Il rôtit le balai.

Il rôtit le balai.

eel roh-teel baa-LAY. Click below to hear this.*

He’s living the high life.

I’m sure you’re wondering: What’s a balai, and is he really roasting it?

It’s not a dance (that would be le ballet, pronounced the same but utterly different), nor a Russian musical instrument (that’s a balalaika), nor even a Greek dessert (that’s baklava, and I’ll tke some right now, thank you). Un balai is a broom.

And yes, the expression does say that he is roasting (or toasting) it.

But he is not making “s’mores” over the campfire. (We all know that a broomstick is too fat to spike a marshmallow on it.) The suggestion here is that he is actually burning up the broom. Why would he want to do that?

Well, he seems to have come into some money. Forgetting his humble origins and his roots, he is now living the high life–which includes paying for services he used to perform for himself. For example, he thinks he will never have to clean house for himself again, so he is burning the broom, in a kind of celebration of his newly-rich status. Or maybe it means that, with his new-found wealth, he can be wasteful and divest himself of even the most basic, useful items, like brooms. He is making a clean sweep of his old life.

There’s just one problem: The wheel of fortune turns. He may need that broom again some day. Surely he has room somewhere in his house for un balai, to remind him where he came from.

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:

il_rotit_le_balai.mp3

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