Sunday, January 25, 2009


I took French in high school and in college. In high school, my French teacher was Anna Armona, a wonderful woman who came to the US from Cuba; she spoke French with a strong Cuban accent, apparently, so everyone who heard my French asked which Latin American school I attended.

In college, I took French from Franher Jean-Baptiste, a Jamaican gentleman who mocked my Spanish-accented French as he attempted to strip away the Cuban dialectical elements. Alas, he replaced them with Jamaican dialectical elements, so once again my French sounded very unFrench.

I can still remember enough rudimentary French to understand the gist of what people say to me in that language (provided the vocabulary isn't too complex), and if I'm given enough time to rummage through my memory in search of the proper word or three, I can even assemble a simple-minded answer. That was enough to get me by during two visits to Montreal, but I think everyone who spoke with me eventually concluded that I had recovered from a life-threatening blunt-trauma-to-the-head injury.

I tell you all this to make it clear that I do not pay visits to French websites gladly. In fact, I never go there unless I have to.

Recenty, Susan told me that I had to.

She wanted an obscure book on antique European samplers, and it was only available from, the French version of Amazon. So I stumbled through the various screens and ordered the book just so I could get out of the linguistic hell in which I found myself.

That's it. That's the only French site I've ever visited.

And beginning 48 hours after that visit, I began getting French spam. Lots of French spam. French letters from Australians and Nigerians and the sons of Middle Eastern caliphs, all looking for my help to move vast fortunes from their homeland... and of course, I would get a cut. I got French offers for sex aids, for drugs sans prescriptions, for anatomical improvements... In 72 hours, I got over sixty French language spams--and prior to placing this order with, I had never gotten a French-language spam.

So if anyone had any misconceptions that Amazon kept all of its user data private, think again. (Makes me wonder how much English-language spam comes from spammers given my address by Amazon...)

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