Monday, November 07, 2005

Caoutchouc, Byatt, Gopnik

I've been on the critical path for my experiment the last few weeks (i.e., if I'm late the whole thing is late). On the way back from the lab on a recent Sunday, I heard part of an excellent program on NPR called "Says You!". It involves two teams of panelists answering questions about words and standard intellectual witty fare. In one amusing game team x comes up with fake definitions of an obscure word and team y tries to identify the correct definition from the fakes. (We called this "Dictionary" in my household). On the recent show the word was "caoutchouc", which I happened to know, because it's an everyday French word meaning "rubber", but apparently none of the (smart and literate) panelists speaks much French. There's an equivalent show from Britain which features frighteningly erudite panelists, and I have to think this word would not pass muster on that program.

Incidentally, I just reread A.S. Byatt's _Elementals_ - a collection of varyingly fantastical short stories. It's full of lovely writing but also some odd choices, and though I got more out of this time through I wouldn't recommend rushing out to buy it unless you're a Byatt fan. Anyway, I mention it because the first half of it is about the English in France.

Also incidentally, I just read Adam Gopnik's memoir _Paris to the Moon_, which was a slight disappointment to me given how much I admire his reviewing in The New Yorker - but it's still worth reading, especially the later sections when his son is old enough to start playing an active role in the world.


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