Thursday 20 Oct 2016

La Vie en Rose
Sjef Frenken

It was February 13th, or 13 February as we're supposed to say in metric Canada. The day before Valentine's, in any event.

I had been to La Senza, at Bayshore, but had come out without the cotton nightwear I had been shopping for, which has been my ritual Valentine's gift for Jennifer for the past 25 years. Nylon and silk snag on my rough fingers, you see, and that sends the wrong kind of shivers up my spine. It was a quarter to twelve, and I figured I'd have just enough time for a quick purchase before having to meet Jack in the food court.

I was heading toward La Vie en Rose; maybe I'd have better luck there.As I was approaching the store, who should be coming toward me, obviously heading for the same store: but Jack.

I said: "Well Jack, who are you shopping for this time? Sally?

Colleen? Alma?" Not that I knew them, but Jack had mentioned them from time to time.

Jack said: "All three. And Bonnie too."

"I'm getting off easy," I said, "I only have to buy for one."

We went inside, Jack heading for the fancy underwear, I for the nightwear. My search was over in a flash: cotton, petite, pink with little red roses. That would do for another year.

In the meantime Jack had been wandering around the store looking at one flimsy bit of spider web after another.

As the salesgirl was wrapping up my gift, I couldn't help overhearing Jack's exchange with the young woman who had gone to assist him.

Jack said: "I'd like some help with the lingerie. I would ..."

The salesgirl interrupted him: "You mean lawn-zhuh-ray ...?"

"No, I damn well don't mean lawn-zhuh-ray. Where the hell did you go to school?" said Jack being his usual diplomatic self. "What's the name of this store?"

"La Vie en Rose," was the shocked response.

"Well, if you run a store with a French name, the least you can do it pronounce the word 'lingerie' correctly. Anyhow, I want a set of those," pointing at a colourful collection of semi-erotica with Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and the four other days of the week embroidered on what little there was of the fabric.

I said "Jack, I thought you only had to buy for four women?"

"You never know," said Jack, "One can always hope..."

We paid and headed without further detour or confrontation to the food court. We picked up a plate of Greek delicacies, and found ourselves two seats.

Jack said: "You weren't looking, but I noticed that the prices seemed to go up as the amount of material went down. I figure, you'd be paying a fortune by the time the fabric had dwindled to nothing. Which is after all the point of the exercise when you come right down to it."

"But Jack," I said, "you didn't have to throw a hissy fit when the girl mispronounced 'lingerie'. She probably got it from some dumb announcer on the radio, who thought he was giving it a French accent. I bet most youngsters pick up that kind of mistake from announcers who never managed to graduate from high school, and could only find a job on radio."

But Jack's attention had already wandered off in a different direction.

"What in hell does "hissy fit" mean. It's a stupid expression: hissy fit. Now 'Sissy fit', I can understand, that would make sense, a fit a sissy would have. But 'hissy fit'?

"Good point," I said.

"And another one is 'scumbag'. What the hell does that mean? A bag of scum? That doesn't make sense either. Now, if you dropped the "s", at least you'd have a good synonym for a condom."

Wouldn't it be nice if everyone had a friend like Jack. Someone, who, at the drop of a hat, could solve the more arcane etymological mysteries of common parlance?

Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.

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