30 Days of Me: Bel's Day 19

Posted by Bel. The time is 4pm here in Wellington NZ

Nicknames you have; why do you have them

Well, "Bel" is a nickname, I suppose. So does that count? I have never had any cool nicknames really. Or mean ones. My brother called me a bunch of names growing up no doubt, but nothing that ever really stuck. Mainly because I would give him THE PUNNIES if he ever dared.

Eddy, back when he lived in a box
My dumb brother, looking like he needs the punnies


I just remembered: I do have a nickname! Wow. (That is not the nickname, that is me exclaiming.)

By my 6th Form Cert year, there was only four of us in my French class. The desks were in pairs, so we sat right at the front by the teacher's table, just the wee huddle of us.

Bridget and Simone sat together at the very front; they were a well suited pair, as Bridget had a freak genius mind and was also taking German and maybe picked up Spanish that year too, via correspondence, and Simone's mum was French, which I think is also known as CHEATING.

I sat in the back row, of course. (Ahem: second row from the whiteboard.) My buddy was Paul, who was also in my Drama class, and my cousin to boot. Paul was hilarious. A definitive class clown. He did the best Austin Powers impersonation that my small provincial town was ever treated to in the mid-90s.

He made class not just tolerable, but enjoyable. And just as well, because our teacher sure wasn't focused on that. She had an authoritative and prescriptive teaching approach, meaning that we wrote out many a verb conjugation, and copied down pages of notes on grammar rules, but got little understanding for the flow of the language, or much of an ear for it.

(I did a semester of Te Reo Māori at university and was revitalised in my love for language by the holistic, conversation-based techniques that my tutor used - a complete contrast. And it's not just a "cultural thing", as I have had French teachers since who have managed to create the same positive atmosphere, where learning is encouraged and shared.)

Anyway, so.

Paul barely had to twitch an archly curved eyebrow or whisper one word in a funny voice to send me into fits of giggles when we were in French together. I was starting to get sick of high school, and although a very good student, was developing a subversive streak that - partnered with being very sick for a long time - would make 7th Form a real battle. Good company like that can make all the difference, and I really don't know how I survived his going on a year-long AFS exchange.

One day, transcribing vocab lists, we came across the French word for "rubbish bin": la poubelle. In English, this sounds like "poo - bell".

My name, but with "poo" on the front. And the translation means trash can. It's even a feminine word! (As in la, not le.)

As you can imagine, this went down a treat with Paul. He was given a nickname in return - I would call him Monsieur Pamplemousse as he'd declared it his favourite word. "Pamplemousse" is the ridiculous French way of saying grapefruit. It is a great word really.

We would also torture each other by suggesting these words as vocab whenever an example was needed by the teacher:

Teacher: "Le petit garcon est monte dans... uhhh..." [The little boy climbed in (/inside)...]
Paul: "Dans la poubelle...?"
Teacher: *glares*
And so on.

But of course this was years ago now, and I haven't even seen Paul in an age, despite the fact we live in the same city and all.

But I made the foolish mistake of mentioning this mistake at home one day. I have the obnoxious habit of speaking in French sometimes, you know, just for funsies. I often get replies from my family members, sometimes in surprisingly accurate Pepe Le Pew accents. We are all lovers of French food and movies and empirical colonial tactics, so they let my pretentious bilingual waffling slide.

Thus, I am 'La Poubelle' once more, and the hilarity continues.

2 thoughts on “30 Days of Me: Bel's Day 19”

  1. Ahem. You have another nickname, used to address post to you by yours truly. I won't post it here though in case you don't want my version of your full name on the interwebs...

  2. Hahah yes - there are various nicknames which are variations of my (full) name but I have steered clear of them.

    Only once ever have I been called by the first half of my name and it feel very flat. Not sure why, but it just doesn't work.