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Loves Means Learning a New Vocabulary: C'est La Guerre


When a man gets married or has a long-term relationship with a woman, he is sure to learn things along the way.

Patience, for example.

When to speak and when to bite his tongue.

But those are subjects for another column.

Today, I'm talking vocabulary.

In the seven years I've known my wife--at least I hope it's seven--I've added to my vocabulary, mostly in the home decorating/shopping/cooking areas.

The words are never "normal" words but, rather, foreign substitutes for everyday things. I guess it's true that anything spoken in French sounds mysterious or romantic. I think it's an example of women making things more complicated than they need to be.

Here is a sampling of words I've picked up. I'll do this as a multiple-choice quiz.

1. Armoire

a. French word for body armor.

b. That sock-looking thing Britney Spears wore on her forearm in the Super Bowl halftime show.

c. A large wooden cabinet-type piece of furniture into which women try to stuff every last sheet, blanket, pillowcase, board game and credit card bill from 1995. It is completely impossible to move--which, of course, means she'll want to rearrange the room it's in at least once a year.

d. An appetizer that grosses out Americans but is considered a delicacy somewhere.

2. Ramekin

a. The small furry hero of a Steven Spielberg movie who saves the hapless children when they venture into that neighbor's yard they're supposed to avoid.

b. Your favorite college band.

c. A small baking dish that could simply be called a small baking dish but has a special-sounding name that enables the manufacturer to raise the price to that of a "specialty item."

d. A device used by the poets of the 17th century that resembles iambic pentameter.

3. Duvet

a. French word for dove.

b. A fancier word--French, of course--for divot of grass, particularly useful when golfing with snobs ("Skippy, would you kindly replace the duvet you left on the fairway?").

c. Pretty much just a cover for a comforter or blanket, except that it is "commonly" known as a duvet cover, which even a guy knows is redundant and completely repetitive.

d. A duet that includes the singing of Celine Dion, who would be thrilled to have a word devoted just to her.

4. Crudite:

a. The latest no-stick, no-stain surface for kitchen counter tops.

b. An ancient form of torture used in war involving flogging, John Tesh records and the sound of nails on a blackboard.

c. Just a plain old vegetable platter. Yep, just another fancy French word for a collection of carrots, peppers, cherry tomatoes and broccoli, occasionally accompanied by dip.

d. An old dance popular in the 1960s making a comeback at weddings and retirement parties; a cousin of the Boston Monkey; come on everyone, let's do the crudite.

5. Pashmina:

a. The fastest mammal on Earth, indigenous to the African continent, has been spotted also in South America.

b. A lipstick shade that In Style magazine says will make your new boyfriend forget everything but your lips.

c. Pretty much a scarf that, applied correctly, could keep a homeless family warm for an entire winter because it really is the size of a blanket and could be stored in a duvet cover.

d. An Indian dish that includes chicken, snow peas, a savory red sauce and curry.

The answer to all of the questions was C. I made C the right answer in all cases in case you're questioning your guy. We were told in SAT prep class that when in doubt, just pick c. I'm hoping he took that advice. Otherwise, he's getting beaten with a pillow right now. That would be a decorative pillow that probably has some French name but no practical use except for whacking your guy when he says something stupid or belches.

Two of the five words did not get through my computer's spell check, which means:

a. The words are completely useless and made up for no good reason.

b. I've actually spelled them wrong.

c. The spell-check program was written by an unmarried man.

d. You can apply any definition you'd like to those words.

But the new words can be intimidating. When I asked my wife what we were supposed to bring to a party during the holidays, she said we are responsible for a crudite. "Honey," I said, "the party's tomorrow. Doesn't that involve marinating or letting the dough rise?"

"No, moron, it's a vegetable platter," she replied, probably hitting me with a lovely decorative pillow.

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