Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pourquoi le chat ronronne t-il?

Hmmm, that is the million-dollar question, I thought to myself, as I opened an e-mail message of the same title that my friend and colleague Bernard sent to me during the stateside portion of his summer vacation. Bernard is French, and he flatters me by thinking that I can still read French easily. Every now and then, Bernard forwards articles from the Parisian press, including the “ronronne” column penned by veterinarian Marie-Claude Bomsel, who writes for Le nouvel Observateur.

First, I must make a confession. I not only was intrigued by the “ronronne” title, I was stumped. I had to consult my dusty edition of Cassell’s French Dictionary because, back in the day when I lived in Paris (circa 1976), cats were not part of my personal equation. My college roommate and I lived on the Left Bank with an elderly French woman who was formerly an artist, and we were immersed in her blend of French culture. Somehow “ronronne” never made its way into my working vocabulary. Thirty-five years later, I am delighted to learn a new word in French: Ronronner means “to purr.”

So, what makes Lucius, Lydia, Leo, Linus, Lillie, L.B., Alvar, T.J., Perkins, and Miss Tommie purr? Dr. Bomsel eloquently describes the difference between a feline’s purrs of contentment and those purrs that signify panic. The vocal chords of our ten cats run the gamut, yet after reading Dr. Bomsel’s anaylsis, it is safe to announce with absolute authority that our cats purr to communicate their state of pampered bliss.

Query of the Day: Pourquoi la Cat Lady ronronne t-elle? Responses in all languages are welcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment