Saturday, November 10, 2012

"Seventy-six paper clips led the big parade...."

During a lull in my workday, I sat back and looked at the mess on my desk – mostly papers and pens. Red pens, to be exact, and a lot of them.

(When you proofread things for a living, you don’t want to have a red pen run dry and not have another one – or, better yet, many of them – within easy reach.)

But there was something else on my desk, something that hadn’t been there the day before, something I think I prize even more than those pens:

A box of paper clips.

If you work in an office, especially one in which many pieces of paper are continually routed from one employee to another, I suspect you know what I mean -- especially if most of those pieces of paper have other pieces of paper attached to them, and if, during the course of a typical day, you ride so many paper trails that you can’t keep from getting at least a little saddle sore.

On this particular box of paper clips, which the office receptionist had obtained for me just that morning, I noticed that the wording was in English and French.

And I discovered something that was quaint and even charming. (Or should I say charmante?)

What I discovered was the French word for “paper clip.” I never would have thought of it in at least a hundred years, and I had six years of French. (Which sometimes felt like a hundred years.)

And that word, mes amis, is:


You could have knocked me over with a plume.

Because I saw the resemblance immediately. And I’ll bet that you do too, especially considering that I’ve been nice enough to dig up and post these two public-domain photos.

Paper clip = trombone.

Very clever. And to think that these are the same people who think that Jerry Lewis is God.

(Having said that, I should admit that as a kid I would sometimes go to a local movie house to see the latest Lewis flick – “Don’t Give Up the Ship,” “Cinderfella,” “Who’s Minding the Store” among them – but still.)

The paper clip/trombone translation reminded me of how my uncle, who spent a lot of time in Canada, would sometimes bring us stuff from there that had labeling in two languages.

One time he brought us a bag of Kraft marshmallows, which taught me that the French word for “marshmallow” is “guimauve.”

This morning I bought groceries, then got home and realized I had forgotten to get bread.

But somehow I remember “guimauve.”

Perhaps I should do my grocery shopping in Canada....

No comments: