez ici.

—How much shall I have to give him, if you please?

Combien aurai-je à lui donner, s’il vous plaît?

Fifty centimes ought to satisfy him fully, I think.

Cinquante centimes devront le satisfaire amplement, je pense.

—Thanks for the information. Now I suppose that I may go.

Merci de ce renseignement. Maintenant je suppose que je puis partir.

Yes, without a doubt; I have just marked your luggage to show that is has been examined. If you had had any duty to pay you would have been detained a few minutes.

Oui, sans doute; je viens de marquer votre bagage pour faire voir qu’il a été visité. Si vous aviez eu des droits à payer, vous auriez été retenu quelques minutes.

—I cannot shut my trunk. Would you help me, if you please?

Je ne peux pas ferma ma malle. Voudriez-vous m’aider, s’il vous plaît?

Certainly, Sir, very willingly.

Certainement, Monsieur, très-volontiers.

—I see a disengaged carriage, that is what I want.

J’aperçois une voiture libre, voici mon affaire.


5 pseudo-profound French quotes about the movies


I’ve been at the Sundance Film Festival all week, so I thought I’d find a nice quote about the movies. But hélas! I kept coming across quotes that seem profound but are in fact quite stupid. So, here are 5 of them. What do you think? Am I being too harsh?

First, from celebrated cinéaste Jean-Luc Godard:

« Quand on va au cinéma, on lève la tête. Quand on regarde la télévision, on la baisse. »

What does that even mean? What if you sit in the balcony at the movies? What if you have a TV above your fireplace or you sit on the floor while watching the télé?  What if you watch a movie on TV? I could go on, but I won’t.

Next up, a quote from René Clair:

« Réclamons pour le cinéma le droit de n’être jugé que sur ses promesses. »

The right to only be judged on one’s promises? As in, I promised this would be a good movie, but I lied? 

« Si on a du génie, on fait pas de cinéma, on écrit un grand livre. »

Maybe Michel Audiard, who was a screenwriter after all, was just attempting to be self-deprecating when he said this? Let’s move on to a quote from director/screenwriter André Téchiné about how cinéma can lapse into navel-gazing. 

« Un cinéaste, ça se demande comment va le monde. S’il ne pose pas cette question, il fait du cinéma qui se prend le pouls. »

It sounds poetic, but it’s a fairly trite statement. Basically, he’s saying that if you don’t ask what’s going on in the world, then you’re not asking what’s going on in the world. Deep.

Let’s finish things off with some American bashing from Bertrand Tavernier.

« Un film n’est pas seulement une histoire que le cinéma vend, mais aussi une culture, un pays, un autre type de consommation. Cela, les Américains l’ont pas très bien compris. »

If America isn’t selling an entire culture and a country with its movies then I don’t know who is.


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