Pétanque – a national sport

by Steve Martindale

The modern game of pétanque traces its creation to a moment in 1907 in La Ciotat, Provence when a local player, Jules Lenoir, did what can only be described as the opposite of a ‘William Webb-Ellis’ and picked up the boule and stood still.

The ancient Greeks played a game with flat coins and later flat stones, which involved throwing an object as far as possible. This game was refined by the Romans to include a target object. The Romans then brought the game to Provence, where the stones were eventually replaced with wooden balls and gave birth to a number of similar games, collectively referred to as boules. The most popular format of the game at the turn of the last century was Jeu Provençal, where the playing area was larger and players ran three steps before throwing their ball.

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Jeans from Genoa

by Steve Martindale

Almost everyone will have owned a pair of jeans in their life, and everyone knows jeans are made of denim, but what are the origins of these words? As you may have guessed from their inclusion on this site, both are French!

The words ‘jeans’ comes from the French ‘bleu de Gênes’, or blue of Genoa, referring to the blue material originating in the Italian city from which the trousers were made.

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The health benefits of a bilingual brain

by Steve Martindale

There are many good reasons to learn a second language, whatever your age. If you are young, studying more than one language can create job opportunities in an increasingly globalised world; if you are older and move abroad, then speaking the local tongue will enhance your experience on a social and cultural level. But there is also one added benefit that more and more studies are highlighting: speaking more than one language can stave off the effects of dementia.

The brain is a complex organ and the causes of dementia are still not fully understood, but there is an increasing body of evidence to suggest that polyglots will develop the disease later in life than those who only speak one language.

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