Although I love living in Paris, the language barrier means that daily life is often baffling. I never quite understand what’s going on around me, and my brain is usually a minute or two behind where the conversation is. When I try to speak, I find that my vocabulary sounds like that of a kindergartener. Like a kindergartener, I sometimes find myself wanting to scream in frustration.

But despite the permanent semi-fog of life in another language, getting to know another language can be loads of fun. One of my favorite things is to discover words that don’t translate literally between French and English. This holiday season, I found a new one:

A nutcracker, it turns out, has a much more specialized name in French. No generic nuts for this figurine! Nope, it’s a casse-noisette, or a hazelnut cracker. Which of course begs the question whether the tool is also suitable for breaking open a pile of walnuts or pecans.

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