Some say French is a beautiful language - not quite as beautiful as Italian but still, nicer sounding than English and far nicer sounding than German. And I tend to agree. Not only is French gentle on the ear with the sing-songy Bonjour! and Aurevoir! but I have come to discover that the French can make even the most hideous thing sound lovely.
For instance, don't pieds de veau sound nice? Pieds de veau with a side of purée maison? But if I told you you were actually eating calve's feet with mashed potatoes, you may reconsider. Perhaps a more subtle example: you're running late for a meeting because you slept in. You call your colleagues to tell them you'll be late. But instead of telling them the detailed truth, all you have to do is tell them that you had an empechement - you were detained for reasons you will never have to explain. An empechement! so simple! So clear and yet so wonderfully vague! No one will ever have to know that you drank too much Bordeaux last night and ooops - completely missed the alarme at 7am.
All of this was clarified on Thursday as I popped in to visit a group of Americans who were visiting Paris. It was hotter than hell on Thursday. The kind of hot where you just give up on looking decent. Your dress sticks to your back, the sweat rolls down the back of your legs and your mascara gathers in black streaks under your eyes. I think in the states they are using the term "hot mess," which actually happens to be very appropriate.
My fellow Ricaines invited me into their apartment and we sat down in the living room for a good ol' American chat. The subjects went from Spain to teaching English in France to French living standards to their plans for coming back for another trip abroad. It was nice to talk to other Americans and encourage them to come back. I decided that at 9pm it was time to go and as I got up from my chair I glanced behind me fearful of the sweat that had surely gathered on the back of my dress. The most talkative of them didn't miss a beat: "Oh don't worry," she said, "I had swamp ass yesterday too."
Yes ladies and gentlemen, Swamp Ass.
If you are wondering what Swamp Ass entails, perhaps you have heard of Swalls? Swoobs? Sweaty balls? Sweaty boobs? Elegant, I know. Swamp Ass, I now know, means a sweaty ass. And I had one, and so had she - yesterday apparently.
Now the French have a Swamp all their own. Perhaps you've heard of the Marais? Initially the place where the Seine could flood the city thus creating a "swamp," it is now one of the chicest (and gayest) parts of Paris where rents soar and gay bars abound. Fancy boutiques line the streets with names like rue des Francs Bourgeois and beautiful courtyards are sneakily hidden inside the historically preserved buildings. And there the French have done it again! They have turned a nasty, dirty word associated with flooding, mud and mosquitoes into the posh, Parsian hot spot for the super branché. If they called the Topanga Plaza "The Swamp" I highly doubt Chanel stores would come flocking for a top notch placement. But call it the Marais and voila! Instant amazingness!
So, in honor of the French and their beautiful way with words, let's just say that Thursday included a magnifique Cul de Marais. You know, Swamp Ass for you Americans.