Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Hardly worth celebrating

My five-hundredth post. No big thing given that inter alia Plutarch recently passed three thousand. And the equivalent Roman numeral (see inset) makes it an even damper squib. But has 500 any BB significance?

I once owned a Triumph Speed Twin motorbike with a nominal engine capacity of 500 cc. Pretty tenuous. Took a good-looking woman rock-climbing in the Lake District and she shouted she’d gone faster on another guy’s scooter. Two miles down the road she shouted for quite a different reason.

At what Zach used to call the Holiday House in St Jean de la Blaquière I used to swim fifty 10 m lengths = 500 m = half a kilometre. This year’s visit, our fifth, was the last since the owners are selling. I remember the pool’s gritty edge blocks which made my teeth cringe.

A hot day in Biarritz. Takista had been moored and my two brothers and I had a big thirst. I ordered three grandes pressions (draught beer in 500 ml glasses) and got into an inexplicable argument about this with the waitress. Never resolved.

The figure 500 has metric relevance. Slide the decimal point three to the left and you have half of unity. Such a relief after those tedious arithmetic lessons on vulgar fractions where I puzzled over 13/16 multiplied by 17/43.

Always the numerical foot-dragger, the USA, still bogged down in Imperialism (now there’s an irony), used to flag the imminence of thruway, expressway and interstate picnic areas in feet. First glance 500 feet looks a lot. But it’s hardly time to jam on the brakes.

Far too late in life I’m trying to perfect my French vowel sounds. Saying cinq cents is salutary; many Brits hardly differentiate (“song song”). Get the nasality going with the “in”.

5 comments:

Lucy said...

Well I'm happy to congratulate you anyway, and won't be so crass as to ask why the woman shouted 2 miles down the road.

Cinq cents is is no real problem, I still stick on the difference between 'an' and 'en' and 'on' syllables, which I'm a bit ashamed of.

The Crow said...

Utpote laudatio in vestri factum!

(Used an online translator - I'm not THAT smart!)

Fedorovna said...

Italian is good on multiples of 5...cinquecento cinquante cinque... say it slowly and with operatic feeling..

Barrett Bonden said...

Lucy: I freely confess: I opened the throttle and scared the living daylights out of her. In fact it may have been pure exhilaration. She admitted later she'd been egging me on.

Ah yes, those shorties are the advanced class. My problem is I don't speak or hear enough French these days. Back in gainful employment I was always crossing the Channel to interview some gratified Frog or other.

The Crow: Congratulations. You know the way to my heart is via smartyboots linguistics. I had half an idea (my last Latin class was in 1946) but I used the online translator. It was a bit like that kids' party game where you whisper a message and it gets passed on. The English appeared corrupted but with enough meaning to show I was only half wrong.

Fedorovna: Apart from anything else a cinquecento is a car - a Fiat and far too small to accommodate me. I'm not sure about operatic feeling. Any Italian I know comes from Da Ponte libretti and when I try to utter it I feel dragged into comic exaggeration. A bit like hearing an Irishman in Ireland for the first time. The tendency is to think: "I know you're Irish but not stage Irish." Then the penny drops and you realise they do really speak like that. Same in Italy.

Avus said...

I was going to be brave enough to ask why she shouted, too!

Italian (which I do not speak) always sounds so wonderful for even mundane matters. Cars for instance:
"Cinquecento" for 500cc but it has a diminutive, fairylike quality which aptly fits the vehicle.
And who would not prefer to drive a "Quattroporte" rather than a four-door saloon?