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Comme ci, Comme ca



“Simone’s so-so.”

That crossword puzzle clue in today’s newspaper stumped me. I knew Simone is a French name, so the answer should be a French word or phrase. But for the love of me, I could not summon any of the French terms I have stacked in my brain.

After answering all the other clues, this appeared as the answer: comme ci comme ca.

Instantly, familiar sounds of yesterday replayed in my head!

“Kamsi-kamso,” my late mom and her four sisters used to say a lot. When planning on going somewhere or doing something, they would stress, “Kamsi-kamso,” with a matching shrug. My cousins and I thought it was an Ilocano word meaning, whatever happens, happens.

We claimed the phrase for ourselves, too. If anybody among our playmates would ask difficult questions such as:

“Is this a good idea?”
“What if we fail?”
“Can you promise it will be a success?”
“You sure?”
“So what’s next?”

“Kamsi-kamso” was the safest answer in the world. It needed no explanation and everyone knew what we meant.

(Mom [Chitang] and her sisters, as immortalized in three books of the “Oh, Mateo!” series: The Boy who Had Five Lolas; All aboard with Five Lolas; and A Flood of Kindness)

Today, eons later—now as old as my mom and her sisters then—I am reminded of the phrase, coming back to me in its correct spelling, from a crossword puzzle! Indeed it is a French phrase, written as: comme ci, comme ca and pronounced come-see-come-saw.

The Net defines it as: so-so; neither here nor there; iffy; not sure; neither very good nor very bad—and of course, “whatever happens, happens,” a phrase I say repeatedly these days of uncertainty, with the pandemic and a new set of government officials.

Oh, the packets of knowledge we learn! And the nuggets of grace we remember!

“ . . . we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17 ESV)


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