Shit happens, as the saying goes. And for whatever reason, it happens a lot in France.
I noticed this on the first day I arrived in Paris. Walked straight off the plane in search of les toilettes. When I finally found them (‘toilettes’ are always plural in French), it was too late. Not for me – thankfully, I was able to hold it. But someone else, presumably multiple others, had got there first. Shit. Lots of it.
Took my first stroll around town to admire the Eiffel Tower. Walked straight into a steaming mass of dog do. I scraped the merde de chien off my ruined shoes and spent the next several months in Paris with my eyes cast down, avoiding sidewalk art.
Got to my new home, opened the fridge and gasped. It smelled like something had died. Mais non! It was just the cheese, happily ripening. Camembert, in particular, always smells like a dirty diaper.
When we moved to the country near Lyon some years later, I flung open the windows of my new home one sunny day and breathed deeply, enjoying the fresh air. Then noticed something a little off. No, very off. Seemed the farmer next door had just taken delivery of this:
Le fumier. Manure. For the rest of the summer, the farmer spread it, our dog rolled in it and the flies it attracted invaded our home. After a few days, I didn’t even smell it anymore.
Shit is everywhere. In fact, shit is life. And guess what? I like the fact that we live in a world that isn’t completely asepticized. Where food still bears the traces of its origins. Where eggshells have a few flecks of excrement and a bit of feather stuck on.
Merde was probably the first ‘gros mot‘ I learned in French. So it is dear to my heart.
In France, shit is associated with luck. When you want to say ‘break a leg’ in French, it’s ‘Je te dis merde.’ (Literally: ‘I say you shit’.)
Another oft-heard expression is: ‘On est dans la merde’ (‘We’re in deep shit’). Happens so often, it seems to be the norm. And of course, you know the story of the Gallic rooster.
Since I posted about turning my home into a no fly zone, it seems les mouches have been exacting revenge by multiplying in droves. It may have something to do with the fact that the farmer down the road has been spraying his fields all week.
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