Monday, December 6, 2010

It all makes sense...or is it cents?

      As noted previously, we have been struggling with all the rules and exceptions to the rules, understood-but-not-stated rules, secret rules, hidden rules, unwritten rules, and nobody-knows-why-they-do-it-this-way-but they-just-do rules that are the basis for mastering the language of French.  It's extremely complicated and confusing, and the one rule that underscores every other rule is that no matter what the rule, everything has to agree in GENDER.  No matter what you are trying to actually say, you must first know whether you are using a Masculine or Feminine word to say it. 
     This weekend, I finally got it. We do the same thing in English, only different.  The French apply masculine and feminine gender to their language, whereas Americans apply masculine and feminine gender to their math. Same rules, different subject. It took Facebook and a conversation with my brother to help me make the connection.
     It unfolded like this.  My niece, Anna, had to attend Cotillion this weekend. For those of you who are not familiar with that French word, the English translation for cotillion is  "a gathering of males and females for the express purpose of buying a new dress." It is an annual rite of passage that also involves minimal dancing combined with  awkward conversations and insufficient food.  I believe this ceremony takes place in many diverse cultures, but the underlying  reason for the event is universal. It provides an opportunity for young men to prove their manhood by surviving six hours in a necktie, and it provides young women an opportunity to display their feminine ingenuity through the use of exceptional math and language skills.
     I was able to make the connection this weekend after my brother, Joe,  surprised us with a Sunday afternoon visit. Cotillion had successfully occurred the evening before, the after-party had been held at his house, the girls had all spent the night, and he was escaping a home full of tired and irritable adolescent females.  As we asked about the dance,  Sissey discovered that  pictures had already been posted on Facebook.  There, looking lovely as ever, was his beautiful daughter, Anna, dressed to perfection in a stunning black dress with a chiffon overlay and  an assymetrical, floral strap. A gorgeous dress, a stylish dress....just NOT the black dress she had previously modeled for us only two weeks earlier. Not even the second one she  bought after she decided she didn't like the first one. This was an unknown dress, a never-before-seen dress, a third dress!
   "Joe," I asked, "She looks lovely, but this isn't the dress Anna modeled for us.  Where did this one come from?"
    "Oh, she found this one last week and loved it, AND she got such a great deal on it that she's going to return the other two." 
     And that is when it all came together, the gender agreement issue that we had been struggling with in French. It's just like in French, only different. We do have gender agreement, but  it's in math and not language, and it all goes back to FRENCH and fashion!    
      I will explain.
     The French are responsible for instilling the love of fashionable attire in women around the world. This leads to shopping, which involves the equating of numbers and the computation of sums.  All math is based on the successful application of certain standard formulas.
       In American Math, there are two formulas for every equation: the Male Formula and the Female Formula. In order to successfully compute any equation, you must first determine whether the equation is male or female. Once the gender of the equation has been determined, you must then use all computations in the gender which agrees with the originator of the equation.
     If the equation is male, simply follow universal rules of computation based on the true value of each number.
     If the equation is female, however, all rules must change. The true value of a given number no longer applies. You must substitute the equivalent female value for all male values, the true value of which is only known to the female who is equating the problem.
     There are exceptions to every rule, and the exceptions are determined only by the female who is equating the problem.
    The only way to learn these gender rules is to memorize them.
     So when discussing Anna's attire for the ball, I tried not to laugh at my brother. I realized he had applied American Male Formulas to an obviously American Female Equation and had fallen for the oldest math trick in the book, the 29-39-49 Rule, which states:

 When purchasing a dress for any special occassion, you must always have three variables. 
 Each variable must become more valuable in progression.
Always drop the "1" before any variable. 

Problem #1. Anna must purchase a dress for cotillion. What is her net gain after purchasing three dresses, wearing one,  and returning two?

          Anna buys dress #1 for  $129.00
          She buys dress #2 for    $139.00
          She buys dress #3 for    $149.00

She applies the 29-39-49 rule which states that when in a progression, all purchases must be listed as the intended price, not the actual retail value. 
Therefore, the  "1" before any dollar amount is always dropped when reporting prices to any member of the male species, so that the above equation is actually stated as:
           Anna buys dress #1 for $29.00
            She buys dress #2 for  $39.00
            She buys dress #3 for  $49.00.

 It is then understood that items #1 ($29) and #2 ($39)  will be returned for a net gain of $68, at which point the 29-39-49 rule is reversed, the "1" is returned to it's original position in front of each number,  and the actual pocketed gain becomes ($129 + $139) = $268.

 Solution: Anna pockets a net gain of $200 after she returns the $68.00 her father expects from the return of dresses #1 and #2.

     So as you can see, we have borrowed many things from the French.  The French define haute couture.  Haute couture results in shopping. Shopping depends on math. Therefore, our love of fashion has led us to adapt the  French  rules of gender, only we apply them to a different subject- math! Everything works out when you understand GENDER agreement.
     Once the correct rules are applied, you can easily and successfully master any language and complete any math computation.  
    Finally, finally, it all makes sense. Or is it cents?  Ohh....all those darn  rules are just so confusing!


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