Bookshelf Film Club: Panique au village (A Town Called Panic)

Perhaps not destined for immortality alongside the films of Renoir, Truffaut and Godard (we’ll get around to them later), Panique au village (2010) is nevertheless one of the most striking and original French-language films this decade. I mention it now because, as The Lego Movie sweeps the planet with wild enthusiasm for manic silliness, delirious inventiveness and non-stop action performed by small plastic children’s toys, it’s a good moment to hunt out that film’s spiritual godfather. In fact, if the makers of The Lego Movie didn’t watch A Town Called Panic while they were coming up with their ideas, then there’s a surprising coincidence of tone between the two films.

The main characters of A Town Called Panic are a house-sharing group of three friends, one of whom happens to be a small plastic cowboy, one of whom is a small plastic Indian, and the third a small plastic horse. All three of them live in a perpetual state of frenetic excitement, speak very fast, and have a tendency to panic. If they seem familiar, it may be because they also starred in adverts for Cravendale milk on British TV a few years ago. The story begins when Cowboy and Indian plan to build a barbecue for Horse’s birthday party, but accidentally order over the internet a billion times more bricks than they require to build it. The resulting delivery destroys their house, but each time they try to rebuild it, someone steals the walls during the night. They discover the thieves to be a group of sea-monsters, who…

Actually, that’s as far as I can really get with summarizing the plot, which seemed to make sense when I watched the film, but now just leaves me confused and giggling. Let me just say that it’s very funny, and if you liked Emmet, Wyldstyle and Unikitty, you’ll like these too. Here’s a flavour of it from the trailer:

A Darker Shade of D’Artagnan

posted by Simon Kemp

The BBC’s musketeers rumble on, not having a great deal to do with Dumas’s novel, to be honest, but entertaining none the less. The adventure-of-the-week is generally entirely made up by the show’s writers, but the occasional scene, like Richelieu’s offer to d’Artagnan to join his Red Guards, or longer story-arcs, like the emerging back-story between Athos and Milady, come from the novel more or less intact. The free adaptation makes the show more interesting for people who already know the book, as it leaves us guessing which parts of the original story will make it into the programme. I know what the novel has in store for Constance Bonacieux further down the line, for instance, and I know that the filmmakers could hardly do better if they wanted a dramatic end to their first season, but is that really where we’re heading? I’m still not sure.

I want to talk a little about d’Artagnan in this post, though, and how Dumas’s version differs from the BBC one. Our first impression of him on TV could hardly have been further from the novel. Dumas’s d’Artagnan starts the story as a cocky, happy-go-lucky teenager out to seek his fortune in Paris and pick a fight with anyone who gets in his way. ‘Puppyish’ is a fair description, and 1980s Spanish cartoon series, Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds actually got his character down quite nicely. Luke Pascalino’s d’Artagnan, however, starts off brooding and grief-stricken, heading to the capital to avenge his father’s death by seeking out the sinister, black-robed Power-Behind-the-Throne he holds responsible for the killing. That’s not Les Trois Mousquetaires, that’s Star Wars. (Might Peter Capaldi turn out to be Pascalino’s real father? Let’s not even think about it.) Thankfully, he cheers up a bit in later episodes, and the series gets a little closer to the novel’s boisterous spirit, but the initial idea behind the series does seem to have been to ‘go dark’ with its source material in much the same manner that Christopher Nolan set out to drain all the fun out of Batman in his film trilogy.

There is one moment in Dumas’s novel, though, which generally fails to make it into modern adaptations, where d’Artagnan suddenly comes across as very dark indeed. D’Artagnan has befriended Milady’s maid, Ketty, and inveigled his way into her room, from where he can eavesdrop on Milady through the thin partition wall. After learning Milady’s plans, d’Artagnan declines to leave Ketty’s room. Here it is in the original French:

 

– Silence ! silence ! sortez, dit Ketty ; il n’y a qu’une cloison entre ma chambre et celle de Milady, on entend de l’une tout ce qui se dit dans l’autre ! 

– C’est justement pour cela que je ne sortirai pas, dit d’Artagnan. 

– Comment ! fit Ketty en rougissant. 

– Ou du moins que je sortirai… plus tard. 

Et il attira Ketty à lui ; il n’y avait plus moyen de résister, la résistance fait tant de bruit ! Aussi Ketty céda. 
C’était un mouvement de vengeance contre Milady.

(from Chapter 33, ‘Soubrette et maîtresse’)

 

And here’s a translation of the same passage :

“Silence, silence, begone!” said Kitty. “There is nothing but a wainscot between my chamber and Milady’s; every word that is uttered in one can be heard in the other.”

“That’s exactly the reason I won’t go,” said D’Artagnan.

“What!” said Kitty, blushing.

“Or, at least, I will go… later.”

He drew Kitty to him. There was no way to resist, resistance would make so much noise. Therefore Kitty surrendered.

It was a movement of vengeance upon Milady. 

 

Worse still, this is only the first step in d’Artagnan’s vengeance. ‘Seducing’ Ketty is part of a plan to gain him access into Milady’s bedroom under cover of darkness for a night of passion, all the while pretending to be Milady’s lover, the Comte de Wardes. Later, he will mockingly inform Milady of the earlier deception after seducing her in his own name with the lights on. So is our hero d’Artagnan in fact… a serial rapist? He certainly seems to have non-consensual sex with both women, even if Ketty bears no grudge about it (quite the opposite, in fact), and Milady consents to sleep with d’Artagnan both when she knows who he is and when she thinks he’s de Wardes. We are, of course, dealing with a nineteenth-century depiction of seventeenth-century social mores, so we must be careful to bear in mind the historical context when we judge things from our own twenty-first century perspective. And if one thing is clear, it’s that Dumas doesn’t think his hero has done anything wrong at all. But there’s a moral murkiness to d’Artagnan’s behaviour in the novel, to say the least, which has been wiped clean for the BBC TV adaptation. And without it, Milady’s obsessive pursuit of d’Artagnan, and the terrible harm she may later cause him, make much less sense. Dumas’s Milady may be a caricatured villain in many ways, but at least in the novel she’s not just being evil towards d’Artagnan for the fun of it. She has good reason.

100% Made in France

posted by Simon Kemp

While we’re on the subject of newspapers, here’s another report, in English this time, that might interest you. The Guardian reports that, following a call to French citizens from a government minister to support the country’s economic recovery by buying French products, one person decided to do just that. Exclusively.

Journalist and documentary-maker Benjamin Carle set out to live for ten months using, living with, and eating exclusively made-in-France products. It turned out to be harder than he’d imagined:

 

“He set just three rules: eat only foods produced in France, eliminate contact with foreign-made goods and do so on €1,800 a month (above the minimum wage of €1,430 to cover the extra expense of living in Paris).

The journalist was shocked to find out at the start of the experiment that only 4.5% of the contents of his flat were made nationally – and that the rest would have to go, including the lightbulbs (China) and green beans (Kenya).

The removal men left his home almost bare.

Left without a refrigerator (none are made in France), or nail clippers, he was forced to chill his food on the window ledge and saw at his toenails with a penknife.

His foreign-made clothes, down to his underwear were replaced with more expensive, alternatives: French-produced underpants (€26), socks (€9), polo shirt (€75), espadrille sandals (€26), but no jeans as none are produced in France.

On discovering France makes no refrigerators (apart from wine coolers) or televisions, but is big in aeroplane seats and windmills, he sighs and says: “Great. Nothing that will fit into my apartment.”

 

You can read the full report here, and discover why he made it to only 96.9% French. There’s also an embedded clip from the TV documentary he made about the experiment.

Is French a Sexist Language?

la rousse

posted by Simon Kemp

 The French newspaper Le Monde has been taking a look at the question, in an interesting article (in French) that you can read online here. There are the issues we know about, of course, such as the rule that ‘le masculine l’emporte sur le féminin’ in sentences where both genders govern an adjective, pronoun or participle ending:

Les femmes sont rentrées chez elles.

but

 Les femmes et le garçon sont rentrés chez eux.

 

We know too about the vexed question of masculine job titles for professional women :

Madame le maire

Madame le ministre

Madame le professeur

Both of these grammar points cause controversy, and there have been calls for reform, which we’ll revisit another time. Le Monde, though, takes a different tack, and examines pairs of words, which grammatically stand as simply the masculine and feminine forms of the same word. In all the cases Le Monde picks out, though, the masculine form has a positive or neutral connotation, while the feminine form has a derogatory, and often sexual meaning:

– Un gars peut être  bon ou brave, c’est-à-dire un mec sympa. Une garce même belle, restera une garce.

(‘Un gars’ translates more or less as a ‘lad’, but ‘une garce’ means a bitch.)

– Un courtisan est un proche du roi, une courtisane est trop proche du roi

(‘Un courtisan [a courtier] is close to the king; une courtisane [a courtesan] is too close to the king.’)

– Un professionnel est un homme compétent, une professionnelle est une prostituée.

(‘A professional [applied to a man] is a skilled man; a professional [applied to a woman] is a prostitute.’)

Le Monde has several more examples, and a lively debate among readers below the line, about whether the language itself is teaching its speakers from an early age to disrespect and sexualize women. See what you think, and if you think the writer is onto something about French, are you confident that English is free of the same problems?

The Year Abroad Game

Posted By Rowan Lyster, a third year at Somerville College, reading French and Linguistics, and is currently on her year abroad in Montpellier, France. This is an extract from rowanlyster.blogspot.fr

I’ve decided it’s time that the secret competitiveness of being-on-a-year-abroad was made official, and have created the Year Abroad Game. Rewards are measured in smug-points; any inconsistencies in the rules are down to artistic licence (and definitely not the fact I couldn’t be bothered to make up a proper scoring system).

START: You find yourself trapped in a foreign land where nobody has heard of Doctor Who. Will you survive? 

Gain 5 points for each cool attraction you discover in your new hometown.

Such as the ice rink, which has a disco section complete with a light tunnel and hills. In classic French style, this is completely dark, and full of terrifyingly reckless locals. Great fun, despite frequent near-death experiences.

Gain 2 points (and a few pounds) every time you sample a local foodstuff

such as crêpes, of which I’ve eaten a shocking number since discovering the heaven-in-a-pancake that is Nutella with Speculoos-spread.

Gain 10 points if you wring a smile out of one of the bitter and twisted administrators you’ll no doubt encounter.

Such as the receptionist of my accommodation, who regularly tells off residents for the heinous crime of asking for our post. After a determined campaign of sickly sweet bonjour’s, I miraculously got a friendly smile back.

Lose 15 points and go back 3 spaces if you let out a snarky comment to one of the bitter and twisted administrators who’ll no doubt be pointlessly rude to you. 

Believe me, the former is ultimately a better way of getting things done.

Gain 30 points if you get a non-disastrous haircut during your time abroad.

I managed this the other day, despite an alarming lack of French hairdressing vocabulary. Aside from nearly accepting an unwanted fringe, it went surprisingly well!

Gain 20 points if you go on a spontaneous trip with no particular destination in mind. 

We accidentally did this after attempting to go to Nîmes by bus (it turns out there is no bus to Nîmes, despite the confident assertions of 6-8 locals who sent us on a frankly impressive wild goose chase). After giving up on Nîmes, we hopped on a bus and ended up in Pézenas, a gorgeous town an hour or so away.

 

 

Pézenas

Gain 15 points for each new town you visit.

The Nîmes story has a happy ending; we finally made it there (by train) the other day!

 

 

We saw this gem…

 

 

…and this badass.

Gain A MILLION POINTS if you ever manage to actually receive CAF (the French housing allowance).

I was lulled into a false sense of security by a letter saying I’d been approved for this, but apparently that’s just a hilarious prank they like to play before asking you for every document you’ve ever heard of and a lot that you haven’t. On the plus side, there’s free money available to anyone willing to undergo the seven labours of Hercules.

Lose 1 point every time you accidentally insert snippets of English e.g. ‘yknow,’ and ‘like,’ into your target language. 

This is particularly embarrassing in official meetings.

Gain 10 points for each new hobby you take up.

I’ve joined a walking group. Yes, I have become my parents… It’s actually a great way of exploring, as the people with cars drive everyone to somewhere cool.

Gain 15 points per nationality for all the international students you manage to befriend.

So far I’ve met people from Germany, Spain, Italy, Algeria, America, Switzerland, Poland, Brazil and Hungary.

Gain 30 points if you do something ridiculously brave that you’d never do at home.

I went with a German friend to a café that had libre-service instruments, and eventually decided to go for the plunge and play the piano in public. Nobody booed, although hell may have frozen over.

Wild card: OH MY GOD ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN if you completely change your plans for the year. 

By ‘completely’ I mean ‘quite a lot’ – I’m moving house at Christmas and have replaced a lot of my study-time with volunteering-time, which conveniently involves interacting with Actual French People.

Gain 100 points if you get mistaken for a French person by another foreigner.

This has happened to me a few times, albeit briefly. I’m also often asked if I’m German, due to my Nordic good looks (I like to think).

And if you get mistaken for a French person by an Actual French Person

Go home, you have won. 

 

Here’s a bonus picture of the French doing what they do best: taking extremely strange things rather seriously. This man was darting about and pointing at people, occasionally shouting “ACHEVÉ!” all filmed by solemn people in white coats.

 

Le Lunch (and other franglais)

posted by Sam Gormley, fourth-year French student at St Hugh’s, and year-abroad hotel-worker in the Auvergne

Recently, a woman came to reception to ask for her ‘lunch’. It being a calm point of the day- that particular day was a Wednesday, I think, or a Monday, it doesn’t matter- I had just been quietly minding my own business. The sun was out, I was emptying the dishwasher, nothing special, it was a Wednesday or a Monday, maybe a Thursday, and I was minding mes oignons. 

She asks me for her ‘lunch’.

I merrily ask her to repeat the request.

‘Mon lunch’.

All I hear is ‘moleurrncsh’. I ask her, apologetic, to repeat again.

[With annoyance] ‘Tu sais? Leleeurrrnsch que j’avais commandé hier?’

Nope, sorry, still….

…still not getting it.

She looks at me as if I were an idiot, as if this were all a joke, a hilarious joke on my part, and that no, really, ha!, I know what your ‘leeurrnsch’ is, this just a set-up, you’re actually on television right now, joke’s on you! I ask her again to repeat, and by now I’ve gone bright red, I’m floundering like a beached whale, at least, one that can’t speak French, and, somewhere, all my past languages teachers vomit simultaneously.

She then proceeds to mime shoving food into her face, into her unimpressed French face.

And it suddenly twigs. She’s saying ‘lunch’.

Lunch! Yes! YES. I know what that is! At that point I slapped myself on the forehead, jabbering something about being an idiot, how could I not know what ‘lunch’ meant, and I probably looked like a psychopath and she probably reached into her pocket and quietly started dialling for the police.

Now, as an Englishman, I am generally expected to have a decent grasp of English. But ‘lunch’ throws me entirely. ‘Lunch’.  An English word. I failed to comprehend my own language. I hand the woman her panier pique-nique, which is the set phrase I’m used to, still jabbering pathetic apologies, and she nods and gives me a chilling, sarcastic smile and takes her plastic bag of food.

Fortunately, this has only happened once since I’ve been in working in the hotel. Actually, it’s less common to hear nonsense like that than it is to see it. A few days previously, I notice these words on an advert:

‘Le top shopping sensation!’

No, France, wrong. That’s wrong. That’s not French. That’s English. I am English, trust me, that’s not French. There are lots of these floating around, including, but by no means limited to:

– un total-look

– Stabiloter (i.e., to underline something with a Stabilo highlighter)

– une garden-party

– un one-man-show

– un brunch

It’s a strange phenomenon, but one the student of French just simply has to accept, especially when the English word used does not even seem to make any real sense in English. It’s all part of language change and, love it or hate it, it exists, and the French bloody well love it. If anything it adds to the exciting unpredictability (read: maddening unpredictability) of studying a foreign language. But it also adds to its richness; many bizarre conversations are to be had with foreigners on the subject of word-swapping. Not only do you learn about the way in which a modern French person speaks, you also learn about the huge number of French expressions in English. Here’s the catch: they don’t mean anything in French either. I used the phrase ‘un double-entendre’ when explaining to a French person, well, what a double-entendre was. We all know what it means in English: to a French person? Nothing at all. Just nothing. Not even a flicker. The just heard the words ‘twice-hear’ put together for no reason. So it’s as strange for them as it is for us. When you do travel experiences like this, in France, or Germany, or wherever you go for your Year Abroad, you come face to face with the reality of language as it’s really spoken by people (which, incidentally, is nothing like how you’ll speak it for your GCSE or A-levels- but that’s a matter for another time), and not the kind of French the Académie française wants us to learn. For better or for worse (often for worse, especially when stupid stuff happens to modern language students), languages change. All we can do is deal with it, adapt, move on, and then sob silently when no-one’s watching.

 

(For my Year Abroad (2012-13) I worked: as a language assistant in primary schools in Briançon, in the Alps, for seven months; then as a waiter/ receptionist/ barman for two months in a hotel in the Auvergne (South-Centre); and finally as an au-pair for three boys, still in the Auvergne, for two months. This article been adapted from a blog post I wrote whilst I was working in the hotel, hence the lack of context.)

My Oxford

posted by Helena Kresin, first-year student of French and Spanish at Trinity College

I had always wanted to go to Oxford. The beauty of the town, the rich history and the prospect of being surrounded by so many knowledgeable individuals had attracted me from a young age. Some of my friends were intimidated by all the grandeur, imagining imposing professors and fancy dinners with strict rules of etiquette, but I can tell them now for certain that Oxford is far from intimidating. It is true there are certain quirky traditions that have been kept, such as having to wear gowns on the odd occasion, but these only add to the charm of the institution and serve as a reminder of its unique character.

I could never pretend that Oxford doesn’t involve a lot of work, but this should not be seen as a negative aspect of the University. I was shocked by how quickly I improved after just 8 weeks of my first Oxford term and this was undoubtedly due to the constant practice I had writing essays and doing assignments required for my French and Spanish degree. Being kept constantly busy is – I now realise – a blessing, keeping boredom at bay and allowing constant immersion and thus a deeper understanding of the languages I’m studying. In fact, in many ways, I have found Oxford easier than school. At school, there was sometimes the risk of having a teacher who you worried might not help you achieve the grade you want in your exam. Here, there is never that worry. The tutors are incredibly helpful, being only an email away and generous with the time they devote to clarifying anything you might be confused by. The comments and feedback they have given me have proven extremely useful , being thorough and constructive rather than negatively critical. In addition, being in the city and surrounded by all your friends and other students of similar age has meant that going out and doing things outside of the academic sphere is far easier than it ever was at home. I even go out more than friends at other universities, perhaps owing to the sociable atmosphere of Oxford where everyone seems to make sure they have a good time at all of the many events on offer. It’s also great to be able to do the subjects I love and be surrounded by those who love it just as much as I do, with experts in the field able to answer all the questions you’ve long wanted to have answered.

There is certainly never a dull moment here. The tutorials provoke interesting discussions which encourage you to form you own opinion and essays really allow you to express your individuality. I never thought I would say it, but the lectures have proven fascinating too. All of the lecturers I’ve had have been animated, passionate and ready to impart their vast knowledge on a wide range of topics.

I don’t need reminding of how fortunate I am to be in such a fantastic university. I stand by the view that if every educational institution was like Oxford, everyone would be instilled with the same love for learning that I have developed since being here. The only thing that saddens me is that my studies here will one day come to an end.

Come and spend a week with us this summer!

To all Y12 students….

If you have several As or A*s at GCSE and are now studying for your A levels you should have a good look at the UNIQ summer school.  It’s completely free of charge, it’s open to all UK state school/college students in Year 12, and it’s your chance to see what Oxford is really like.

Next summer 1000 students will attend the summer school for one week.  Targeted at students who are self-motivated and working above the average for their school, it aims to provide students with a realistic view of Oxford; of the teaching, the facilities and the people.

UNIQ is a programme of free summer schools held at Oxford University.  Students live in an Oxford college, attending lectures, seminars and tutorials.  The aim is to give academically able students the opportunity to see if Oxford is for them.  Would I fit in?  Am I clever enough? Would I enjoy it? These are all questions that, by the end of the week, students will be able to answer for themselves.

The French course runs from July 12th to 18th, and is designed to offer you a taste of studying French at Oxford, and to give you a sense of the unrivalled breadth of our course. Throughout the week, you will have the opportunity to hone your language skills and consolidate your knowledge of French grammar. You will also participate in classes introducing you to an exciting array of topics, ranging from Linguistics and 17th-century tragedy to French-language cinema and 19th-century poetry.

Other week-long courses on offer include German and Spanish, plus one on Beginner Languages offering a taste of what it might be like to study Italian, Russian or Portuguese from scratch. There are also courses in Middle Eastern languages, and on many other subjects in the arts, humanities and sciences.

The course will give you a boost in your sixth-form studies, and provide you with a great introduction to university life. Come and spend a week with us, for free, and find out what we’re all about.

Online applications for the UNIQ summer school are now open. They close on 24 February at 5pm, so please don’t delay.

Further information and access to the online application form is available here.

Our team are happy to answer any additional questions you may have.  You can email them at uniq@admin.ox.ac.uk

Posted by Simon Kemp

French Film Competition

auberge

As in the previous few years, the Oxford University Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages is organising a French Film Competition, run with the help and generosity of Routes into Languages and the Sir Robert Taylor Society.

The Competition has been a really successful and fun way of getting young people interested in France and French culture. And this year we have opened it up to younger students: all UK students of secondary-school age – from years 7 to 13 – can take part. The challenge of the competition is to re-write the ending of a film in no more than 1500 words.

The films for this year –  Le Hérisson (The Hedgehog) directed by Mona Achache (2009, for Years 7-11) and L’Auberge Espagnole (Pot Luck), directed by Cédric Klapisch (2002, for years 12-13) have been chosen because they talk about reaching out to strange or foreign people. The first film sees a young girl forming an unlikely friendship with a prickly, hedgehog-like caretaker; in the second, a young Frenchman flatshares with eccentric students from different countries on his Erasmus Year Abroad – a situation many language undergraduates have to deal with!

Judging the competition is often a lot of fun and we are always impressed by the imagination and wit of the entries. There are no restrictions as to the form the entry might take: screen-play, play-script, prose, prose with illustrations… and this year, you can even upload a YouTube video or audio file! Entries should be submitted by email to french.essay@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk by noon on Monday 31 March 2014.

A first prize of £100 will be awarded to the winning student in each age group, with runner-up prizes of £25. For further details about entering the competition (including the points in each film where we’d like you to take up the story), please see the link below, which offers more details about how to enter. It’s great fun and an excellent exercise in creativity! So please do enter!

http://www.mod-langs.ox.ac.uk/film_comp_2014

posted by Will McKenzie

Bons mots: le créneau

Image

Is it odd to have favourite words? Hopefully not too strange among language-learners, as it’s always been the case with me. How do we ever manage in English without the French si, the special version of ‘yes’ for exclusive use when contradicting the person you’re talking to? It’s very handy in conversation, and much more elegant than the English ‘oh yes it is’ (‘oh yes I did/she has/etc.), which is its most precise translation, and only suitable for pantomime usage. And how nice to discover that the French bélier, ‘ram’, not only means the male sheep but also the big wooden thing for battering down castle gates. So here, in an occasional series, are some French words that tickled my fancy as a linguist.

Firstly, le créneau (‘les créneaux’ in the plural). It means ‘battlement’, the up-and-down bit on top of a castle wall, and is related to the English word ‘crenellation’. You can use it literally: the poet Verlaine has a line about

L’archer qui veille au créneau de la tour (‘The archer standing watch on the battlements of the tower’).

And you can also use it metaphorically:

monter au créneau’ (‘go up to the battlements’)

means to wade into a discussion or controversy, particularly one where there’s attacking and defending to be done. That’s already more than we do in English with our own word, but the nice thing about the French créneau as opposed to the English battlement is how much further they take the idea of its up-down-up shape. Un créneau in French is not just a literal slot in the stone parapet at the top of a castle wall, but almost anything else that resembles that shape or reminds you of it in some way. It can be a crenellation-shaped design or pattern, square notches or teeth on a mechanical device, or the shape of a city skyline. More than that, it can be a figurative ‘slot’ between two blocks for something to fit into. You can have a

‘créneau horaire’

in your timetable available for a meeting. ‘Quels sont vos créneaux d’ici à vendredi ?’ (‘What times do you have available between now and Friday ?’) offers the online dictionary, Trésor de la Langue Française as its example. (I’m scheduling classes and tutorials at the moment myself, which is probably why the word springs to mind.)

You can

‘trouver un bon créneau’

in the market (‘find a good opening’) for your product. ‘Une petite société, à condition de bien choisir ses créneaux, peut rivaliser avec les géants mondiaux’ (‘A small company can rival the giant multinationals, as long as it chooses its market openings carefully.’) says the TLF.

My favourite usage, though, is the more concrete idiom

‘faire un créneau’

literally, to ‘do a battlement’.

Rather beautifully, it’s the normal French expression meaning to slot your car into the gap between two other cars, i.e. to parallel park. The TLF illustrates the concept with the handy phrase, ‘Je rate toujours mes créneaux’  (‘I always mess up my parallel parking’), which you may wish to memorize in case it comes in useful in the future.

 posted by Simon Kemp

A blog for students and teachers of Years 11 to 13, and anyone else with an interest in French language and culture, written by the staff and students of Oxford University. Updated every Wednesday!