Madame Pipi

It’s the Belgian National Day today! Why not reread this tale of one of the country’s best-known figures.

English-Language Thoughts

Have you ever met Madame Pipi? You can find her, middle-aged to elderly, usually with glasses and cardigan, outside most public toilets in Belgium, sitting at a table, waiting for you to put your 35, 40, or 50c on her little plate. You might also occasionally cross her path in France, where she goes by Dame Pipi. Why is she there, and why does she want the money?

View original post 253 more words


You may have said this today, in frustration perhaps, or in anger. Maybe it wasn’t quite as long as that. Maybe it was just a quick, cathartic Argh! I’m sure it’s something we’ve all said at least a few times in our lives. Did you ever wonder why it’s spelled in such a strange way though? Continue reading

Sense and Sensibility

I was enjoying some French conversation last night, on Bastille Day, when someone tried to think of the French translation for sensible. This is a tricky one because there is a French word sensibilité, but it’s a common false friend for French speakers, as it actually means sensitive in English.

That might seem odd to you, because sensible and sensitive are quite different in meaning in English. However, if we take a little trip into the past, we can see that the difference wasn’t always so marked. Continue reading

Caught Red-Handed

I heard this phrase this afternoon, and thought, Well, there’s no great mystery with this one. Red-handed refers to having blood on one’s hands from an act of murder or some other violence. No complicated, confusing web of etymology here.

But then I thought, I always think that, and then I look something up and there’s a fascinating, unexpected origin of the expression that I’ll be excited to share with you, dear reader. Continue reading