Saturday, November 24, 2007

 

Procrastination in French

Many people wonder how to say "procrastination" in French. Some come to this blog looking for an answer to that question, an answer which I didn't (yet) provide.

I've often wondered myself, since procrastination is something that has often come up in my conversations over the years. I've put off, until now, doing any serious research because:
  1. I practice procrastination
  2. I've arrogantly assumed that if there were a French term I'd have learned it by now, and
  3. I just give a summary definition if necessary (to francophones to whom I'm speaking but who don't seem to understand the term).
For (3), I understand what procrastination is well enough (really, I've even tried it and inhaled!), and speak French well enough, to do so without research. But very likely I did look to see what my English/French Larousse dictionary includes before today (I've had it for nearly thirty years):
  • Procrastination: Remise au lendemain, temporisation.
  • Procrastinate: Remettre au lendemain, atermoyer, temporiser, lanterner (fam.).
  • Procrastinator: Temporisateur, lanterne.
I agree more with "remise au lendemain" (or "remise à plus tard") -- putting off for later -- than with temporisation, but it doesn't offer an easy-to-use term for procrastinator. "Temporiser" is more about waiting for a more opportune time, for the likelihood of success to improve; despite what some of them may tell themselves, that is not what procrastinators are doing.

"Atermoyer/atermoiement" is an interesting candidate. But it is not quite right for two reasons:
  1. it has to do with two parties negotiating a delay to a due date (for a payment), whereas procrastination is usually one party deciding alone.
  2. it has to do with the due date, whereas the procrastinator's attention is more on the start date, or how much effort to invest and when.
Although the E.U.'s fine Inter-Active Terminology for Europe reference recommends "atermoiement", I say no.

Curious why I skipped "lanterner" and "lanterne" in this context? I haven't encountered them (that I recall, and I think I tend to notice words) in the past couple of decades so I doubt that enough people would understand them to make them viable "quick win" candidates. But I reserve judgement ("j'ajourne cette question"). And I'll investigate as priorities allow.

The CNRS's semantic dictionary proposes two other terms:
  • deferment
  • ajournement
My Petit Robert doesn't include "deferment", but I suppose it to be the act of "déférer", which has little or nothing to do with procrastination as I have come to know it: it is about delegation or reassignment of a judicial matter to a more appropriate authority. "Ajournement" (and "ajourner") are closer; some might say that, since they are mainly used in the context of courts of law and trials, too close (i.e. judges should not be procrastinating judgement): court is adjourned until...means that the judge has decided that she and everyone else involved in a trial should be doing something else for a few hours...or days. But I find it hard to imagine "Faut que j'arrête de tout ajourner" [I must stop procrastinating everything] or "t'as fini d'ajourner tes devoirs?" [have you finished procrastinating doing your homework?] in everyday popular language. That is not to say that it is wrong or should not be commonly used some day, but just that "ajourner" and "ajournement" might well not be understood by francophones today to mean "procrastinate" and "procrastination" in a context other than law courts.

In an interesting twist, the Office québécois de la langue française (who write "arrêt" instead of "stop" on their octagonal red stop signs) claim the français for procrastination is "procrastination n.f." In other words, the académie française du Canada has admitted the word procrastination as a femine noun. More water to my mill, as we say: they didn't find another word fit to mean procrastination in French.

Conclusion
For reasons I hope to elucidate, "procrastination", which sounds (like organisation, industrialisation) like a word that would be shared among European (Latinate) languages is thus far absent from French. The Québécois francophones have admitted it. I believe that many other francophones understand it. However, if you are not sure of your audience or readership, I suggest you stick to the heavier-handed use of a phrase instead of a single equivalent word:
  • procrastinate : remettre à plus tard / remettre au lendemain
  • procrastination : remises à plus tard / remise au lendemain
  • procrastinator: gestionnaire des priorités / manager afuté de l'emploi des ressources disponibles
You may try "procrastination". "Procrastiner v.i." is less likely to be understood. "Procrastinateur" is almost certain to be rejected. The real French don't procrastinate, I guess, so we'll have to engineer a word.

I've tried to provide the content some searchengine users supposed I already had, but I'm open to suggestions for "procrastinator" in French...

If I haven't helped you find the word or phrase you want, I'm sorry (but it didn't cost you much, I hope). If you think I'm close, have questions or suggestions you would like to share, please feel free to add your comment.


Note: for "procrastinator", one may consider "branleur, -euse", although it presumes the procrastinator (the "actor"?) is choosing other, more idle, use of her time and "effort", when in fact the procrastinator is probably just chosing any other activity as long as she can tell others that is what she has been doing, and it is arguably not a waste of time...

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

 

Fish House Punch: Another Festive Drink From Centuries Past

When I don't have a case of mead in the refridgerator and I have a traditional American event to celebrate (Thanksgiving or Independence Day--especially centenials), I can usually mix up a batch of Fish House Punch. While I don't know exactly when it was first concocted, I do have a recipe in a cookbook that purports to be a family recipe from Baltimore (MD), 1732; that may be post-first-Thanksgiving, but it is pre-Revolution and involves rum, a New World alcoholic beverage par excellance.

In the cookbooks at my disposal, I found at least three recipes (including the 1732 one). They vary somewhat, but the main principles remain:
  • rum and brandy (in various proportions)
  • lemon juice, sugar, and water (lemonade)
  • a little peach brandy
  • possibly strong tea instead of some of the water
After a fair amount of calculation and deduction, I've converted lemons to tablespoons of lemon juice, bottles to fluid ounces (assuming they were fifths and not quarts...Joy of Cooking, I'm disappointed to encounter this ambiguity!), rescaled them to individual portions of 3 Tb (one jigger) of rum+brandy, and the resulting summary table is below. Personally, I suspect the Mr. B recipe has been modernized and suited to Mr. B's product line, since it is high on brandy and low on rum (and high on peach brandy) whereas I believe rum would have been much more affordable in the colonies; my preference is the "KK", perhaps because I like a little more lemon juice. They all seem to be about half strong spirits, so about twice as strong as wine, and just a little stronger than vermouth; serve with lots of ice!








IngredientKKJoCMr. B
Brandy1 Tb1 Tb7 tsp
Dark rum2 Tb1 Tb
Light rum1 Tb2 tsp
Peach brandy1/2 tsp1/2 tsp2 tsp
Lemon juice1 Tb1 tsp2-3 tsp
Sugar1 tsp1 tspto taste
Water2 tb2 Tb4 tsp
Tea

2 tsp

Update (25 November 2007): The New York Times has a scanned article from The Philadelphia Times, which they reprinted on May 24, 1896: HOW FISHHOUSE PUNCH IS MADE

The key points (as far as I'm concerned -- because they support what I've written above) are:
  • the punch recipe was 164 years old at that point, so would date from 1732
  • it contains one bottle of brandy, two bottles of Jamaica rum, 1 quart of sour (lemon juice) and a pound of sweet (sugar), a dash of peach brandy and some sliced fruit.
On the other hand,
  • no mention of water or ice! And mention that a version of the drink with more sugar was associated with more frequent attacks of gout (from dehydration, I think).
I maintain my recommendation to add the water and serve with lots of ice!


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Save the Honeybee -- Needed to Make the Nectar of the Gods!

In an article in the WSJ entitled "A Taste of Holiday Honey", author ERIC FELTEN writes about Metheglin:
At the first Thanksgiving chances are some more of those strong waters were poured around, and perhaps also some Metheglin, a spiced drink of fermented honey.

What is curious (and disappointing) is that, while he adds plenty of historical anecdotes about alcoholic beverages in the early colonial period and then explores some attempts to concoct a Thanksgiving Day drink inspired by that empty cask of Metheglin, he at no point mentions "mead", of which Metheglin is but one variety.

Mead is believed to be the first alcoholic beverage consumed by humans, before beer and long before wine. It was popular with Vikings and Celts. The term "honeymoon" is even derived from it: during the first month of marriage, newlyweds were expected to consume mead daily. It is still commercially available, and there are "how to" home brew mead videos on YouTube (not always with exemplary hygiene!)--which I found thanks to a French hydromel forum. In Brittany, where the Celtic influence as strong in local tradition, the traditional drink known as "chouchenn" is mead. Four other mead compositions are shown here:



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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

 

Hallowe'en in Haguenau: annual report for 2007 (belated)

Hallowe'en in Haguenau was easy to ignore and easy to forget this year. In a nutshell:
  • half as many callers as last year (about 15 instead of 32), half my candy left over (instead of my having to dash to the supermarket before 8 p.m. closing, or even resorting to anxious smaller and smaller clutches of goodies to dispense hoping to make the last of the supply suffice to the end). No callers before sundown, or even before 7 p.m., and only one extravagent (stoned?) couple late late (with the munchies?). I took a few photos, but I don't have releases signed by all their parents so they aren't public.
  • the folk a couple of blocks away who grow their own squashes maintained the quality of their (non-lantern) Jack. The photos are taken from the sidewalk (my hand and arm may have slightly stretched over the fence, but it was only to better approximate with my phone camera what a 'real' camera could have recorded).
    2006 JackyJacky 2006
    Jacky 2007
  • I didn't check immediately, but on the following Saturday the nationalist posters were back on the columns. 2007 JackyIt was semi-legible from the Turkish restaurant where I had lunch, a short block away. But only a couple of days later this was covered by more "acceptible" posters reminding us that with President Sarkozy, anything is possible.


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