Monday, August 01, 2005

One of the things I really like about foreign countries... the kooky word similarities. This doesn't work so well in Japan, because Japanese is not an Indo-European language, but French is. So for example there's a sign to hang on the room that says "Ne pas deranger." That is to say, don't make me crazy. Of course, that's not what it really means. It means "do not disturb." But somehow it's more fun the other way. I don't know if deranger and derange are false friends or not, but I suspect not - I suspect that the English word, "deranged," comes from the French word, "deranger," but that the connotation shifted. We might say a person is "disturbed" to mean that they are not entirely in their right mind, but to say someone is *deranged* is to say that they're stark, staring mad. I guess it's not a very funny word, but so much humor stems from a need to laugh in the face of obvious tragedy that I think it's okay to be amused.

A person I knew, who lived in Paris, died a few weeks ago. I don't know the details. He was definitely among the lunatic fringe - he walked around Paris in a flak jacket. The reason I knew him to the extent I did was that he once hurt himself quite badly by getting drunk at a Parisian bar and deciding to climb a high wall and dance on it. The resulting fall gave him a compound fracture of his leg, which required a hip cast. So he used to check in on a mailing list I'm on to talk about his trials and triumphs, like the first day he was able to get up to his fifth-floor Paris walk-up without going up the stairs on his butt, and for that matter the day he came home from the hospital for the first time and figured out that he *could* get up the stairs on his butt.

I wound up corresponding with him a lot during this time. We weren't fast friends in the usual sense - I don't think he's someone I would have normally been friends with - but he needed someone to talk to, and at the time I think I did too, so it worked, in a weird way. Once his leg healed and he could walk again, I didn't hear much from him. I was vaguely thinking of seeing him when we came to Paris for IETF, but also kind of afraid to propose it, because I'd never met him in person. Turned out not to be a problem. Too many people dying. Sigh.