January 13, 2009

Virtual ladies’ underwear

THEY SAY THERE ARE thousands of Americans playing the Virtual Vendée Globe game on their computers, but I’m quite sure the great majority of competitors are French. I have deduced this from the names they’ve given to their virtual boats.

Nearly 300,000 players are steering their boats singlehanded in a non-stop voyage around the world. They are following in the wake of the skippers in the real Vendée Globe and competing for prizes worth more than 10,000 euros ($13,400).

For someone like me, who doesn’t speak more than a couple of words of parly-voo, the names in the list of entries sound like those from an alien planet, though now and then you can recognize something that makes at least a little sense, like Le Titanic 38. I don’t know what the 38 might refer to, but I have heard of the Titanic. Luckily, the race committee has set a course free of icebergs.

I can also see some sense in 81bacchus, no doubt a hearty party boat, and certainly in beuf, which I take to be a simple French sailor’s misspelling of his favorite meal, boeuf, or beef. But I don’t know what to make of xtcx8888 (ecstasy something?)or Ew1w1 (eeuw!?). I suppose there is some sense to le virus if you’re playing a sneaky game on a computer, but I notice it’s nowhere near the frontrunners.

Some of the names are commendably short, like Zax, some are long, like Maxarochrispi, and now and then you’ll find a lonely Anglo-Saxon entrant with a name like nowornever. With my senses dulled by deciphering so much French, I first read this as No Worn Ever. English, certainly, I eventually realized, but very puzzling.

As I write this, there is a fierce fight going on among the leaders, who are in the South Atlantic on their way home after having rounded Cape Horn. The first three, in order, are mets du bras, Dhlombre, and le dub, with fumator close behind. Something about the name mets du bras attracted my attention, so I got out my trusty Larousse French dictionary and discovered that mets means a dish (culinary). So presumably the leader of the Virtual Vendée Globe is sailing around the world in a dish of ladies’ underwear. You can’t hardly get more French than that.

Today’s Thought
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
—Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.

“How do you know that the Muppet frog is Jewish?”
“I just got an invitation to his Kermitzvah.”

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