Tag Archives: Metro

Transit-inspired language

In May of 2005, Bus Nerd and I took a trip to Paris. I speak French fairly fluently and so gave him a few lessons (enough so he would feel comfortable ordering in restaurants and reading the odd sign) before we left. He decided, in true nerd fashion, to practice his newfound skills by speaking only French on the trip–even to me.

On the RER ride from the airport, which was taking longer than he expected and jeopardizing an appointment in the city, he turned to me and blurted out the only French word he knew that could communicate his frustration: “Lentement!”

Lentement (my best attempt at a phonetic interpretation: lontmaw), you see, is the French word for slowly.

I fell out. (So, I assume, did most of the French people riding near us on the train. At least they had the decency to do it in their heads.)

Thankfully, the ride was not as “lentement” as it originally seemed (turns out, the map was somewhat misleading), and we arrived in the city right on time. For the rest of the trip, the word became our private joke. If we were stuck behind slow pedestrians or waiting to cross the street at an interminable traffic light, one of us would whisper it to the other. Line too long at a museum? Grounds for a “lentement.” And etc.

The tradition continued after we returned to Seattle (often, not surprisingly, when we were riding the 4). Over time, it has evolved to encompass anything that we consider to be figuratively slow, or, to put it more succinctly, uncool. Some examples: SUVs, public displays of bus luh, Flavor of Love (Moni, I’m looking at you), modeling a ball gown at an art walk

Lentement can be used as almost any part of speech, but it is most commonly used as an adjective (“That is so lentement!”) or a noun (“What a lentement!”). You get the picture. (I hope.)

Why am I telling you this? Because, almost two years after the Paris trip, I still use the word all the time. At least once a week, I am tempted to use it in a post. And then I realize that no one, other than Bus Nerd, my brothers, and a few unlucky friends, knows what the heck it means. Now you do. That makes you a lentement, too.