Gratuit aux chômeurs.
graa-twee oh sho-MUHR. Click
Free to unemployed persons.
Now there’s a lovely example of humanity! Not everyone has it in his or her power to create jobs for the unemployed, but here’s a group–a small museum, if I recall correctly–offering free admission to the unemployed.
Chômer means to be unemployed. Notice that the English construction is passive–the verb to be + a past participle–while the French is an active verb. It is something you do, not something that is done to you, regardless of what it feels like.
The French word originates with a Greek word meaning burning heat. One might think there’s absolutely no connection between that and joblessness; but one would be wrong. In periods of extreme heat, everything comes to a standstill. The same Greek word gave us calme, as in a sailboat that is becalmed because there is no wind. And that certainly describes what it feels like when there is no work.
So chômer actually means to cease activity. Anyone who has ever experienced le chômage knows that it is characterized by neither calm nor inactivity (quite the contrary!), but that’s the word for it, whether it makes sense or not. At least there is one place in Paris where a chômeur can go for free.
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