[I’ve considered giving this post the English title Pragmatic breakdown because breakdown is just so much more expressive and general than the French panne, which mostly refer to cars breaking down. But the event this is going to be about happened in the French blogosphere, so a French title is it.]

Yes, I know, I owe you all a number of posts. News on the “the/a” investigation, for starters — and indeed, two posts are planned out and will make their way here in due course. And a redux of last Wednesday’s Paris Carnet (the more laid-back of two regular local blogger meet-ups), which brought in a surprisingly rich harvest of poteaux roses — French eggcorns; meanwhile greetings to Beleg (the talented visual artist), Jacques (the fellow collector of linguistic strangenesses) and Mr Affleurements#[1] (the inspiring writer), who provided one of the most pleasant conversations I can remember in a long time.

And then there are the little things that just want to be blogged — another one or two in the pipeline.

But first I must reply to the horrible slander I’ve been the target of, on the part of the traitorous Michel. The link leads to his account of a “conversation” we had, and it’s really rather embarrassing for me.

The setting is a WiFi-enabled pub where I was playing with plotting data while waiting for Michel to arrive so that we could have a bite to eat before heading over to the Paris Carnet meetup.

Here is the English translation:

Chris : Ah, this is better; sounds really like a “the” now.
Michel : But can you hear anything over the noise?
Chris : Sorry? No, I haven’t eaten yet.
Michel : …OK, I think you just answered my question. :)
Chris : Hmm? If this reassures you, I think your chances are quite good.

In my defense: I didn’t say “sounds like a ‘the’” (”sonne comme un ‘the’”) but “looks like a ‘the’” (”ressemble à un ‘the’”). Indeed, I wasn’t listening to anything, just looking at a plot. Of vowels. In the word the. Didn’t even have my headphones out. Second, Michel’s voice is in a range that I feel quite hard to correctly perceive in noisy surroundings. He must have realised that I asked him to repeat a number of times over the evening. (Maybe I do need to get my ears checked out after all.) Third, my last line actually makes sense in the context of a conversation we had a day earlier on IRC.

(And all through our meal he kept talking about “a quesiton [I] hadn’t answered”, and I thought he was referring to last Sunday’s blogger picnic…)

A study in misunderstanding.

P.S.: Michel knew more than he probably cared for about the “the/a” stuff since he got me the installation CD I needed after I nearly wiped out my Linux system in a misguided brute-force attempt to update the sound drivers and libraries because some of the software was giving me trouble… and of course he has my eternal gratitude for that.

[1]: … who complimented me in such a charming way on the collection of poteaux roses that I promptly forgot to ask for his name.