When we first moved here, listening to the radio was like hearing one endless French word, with occasional breaks for music. After a while, you start hearing the gaps between the words – even during the legal bits at the end of commercials. Eventually, you can recognise words you’ve never noticed before, and you can go home and look them up. It’s one of these words I’m going to share with you now: “Machin” (pronounced: “mashan” – with a silent “n”).

It means “thingymajig”.

Now I’ve noticed it, I hear it every day, sometimes several times. “Monsieur (or Madame) Machin” means “whatsisface” (or “wosserface”), which I hear a lot, too. What was once just noise has become something meaningful: “hoojymaflip”.

While I’m on the subject, I’ll give you an English word I learnt last year when reading Iain M. Bank’s Transition. The word is: “susurrating”. I won’t insult you by telling you what it means. And this might be the only time I get to type it. But what a great word!