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The man who couldn't get hot chocolate in Bremen

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'What," said I to Lorraine, "is the French word for a cook?" Lorraine and her Yankee husband share a table with us here at Peradventure Plaza Penultimate, and during every meal we have a French lesson. Her folks were Canadian and she speaks it some old good. Lorraine looked at the ceiling briefly and said, "I don't know."

Our senior residence contemplates finding a cook, so the word was needed, but I couldn't remember hearing it. True, I could have said "one who makes to cook." Talleyrand said if it isn't clear, it's not in French. But I guess French lacks a word for cook. Cuisinier ("kitchener") isn't adequate. Lorraine settled everything by saying the cook in her family was called Grandmother.

In 1953, I first visited Paris and learned that the French word for "weekend" is le weekend. In that post-war year, I was on a State Department mission to Germany that was so secret I never knew what it was. I had a week in Paris while my protocol caught up with me. American Express found me a pension a short walk from Place de l'√Čtoile. I settled in, and at once a tap came to my door. It was my chambermaid, who spoke my first words of welcome to the lovely City of Lights.

Now get this! She said, and I quote, "Bonjour. Bienvenu! On m'appelle Lili. Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" Lili was Alsatian, competent in both tongues, but no English. Her greeting was meant as a kindly choice of languages. French or German, it made no difference to her. I answered, "Ein wenig."

The next morning, she came early with my croissants and cup of hot chocolate. She definitely said Schokolade, and I was to remember my Lili for that good German word.


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