Un pâtissier qui pâtissait…

Yes, this tonguetwister is back for another go-around!

Un pâtissier qui pâtissait chez un tapissier qui tapissait, dit un jour au tapissier qui tapissait: vaut-il mieux pâtisser chez un tapissier qui tapisse ou tapisser chez un pâtissier qui pâtisse?

Scroll down to the previous post (Joyeuses Paques !) to hear this.

I hardly know where to start! Deep breath. Let’s get one detail out of the way quickly: a little matter of pronunciation. In general, when the a is sleeping under a tent, like this: â, it says /ah/, like a big yawn. Take away the tent, and the a says /aa/, something like the scream you utter when the bear comes to visit your campsite.

Then we have le pâtissier, who is unquestionably a pastry chef, and le tapissier, who could be a tapestry maker, an upholsterer, or even an interior designer. No shortage of options for this fellow.

For the sake of argument, let’s say he is an upholsterer. So he upholsters, right? Un tapissier qui tapissait is an upholsterer who was upholstering.

And what about le pâtissier? He makes pastry, of course. Pâtisser is an old-fashioned word for handling dough (not money, the other kind).

Ah, but is that really what he is doing? Un pâtissier qui pâtissait…is also a pastry chef who was suffering. Yep, that’s right, there’s another verb, pâtir, which means to suffer. By an accident of the conjugation rules, the third-person singular of the imperfect of pâtisser and of pâtir are identical.

By that same accident, our tapissier, instead of upholstering, could be hiding things. Tapir means to curl up in a little ball and hide, but he can’t be hiding himself, which would be se tapir. Maybe he squirrels away the fabric scraps when he’s done a job? Or hides the pâtissier’s pies?

Which brings us to the last bit. Those two verbs, tapisse and pâtisse, could be in either the affirmative or the subjunctive. An argument can be made either way. So the question reads, Is it better to make pastry at the home of an upholsterer who is upholstering (or hiding things), or to upholster at the home of a pastry chef who is making pastry (if it’s affirmative), or suffering (if it’s subjunctive, indicating a lack of certainty about the facts). We may never know, and suddenly I don’t care, because my head hurts. Yours too, I’ll bet.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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