Wednesday, 6 April 2011
Usine à Gaz (Gasworks)
The French expression for something incomprehensbly complicated is "une usine à gaz" - meaning "a gasworks". Looking at the picture you can see why - rusty pipes going in every which direction, exposed equipment all over the place.
Years ago I had the dubious privilege of working for the most foul-mouthed Frenchman I've ever met. He was also completely irrational and irascibile. He would jump off the deep end over at the slightest - but utterly unpredictable - opportunity.
But he did have his amusing moments. Once he was explaining to me a conversation he had had with the CEO of Gaz de France, the French nationalised gas company, when he worked for IBM. Their IT infrastructure was a complete mess. Or, as he told me, "Je lui ai dit, votre systeme est une usine a gaz" - "your system is a gasworks".
To anyone else, anyone else at all, this would have been a perfectly reasonable remark. But to the head of the French gas company - he probably thinks a gasworks is a very fine thing. I don't know how he responded - if he knew the guy in question reasonably well, he probably rolled his eyes and ignored him, as we all did. Or maybe he said, "You're quite right - and what's wrong with a gasworks?".
Anyway I wish I'd been there.