‘Oh shoot’ or ‘oh chute’—confusion and laughter
The house I grew up in had a laundry chute. The clothes ‘travelled’ between the upstairs bathroom and the basement. The chute was big enough for clothes to be pushed down, but not big enough for us kids to throw ourselves down.
That’s probably just as well, but I remember spending way too much time playing in the huge timber cage in the basement that ‘caught’ all the dirty clothes. It was suspended from the ceiling, but was an easy climb to get into. I can see that darn latticed cage in my mind’s eye as if it was yesterday, and yet I moved out of that house when I was about 14.
So maybe you can appreciate that my idea of a chute was something tunnel-like—a way to get from one place to another.
Years later in France, the term puzzled me. Back then, my dear friend, Maggie, and I were travelling around the world together.
This particular adventure was a drive from Brussels in Belgium to the very south of France—Argeles sur Mer to be exact. We decided to avoid the main roads and were rewarded with drives through lots of lovely villages.
We were intrigued by signs displayed on the way into and out of some villages. They said ‘Chute de Branches’, and always marked avenues that were lined with trees such as poplars.
We assumed the trees and their ‘title’ were symbolic. Perhaps they had been planted as, say, a war memorial and the signs served to commemorate them. There are similar tree-lined stretches in Australia. But I was puzzled as to why they weren’t called ‘avenue des arbres’ or ‘avenue of trees’. Perhaps the word ‘branches’ had some special war-related meaning.
So we drove slowly through these ‘chutes’, admiring their picturesque settings, and paying our silent respects to who those died during the war.
It wasn’t until we got back to Brussels and consulted Jean-Michel’s French dictionary, that we realised ‘chute de branches’ has an entirely different meaning. Pictures might have been more helpful in letting us know that we should be dodging ‘falling branches’.
Gulp. And to think we didn’t rush past them. But our confusion gave everyone a very hearty laugh.
Writing this post reminded me of another confusing sign. We spent several weeks in Belgium, and Maggie got rather used to seeing the highway sign ‘Sortie’, which is French for exit. After we spent a few days driving around Flanders, Maggie caught sight of a sign and said Oh hey, I think we went there yesterday. I replied, Yes, sort of, that’s ‘Uitrit’, which is Flemish for exit.
I never got photos of any of those signs, but I’ve shared a few here that are rather more indicative of the definition. Even the ones here with wording at least show an exclamation point or some indication of danger. There’s also one in English, and it’s where we walk the dog several times a week. Haven’t been bonked on the head yet.
I’ve also shared a pic of the tree-lined entrance to Braidwood in New South Wales. I believe it is a real war memorial. But I think falling branches are also a concern.
A few years back, there was some talk of chopping down all the trees as a safety precaution, but there was a public outcry. As a compromise, the speed limit was lowered from 100 to 80 miles per kilometre. So we get to drive by slowly! 🙂
Have road signs ever outfoxed or confused you?
P.S. If you are aware of Poor John’s habit of walking with his hands behind his back, you might check out how he ‘converted’ Jean-Michel’s first son to that style of walking.
P.P.S. Be sure to check out my cooking blog too. Here’s a fabulous recipe for the famous French dish called coq au vin.