How we’re sounding stupid today: staggering, test tubes, and French health care

There’s probably a finite number of ways to BE stupid, but there seem to be an infinite number of ways to SOUND stupid, at least in French.

Screenshot 2016-05-20 03.08.27
The passé simple (my current favorite tense) of the verb tituber, to stagger/stumble/reel. Picture source: screen shot of

I sat in a lab yesterday waiting to have blood drawn for some routine tests.  If it’s in italics, it happened in French:

Lab tech: I’m going to take two you are staggering.

Me: (puzzled, miming staggering by walking my fingers randomly across the desktop) “To stagger” means to walk like this, right?

Lab tech looks at me for a minute, then laughs: I’m going to take two LITTLE TUBES.

Titubes is “you are staggering/stumbling/reeling.”  Petits tubes is “little tubes.”  Spoken casually, it comes out as p’ti tubes, and if you don’t hear the p, that sounds just like titubes. 

There’s a lot we could say about the linguistic phenomena behind this, but at the moment, I’m feeling more impressed by the experience of interacting with the French medical system.  The health care system here is one of the best in the world–there’s nothing you can get in America that you can’t get here.  One of my foster brothers is a surgeon with a fascinating sub-specialty.  He was sent here for a week during his training, because the surgeons in France were doing techniques that hadn’t made it to the US yet.  (I find it ironic that Pasteur (the most important microbiologist of the 19th century) was French, and now America forbids French cheeses made with unpasteurized milk if they’re less than 60 days old.  It’s going to go to 75 days soon, which will wreak havoc with the tiny bit of an artisanal cheese movement that we have in the US.)

Health care is universal here–it was declared a human right in 1948.  In addition to being great, the health care here is not expensive.  These routine blood tests done cost me $200 in the US every time that I have them done; here, along with a visit with a friendly young doctor who giggled adorably at my crappy French, they cost me exactly nothing.  You gotta laugh at those Trump-voting Americans who sneer at socialized medicine, and then want a socialized snow plow to clear their street before work in the morning…

  • le système de santé français: the French healthcare system
  • l’assurance maladie: health insurance
  • une analyse de sang: blood test
  • passer une radiographie: to have an x-ray
  • faire une radiographie: to take an x-ray
  • une radio: x-ray (slang).

4 thoughts on “How we’re sounding stupid today: staggering, test tubes, and French health care”

  1. Une radio is not exactly slang, it’s shortened, like cinéma for cinématographe .
    Good one your “titube”, keep it for your next stand up .
    Yes USA are not a civilized country for me, and I’m not saying it tongue in cheek . First reason it’s a country that doesn’t heal its people .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, the best way to enjoy French cheeses is still in France 🙂 So, in consequence, we have to understand any such bans of cheese from unpasteurized milk as efforts of US authorities to covertly support the French tourism industry.

    What is also not surprising is that France seems to be the country with the largest number of cheese sorts and with the highest cheese consumption per capita (25.9 kg/a in 2013) in the world:

    The surprise for me was that Germany is only on notch four, with Iceland and Finland taking seats number two and three.

    Liked by 1 person

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