Saturday, June 23, 2007

Serge

Despite the fact that it's only a few minutes' walk from our apartment and I pass by it every day on the way to work, until yesterday I had never paid the Cemetiere de Montparnasse a formal visit. The cemetery is, according to most, probably the 2nd most-famous Parisian cemetery behind Pere Lachaise, and houses such dead notables as Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Baudelaire, and Alfred Dreyfus just to name a few. The most-visited grave in the cemetery, however, is undoubtedly that of Serge Gainsbourg, the controversial French singer/songwriter, who died in 1991. It is apparently a tradition to leave on the grave a used metro ticket--a reference to his song "le Poinçonneur des Lilas" about somebody with the mind-numbing job of punching metro tickets in the days before they developed machines that are able to do it at the turnstiles. I left my special "Fête de la Musique 2007" Metro ticket used the night before for Serge, right next to a small coffee cup which reads "I Love Charlotte" (Charlotte is his daughter, today a famous actress/singer).

Franco-American Topic of the Day: I'm subtracting a point today from the French for having developed the ridiculous tradition (common in other languages, I know, but not English fortunately) of having masculine and feminine nouns and adjectives in their language. Why do we need to assign a gender to, say, a table? (By the way, a table is feminine--"la table".) And why do some words make no sense with regards to their chosen gender (the word for beard is "la barbe")? I've also gotten into the habit of referring to our unborn child as a "him" in French, because the word for baby ("le bébé) is masculine, even though I have a strong inclination that it's going to be a girl (hopefully we'll see if I'm right in the next few days). And finally, the masculine/feminine convention results in a very high number of red marks decorating my writing assignments for my French class. As a result, the French and the Americans move back into a tie, 15-15.

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