Cell phones are a continual source of amusement

Cell phones are a constant source of linguistic delight and discovery for me in France.  An occasional source of hassle, too.  Happily, cell phone service in France is so good and so cheap that I can afford to maintain a French phone number with unlimited calling to the United States all the time–it’s so cheap that I don’t mind paying for it even when I’m at home in the States.  Getting a cell phone in the first place was an exercise in learning lots of new vocabulary and one of those interpersonal experiences that you just have to laugh about.

Once I had my phone in my greasy little hands, all was well for the next several months.  Then someone in China stole my credit card number, and I had to get a new one.  No problem, until I got to France today, turned on my phone, and found a single text message telling me that my account has not been paid, and my phone is henceforth locked.  No mystery there: the account was being paid with my old credit card number, so they need my new one.  So, I go to the web site and begin a long round of phone calls to my credit card company and my French phone company.  The amazing thing is, the calls to the French phone company were far less frustrating than the calls to my American credit card company, despite the fact that I don’t speak French!  In the mean time, I learned some new words on the French phone company’s web site.  They are interesting in that the words are similar, and have related, but different, sets of meanings.  They are the verbs régler and régulariser:

  • régulariser: this verb means to sort out or resolve (e.g. a situation), or to set up or adjust (e.g. a clock).
  • régler: this verb means to to adjust or regulate, and also to sort out, but it has an additional meaning of to pay, settle, or pay off, as in a debt, or a bill.

In the end, despite the super-helpful customer service guy at the phone company, I need to go to the phone company store tomorrow.  We’ll see if it’s as much of an adventure the second time as it was the first time!

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