I recently read somewhere about a book full of bloggers' excuses for having neglected their blogs, called Sorry I Haven't Posted or something like that. So obviously I am not alone. And I do have the excuse that I was away in the States for a while. But. I must get back into the swing of it!

Well, I began today in a fog, because of having been woken up in the night by a relentless automatically- repeated wrong number on one of our American cell phones. I was due to go to Villefranche-sûr-Saône, the town north of Lyon where my French teacher Bernard is based. He has been driving into Lyon for our lessons, because the back problems I had when we began meant I couldn't travel easily. Today, at last, I was determined to go there, so he didn't have to deal with the drive and the traffic. But I failed to get out of the house quite soon enough, and missed the train by two minutes.

When I called to tell him this, I said "J'ai perdu le train," which of course isn't correct French; to "lose" the train is an Italian locution. He, like the good teacher he is, corrected me: "J'ai raté le train."

I already knew (though forgot to use) this verb rater, to mess something up, bungle, fail (an exam, for example), as well as to miss a train, bus, boat or similar. What I didn't know, until I looked it up just now in my beloved Dictionnaire Historique de la langue française, is that it seems to be actually based, in a roundabout way, on rat (n.m.), the animal "rat."

In the mid-1600s an expression emerged, prendre un rat, "to take a rat," used for when a gun failed to fire properly. This apparently came via old French raster or rater, to gnaw like a rat, which described the noise of the hammer scraping against the plate without drawing a spark. (And the hammer, from its bent shape, is called chien de fusil, "dog of the gun," just to increase the zoological confusion. If a person is lying chien de fusil, it means "curled up.")  So if your gun misfired you "took a rat," and this came to mean to fail in a more general sense. During the nineteenth century the expression prendre un rat was replaced by rater.

Alors, j'ai raté le train, but Bernard was kind enough to wait for me and we did an hour of French, most of which I spent explaining that I am not usually so disorganized. But at least I didn't forget the rendez-vous altogether. I did that once to my kiné, and later Bernard told me the informal way to say I stood the kiné up is to say "j'ai posé un lapin sur le kiné." *   Another animal. It's a zoo out there.

I put/dropped/laid a rabbit on the physical therapist.