July 13th, 2009

Help with French

Setting: Paris modern day
The situation: One of my main characters lets call him A works in a museum in Paris, he meets two of the other characters, B and C when he find them poking around in a private storage area. B and C are actually American and A is (pretendiing to be) British (but having lived and worked in Paris for years is fluent with a flawless accent) so most of the conversation will (fortunately for my peace of mind)  eventually be in English What I need is a French translation of the start of the conversation, I want A to say something like "Can I help you? You do realise the tourist area is back that way?" Not too impolite as they are customers but just a little acerbic as they are blatantly trespassing. B will then say something in a broken mix of French and English (which I can manage fine because I want it hisFrench to be about my level) and then C (who is practically fluent) says "Yes, sorry. We have an appointment with the director." After which I can thankfully switch them back to English.

Babel fish tells me the translations would be: "Est-ce que je peux vous aider ? Vous réalisez que le secteur de touristes est de retour de cette façon"
and "Oui, désolé. Nous avons un rendez-vous avec le directeur" but of course it is notorious for it's strange grammar and I'm not sure whether these would be phrases you would use in this situation. *sighs* I did do French in school but it was so long ago and I was always so bad at it.

Building log cabins in the Oregon Trail era (1840s)

Hi there folks!

I'm writing a fic that takes place in 1847, about pioneers moving west on the Oregon Trail. I've had tons of luck with google so far while fleshing out the story, but I've finally hit a block.

I basically just want to know how long it takes to build a plain, single-room log cabin. My characters arrive in Oregon in late October and I was planning on having the cabin be finished in time for Christmas. There are three adults who can work on it full time, and one who starts helping sometime in late November. Is two months a reasonable time frame, or would it take much longer? Also, if they can't build a log cabin in that period of time, where would they live until it was finished? (I'm assuming in the wagon.)

Terms searched on google: log cabins in oregon, log cabin building, log cabin, oregon trail life, westward expansion, pioneer life, pioneer homes, a few other combinations that I've forgotten... I've made heavy use of the 'Log Cabin' and 'Oregon Trail' articles on Wikipedia but they don't seem to include this information.

EDIT: Thank you all so much! This has been enormously helpful.

Clothing on sailing ships?

I'm trying to find out what would have been worn by sailors back when the term was literal. The setting has a mix of anthropomorphs and humans, and some fantasy elements - magic is known, and access to it is regular enough to simplify some otherwise labour-intensive tasks, though not everyone has the ability to use it. The world has relatively few large landmasses - much of the known and hospitable world is in the form of archipelagoes, and ships are extremely important for any sort of long-distance trade.

Ships have been around long enough for technology to be at something of a turning point. Many shipboard cannon are still muzzle-loaders, but breech-loading weapons with cartridges, both artillery and small arms(such as revolvers), are starting to gain ground.

I've tried searching for "clothing in the age of sail", but that lead to a bunch of false hits - books, a computer game - and even where I did find things discussing the clothing of the time, it was either incidental mention, or not specific enough to be useful, and sometimes referred to what was worn by people in cities of the time, rather than the sailors themselves.

I also looked on Wikipedia for both "textiles" and "maritime history". On the former I couldn't find any comparison for how well different fabrics work with water, and on the latter, no mention of what people were wearing. I also specifically looked at linen and cotton, but cotton doesn't seem very suitable(too vulnerable to mildew, for instance, and I couldn't tell one way or another how it performed when wet), and linen does seem to absorb water quickly, but I couldn't be sure how it compared to, say, wool.

So: What might sailors have worn? I'm presuming their clothes are loose enough not to restrict mobility, but not so baggy as to catch on things. It's more the fabric itself that I'm trying to identify - something that doesn't absorb so much water as to make sailors sink like a stone overboard, or make them miserable in wet weather(I think linen might have an advantage in that it doesn't FEEL wet until it's quite saturated, but am not sure that's actually practical). But it also has to be something that's comfortable. This particular captain treats his people VERY well, and the person he's involved with is nobility, so in each case, money is no object.

Thoughts? Is linen perhaps better than I give it credit for, especially if a touch of magic can streamline the otherwise labour intensive process? Or is there another fabric that would've been used at the time?

Suggestions appreciated.

Thanks in advance,


EDIT: Thanks all for the responses, looks like I've got a fair bit to work with now.

Prisoner Chained in Tudor period

My character is chained in a dungeon (stone walls and floor) in the Tudor period. he has shackles on his wrists, ankles and a collar and is chained to the wall at all five points. Currently I have the attachments embedded in the wall as cast iron and the shackles and chains wrought iron.

However a friend comes to rescue him. Said friend works with the blacksmith and is a massively strong man and has access to tools. A few hammer blows releases the prisoner from the wall, but he is still in chains. A hammer and chisel against the stone could break the chains from the shackles.

My problem is then to get him out of the shackles and in particular the collar. My questions are:

How likely is it that a hammer and chisel could be used to break the shackles and collar?
Would my prisoner be likely to suffer damage from this act? (obviously I don't want him to die or be permanently disabled, but if he is hurt that is not a problem
How trusting must he be of his friend, particularly with the removal of the collar?
Is there another way and how long would it take?

There is no fear of being disturbed - no guards on the doors as the prisoner is not known to be there - and another friend is keeping the lord occupied, but they must work quickly.

I have googled for images and descriptions of shackles of the time, with very little luck

Thanks in advance.