French Lesson: Did you catch yesterday’s mistake?

Photo by Chris Card Fuller ©2006
Did any astute Parislogue readers catch yesterday’s mistake? In the 100 Days post, I included a photo of one of the Seine River’s mascarons derived from the Italian mascherone, not to be confused with mascaret derived from Gascon.

Mascaron is the word given to the decorative sculpted masks that one sees on Seine River bridges, in particular, Le Pont Neuf. Mascarons can also be found on vases or fountains.

Mascaret describes a sudden rise in water level which at tide flux in certain estuaries will produce a cresting wave.




You’ll find this term used in reference to the Seine River, particularly if you visit the Seine in Normandy where it eventually tumbles into the Channell. You may even find some restaurants called Le Mascaret. For those who used to ferry people from one side of the Seine to the other, the ‘mascaret’ was (and still is) a condition that must always be taken in to consideration for small crafts.

Just to add to the confusion: consider mascaret, mascaron, and maquereau. Maquereau is the fish you may know as mackeral. But maquereaucan also be the name given to a pimp. The origin of maquereau is Dutch.

Last, but not list is the macaron. You notice that I save the sweetest thought for last. And what could be more sweet and more sublime than a pastel-colored macaron, which you may know as macaroon? If you are stopping in at a Salon du The, you can test the salon’s worthiness by ordering one of their macarons.. I am told that La Duree makes excellent ones.

I buy mine for dinners at home at a bakery on Rue de l’Ouest, (first bakery on your right if you’re walking from Avenue du Maine).