Monday, 2 May 2016

A Thèque-nical Vocabulary Lesson

Bibliothèque  must surely have been one of the words on the vocabulary list for my beginner's French course when I was 12. The second year that I lived in France, I borrowed books and CDs from the médiathèque. In Italy, I learned the meaning of pinacoteca, and by extension, pinacothèque, and since living in Paris I have been to exhibitions at the cinemathèque. But it took pregnancy, an unexpected contact with an infectious disease, and a consultation with a midwife who was also not a native French speaker to teach me that the sérothèque is the place where a medical laboratory stores blood samples after they have been analysed. So if you ever need a "historical" blood test, in my case where they check whether antibodies were present before a more recent exposure to a disease, the lab can take out one of your old samples and analyse it for other things.

I was quite tickled by the idea of a lending library of blood samples, so I did a quick search to find out if there were other -thèque words missing from my vocabulary, and it turns out that the French Wiktionary has a whole list of them. A glyptothèque is a museum of engraved stones, joujouthèque is Quebec French for a collection of games, a candidathèque is a store of CVs, and a carothèque is not a collection of carrots, but a place to keep carottes glaciares, or ice samples from a glacier.

Maybe over the long weekend I'll amuse myself by seeing how many of these new words I can drop into conversation with my in-laws :-)

8 comments:

  1. Wow! I hope you hadn't caught anything serious. That's intriguing. Any idea how long they keep those samples for?

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    1. I'd been in contact with a child who had parvovirus, which is also called slapped cheek in English and megalérythème or la 5ieme maladie in French. It's worth knowing about when you're pregnant because it's very common in children but lots of people haven't heard of it and it can be quite dangerous.

      By the way, I tried to comment on your blog a couple of times last week but it didn't work. Any idea what might have happened?

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    2. Ahh! Thanks for telling me, they were in spam because of the links! I've saved them both because they weren't identical... though feel free to delete one if you like. I'll go read them now!

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  2. As a native speak, I had never heard of most of these -thèques. I think we called the joujouthèque the ludothèque in Nantes, though, as in "ludique".

    I hope your sample will come back clean, sorry to hear about that. It sucks!

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    1. I suspected that some of them might only exist in the vocabularies of a very small number of people when I read the list ... hence the fun of playing the game!

      I wrote a long comment on your trilingualism post yesterday but it didn't publish. (I'm not having much luck with commenting this week.) I won't put all the details here, but I was basically trying to say, don't feel guilty!

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  3. I still remember the first time I walked past a sign for a “discothèque” in a suburb in Paris… I looked around trying to figure out where the dance club was in this very quiet area, and near a library nonetheless! Of course I later learned that there are two meanings for discothèque.

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  4. I had no idea they even kept your blood samples! In that case, I must have a trail of blood scattered around multiple cities and countries...

    Hope you're okay!

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    1. Neither did I. It sounds a bit like a vampire's banquet!

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