Stuck au millieu with vous.

Esther Wheelwright (1696-1780), ca. 1763

Esther Wheelwright (1696-1780), ca. 1763

I know I’ve been a very bad blogger lately–but I promise, it’s only because I’m trying to be a very good historian (or Historiann!) who makes my deadline for my book, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright, exactly two weeks from today.  I’m at the point that it’s really not much fun any more, and my brain is making weird mistakes in-between French and English words.  I find myself not seeing words that I’ve written in French when I should use the English word.  I also sometimes forget if the word I’m scrutinizing is actually in French or in English.  (Those of you who work in languages other than the one you publish in can relate, right?  I hope?  Maybe I just need to work through my brain damage.)

There are some words that seem equally weird in both languages–like guimpe and wimple, just weird, amirite?–that confuse me now in my exhaustion.  A wimple is the large swath of fabric that a nun wears over her head and which covers the upper part of her torso in fabric, like a hijab but it doesn’t cover the face as well.  I can’t seem to remember whether or not I want to type ceinture or cincture, which describes the belt that some nuns wear.  

I want to be a good historian, but I also want to be the unusual (even unique, a word in both French and English!) historian who can actually meet her deadlines.  And I also wish I could go back to Mrs. Stackpole’s French class in ninth grade to have her review some of my translations of the passé simple, et voila!  There you go.

10 thoughts on “Stuck au millieu with vous.

  1. Hijab, niquab, burkah: I can’t keep my wimples, habits, and head-to-toe body coverage straight!

    Thanks for the understanding words, Sarah. Onward!


    • A-HAHAHahahaha!!!! I love it. (Kanigel sounds related to American southern slang “coney,” or “coniglio” in Italian.)

      I’ll try from now on only to refer to that publication as “The Kanigel of Higher Ed.”


  2. A lot of words look weird to the point of seeming to be just plain wrong whenever you actually *look* straight at them, which I take to mean you should not actually look straight at words, just use them. Your memoir of Mrs. S. reminded me that I had four different French teachers between grades 9-12. It wasn’t that they were just coming and going, either, this little school had the equivalent of a French *department* They had an incredible range of personalities, too, which makes a difference in the nature but not the amount of language acquisition. I loved studying French then, although I learned or at least retained little enough of it. I just barely placed out of taking any language in college, took “statistics” as a research “language” at P**n, not good, and later when my scholarly turn made French seem necessary or at least very helpful, it made me feel like an idiot, or to render it in French, an idiot.


    • HA-hahaha. L’idiot!

      Damn that stupid SPSS/BASIC/FORTRAN bullcrap that our profession fell for in the 1970s and 1980s. Where were the guardians of our curricular quality and coherence then that they permitted this travesty? If they had preserved a real language requirement, maybe we’d have more Americanists who can read another language.

      Ah, well: every generation has to put up with its fads. The thing when I was in school was post-structuralist theory, of which I read a great deal and even understood a little of it. But that fashion passed pretty quickly, thank goodness. It was useful but I’m glad I don’t have to think or write that way.


  3. Proofreading and editing hurts my head. I feel like if I were smarter, editing would go easier. Anyhow. Solidarity! Keep going! You can make your deadline and start the semester happy!


  4. I salvage what I can for u-grad pedagogical purposes. I tell students (many with their laptops open or thumbing their way down through their phones) that when I went to graduate school, BFU “had a computer.” They “sometimes let graduate students play with it.” I actually have one of those old punch cards, but you can find plenty of them on google images to display. You took a fistful of them over to the university’s computer, which “ran a city block by half a city block,” “bigger than this building,” I say, and handed them to some geeky guy with a scraggly beard. A week later you went back and got handed a print-out that was a challenge to carry home. I don’t have any of those print outs, and can’t find an image of a foot high stack, but by this time eyes are rolling and the game wanes. I actually did imbibe some elements of useful consciousness from the quant era, which make me roll my eyes at interpretive invocations about “most of the time people…” “a lot of,” and fuzzy things like that which got unceremoniously dinged in the day as “impressionistic evidence.” I’d still rather be able to actually read the _Papiers Inedits Trouve Chez Robespierre_, though. What did he leave on his desk the day he walked over to the National Convention to extract and behead a few more noisy troublemakers?


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