French exam

I omitted one feasible fraudulent etymology from the Viadós post because the etymon in question is little known and less read, even in his own country, whichever that was. Here he is anyway, in another anecdote from Cela‘s late but frequently excellent A bote pronto:

Some 65 years ago, more or less, possibly more, when I sat my French exam at the San Isidro High School, the master, having made me read and translate some words previously mentioned in my memoirs, asked me if I knew any phrases in the noble language of Molière (the designation is his). Yes, sir, two, I replied. Can you recite them for me? (the verb is his). Yes, sir, with much pleasure. Firstly: Pour faire couler l’eau pousser le boutton. Secondly: Il est dangereux de se pencher au dehors. Very good, can you tell me where you obtained them, that is, the sources utilised? (both expressions are his). Yes, sir, in the toilet on the train. The master passed me, he gave me an exact pass, clean as a whistle, and off I went, as happy as could be, although I think that I may have deserved at least a merit. Brother Felipe, the Marianist who accompanied us that day, told me my grade had probably been reduced because the word toilet was vulgar. Hard luck! My knowledge of French is rather scarce and without doubt rudimentary, but I am quite sure that the translation by my brother-in-law Toribio of my second phrase is not correct. Toribio Caudete, the husband of my step-sister Wenceslada, who like all failed priests was impudent and bumptious, translated the above phrase as follows: It is dangerous to think like Eugenio d’Ors. I am sure he made that up.

Although according to his own account he was earning some $1M pa by the time he wrote this (early 90s), Cela’s official reputation has suffered because he was a superb technician, funny, and loathed communists. It will be interesting to follow the relative literary fortunes of him and, say, Márquez now that newspapers have taken to binning their book cliques and cultural supplements.


J tells me that if you look up marista, Marianist, on, it asks whether you meant marxista.

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