I took the day off of work today to open a French bank account, which for various reasons turns out to be crucial to my ability to function here, even for just a few weeks at a time. I walked into the bank and learned that you don’t just walk into a bank and open an account–you walk into a bank and make an appointment to open an account. This actually isn’t as crazy as it sounds, since it gives the bank a chance to prepare the paperwork ahead of time (e.g., I have to fill out an American W-9 to open an account in a French bank, believe it or not), and it lets you find out what kind of documentation you will need to provide, not all of which would have occurred to me (e.g., I have to bring a copy of my employment contract).
Zipf’s Law struck, of course. It came in the form of the word justificatif, which is written proof or written evidence. I have to provide a justificatif d’addresse–written proof of address. For some reason, I have enormous amounts of trouble pronouncing this word, which the bank clerk was very kind to say slowly for me when I stumbled over it repeatedly–ju-sti-fi-ca-tif. When I left, she said that my French is great, to which I responded that I wish it were, but it isn’t, to which she responded: “Well…for an American.” Smiles all around.