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Happy Fructidor, revolutionaries!  It’s the fruitiest month of the year.  That’s September to you and me.  For fifteen years following the French Revolution, they established a new calendar in France.  The months were very related to the seasons, what grew, what was ripe to eat, ready to be celebrated.  I love the idea, but it didn’t last because the math didn’t work out, and it confounded international trade.  You can follow the Wikipedia link to dive deeper into the revolutionary calendar, if you want to.  There, I learned something I’d never noticed before.

Look at this and tell me what you see: sept, oct, nov, dec.  Don’t think months, think latin, or ‘romance languages’ derived from latin.  Do you see the pattern?  It’s 7, 8, 9, 10.  Possibly one of the reasons I never remarked it is those aren’t the 7th through 10th months.  After years of starting the year with Spring, in March, the Romans added January and February, pushing everything else back two months.  Months one through eight are named for gods or emperors.  In other words, the last four months of the year don’t mean anything.

No wonder Oktoberfest is held in September.  The month names which stand for something are over, and the rest of the year runs off the rails.  Might as well drink and sing Jon Denver’s ‘Country Roads.’

Oktoberfest reminds me of the subject of an upcoming post!  Look out for it.

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New book cover

I’m pleased to announce that French License now has a book cover by a professional.  Finally the outside is as slick and funny as the inside:


I ran a contest with 99designs, received 30 different proposals, and settled on this one.  Thanks to all who voted to help me in my deliberations.

They also do company logos, banners, presentations and such.  If you’d like to run your own design contest, use this link:

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code beats bac

Today in France, high school seniors got the results of their final exams.  A passing grade on the baccalaureate is needed to go on to college.  It’s a gruelling process, with 4-hour written tests each for widely diverse subjects like philosophy, math, science, literature, history, geography and at least two other languages besides French.  None of the questions are multiple-choice.  Even the math answers must be written out.  You can have the right result, but get the answer wrong because you didn’t explain how you got there.  In addition, there are 2-4 oral exams on these subjects, where you’re asked to give a speech and answer questions about it.  Two of these speeches are in different foreign languages.  Bless the kids who’ve gone through this ordeal over three weeks in late June, in classrooms well above 30-degrees celsius sometimes.  Despite the obstacles, 80% of the 700 000 candidats pass.

But if you think that’s tough, try getting your French driver’s license.  Twice as many people 1.44 million try the ‘code’ each year.  In the Paris region, less than 50% succeed.  How can that be?  It’s only 40 questions, multiple choice.  I know, right?  But it’s so much more difficult than that.  To learn how, check out the book French License.

© Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2017

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4th of dually

In honor of America’s Independence Day, I pulled this picture from my archives.

Did you ever see something so out of place that you had to stare?  We’re in this medieval town of Riquewihr, in Alsace.  Go ahead, say it.  In Alsace.  Get it out of your system.  In Alsace.  Joe was in Alsace!

Anyway, it’s a quaint little village that time forgot, with cobblestone streets and tiny shops.  It’s Easter.  Metal eggs are hung from the trees like they do in Germany.  Families are out for a quiet stroll.  Turning the corner, I see this thing.

Now, pickup trucks are unheard of in France.  But a dually?  Some local must’ve had a thing for US muscle.  His ride was big and loud and had the American flag painted on the side in big long stripes.  I barely had time to get out the camera and snap this before his mufflers thundered by.

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foreign freeway funnies


In Germany, you can drive nude, as long as you’re wearing shoes.
In the UK, it’s permitted to pee on the side of the freeway.
In Luxembourg, you are required to have windshield wipers, but not required to have a windshield.

What strange road laws are there in France? Read my book French License to find out!

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