I hope you had a lovely Christmas if you celebrate it. How did you get on with the quiz? Now is the time of reckoning. The answers are below. And there were a couple of trick questions, but if you’ve been doing it every year you ought to know that by now!
Award yourself one point for every correct answer (in green below).
1 Who are the Gilets Jaunes?
a) A French pop group
b) Protesters against the cost of living in France
c) Traffic wardens
Protestors wearing yellow safety jackets have become familiar figures on French roundabouts in the past few weeks. Traffic wardens in France used to be known as “les aubergines” because of the colour of their uniforms. The colour has changed to a bright blue and they are now known as “pervenches” (periwinkles).
2 Which of these Michelin-starred chefs died this year?
a) Joël Robuchon
b) Paul Bocuse
c) Michel Guérard
Two Titans of French cuisine died this year: Paul Bocuse on 20th January and Joël Robuchon on 6th August. Michel Guérard is still going at 85.
3 What is it illegal to do in a French station while the train is standing at the platform?
b) Running on the platform
c) Talking to the station master
This law was introduced in 1910. Railway managers wanted to prevent people from delaying the departure of trains, so kissing must be completed before the train arrives.
4 What proportion of music played on private French radio stations must be of French origin?
France’s chief media regulator, the Conseil Supérieur de L’Audiovisuel, has been enforcing the rule since 1966. Half of the French music played must be less than six months old.
5 How many tonnes of snails are eaten in France each year?
Some 90%+ of snails eaten in France are imported. Around one-third of annual consumption is eaten at Christmas.
6 To which sport is the Chapelle de Notre-Dame near Grenade-sur-l’Adour in the Landes Département devoted?
The Landes boasts three “sporting” chapels, of which this is one. The other two are la chapelle de Notre-Dame-des-Cyclistes (cycling, obviously) at Labastide-d’Armagnac and la chapelle de Notre-Dame-de-la-Course-Landaise at Bascons. The latter is dedicated to cow-running, where toreros run from or jump over a cow, hopefully avoiding its horns. Happily, the cow is not killed in the process.
7 What are marcassins?
b) Game birds
c) Young wild boar
Young wild boar are striped, but lose their distinctive pattern as they grow older.
8 Which flowers do French people traditionally use to decorate family graves at Toussaint (All Saints’ Day)?
Never give a French person a pot or a bunch of chrysanths. They are associated with death.
9 What is la canicule?
a) A type of beer brewed on Corsica
b) A heatwave
c) A kind of edible seaweed
Canicule comes from the Latin canicula, little dog. The Egyptians associated the Dog Star, Sirius, or Canicula, with excessive heat, since it rose and set with the sun between 24th July and 24thAugust. It was believed to have a strong influence in regulating the levels of the Nile.
10 What do revellers jump over during la Fête de la Saint-Jean in June?
a) A bonfire
b) A pig
c) A tricolore flag
Traditionally, young men jumped over the bonfire during this fête on 24th June to show their physical prowess. This didn’t stop some young women doing it, too.
11 What should you keep under the bed to ward off lightning strikes on your house?
a) A lock of your mother-in-law’s hair
b) Ashes from the solstice bonfire
c) A horseshoe
The ashes from the bonfire are said to have anti-lightning properties. You might try garlic to ward off the mother-in-law.
12 On which of the following trees does mistletoe seldom grow in France?
a) Black poplar
Oaks develop a chemical barrier to stop this parasite’s roots from penetrating. A few oak trees can be found in France bearing mistletoe, but this is very rare.
13 When were French women given the right to vote?
The Committee of National Liberation granted French women the right to vote on 21st April 1944. This was confirmed by the provisional government in October 1944. The first municipal elections were held in April 1945 and the parliamentary elections in October 1945.
14 If someone offers you chaussons do you?
a) Wear them
b) Eat them
c) Warm the bed with them
Chaussons are slippers. They are also a sweet or savoury pastry, like a pasty or turnover.
15 What is the name of President Macron’s political party?
a) Les Républicains
b) La République en Marche
c) Rassemblement National
La République en Marche is a centrist, liberal party. Les Républicains is a centre-right party bringing together various other parties. Rassemblement National was formerly known as the Front National. Traditionally described as a far-right party, its position is somewhat more complex than that.
16 A picture question. Which city is this?
This is the sheet of water known as “le miroir d’eau” in front of la Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux. Apparently, it is the largest reflecting pool in the world.
17 If someone is described as “avoir la frite”, what state are they in?
a) In top physical and mental form
b) Mortally afraid
c) In a bad mood
A variation of “avoir la patate“, which means the same thing. Here is the somewhat complicated reason for this odd phrase. Patate is a colloquial word for potato, which supposedly resembles a human head. Someone who “has the potato” means they have all their marbles and, by extension, is in good form in all respects. La frite (the chip or French fry) is a more modern rendering of la patate.
18 What is un préservatif?
a) An ingredient for keeping food fresh
b) A condom
c) A life jacket
Enough said. A faux ami, since the definition of the similar-sounding English word is a). Many Anglophones have stumbled over that one.
19 In which category has France won the most Nobel Prizes?
a) Economic Sciences
The most recent French Nobel Laureate in literature was Patrick Modiano in 2014.
20 Another picture question. With which saint is this symbol associated?
The “coquille” or scallop shell is the symbol of Saint-Jacques. You see them used as waymarks along the various pilgrimage routes of le chemin de Saint-Jacques de Compostelle. This one is embedded in a pavement in Cahors (Lot).
What was your score?
Given that two questions had two correct answers, you could have scored a maximum of 22 points.
17-22 points: médaille d’or
12-16 points: médaille d’argent
6-11 points: médaille de bronze
0-5 points: pas de médaille
For now, I’ll just say “bonne fin d’année“, since it’s considered bad luck in France to wish HNY before midnight on 31st December.
A l’année prochaine.
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