Vocab Friday: Harry Potter and the Punch in the Face

I think I may have mentioned this before, but I feel increasingly confident in my assessment that waiting for the first real contraction is like waiting for someone to jump out and punch you in the face. And then expecting that person to continue pummeling you with increasing ferocity for the next 12-24 hours.

Which makes for a really fun waiting game with many, many unknowns: When’s it going to happen? What’s it actually going to feel like? Will I take the metaphorical punch to the head with stoic grace? Or will I crumble into a hysterical mess of snot and tears? Who knows! It’s all going to be one big mother (bleeping) surprise.

So to take the edge off I’ve been trying to distract myself, mostly with baking. But also with my first foray into Harry Potter land. I know, I know. I’m a bit late to the party, with the final movie already out and all. But I’ve just never been that into wizards and kids books. I fancied myself as someone with more, ahem, literary tastes.

Then I decided to try reading books in French. One page of Les Mis and all my literary pretensions flew out the fenêtre. I downgraded to Le Diable S’Habille en Prada, but there was a lot of slang I didn’t understand and the glacial pace at which I could make it through one page was enough to make me quit reading French for a year.

But a few weeks ago I stumbled upon a copy of dear old J.K.’s first Potter adventure. It was a slim enough volume, and the back cover touted it as perfect for 8-10 year olds. Seeing that my reading level was probably hovering somewhere just below that, and that I already knew the general context of the story, I said what the hell and gave it a shot.

And 80 pages (and many many hours later) I can say that I think I actually like this wizard crap! Especially en français, because I’m learning all kinds of ridiculous vocabulary words that will probably never come in handy other than at Halloween. Which they don’t even celebrate here.

But no matter. Harry Potter is actually enriching my brain with things like:

un crapaud (uh crah-poh) – which means “toad”


une cicatrice (oon see-ca-treece) – which is a scar. Like the one on Harry’s dome.


baguette magique (bahg-get mah-jeek) – which surprisingly is neither a magic loaf of bread nor a funny euphemism for the male anatomy. Nope, it’s a magic wand. As in,

“I wish someone would wave a baguette magique at my belly and make this baby come out. Painlessly.” 





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  1. Cathy Yost

    I read volumes 1-6 in French, it’s definitely at the right reading level! It’s true – the downside is that you end up with a highly specialized and utterly useless French vocabulary. But you never know when you may find yourself needing to order a refreshing glass of jus de citrouille. Also, heads up – English speakers will look at you funny when you talk about professor Rogue. Bonne chance!

      • Kimberly Willson-St. Clair


        It will be a fun workout! Don’t forget to breathe! And keep in mind, that your husband will forgive you for the names and slang that you have in store for him.

        Zen was breech and two weeks late so I had a beer at the end. I never had a labor pain and walked into the operation at Montgomery General with your GrandDad B. in attendance as the anesthesiologist. Jeffrey got lost between the epideral and delivery. They had to find him before the C-section. All went well though. Aunt Sydney Anne came in and made me get out of bed and walk around the ward. Walking saved my life! All of the Willsons marched through including Jeff and you.

        With Nat, labor started Thursday night and ended Sunday morning. He was ten pounds and occiput transverse. It was labor that never ended until I told the doctor, “Cut me open and get this baby out!”

        There is no mercy in childbirth nor modesty, so you will find your Becketian or Helleresque way through it with style.

        A. Kim

  2. jfwillson

    Aunt Kim you’re scaring me! But I love the image of all the Willsons and Bonifants streaming through while you were trying to give birth to Zen…that’s what I’m really going to miss over here!

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