Charles De Gaulle’s Hat

We had the pleasure of meeting friends Tynan and Elena for coffee on a very windy Thursday morning this week. We met them once last week, as well; it was cool that day, but still nice enough to sit outside. Not so yesterday. Tynan and Elena live near the park created around the Roman ruins (click here to read about my “discovery” of the park) and there’s a charming jazz bar and café (El Jazzy Bar) alongside the park.

Elena is originally from Northern Spain and Tynan is originally from the English Midlands. Elena speaks beautifully precise and expressive English. As for Tynan… well, as I said, Tynan is from the English Midlands. No one — except other people from the Midlands, perhaps — is exactly sure what language it is Tynan speaks.

I have an ear for different accents. San Geraldo does not. Tynan speaks and I then translate most of what he says. Tynan has a very quick and sometimes wicked (OK, and sometimes weird) sense of humor. After he makes a witty remark or tells a little joke, I have to translate it into American English for San Geraldo. I then usually have to explain it to him. Sometimes, I listen to Tynan and then just turn to San Geraldo and say, “Never mind.”


A few months back, while Tynan was at work at Café Manila and San Geraldo and I were enjoying our coffees, he breezed by and asked, “Do you know why Charles De Gaulle had Greek letters on his hat?”

“No,” I said. “Why?”

“Because he’d have looked stupid with French ones.” And he was off to another table.

I didn’t get the joke. First: I didn’t know there were Greek letters on Charles De Gaulle’s hat. And, B: I had no idea why the hat would look stupid with French letters. The guy was French.


I went home and read everything I could find on Charles De Gaulle, his hat, Greek letters. Nothing! This morning I finally remembered to ask Tynan for an explanation.

Tynan explained that in England, condoms are often called “French letters.” (It’s true. I looked it up. Don’t ask me why, though. Everyone has a theory.) OK. So I now I get that part. Yes, De Gaulle would have looked stupid with condoms on his hat.

I then said, “I never knew Charles De Gaulle had Greek letters on his hat. What were they?”

Tynan said, “Oh, he might not have had any. But the decoration looked a bit Greek.”

At this point, Elena and San Geraldo both groaned.


But, I don’t want you to leave thinking Tynan is nothing more than someone who has a peculiar way of speaking and tells bad jokes. From the first day we met him, he made us feel welcome and at home in Fuengirola. He’s interesting, intelligent, charming; an adoring father to his son and daughter; he and Elena have an admirable relationship; and, well, OK, he talks funny and tells some really bad jokes. Groaners.


This Week
Tynan very quickly rattled off the following (it has to be said quickly for full effect). Elena, having heard it before, harrumphed in disgust. I laughed out loud. I translated it into American English for San Geraldo. Another groan. Some people just don’t appreciate Tynan’s fine wit.

Tynan: “I went to the doctor and said, ‘I have a cold.’ He said, ‘Flu?’ I said, “No, I walked.”


Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

22 thoughts on “Charles De Gaulle’s Hat”

    1. Judith:
      If I weren't already so loyal to Cafe Manila, I would go over to Jazzy for morning coffee. I may start frequenting it in the afternoons. Really charming. Very friendly staff. And a beautiful location. Being away from the beach, it's not touristy. They have a stack of Spanish newspapers, too. A good place to practice.

  1. The joke was funny enough, funnier than what I use to say at times after someone had checked for new post, "Were there any letters from France?"

  2. I've had enough wine tonight to think that EVERYTHING's funny. I even laughed thinking of sitting next to Jerry and me, trying to explain (with all the wine under my belt… or wherever) the humor… and both of us rolling our eyes and laughing like crazy… possibly at each other rather than the french letters or whatever. I think of you guys often… always brings a big smile to my face.

  3. I won't be able to stop thinking about the condom hat either, but, you know, maybe Tynan is the Milton Berle of Fuengirola — or at the very least the Henny Youngman.

    1. Bob:
      Fortunately, Tynan is not one of those stand-up comic wanna be's. Usually, we have real conversations on a variety of topics. (But… probably more Henny Youngman than Milton Berle…)

  4. Oh, I know the term, Mitch. My mind just didn't connect the dots.

    Btw: Did you know what the French term for 'French letters' is? – 'Capote anglaise'! Tit for tat, one might say.

  5. The Oak leaves on his hat is very French or Gallic since it is a symbol of the Sacred Oak trees the Gauls use to worship, believing that these trees had magical powers. The Romans in the conquest of Gaul would often attack specially designated Oak trees in a forest simply to discourage the Gauls.

  6. I see sweaters/jeans/socks, there now I feel better ~~ our worlds are cold now! Tynan has groaners to share, let him have fun, for Pete's sake.


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