Tuesday, March 8, 2011

La plume de Fitzroy

Everybody who has studied a little bit of French has heard of "la plume de ma tante" (my aunt's pen) which has been lying for countless generations of students "sur la table" (on the table). In fact, the word "plume" designates a feather. So, we must imagine that the aunt is an old-timer who still writes with a goose quill dipped in ink. And that trivial anecdote suggests that the teaching of French in the English-speaking world might be a little antiquated. Maybe it's time that French teachers got around to an example such as "l'ordinateur de ma copine est sur le bureau" (my girlfriend's computer is on the desk).

The word "plumes" designates (among countless other things) ostrich feathers adorning the backsides of female dancers at places such as the Lido and Folies Bergère.

In the second half of the 19th century, the French had the impression that "plumes" of the peacock adorned the backsides of strutting Prussian military commanders.

These days, I'm often under the illusion that my dog Fitzroy has a thick "plume" sprouting from his backside.

When you compare the tails of the two dogs, that of Fitzroy is indeed feathery, to say the least, and he often moves around with his curved tail held high in the air. (This is a behavior also adopted by Christine's dog Gamone, the daughter of Sophia, who is in certain ways a similar kind of friendly animal to Fitzroy). When Fitzroy drops his tail, it looks quite normal, because he's woolly all over in this cold season.

Contrary to what Christine and I might have imagined when we first met up with little Fitzroy as a pup, up in his Alpine abode, he is turning into quite a big animal.

In his head, though, Fitzroy remains a playful young dog, who rarely winds down. For me, it's a fascinating pleasure to have two canine companions of such totally different mentalities and behaviors. In fact, the two dogs seem to complement one another.

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