Life's Little Details: Knitting, Sewing, Green Living, Frugal Living and Cooking In A Little Corner of Southern French Countryside.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Obscure French Word of The Day

One of the perks of actually living in France, breathing French air and consorting on a regular basis with the French is the variety of bizarre French words I am able to amass. These are words not even the highest level of university French course is likely to teach you. Heck, your high school French teacher, in all of her summer trips abroad, may not even have encountered these.

So, what's the most recent obscure word I've added to my ever-growing French vocabulary? "Un zona." Repeat after me... "un zona". And, what does it mean? Those of you who already know are currently wincing in pain and shaking your heads with pity, because you are aware that someone in my close proximity has come down with "Shingles". That's right - the adult version of the chicken pox. And, unlike most "adult" versions of just about anything, this one is NOT more fun.

And, since most people aren't really sure exactly what shingles is (aside from those little rectangular things that keep the rain out of your livingroom), I'll give you a brief run-down. I believe the one phrase that can best sum it up is "excruciating pain". Oh, you were looking for something a bit more scientific? Well, I'm no doctor, but here's my layman's terms explanation for you. When you get the chicken pox, sometimes (or perhaps always - not sure about this) the virus lodges itself in your nerve roots to lie there dormant, sometimes for years and sometimes forever. When you are unlucky enough to provoke its anger, it decides to pop back up for a sequel of the first itchy attack. Now there's an important term you should have noticed here in all this explaining - nerve roots. As in, those little things that allow us to feel sensations. So, usually brought on by increased age, but sometimes by whatever may have weakened your immune system, the cruel little virus doodads start to procreate. This is where the excruciating pain comes in. A virus... in your nerve roots (which at this point are going "haywire" - the exact medical term for it, I'm sure)... just pounding away trying to reach the surface. Good times.

So, in short, the virus starts reproducing again and painfully working its way to your skin. It causes a bizarre tingling/aching/burning sensation that I can't fully describe for you. Just when you thought you must have had a collision with a Mac truck in your sleep (because nothing else could possibly explain these mysterious pains), little chicken pox pustules begin to appear at the location of the pain. Aha! A clue. This is when you cry, because you now know you've got shingles.

I mentioned above that I couldn't fully describe the feeling of having shingles. This, luckily for me, is not because I lack the proper words, but because it ain't me who's got it. Whew! 'Cause it looks like it sucks. It's not even my 85-year-old great aunt, which is good, since she doesn't need another health problem after that bout with pneumonia earlier this year. It's my 36-year-old husband. What's up with that? Isn't this a disease for the aging and infirm? Guess not. Apparently, the toddler-induced lack of sleep has taken its toll. Poor thing. He's got harvest coming up in the next couple of weeks. And, what really sucks is that, even though he's a bounce-back right away kind of guy, this stuff lingers. He has my full sympathy and maybe even deserves a wee bit of pampering.

I spared you the pictures, because though I find my husband's back to be sexy, I'm fully aware that even a sexy back covered (okay, not really covered) in pustules ain't a pretty sight.

Oh, and back to the French word for shingles. Did you notice it's singular, whereas it's plural in English? It's like saying you've got "a zone", but it appears to be taken from Latin. Kind of funny. So, in French, as opposed to having "it" like we have in English, you have "one." Sounds somehow less daunting that way. There's just "one" so it can't be half as bad as having the ominous-sounding "it." Right? Let's go ask my husband, shall we?