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Leith on life: A bit of a wally

Our love lives and our public lives alike are deeply shaped by the fear of embarrassment

By Sam Leith   May 2014

How much I learned about mutual unintelligibility from my French exchange all those years ago! Claire was her name: a stout and serious girl from the Loire Valley. We once spent a whole afternoon trying to establish what she did in her leisure time.

“I am scoot,” she had announced. After establishing that she did not mean that she rode, for instance, a scooter, and having been positively baffled by her complicated mime for what she actually meant by “scoot” (it was clearly a noun) we asked her to try it in French. “Je suis scoot,” she said.

I can’t…

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