petite anglaise

December 8, 2004

a change of register…

Filed under: french touch — petiteanglaiseparis @ 3:14 pm

I spied a poster in the metro yesterday for an educational exhibition which the Cité de la Science science museum is currently hosting for children. Crad’expo: from the slang word crade, meaning ‘dirty’ or ‘grotty’. The by-line, les fonctions «impolies» du corps humain, and the photo of a child picking her nose roused my curiosity.

According to the blurb, using interactive games and a host of characters with evocative names, such as Roméo le Roi du Rot (The Burp King) and René la Goutte au Nez (Runny Nose René), the exhibition explains to children the science behind those bodily functions that we are raised to regard as rude, undesirable or even outright taboo. It does this by encouraging children to crawl through a reconstruction of the digestive tract, explore the ‘nasal cave’, shoot dustballs into giant nostrils to make them sneeze and play ‘fart wars’ (whatever that might be). It is a feast for the eyes, ears and nose: there is even an exhibit where you have to sniff various unpleasant odours – feet, armpit, fetid breath – and identify them. I have to say I’m less keen to do that bit. My fridge smells of all of the above combined at the moment as there is an overripe camembert belonging to Mr Frog in there.

There is one small snag. The exhibition is aimed at 5-12 year olds. Tadpole is clearly too young and I would feel a little conspicuous going along without a small person. Would a kind volunteer be willing to loan me a child of a suitable age on Saturday? It sounds like much more fun than Christmas shopping, and you never know, I might learn something.

It would also give me an opportunity to improve my French vocabulary of ‘impolite bodily functions’, which is rather limited as this arguably indispensable subject did not feature on my GCSE/A-Level/Degree syllabuses. What scant knowledge I do possess in this respect, I have kindly distilled into the following quiz.

parlez-vous crade?

can you pair the following French words/phrases with their English equivalent?

dégobiller to pass wind
la gerbe mucus
le rot to pick one’s nose
se curer le nez sick
la morve burp
peter to throw up

answers will be posted in the comments box shortly

When Tadpole burps, she is now at the stage where she thinks it is hilarious. She proudly yells ‘burp!’ to draw attention to the fruit of her labours (in case we happened to miss it), then puts her hand over her mouth and giggles in an adorable and very mischievous fashion. I think I must have unwittingly taught her this, as she apes my every gesture at the moment. Ahem. As a new parent I now more aware of the very different attitudes that we adopt regarding bodily functions according to the age of the child: when a newborn baby burps after a feed our reaction was to congratulate Tadpole for her prowess with a ‘good girl!’ At some point in the not too distant future I will have to teach her that some discretion is required in public and laughing when people make odd noises is not an appropriate reaction.

What a shame.


  1. My wife seems to have never received that belch discretion training. She proudly eructates in public & then expects praise for her “accomplishment.” I suppose it could be worse…

    Comment by Nigel M. — December 8, 2004 @ 3:38 pm

  2. aha, now I know what the word ‘eructer’ means….!

    Comment by petite — December 8, 2004 @ 3:44 pm

  3. :shock: Nigel, are you my husband? nah, now I come to think about it, he would never know the word “eructate”.
    My first experience with French euphemisms could be included here. After praising my MIL’s cooking to the skies (gotta be done)I asked her jokingly for “une grosse commision, même une petite me suffirait”. The general hilarity which ensued made it obvious that I had somehow put my foot in it (again:roll:). Turned out I had not as I thought been asking for financial compensation but the French equivalent of a no.2 and no.1:oops:

    Comment by Suziboo — December 8, 2004 @ 3:59 pm

  4. *sniggers at rude ‘eructate’ word*

    *still doesn’t quite know what it means*

    Comment by JonnyB — December 8, 2004 @ 4:33 pm

  5. Everyday on my way home from work I pass by a shop here in Seattle that always has two books in their window:

    The Gas We Pass
    Everyone Poops

    Nearly every day they make me smile. Nice to know that at age 55, there is still a little 2nd grader in me.

    Comment by susan dennis — December 8, 2004 @ 8:25 pm

  6. I have an idea: Bring a clipboard, paper and pencil along with you to the exhibition. If anyone asks, say that you are doing a review for a small PTA-style newsletter.

    “oh no, you wouldn’t have heard of it – this review is for our first issue!” :cool:

    ps – sneak a camera in, too. It will lend credence to your story, and you can post the pics here. Does French snot look any different from English or American snot?

    Comment by Epiphany — December 8, 2004 @ 8:48 pm

  7. Yuck!

    My 15 year old son could hardly wait to inform me that some Austrian scientists recently discovered that it is actually healthy to pick one’s nose and eat the contents thereof!? My reply: “If this turns out to be true we shall retire to the lavoratory for this activity!”

    Love your blog!

    Comment by bonnie — December 9, 2004 @ 2:16 am

  8. PS My eldest daughter studied at Universite Blaise Pascal and lived in Clermont-Ferrand for a year.

    I’m trying again with my link.

    Comment by bonnie — December 9, 2004 @ 2:22 am

  9. Luckily, I did not totally understand the poster, because I was just going to go to the exhibit sans child. I consider my maturity level to be stuck between the ages of 5 and 12 and therefore, I thought this would be perfect for me.

    Comment by Jason Stone — December 9, 2004 @ 10:48 am

  10. masterclass quiz results:

    dégobiller = throw up/puke
    la gerbe = sick/puke
    le rot = burp (from roter – to burp)
    se curer le nez = to pick your nose
    la morve = mucus/snot
    peter = to pass wind

    Comment by petite — December 9, 2004 @ 11:35 am

  11. Can anyone come up with the Spanish equivalents? My Beloved only does these things (with pride) in English. Happy Tadpole. Leave her as long as possible.

    Comment by grannyp — December 10, 2004 @ 1:06 pm

  12. french barf words are always the best. I haven’t found any terribly interesting ones in pt yet. hmmmm. neither have I received burp discretion training.

    Comment by vit — December 13, 2004 @ 7:55 pm

  13. well Vit I wouldn’t expect that of a mud wallower such as Madge. But I thought you had more class!

    Comment by petite — December 13, 2004 @ 10:05 pm

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