Fill in the blanks

Zipf’s Law describes one aspect of the distribution of vocabulary items in a language. It often feels random; it is approximately as random as life.


  1. Given the vocabulary items pictured above, last night I most likely fell asleep listening to the beginning of Céline’s _________________________.
  2. Given the posts that I have been writing lately, I have most recently probably read Queneau’s __________________________________.

French notes

  • le planton: orderly.  In the military sense of the word, not the hospital sense of the word–a hospital orderly is an aide-soignant(e). 
  • l’ambuscade (f.): ambush.
  • en embuscade: in waiting, in ambush.
  • le régiment: regiment.
  • le régiment: military service.  (Native speakers: is this specifically obligatory military service?)
  • l’escadron (m.): squadron.
  • la vérole: smallpox; (slang) syphilis.
  • la décrue: decrease in water level, subsiding of floodwaters.
  • le sapin: pine tree, fir (tree).
  • estompé: (of memory or color) faded, dimmed, dulled
  • le mélo: melodrama.  (Native speakers: is this pejorative?)
  • l’accoutrement: clothes that are amusing.  Get-up.


  1. Voyage au bout de la nuit.  It starts with Bardamu enlisting in the French army during World War I.
  2. Exercices de style, the same story told 99 times in 99 different ways, which I realized I was doing with this series of posts presented as different kinds of tests. 


7 thoughts on “Fill in the blanks”

  1. Kind of you to give the answers of your questions . But whom are you asking these questions to ? I hope it’s not to yourself (In case I got a prescription for you in this quiet and calm rural residence ) .
    Mélo is usually pejorative yes, and le régiment was said colloquially by older generations to refer to the compulsory military service . “C’est un copain de régiment”, or “C’est là que j’ai fait mon régiment” were sentences I heard many times yesteryear .
    If you’re fond of exercices de style, what would you think of the 1968 book called “La disparition”, by Georges Pérec”, member like Queneau of the Oulipo (Ouvroir de Littérature Populaire) . It is a 300 pages book without ONE only “e”, a complete disappearance of the most frequently used letter in French (and in English too ?). And a super Greek word for your favourite collection : this kind of exercises is called a lipogram .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the information about mélo and régiment. I write my little conneries of all sorts for the joy of it, more so than for anyone in particular. Thank you for lipogram–it is a WONDERFUL word!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You freewheeling conneries are a pleasure for the mind, don’t worry .
      Impressive exploit this Pérec’s book, isn’it ? Some guys do struggle hard hey ?
      There is a jewel of the world’s greatest songs, French poetry at its finest, that tells about the “régiment” . Here it is :
      “En revenant du régiment
      J’ai rencontré un enterr’ment
      Crénom de Dieu ! J’étais content,
      C’était celui d’mon adjudant” .
      Shakespeare and Victor Hugo are matched, no doubt .

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I looked around a bit trying to find the name of this so that I could find a recording, but wasn’t successful. I did, however, run across a page with the words to a lot of WWI-era songs du même acabit–very cool. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Good list of vocabulary that’s not often used. Do you file away your cards or something? If so, I admire your organisation. I have zillions of scribbles on whatever scrap of paper was on hand, which I end up trashing about twice a year as by then I don’t remember where the words came from. Have I horrified you? Anyway please go to my latest post and consider becoming a full-fledged Versatile Blogger. You don’t do these? Always a first time 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not horrified at all! 🙂 Yes, I have literally thousands of index cards sitting in boxes and bags here and there. Lately I’ve been taking the month of December to review the previous year’s cards. This year I went kinda crazy in the vocabulary department and could only bring about 6 months’ worth back to France when I returned from the US this fall. It’s depressing to see how much I forget, but it’s an interesting walk down Memory Lane, since I usually do remember the context in which I came across a word!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Curative Power of Medical Data

JCDL 2020 Workshop on Biomedical Natural Language Processing


Criminal Curiosities


Biomedical natural language processing

Mostly Mammoths

but other things that fascinate me, too


Adventures in natural history collections

Our French Oasis


ACL 2017

PC Chairs Blog

Abby Mullen

A site about history and life

EFL Notes

Random commentary on teaching English as a foreign language

Natural Language Processing

Université Paris-Centrale, Spring 2017

Speak Out in Spanish!

living and loving language




Exploring and venting about quantitative issues

%d bloggers like this: