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Entries from December 2004

la reconnaissance

For this last edition of 2004, a more personal look into la naissance* of this letter from France; a background on how it came about, and its raison d'être* (besides building one's French vocabulary!). Most of the stories in 2004 were in keeping with a French theme. For today's personal story, a Wild West theme seems fitting, considering my Southwestern roots. Though I left the Phoenix desert a third of my life ago, a part of my heart forgot to board that plane to France...

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la reconnaissance
1. gratitude, gratefulness
.
Il n'y a guère au monde un plus bel excès que celui de la reconnaissance.
In the world, there is hardly a more beautiful excess than that of gratitude. --
Jean de La Bruyère


To you, the reader. (A story about you and me.)

          by Kristin Espinasse

In October of deux mille deux,* I began a website -- a vitrine* of sorts, for my writing. I put up a few published stories, a bio and un livre d'or* and waited beside my virtual mailbox, ginger ale in hand.

A few tumbleweeds blew past but no publishers. My address, my website--my writing--remained in a cyber ghost town.

I continued to peddle my words, sending out queries for my stories. I did not sell many.

I thought to offer something to attract editors and publishers and so I went out front my cyber office and nailed up a sign; it read: "French Word-A-Day." I waited patiently for a customer. More tumbleweeds blew past. No publishers.

I continued to "show up at the page" or keyboard and screen each morning and the stories collected like so many stars over a sleeping desert on a warm summer's night. As for l'espoir,* I had that. Still, no publishers came.

But you did.

You must've seen the sign out front. You signed up for French words and accidentally found yourself in my French life. You must have said, "Pourquoi pas?"* then pulled up a stool, ordered a ginger ale, and settled in.

Your presence reassured, and I wrote. And wrote. And wrote a little more. And mostly hoped you would not leave town when the next stagecoach passed through. At least not until I figured out what it was I had to say.

Then one day you said: "Thank you for your missives," and I ran to my dictionary to look that word up. You also wrote: "Thank you for your vignettes."
"Vignettes! Vignettes!" I said aloud, doing a little square dance. I never knew what to call "it" besides an "essay" (which, I felt, was a spiffier term than "diary entry").

Many good months passed, with small writing victories and a former ghost town now come to life.

My joie* was short-lived. A menace and a few mean-spirited emails arrived. I almost yearned for those tumbleweeds. Instead, I mentioned my soucis* in a letter and suddenly it was Showdown at the French Word-A-Day Corral. You showed up with your posse and told the bandits to get out of town. Then you looked at me and said, "Don't let the !@#& get you down!"

While others don't understand the life of a former Desert Rat-turned-French housewife-turned-maman* and, recently, struggling écrivain--you do.

At a shop in Draguignan, the vendeuse* says:
"Your name sounds familiar, what does your HUSBAND do?" and I fall back into a slump and am reminded that what I really am is a pantoufle-footed* housewife with a back-up of 3 loads of laundry, and a sink full of soiled, mismatched assiettes.*

I return home, to the dirty dishes and laundry, and to a letter from a reader, which says: "Thank you for your new book, when can I get a copy of the first volume?" And I sit up straight, dust off my keyboard and am reminded that what I really am is a working writer with a back-order of books. If I will only continue to travailler:* to show up at the page, and write, each day.

Thank you for helping me to live my dream in 2004. For buying my books, for reading my--missives-- and for your thoughtful words of support. The publishers and agents may not be beating down my door. But each time I crack open la porte* --  there you are.

In 2005, I'd like to continue with the stories, expanding the "gist" of this French Life. I hope you'll stay in town -- because I have figured out that I do, indeed, have something more to say. In fact, there is so much that I have not yet told you.

And while you know of the light-hearted, bubbly side of this expatriation, Real Life continues to rumble within my writing veins. Like a rowdy, drunken saloon girl, wanting to be heard. Only, I will need to slap her cheek, pour a bit of cool water over her head, take a tissue to her running mascara and tell her to have faith. That her story will be told. If she will only show up at the page.

May you, too, live your dream in 2005.

Bien Amicalement,
Kristin

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
la naissance (f) = birth; la raison d'être (f) = reason for being; deux mille deux = two thousand two; la vitrine = showcase; le livre d'or (m) = guestbook; l'espoir (m) = hope; pourquoi pas? = why not?; la joie (f) = joy; un souci (m) = worry; une maman (f) = mom; la vendeuse (f) = saleslady; la pantoufle (f) = (house) slipper; une assiette (f) = plate, dish; travailler = to work; la porte (f) = door

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
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même

French Word-A-Day will be on break from December 10th - January 4th.

Menu du Jour: Homonyms (part II) and "A Day in the Life..."

même (mem) adjective
1. same
2. the same (one)
3. even

Expressions:
être à même de = to be capable of
quand même = all the same; honestly!
merci quand même = thanks anyway
de même que = just as
tout de même = even so, nonetheless

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Citation du Jour
Le racisme est une manière de déléguer à l'autre le dégoût qu'on a de soi-même.
Racism is a way of delegating to another the disgust that we have for ourselves.
--Robert Sabatier

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A Day in a French Life...

I was in the kitchen peeling potatoes when 7-year-old Jackie rushed in, out of breath:

"Comment dire 'toi-même' en anglais?"
(How do you say 'yourself' in English?)

"Yourself," I replied.

With that, she ran out of the kitchen, to rendre la pareille.* (I imagine she meant to say something back to her brother, along the lines of "No, YOU are!" (...the Big Dodo, etc.)

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*References: rendre la pareille = to "get back" (at someone), to get revenge.

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Homonyms  Part II  by Barbara Barles

In French there are many words that have the exact same pronunciation but a completely different meaning. Orally, the phrase's context should permit one to know which word is being employed. Here are a few examples:

- Cane (n.f.) et canne (n.f.)
(female duck and cane)
pronounced "kahn"

- Mot (n.m.) et maux (n.m.; pluriel de mal)
(word and pain)
pronounced "mo"

- Amande (n.f.) et amende (n.f.)
(almond and fine)
pronounced "a-mond"

- Pâte (n.f.) et patte (n.f.)
(pastry and paw)
pronounced "pat"

- Cou (n.m.), coup (n.m.) et coût (n.m.)
(neck, blow and cost)
pronounced "koo"

- Vin (n.m.), vingt (adj et n.m.) et vain (adj.) (fém:vaine)
(wine, twenty and vain)
pronounced vaN -- silent "n" (nasal)

To review Part I on Homonyms, visit:
http://french-word-a-day.typepad.com/motdujour/2004/12/pareil.html


Barbara Barles is a French legal expert based in Toulon, France.

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
♥ Send $10    ♥ Send $25    ♥ Send another amount


pareil

A special treat for you today: Barbara is back with a column on French homonyms. Read it in English or French. Either way, enjoy!

pareil, pareille (pa-ray) adjective

    1. the same   2. equal

Expressions:
du pareil au même = exactly the same
n'avoir pas son pareil = to be remarkable
sans pareil = unparalleled, unique
rendre la pareille = to get revenge on someone


Citation du Jour:
Le tennis et le ping-pong, c'est pareil. Sauf qu'au tennis, les joueurs sont debout sur la table. Tennis and ping-pong, it's the same thing. Except that with tennis, the players stand on the table. --Coluche

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Les Homonymes  by Barbara Barles

In French there are many words that have the exact same pronunciation but a completely different meaning. For this reason, it is important to know the French spelling so as not to mistranslate!

Orally, the phrase's context should permit one to know which word is being employed. Here are a few examples (following French text):

En Français:
Il existe en français de nombreux mots ayant une prononciation exactement identique mais un sens tout à fait différent. C'est pourquoi il est important de bien connaître l'orthographe française afin de ne pas faire de contre sens!

A l'oral, le contexte de la phrase doit permettre de savoir de quel mot il s'agit. En voici quelques exemples:

......................................
- Fin (n.f.) et faim (n.f.)
(end and hunger)
pronounced "faN" (silent n, nasal)

- Pot (n.m.) et peau (n.f.)
(pot or jar and skin)
pronounced "poh"

- Voix (n.f.) et voie (n.f.)
(voice and road)
pronounced "vwah"

- Sot (adj et n.) (fém:sotte), sceau (n.m.), seau (n.m.), saut (n.m.)
(foolish, seal, bucket, jump)
pronounced "so"

- Encre (n.f.) et ancre (n.f.)
(ink and anchor)
pronounced "ahn-kre"

- Signe (n.m.) et cygne (n.m.)
(sign and swan)
pronounced "see-nyuh" (sort of!--just don't insist on the "yuh")




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Barbara Barles is a French legal expert based in Toulon, France.
. 
Learn French with Fluenz softwareRecommended by French Word-A-Day readers! Learn French with Fluenz French -- includes engaging, interactive workouts to improve your reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills -- including a recording engine to perfect your accent.  More info here.

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
♥ Send $10    ♥ Send $25    ♥ Send another amount


un rideau

le rideau (ree-do) noun, masculine
  1. curtain

Expressions:
tirer les rideaux = to draw (or close) the curtains
grimper aux rideaux = "to climb the curtains" (to be very excited)
tirer le rideau sur quelque chose = to cease to talk about a subject
tomber en rideau = to break down (in car)
un rideau de fumée = a smoke curtain
un rideau de feu = a sheet of fire
le rideau de Fer = Iron Curtain
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Citation du Jour:
Poisson rouge : animal de compagnie qui, par rapport au chat, présente l'avantage de moins s'acharner sur les rideaux du salon.

The Gold fish: faithful companion who, compared to the cat, has the advantage of victimizing the living room curtains a little less.
--Marc Escayrol

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A Day in a French Life...

(The story that appeared here, along with the vocabulary below, has been made into a chapter in this book.)

..................................................................................................................
*References: un Arcois, une Arcoise = resident of Les Arcs; gratuit = free; Il y a quelqu'un là? = Is someone (sitting) there?; Allez-y, madame = Go ahead, madam; Rideau! = Curtain!; les paillettes (n.f.) = sequins (here, sparkly powder); têtes foncées = dark heads; la jambe (f) = leg; l'angoisse (f) = anxiety; confiante = confident; J'ai bien répété = I practiced a lot; Je me suis bien concentrée = I did a good job concentrating; Plus on grandi, plus on a peur = the bigger we get, the more afraid we are; une maman (f) = a mom; un papa = a dad; le monde = the world; C'est normale, car je suis plus grande = it's normal, as I am bigger (than she).

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
♥ Send $10    ♥ Send $25    ♥ Send another amount


la soif

la soif (swaf) noun, feminine
1. thirst

Also:
un(e) soiffard(e) = someone who likes to drink, one who drinks too much alcohol

...............
Expressions:
avoir soif = to be thirsty
jusqu'a plus soif = until one's thirst is quenched
garder une poire pour la soif (to keep a pear for the thirst) = to put something aside for a rainy day

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Citation du Jour
On n'a jamais aussi soif qu'après avoir traversé un désert qui n'existe pas.
We are never so thirsty as when we have crossed a desert that doesn't exist.
  Achille Chavée

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A Day in a French Life...

(The story once posted here, along with the French vocabulary below, is now a chapter in this book.)
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*References: le/la guichetier(ère) = ticket counter clerk; un billet (m) = a ticket; une vitrine (f) = window; tenez (tenir) = here (take it); le cerveau (m) = brain; un siège (bleu) = (blue) seat; un pipelet = a chatterbox; taisez-vous! = quiet down!; word mill (from the French, 'un moulin à paroles' = a chatterbox); Les Indestructibles = (translated, by the movie industry, from "The Incredibles"); j'ai soif = I'm thirsty; Allô Enfance Maltraitée = (child abuse hotline); la politesse (f) = politeness; t'as soif? (informal) = are you thirsty?; tu veux boire = do you want to drink (something)?; l'obscurité (f) = darkness; en panne = out of order; sans = without; une boisson (f) = a drink; Ah-swa-fay (pronunciation for assoiffé--and a made-up noun here) = the thirsty-ones; chez eux = at (home)

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
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une vitrine

Vitrine = Window (c) Kristin Espinasse une vitrine (vee-treen) noun, feminine
1. window

Expression:
en vitrine
= in the window
lécher les vitrines (to lick the windows) = to go window-shopping

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Citation du Jour
Les descriptions de femme ressemblent à des vitrines de bijoutier. On
y voit des cheveux d'or, des yeux émeraude, des dents perles, des
lèvres de corail.


Descriptions of women are like a jewelers' window. In them we see golden hair, emerald eyes, pearly white teeth and coral lips.
--Jules Renard

*This photo, taken in Antibes, France, was originally on the cover of my third book (volume III). That book is now part of this collection by Simon and Schuster.

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
♥ Send $10    ♥ Send $25    ♥ Send another amount


une ordure

une ordure (or-dewr) noun, feminine

1. dirt, filth (plural) 2. trash, garbage


Also:
ordurier(ière) = filthy
une boîte à ordures = a garbage can

Expression:
dire des ordures = to talk filth, to utter obscenities

.........................
Proverb:
Au pourceau, l'ordure ne pue point.
Filth doesn't bother a pig.



A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

St. Maximin la Ste Baume, 1998

The partitioning wall in our 300-year-old village home was as dense as a day-old baguette. Just beyond that wall, lived a couple in their early 70's. They came from Algeria in the 60's, and after the tumult Monsieur secured a job on an apple farm.  He had to quit working when a car accident left him disabled, so there he stood, wrinkly faced, on the curb each day, under wrinkly clothes--always the same--a button-down shirt and woolen vest, gray slacks.

His wife wore a traditional scarf around her head, and her palms were colored burnt orange from Henna; I knew the dye wasn't from her hair, but that's about all I understood. When she smiled, which wasn't often, her mouth lit up in gold--every tooth capped in the precious metal.

I used to soak in the tub each night and listen to my Algerian neighbors. Our bathroom must have been part of their kitchen at one point in time, or vice-versa, and now a thin wall separated the two. Their jubilant dinners were such a contrast to Monsieur and Madame's somber daytime visages* and I couldn't get the two moods to match up. Happily, their children came to pay them a visit each night, for so much tristesse* could not be good for a person.

Monsieur Alag stood on the trottoir* just meters from my front door. "Why does that man stand there all day?" visitors would ask. It never bothered me, au contraire, his presence reassured.  Though he might never derail a cambrioleur* (crippled as he was) it felt good to greet him each time I opened the door.

The neighborhood poubelle* was located, we soon learned, just inches from our front doorstep. The locals would nonchalantly dump little plastic sacs of daily refuse in the neglected city-owned planter box out front.

This became annoying to say the least. When my father came to visit, he and his wife had the idea to plant a hydrangea in that spot.  My dad felt that people wouldn't dare throw garbage atop such a lovely flowering plant.

The neighbors just laughed, "It will be stolen! Wait and see."

This time, the neighbors piled les ordures* around the plant. I looked at Monsieur Alag who just shook his head and looked down at his shoes.

Then something strange happened; less and less garbage appeared. I later discovered the sacs piled several meters away, at the other end of the planter (far from our door). The neighbors walked by and shook their heads, the plant was still there, and in bloom...

I couldn't believe our good fortune either, and searched for an answer. When I looked at Monsieur Alag, he just raised his shoulders and looked at his well-worn shoes. But as I turned to open my door I glimpsed a smile on his face, and understood.

Learn French with Fluenz softwareRecommended by French Word-A-Day readers! Learn French with Fluenz French -- includes engaging, interactive workouts to improve your reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills -- including a recording engine to perfect your accent.  More info here.

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*References: le mur (m) = wall; le visage (m) = face; la tristesse (f) = sadness; le trottoir (m) = sidewalk; un cambrioleur (une cambrioleuse) = robber; la poubelle (f) = garbage can; les ordures = the garbage
This story appeared in France Today. 

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
♥ Send $10    ♥ Send $25    ♥ Send another amount