It’s on evenings like this that I especially appreciate summertime in Paris. The Euro 2016 is in full swing, and the streets of my neighborhood are full of little crowds of soccer fans wearing the jerseys of their team and chanting and singing in the language of whatever country they happen to be from. Weaving in and out of them are women in cute dresses and impressive heels–not unusual here, but especially salient to me today due to their contrast with the junkie nodding off in a doorway across the street, who I would guess couldn’t tell you what she’s wearing or, indeed, what feet are for.
It’s also June 21st, the summer solstice and the day of the Fête de la musique, the annual festival that is marked by musical happenings large and small all over France. Standing on my balcony (don’t get excited, it’s about the size of a phone booth and occasionally splattered with bird shit), I can hear a guy playing the guitar and singing in front of a set of speakers that are much, much bigger than his limited skills merit. In other neighborhoods you might hear a local choir singing on a street corner, or a full brass section in a park, or whatever. It’s totally cool.
Of course, with crowds come assholes. I took a break from memorizing vocabulary about semantics and knowledge representation to take a walk by the Eiffel Tower just now, and saw seven guys running the ball-and-cup scam (the norm would be zero to one), including one guy who was speaking Russian (there are tons of them in town–the president of the Russian soccer hooligan association was escorted onto a plane and out of the country by the French police a couple days ago; today he tweeted a picture of himself in a stadium in Toulouse, having taken advantage of the Schengen Agreement to get back into France, and is now sitting in a jail cell) and one guy who, by his accent, his enthusiasm, and his backwards ball cap, seemed pretty clearly to be an American. It is, after all, entre chien et loup at the moment, I guess–dusk, when dogs go home and the wolves come out. Back to my apartment to memorize vocabulary and feel grateful that if Europe has to end, I had the good fortune to see a bit of what the glory was like first.
- le shit: hash, pot. Probably not what the junkie across the street has been doing today.
- l’essentialisme: essentialism. Easy enough to spell, but I have no clue how to pronounce it–seems like there oughta be some accents in there somewhere. This is the idea that language is the way it is because it reflects something real about the world–Cratylus’s position in Plato’s Cratylean dialogues.
- l’arbitraire (n.m.): arbitrariness. This is the idea that language is the way it is purely as a matter of social convention and chance–Hermogenes’s position in the same.
- le normativisme: the attitude that language is something to be regulated by fiat.