misfortune hunting

I leave Nantes in a matter of weeks. After a weekend filled with farewell activities and last or second-to-last goodbyes, it’s getting a little more triste around here. But the sun is shining, flowers are still in bloom, and I haven’t opened any umbrellas indoors recently (read on to understand), so it can’t be all bad.

I’ve begun the sorting process that preludes the packing up part of moving. Ugh, what a laborious task.  As the least organized person you probably know, I dread and postpone sorting papers. I’ve accumulated several piles of said feuilles in the past 6 and a half months and must go about grading them by level of importance, subject, and how-likely-will-I-be-looking-at-this-again.

Sorting through the various caches I have cached around my room, I stumbled over this delightful treat: past assignments. Most likely I will not be looking at these little gems again, hence I won’t be taking them with me, but I’d like to preserve the sentiment here. 

One of my first lessons at the lycée was about superstitions in American culture. As homework, I asked my students to explain some French superstitions to me. What I received the following week was a scant number of assignments written in almost incomprehensible English.  I attempted to decipher them then, but these messages are more cryptic than Nicolas Cage’s career. Unable to give them grades, I put them aside for later reflection.

Another baffling decision in the life of Nic Cage.

 Although I suspect an on-line translator to be at the root of most of this fancy backwards talk, I can’t help but admire my students’ laziness. In the name of good-natured fun and in the spirit of being a smart ass, let’s pretend that my students said exactly what they meant to say, and let’s commence at making fun, shall we?


I used to think that opening an umbrella in the house would just bring rain. Good lord was I wrong. 
Version I: 

Open the an umbrella in the house it’s the 7 year old of misfortune.

Terrifying. Is this seven-year-old delivered to you or is he lurking in your closet, waiting for the first sign of an inappropriately opening umbrella to start gnawing on your furniture? The punishment hardly seems to fit the crime. And how long does this 7 year old stick around for? Until he’s eight? How much misfortune does he actually cause? The vagueness is troubling. I’d probably say Bloody Mary three times in the bathroom before trying this.

7 year-old of misfortune.

Version II:  
When we open an umbrella in my house it’s not luke. 

This sounds less like a general superstition and more like an ongoing tragedy of one family’s attempts at locating Luke. The disappointment after each umbrella opening must be tremendous.  However, I admire the implication of mankind’s perseverance to hope. This adage was inevitably created because someone continues opening umbrellas in hopes that their long lost Luke will eventually tumble out. 

Probably the reason she mixed up the spelling of “luck”


Use the crutches of somebody who really needs it can make you undego the same fate, carry crutches in turn.

I especially enjoyed this because it appealed to the barely contained nerd in me. Its cryptic advice reads like a regulation card written for an RPG game. And judging by how many new kids show up with crutches every week, I think there is some merit to the statement.


The green color, it’s the color of fraities, who would be furieus of seeing the people concerning it, and specially on friday, day of the death of the christ the cross and of the redemption, from whom they are exclused.

To be fair, I’m pretty sure by the spelling mistakes that this was not the regurgitation of an on-line translator. Still, I’m confused as to who these mysterious regulators of the color are and how/who is excluded from their wrath.

Furieus Fraity?

Or Furious Fairy?


We can’t be thirteen to eating because thirteen is a figure misfortune. 

Either I can’t have thirteen people in my dinner parties or I can’t feed thirteen-year-old children. Either way, I’m saving money.  


In this student’s case, they either sloppily crammed three superstitions into two sentences or they are creating one gigantic megaplex of bad luck involving ladders, black cats, and mirrors breaking. The magnitude of misfortune must increase three fold as well.  

In France, there are a lot superstition as to see a black cat crossed uner an ladder. it carries misfortune to break a mirer cause 7 years of misfortune. 


I like this one because of the background provided.  However, she gets pretty technical towards the end so I blame my incomprehension on her use of unknown baker-jargon.

To present the bread at the table attract the devil. It comes because the baker kept the bread intended fro the excecution back in front under the former regime. Besides a popular coutime wants that we made of the point of the knife a sign of the cross on it to some bread of numerous persons even not relgious make him systematically. 

I know, this was an enlightening way to spend 5 minutes of your time. But you’ve done a big favor to me if you have chuckled at least once or twice. My lycée students have been a constant source of motivation for the past 7 months to improve my French. Their mockery of my accent and laughter at my misused verb tenses have rung in my ears for half a year now. I know it’s not very mature of me to poke fun at them, but, guess who’s laughing now? Moi.

Categories: ESL

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