Miss Harriet, Maupassant, and le break

“Nous étions sept dans le break, quatre femmes et trois hommes…”

The short story, Miss Harriet, was written in 1883 by Guy de Maupassant. In the very first sentence is the word le break – meaning horse-drawn carriage. Nowadays it means a station wagon and when I learned this, I just assumed it was an annoying recent borrowing from English that really made no sense. What does break have to do with a car?

But then I read Miss Harriet and discovered what the word break originally meant in French. The first meaning of un break was a small cart for training horses, and then later it meant a horse-drawn carriage, after the original break was modified to transport people and goods by extending the length and adding seats.

So what does break have to do with horses? In equestrian vocabulary, rompre or dresser are the verbs used for to train horses or to break in horses, and so the latter was borrowed from English. Then when carriages went out of use, the meaning was transferred to the station wagon, probably because of its length and large capacity for transporting people and goods.  And there you have it. Break = training horses, carriages and station wagons.

I’ve never learned so much from one sentence.

P.S. un break is called une familiale in Quebec. Much more self-explanatory, hein ?

Master’s in Teaching French at University of Arizona

Maybe it’s the never-ending cold inside and outside, but I keep looking for Master’s programs in French in warm climates… et voilà, I found the perfect program at the University of Arizona in Tucson. They offer a Master’s in Teaching French as a Foreign Language, which is exactly what I’m looking for before I decide […]

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Le Col de la Forclaz above Lake Annecy

David and I finally returned to the Col de la Forclaz to take photos of Lake Annecy from above. We last went up there in November 2006, shortly after we met. It’s where many hang-gliders begin their journey down the mountains, and there’s also a small ski station (mostly for children), some restaurants and souvenir […]

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Price of Stamps Increases in France: March 2009

Starting March 2, 2009, the price to send a Prioritaire letter (up to 20 g) within France & the DOM-TOMs will be 56 centimes, a 1 centime increase from last year. The cheaper Ecopli price will be 51 centimes, also a 1 centime increase. The price to send a letter within the European Union & […]

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International Mother Language Day – February 21, 2009

The International Mother Language Day has been observed yearly since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. Yesterday at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, the 3rd edition of the Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger was presented in an online edition and is available free of charge worldwide. It contains information […]

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Is it 2005 again?

I heard some loud laughing down in the parking lot earlier tonight, but I thought it was just the noisy neighbors having a party. But because I’m so curious nosy, I decided to look outside and see what they were up to. Oops, my bad. Not a party. Just a burning car across the street. […]

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A dozen would just be too many.

Who says that French doctors overprescribe medication? 11 boxes is normal, right? I went to the doctor for help with my winter depression, fatigue and insomnia. That cost me 55 € just to see him, of which I’ll probably be reimbursed about 20 €. Then I went to the pharmacy to get the prescriptions, which […]

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Cat in Couette

For the second year, we’ve had a technician come to verify that the chauffage au sol is actually working, and sure enough, they tell us everything is fine. Then why is it only 14 C / 57 F when we get up in the morning?? I seriously think the (main) reason why I don’t like […]

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Pont de la Caille between Annecy & Geneva

The Pont de la Caille (also known as Pont Charles-Albert) on the former RN 201 in Haute-Savoie is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the world. It was built in 1839 over the Usses River by the engineer Belin. However, in 1929 another bridge was built next to it for a tramway line between […]

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It has been a while. (For me, anyway.)

I suppose I’ve been too tired and sluggish to do anything on my site or blog since we still have no heat in the apartment. It’s been snowing most of the week too, so double yay. I also recently discovered that the building where my office is located on campus does not have a heating […]

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Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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