Words of the Week

After watching W.C. Fields in Bank Dick, I’m sharing several delightful words he used with his prospective son-in-law.

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Source: Merriam Webster Dictionar

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Source: Dictionary.com

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Source: Merriam Webster Dictionary

Jules and Jim

Truffaut’s Jules and Jim is rightly considered a classic. Based on an autobiographical  novel by Henri-Pierre Roché, the story focuses on two young men, with a deep friendship. Jules is Austrian and lives in Paris, while Jim is French. They share a way of looking at the world. Both are looking for love in 1912. When they meet Catherine, who resembles a sculpture which they view as the paragon of female beauty, they’re both struck by her spirit and openness. Jim agrees to let Jules court and marry her.

The three make a carefree group, but you just know that this arrangement won’t last forever. Catherine is capricious but didn’t fascinate me the way she did all the men who fall for her. She has no job and no interests. She’s pretty and open to life. Her spirit can be summed up when after viewing a play, they’re discussing the heroine, as Jules and Jim debate, Catherine illustrates her view of the role of women by jumping in the Seine. Fully clothed, Jim jumps in and fishes her out.

jules jim

Soon WWI breaks out and Jules and Jim fight on opposing sides, both fearing that they may shoot the other. Catherine is back at home in Germany caring for her daughter and receiving beautiful love letters from Jules. In addition to being enigmatic, Catherine struck me as a taker. There’s no mention of her writing great letters to Jules to support him while he’s fighting for his country.

After the war, the men return and soon Jim is on his way to see Jules and Catherine and their daughter Sabine. Jules confides to Jim that Catherine’s taken lovers including a man named Albert, who appears from time to time. In true European form, Jules excuses Catherine since this is her nature. He is right, but it’s exasperating watching this woman escape all responsibility and never be held to account, which would help her grow up. Perhaps if Jules, or Jim, were stronger and more of leader, though that’s not his nature, Catherine might not test him so much or get bored. It’s doubtful, but possible.

Whenever you’ve got a trio, you can bet a friend is going to start something with his pal’s wife and with Jules’ permission, Jim begins an intimate relationship with Catherine. She still has sex with Jules and Albert and probably other men we don’t see.


It was interesting to see how Truffaut portrayed a sexy couple, or a few such relationships without a lot of nudity. I think his films are sexier with their fully dressed characters than those where the actors are buck naked.

Though I didn’t like Catherine, I did like the movie, which was masterfully paced and full of emotional surprises. Jeanne Moreau gives an outstanding performance. As I write historical drama, I found it interesting how Truffaut didn’t spend money on exquisite period costumes or settings. There are hints of the eras, but the costumes weren’t as accurate or elaborate as you see in period pieces made now.

The Criterion Collection’s DVD come with terrific bonus features including interviews with the sons of the men the story is based on and with the original “Catherine” who lived to be 96 and saw the movie before she died.

Word of the Week

From the Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Day:

étourdi, n.
[‘ A thoughtless, irresponsible, or foolish person (esp. a man); a scatterbrain. Cf. étourdie n.’]
Pronunciation: Brit. /eɪtʊəˈdiː/, /eɪtɔːˈdiː/, U.S. /ˌeɪtɔrˈdi/
Forms: 17 etourdie rare, 17–18 etourdi, 18– étourdi.
Etymology: < French étourdi (1614 or earlier), use as noun of étourdi étourdi adj.
Compare étourdie n. and slightly earlier étourdi adj., étourderie n.
A thoughtless, irresponsible, or foolish person (esp. a man); a scatterbrain. Cf. étourdie n.[a1689 J. Reresby Mem. & Trav.(1904) 135 The Low Dutch call the High, muffes, that is, etourdi, as the French have it, or blockhead.]
1768 T. Mortimer National Debt No National Grievance 147, I am not the first etourdi to whom you have given a full hearing.
1794 H. W. Paget Let. Sept. in G. C. Paget One-Leg(1961) iii. 45, I must begin this letter by owning that I am the greatest Etourdi that ever lived yet that I am always lucky enough to get well out of every Scrape.
1802 M. Charlton Wife & Mistress III. v. 130 Mr Nevarc sent an intimation that I should not expect him, the etourdihaving encountered a friend.
1847 Thackeray Vanity Fair(1848) vi. 45 ‘I beg a thousand pardons..,’ said the young étourdi, blushing.

1993 D. Wood Benjamin Constant 62 A lost scholarly Eden where he had first formed the idea of being more than an étourdi, an aimless young scatterbrain.

Works Cited

“étourdi, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, September 2015. Web. 7 October 2015.