Pulp Fact

I'm learning so much French, it's hard to single out just one word to talk about here. I've just signed up at the public library, so I've been borrowing books, in French mostly, and one or two in English as well. (I've also been indulging my vice of buying books, and already have a little collection here in both languages--I'm definitely starting to feel at home!). I was very struck by Bonjour, Tristesse, and I also read a biography of the author, Françoise Sagan, who made her name with this book at eighteen.  I've borrowed a book about la Photographie and a memoir by a woman who was an Orthodox nun on a Greek island for years. I've also been reading various magazine and newspaper articles in French for the conversation class at AVF, and for my private French lessons as well. And naturally I've been talking to people as well, and learning new words and expressions that way. So, more and more, the words I choose to discuss here are picked from many possible candidates.

This time it's "les pulpeuses." Just around the corner from me is a clothes shop for the larger lady, whither I will be repairing very soon if I don't lay off the wonderful French breads and cheeses, and recently I noticed an ad for this establishment in a local publication. In the ad, the shop promoted itself as catering for "les pulpeuses." Pulpeux/pulpeuse means, as one might guess, "pulpy," of fruit, and "full, fleshy," of lips. When used of women, it can be translated by "curvaceous."  Another close equivalent in English language usage, might be "full-figured," but surely no English word conveys the sensuality of pulpeuse, a word seeming to delight in abundant fleshiness.  To the English-speaking ear it sounds as if it would be mocking to call someone a "pulpy woman"--like "squoodgy" or "mushy"?-- but it seems not to be insulting in French; the advertisement for the shop was clearly addressing les pulpeuses themselves. 

And yet, despite this positive-sounding word, fat is very much a worry here. French women may famously not get fat, but statistics show obesity on the rise. Not yet on the British or the American scale--this is the nightmare the French hope to avoid.  In the pharmacies, slimming products-- produits minceur-- are everywhere, and you can sign up for a régime where you are followed and supported in the quest to lose weight. The current issue of the news magazine Le Nouvel Observateur has a cover story "Maigrir: est-il dangereux?" and two competing diet gurus, Dr Dukan and Dr Chevallier, standing back to back, ready to duel, armed with forks.

I'm in no danger of finding out whether dieting is dangerous, becoming more pulpeuse daily, especially since I haven't been able to walk as fast or as far as I used to.  It's a good thing that even in this land of svelte elegance, there's a shop, here and there, for the more fleshy among us.