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Le Jour de Merci Donnant

picture of John and Priscilla

While living in Paris and writing for the New York Herald Tribune in the early 1950's, Art Buchwald wrote a column to try to explain Thanksgiving to the French. Some of his translations are hilarious if you know French, and some probably meant little, if anything, to the French who read the article ... that is, unless they knew English also. His article has been reprinted often by a number of newspapers and has been posted on enough blogs that I think it's safe to print it here with copyright info and a link to a repost of the article in the Washington Post from whom I got it originally 15 years ago. Being a French teacher, I just had to put in the proper accent marks. :-)

À la Recherche du Temps Perdu
by Art Buchwald
Thursday, November 28 1996
The Washington Post

One of the most important holidays is Thanksgiving Day, known in France as le Jour de Merci Donnant.

Le Jour de Merci Donnant was first started by a group of pilgrims (Pèlerins) who fled from l'Angleterre before the McCarran Act to found a colony in the New World (le Nouveau Monde), where they could shoot Indians (les Peaux-Rouges) and eat turkey (dinde) to their hearts' content.

They landed at a place called Plymouth (now a famous voiture Américaine) in a wooden sailing ship named the Mayflower (Fleur de Mai) in 1620. But while the Pèlerins were killing the dindes, the Peaux-Rouges were killing the Pèlerins, and there were several hard winters ahead for both of them. The only way the Peaux-Rouges helped the Pèlerins was when they taught them how to grow corn (maïs). They did this because they liked corn with their Pèlerins.

In 1623, after another harsh year, the Pèlerins' crops were so good they decided to have a celebration and give thanks because more maïs was raised by the Pèlerins than Pèlerins were killed by the Peaux-Rouges.

Every year on le Jour de Merci Donnant, parents tell their children an amusing story about the first celebration.

It concerns a brave capitaine named Miles Standish (known in France as Kilomètres Deboutish) and a shy young lieutenant named John (Jean) Alden. Both of them were in love with a flower of Plymouth called Priscilla Mullens (no translation). The vieux capitaine said to the jeune lieutenant:
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Speaking and Writing like Shakespeare

picture of Shakespeare

Shakespeare has been on my mind this week. My students in Survey of French Literature had a test Monday on the 17th century over such literary greats as Blaise Pascal, Descartes, and the playwright Molière. Shakespeare was still alive and writing in England at the beginning of the 17th century. This week we are having Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors on campus. I'm eager to see it!

I thought I'd see what I had in my files about the Bard and ran across something that I sent as an e-mail iv back in 2003 — what The Hokey Pokey would be like if Shakespeare had written it. As I researched that piece, I found several pages with common expressions and words that were either coined by Shakespeare or at least popularized by his using them in his writing. I'm posting some of my favorites. Now on to The Hokey Pokey....

The following is from the Washington Post Style Invitational contest that asked readers to submit "instructions" for something (anything), but written in the style of a famous person. The winning entry was "The Hokey Pokey" (as written by William Shakespeare), but actually written by a man named Jeff Brechlin.

The Hokey Pokey, in Shakespearean Style

Here are the original lyrics, just in case you've forgotten them. This is the verse with the left foot, since that's the one done in Shakespearean style.

You put your left foot in,
You put your left foot out,
You put your left foot in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the hokey pokey
And you turn yourself around
That's what it's all about.

Now, à la Shakespeare...

O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from Heaven's yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the poke — banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about.


Here's a list of well-known expressions from the works of William Shakespeare. Many of these were probably coined by the Bard himself, but it's been said that he wasn't averse to stealing a good line occasionally and putting them in his plays, thereby popularizing them. Some of these will be familiar to you and part of your active vocabulary. Some of them you might use, not knowing where they originated.

A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.



All's well that ends well.

All that glitters is not gold.

All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.
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What Did They Mean?

picture of question mark

As a teacher of foreign languages, I'm all about clarity in communication. When people wonder what we meant to say, we have not communicated well. Having said that, though, I can't hide the fact that I find unclear signs very humorous. Go figure!

Today's post contains mostly signs, but there are also several other pictures that make you wonder.

I'll start off with some signs where the translations leave you wondering what was meant.

Is this place visited mostly by old men?

picture of funny sign

I'm not sure who is supposed to have the continence issues at this next establishment.
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What Are the Chances?

picture of mug

I've received some great jokes in my e-mail recently. The ones I'm posting today all seemed to be scenarios that were crazy enough to actually happen or were maybe even fairly likely to occur. I'll leave it to you to decide, as you read these, what the chances are of these events' happening in real life. Whether these scenarios are likely or not, I found them all humorous and predict that you'll chuckle at least once as you read this. Read on and tell me if I'm wrong.

A van carrying a dozen movie stuntmen on the way to a film location in the mountains spun out of control on the icy road, crashed through a guard-rail, rolled down a 90-foot embankment, turned over, and burst into flames.

There were no injuries.


One day in Little Johnny's kindergarten class, his teacher was telling them the story of the three little pigs. They were at the part when the first pig needed to build his house.

"Then," the teacher said, "the first little pig needed straw to build his house. Along the road he saw a farmer carrying a bail of straw. So the little pig walked up to the farmer and asked him if he could borrow his straw to build a house. Then class, do you know what the farmer said?"

Little Johnny immediately raised his hand and waved it furiously.

"Yes, Johnny?" said the teacher.

He replied, "I know! I know! The farmer said, 'WOW! A TALKING PIG!!!'"


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Things You Wish You’d Hear

picture of an ear

Every day we hear all sorts of things — good, bad, and some things downright ugly. I hear many things I wish I hadn't heard, and unfortunately I miss some things that I really should have heard, but didn't.

Today's iv is a starter list of things I would love to hear some time, but probably won't. It's a "starter list" because I hope my readers will add to this list in the comments.

Things you wish you'd hear...

From a telemarketing person:
I'm sorry, did I reach you at a bad time? Here's my number... just call me back when you'd like to hear my sales pitch.

I understand that you are not interested. Thank you for your time.

Click (Them hanging up)

From your boss:
You look tired today. Take the rest of the day off.

The company offered me a 25% raise, but I told them that you deserved it more than I do.

From your auto mechanic:
That part is much less expensive than I thought.

I've never seen anyone maintain his car as well as you do.

You could get that done more cheaply at the garage down the street.

It was just a loose wire. No charge.

(I have actually heard some of those things from my mechanic! What a great guy!)
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