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Entries from April 2006

The muguet tradition in France: Lily of the Valley sold on French street corners on May 1st

le muguet (mew-geh) n.m.

 : lily of the valley

Question: So what are the French doing today, the first of May, besides la grasse matinée?

Answer: Waving snow-white porte-bonheurs through the air and wishing each other good luck!

Muguet lily of the valley lys des vallees, may 1st French tradition Along little cobblestone paths in the French hinterland, and at noisy intersections across the city, French vendeurs de muguet are taking over street curbs with buckets of lilies of the valley and shouting Le muguet du premier mai!--cashing in on today's national holiday, Labor Day (or La Fête du Travail).

On May 1st it is the custom to offer loved ones little bouquets of those sweet-scented, clochette-shaped flowers--in a gesture of friendship and in celebration of spring. It's la Fête du Muguet!


Today, commerçants are handing out the friendship flowers: the butcher (who should be off work, non?) is offering un brin de muguet to his faithful clients and some fancy boxed cakes have been seen leaving the chocolate shop with the little white flowers--les lys des vallées--tucked beneath the shiny ribbons that fasten the boxes.

"Ah, bon?" My mother-in-law replies over the phone, étonnée. "Shopkeepers here in Marseilles don't offer muguet!"

After a moment of silence, she quietly admits that no one has ever offered her a bouquet of muguet des bois.... But that doesn't stop my belle-maman from taking un petit brin to her 'little neighbor' downstairs, a custom she took up several years ago, to add cheer to the lonely foyer of another forgotten heart.

Selling lily of the valley muguet in bandol france port on may 1st fete du travail
Woman selling lily of the valley at her tiny pop-up stand on the port of Bandol

                                       
Bonne Fête du Muguet! Good luck to you in the challenges you face--bon courage wherever on this globe you may call home

The following lyrics are from the beloved French folk singer George Brassens. Check out his music 

Le premier mai c'est pas gai / The first of May is not cheerful
Je trime a dit le muguet / I slave away, said the lily of the valley
Dix fois plus que d'habitude / Ten times more than usual
Regrettable servitude / A regrettable encumbrance

Muguet, sois pas chicaneur / Muguet, don't be a quibbler
Car tu donnes du bonheur / Because you make people happy...
Brin d' muguet, tu es quelqu'un... / Little bouquet of lily, you are somebody...
.


FRENCH VOCABULARY
faire la grasse matinée = "to do the fat morning" (to sleep in); un porte-bonheur (m) = lucky charm; vendeur, vendeuse de muguet = lily of the valley seller; Le muguet du premier mai! = The First of May's Lily of the Valley (buy some now)!; lys des vallées = lily of the valley, la clochette (f) = bell; commerçant(e) (adj) = businesslike; commerçant(e) (mf) = shopkeepers; Ah, bon? = oh, really?; étonné(e) = puzzled; le muguet des bois (m) = "lily of the woods" (woodruff); la belle-maman (f) = mother-in-law; un petit brin (m) = "a little blade" (a little bouquet); coo-toom (pronunciation for 'coutume' (f) = custom

AUDIO FILE--hear my son, Max, pronounce the word 'muguet':
Download muguet.wav

When you order via Amazon your purchase helps support this word journal... 

Floral Lily Of The Valley Luxury Hand Cream, order here

Lily of the Valley cup and saucer - Fine English bone china

Lily of The Valley by Yardley of London for Women Eau De Toilette Spray, order here.

6 Very Large, Fresh, Plump Lily of the Valley Bare Root Plants

children at church fountain in Bandol France on May 1st muguet fete du travail plane platane tree
People relaxing and children playing on the premier mai, or fête du travail in Bandol, France.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
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"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


trac

French scarecrow - epouvantail
From now on I will leave fear to these guys (on duty, and looking to scare a few French crows in the Southern Alps).

'French Stories': 10 unusual stories by French literary masters from Voltaire to Camus. Accurate English translations appear on pages facing the original French.

le trac (trak) noun, masculine
  stage fright, jitters which come about before a public appearance, or before an ordeal, trial or exam

Beaucoup de gens ont le trac avant un concert, moi malheureusement pas du tout. A lot of people get the jitters before a concert, unfortunately I don't get them at all. --Pascal Obispo (French singer)

A Day in a French Life...
I have eight radio interviews scheduled (via telephone) for the coming week and I hope you will listen to me talk about France if you happen to live in one of the cities listed at the end of this post.

Version Two of the above sentence (or the effect of such a request):

I will be sitting, deep in concentration, at the edge of a quiet sea. I would like you to run up, unhitch the sack of (heretofore gagged) screeching seagulls slung over your shoulder and shout "BOO!" at the top of your lungs while abruptly poking my sides.

In French it is called 'le trac' and I'm afraid I'll have it bad come Monday when I'll be wishing the telephone at my ear was really an empty can of Orangina connected to an empty can of Coke via a landline of tied shoelaces. Either way I might trip, or, at the very least, put my foot in my mouth. And there goes fear again...

"But you know the answers. They're all in here," Barbara says with a smile, knocking on her copy of the book (in reference to a previous post). I don't admit to her that the book is a blur in my mind. Instead, I listen to my friend assure me that it is normal to feel angoissée.* "It's much better than being over-confident! It's good to be nervous. The adrenaline will help." Adrenaline--she should talk!*

I went to the outdoor market yesterday to distract a distressed brain. Walking back to my car, arms weighed down by flowering sage, potted oregano, and fried egg rolls from the funny Chinese take-out van (parked next to the funny poulet* rotisserie van) I saw Brigitte illegally parking outside the upholsterer's. I gathered she was on her way to the flower stand to buy her weekly bouquet of peonies. "Do you have time for a coffee?" she asked.

At Café de la Tour I spilled the haricots.* "I have a thirty-minute live interview coming up on Monday and I am afraid."
"If they ask if the French smell," Brigitte replied, "tell them that, last I saw, there were robinets* and savon* in France. As for fear, just sip sugar water and take a deep breath."

L'eau sucrée*--why hadn't I thought of that? Up until now I had mostly considered what could go wrong during a live interview: what if ten-year-old Max runs by my office, complaining about how the soccer ball is stuck on the roof again? Or what if his little sister shows up with her map asking where Turkey is located? What if Jean-Marc flushes the toilet? Or the neighbor hits his thumb again with the marteau* and shouts "Putain!"*

What is certain, is that come Monday afternoon at 1:10 PM France time, I'll be seated in my office with a cup of sugar water and a stomach bloated with air. Breathe... What if I hyperventilate? What if I get the hiccups? Then can we have that be your cue to release the sack of gagged gulls? Fear should have a purpose, if only to stop hiccups.

..............................................................................................................
References: l'angoissé(e) (f) = anxious; she should talk (read about my cliff-jumping friend, page 150); le poulet (m) = chicken; l'haricot (m) = bean; le robinet (m) = faucet; le savon (m) = soap; l'eau sucrée (f) = sugar water; le marteau (m) = hammer; Putain! = Damn! (literal meaning: hooker)

............................
Listen to the word 'trac': Download trac.wav

Dates and cities for radio interviews beginning 5/1 -- May 1st:
1. 5/1 7:10 am WPHM-AM/Detroit MI 10 min live w/Morning Show
2. 5/1 8:40 am KYMO-AM/FM Harrisburg IL 15 min live w/Sporting Magazine
3. 5/1 9:30 am WRVC-AM/Huntington W.VA 30 min live w/Viewpoint
4. 5/1 10:50 am KCMN-AM/Colorado Springs CO 10 min live w/Tron
5. 5/2 9:10 am Cable Radio Network - national 10 min live w/Jack Roberts
6. 5/5 7:20 am WJLZ-FM/Virginia Beach-Norfolk VA 15 min live w/JP Morgan
7. 5/5 8:05 am KYW-AM/Philadelphia PA 10 min taped w/Don Lancer
8. 5/5 10:30 am WGTD-FM/Milwaukee WI 30 min taped w/Greg Berg, NPR affiliated
*more dates and cities to come...

Books:

The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking by Dale Carnegie

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Public Speaking (2nd Edition) (Paperback)
by Laurie E. Rozakis

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


méridienne

La Meridienne by Van Gogh la méridienne (may-ree-dee-yehn) n.f.
  1. siesta, nap
  2. type of sofa/couch whose seatback gradually descends from one side to the other (a.k.a. "fainting couch," "Grecian couch" or "gout couch" and, in French, "recamier" or "chaise longue")

synonyms: le repos (rest), la sieste, le somme,* le roupillon (nap)
   *faire un petit somme = to take a nap, to have a doze

En Provence, le soleil se lève deux fois, le matin et après la sieste. In Provence, the sun rises twice, in the morning and after the siesta. --Yvan Audouard

A Day in a French Life...
Just as I close my eyes I hear the slam of marteau* against concrete. The neighbor's pool house is under construction. Any silent gaps in between the hammering are filled in by yapping (the neighbor is after her kids again): "Taisez-vous! Descendez de là! C'est assez!"*

...Unfavorable circumstances in which to sieste.* Better to go with the flow, or 'suivre le moment' as they say in French.

I follow the moment. The wicker chair beneath me creaks as I shift to get a different view of the jardin.* My eyes scan the olive trees and the citrus-scented hedge of pittosporum next to the boules* court before settling on the pelouse* below where they catch on an ant as it marches along the top of a bent blade of grass. When the six-legged fourmi* gets to the cliff end it curls its body under and just keeps walking, this time along the belly of the blade. Over on the patio, a black scorpion scurries across the flagstone when the cushion it was hiding under is raised. I spring from my chair. "Careful, Jackie!" I say, and go to help my daughter flick the creature into a confiture* jar for examination and eventual release at the far end of the yard--where Jean-Marc planted sardines for the kids last year. Yes, sardine planting. Have you never heard of it? According to my cousin Murielle, amateur gardener and sometime camper, the French don't "pitch a tent"--they "plant sardines"! The expression stems from the shape of the metal stakes that are hammered into the ground.

Speaking of hammering... my eyes travel over to the row of newly-trimmed cypress trees separating our yard from the neighbor's. I realize the marteau has stopped. Ahh... I close my eyes and settle in for a twenty-minute méridienne* only to be startled when the yapping begins again. Poor weary mama next door--she could use a siesta, too.

....................French Vocabulary..............................
le marteau (m) = hammer; Taisez-vous! = Be quiet!; Descendez de là = Get down from there!; C'est assez! = That's enough!; la sieste (f) = nap; le jardin (m) = garden; (game of) boules (m.pl) (metal balls) = pétanque; la pelouse (f) = lawn; la fourmi (f) = ant; la confiture (f) = jam; la méridienne (f) = nap

Listen: hear my son, Max, pronounce the word 'une méridienne': (if the sound cuts, play it twice). Download meridienne.wav

Méridien is also a masculine noun, which means "meridian," and an adjective (méridienne, méridien) which means "midday" or "meridian."

And 'meridian' finds its everyday usage in AM/PM (ante meridian and post meridian) (ante: before; post: after)


Permission to Nap: Taking Time to Restore Your Spirit "Like our French sisters, who enjoy a 35-hour work week, or in Spain, where a siesta is a must, we can come to enjoy, embrace and revel in a little lovely shut-eye. " --from the publisher

The Art of Doing Nothing "Beautifully illustrated with Erica Lennard's photographs, The Art of Doing Nothing gives us permission to celebrate idleness in all its mesmerizing forms. Véronique Vienne's delightfully informative essays on the art of breathing, meditating, bathing, listening, waiting, and more offer useful tips on such skills as how to whistle, stay in the moment, take a nap, cure a cold, or watch the sun set over the horizon." --from the publisher

Book:
Tune Up Your French: Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Spoken French

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


pansement

Bandagist in Antibes (c) Kristin Espinasse A bandage maker along rue Sade...

Words in a French Life continues to ship and is now arriving in stores across the United States. I only wish I could see it on the shelves! From the French countryside, I try to imagine my book in some American librairie.* If you haven't seen it, please ask for it at your local bookstore. Merci in advance for helping to spread the French word!

un pansement (pahns-mahn) n.m.
  bandage, dressing  => Also: un sparadrap = Band-Aid (R)

Proverb: Le temps panse les blessures. Time heals all wounds.

A Day in a French Life...
I once had a date with a New Yorker named Eddie who said to me, "In love, never compromise yourself." We'd just gotten off a private yacht in the ancient port of Rome, having toured the island of Ischia, then to fly to London and board the Concorde. But supersonic planes and sleek boats were not in The Plan for me; instead, one simple Frenchman with a third-hand Honda was. (As was a lifetime of com-pro-me.*)

When Jean-Marc, now eight cars into our relationship, began painting over our front gate, I spoke up. "You should décap* it first!"
"It's okay," he assured me, rubbing the wet paintbrush into the chipped paint.
"I brushed away the big chips and what remains will fall off in the process."
Looking over to the can of paint and the extra paintbrush, he smiled and said, "Painting is better à deux."* I took the hint and picked up the brush, accepting The Paint Chip Compromise.

The way we were painting--ignoring the little (and sometimes big) chips that remain--is what I call putting a bandage over things or finding a temporary solution to a bigger concern. I stopped to reflect on compromise and bandages and all of the things we'd covered up in the years since our Franco-American union began: a bleeding heart from having left loved ones behind in the Arizona
desert to forge a new life in France... bandaged; the gaping wound in one Frenchman's soul upon leaving his windswept city by the sea, never to be returned to when his American bride preferred the slow pace of country life. Bandage that. And there were so many little compromises that cut all the same: limiting the number and length of telephone calls home to the States, cutting up my credit card for a French debit card (credit is not as popular in France) and the tightening of the belt that followed, foregoing a 5:30 dinner hour for an 8:30 French souper*... to name just a few sore spots.

Having bicultural children opened up a whole 'nother box of pansements.* Raised Born Again (try explaining that to the French!) we would eventually have our two children baptized in the Catholic church ("But you're not even Catholic!" I protested to Jean-Marc as he was making the baptismal arrangements. "Tradition!" he explained. When I wanted to name our son "Evan," Jean-Marc retorted, "The French will call him 'Heaven'. And they wouldn't be wrong about that, I've always said, as my now ten-year-old "Max" is positively divine.  For certain issues (some intercultural, some not) I found that a bandage wasn't enough. I often needed to plaster those gashes shut.

I've spent a lot of time wondering when the deep covered cuts--or biggest compromises--would open again like unstitched wounds. When will Marseilles reclaim its most passionate citoyen?* When will the desert mirage return again with my chasing after it, thirsting for my Arizona roots? So far, most of the pansements have held. Only a few have needed retaping. Perhaps I can rest assured now?

With all the bandages, I'm sometimes amazed to see that we are not broken apart. But then, isn't that what Band-Aids are for: to hold us together?

..................................................................................................................
References: une librairie (f) = bookshop; com-pro-me, pronunciation for compromis (m) = compromise; décap (décaper) = to strip (paint); à deux = in pairs (with two people participating); le souper (m) = supper; un pansement (m) = bandage; citoyen(ne) = citizen

Listen: hear my son Max pronounce the word "pansement": Download pansement.wav

The verb, terms & expressions:
panser (verb) = to dress, bandage
un pansement adhésif = a Band-Aid
panser ses blessures = to lick one's wounds
faire un pansement = to dress a wound; to put in a temporary filling (tooth)

Whether you're learning French for fun, school, or work, 2,000+ Essential French Verbs makes everything simple-conjugations, tenses, irregulars, and even conversation.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


tremper

 Easter
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Tremper

(trahm-pay) 

to soak


I search the kitchen for récipients. I pull a salad bowl from the cabinet—trop gros. I take a soup bowl from the armoire—pas assez profond. I settle on an old wine glass, a jam jar, a mustard jar, a see-through coffee cup and a tumbler.

As I organize the egg-coloring utensils, my daughter runs up to me. She is wearing a frilly dress with a black velvet haut and a white chiffon bas.

"You'll need to change if you want to help out!" I inform her.
"D'accord!" Jackie agrees, spontaneously obedient.

I measure out ten tablespoons of vinaigre balsamique, annoyed when I can't find the 79 cent bottle of ordinary vinegar. Meantime, Jackie returns with her brother. Both children are wearing faded pajamas, the ones they are allowed to salir.

Max tosses the orange and the blue tablets—one into the wine glass and the other into the jam jar. Jackie plops down the yellow and the red comprimés effervescents, one into the coffee cup and the other into the mustard jar. Three sets of eyes dart to the remaining green tablet.

"That one's mine!" I declare, snapping up the effervescent disk and dropping it into the tumbler.

We watch the tablets fizz in their bains de teinture. The colorful, bubbly display livens up our drab kitchen. Next, we take turns emptying half a cup of eau du robinet into each glass.

"O.K. Stir!" I say, and the kids each take a fork and whisk the water until the tablets are completely dissolved.

"Allez!" I say, bending the wire egg dropper (one egg dropper—two kids! Who put this egg-coloring kit together anyway?) and handing it to Max. Jackie and I watch with bated breath as Max lowers the cooked, brown-shelled eggs into the dye.

"Careful!" I say.

When Max reaches for a third egg, Jackie has a fit.

I have waited until the very last minute before beginning The Project. I estimate we are only about one-third of the way through....

"O.K. Now it's Jackie's turn!" I interject. "Doucement, Jackie..."

The eggs have settled at the bottom of the glasses. Time now to laisser tremper for thirty minutes. (Last year we followed the package instructions for "three minutes" and the eggs surfaced without color. The egg-dying kit is American-made, and it doesn't take into account brown-shelled eggs—the only kind we can get here in our French village.)

Then there'll be decorating to do!... My enthusiasm ebbs as I stare at the tray of messy peinture and all of those tiny stickers (I have a feeling they'll end up everywhere but on the eggshells!). I wish we could skip these next steps. 

Just as I begin to get edgy, Jean-Marc pops into the kitchen.

"It's so nice what you do," he offers, as if I always had this kind of patience. I look down. My cheeks turn the color of the oeuf rouge.

***

 Edits Welcome! Click here to submit a correction or a suggestion.

French Vocabulary

le récipient = container

trop gros = too big

une armoire = cupboard

pas assez profond = not deep enough

le haut = top

le bas = bottom

d'accord = O.K.

le vinaigre balsamique = balsamic vinegar

salir = to dirty, soil

un comprimé effervescent = effervescent tablet

le bain de teinture = dye bath

l'eau (f) du robinet = tap water

Allez! = Come on! (let's get moving)

doucement = carefully

laisser tremper = to let soak

la peinture = paint

l'oeuf (m) rouge = red egg

 

 

 

Listen: hear the word 'tremper' spoken by Jean-Marc: Download tremper.wav

Terms & Expressions:
se tremper = to have a quick dip
tremper les lèvres = "to wet one's lips," to take a sip
trempé(e) = drenched
verre trempé = tempered glass
avoir une caractère bien trempé = to have a set character
être trempé jusqu'aux os = to be soaking wet

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


fade

Bonne cuisine

Translated into English for the first time since its original 1927 publication, La Bonne Cuisine has long been the French housewife's equivalent of... The Joy of Cooking--a trusted and comprehensive guide to "la cuisine bourgeoise" or home cooking... Julia Child called LBC "one of my bibles"... --Publishers Weekly.

fade (fahd) adjective
  insipid, tasteless, flat

Répétés trois fois, les mots deviennent fades comme l'eau.
Repeated three times, words become flat like water.
--Chinese proverb

A Day in a French Life...
Almost as soon as I arrived at the airport in Marseilles and took up residence with a certain Marseillais,* the dinner parties began. What my new French boyfriend could not sympathize with then was my complete malaise in cooking for others. This ranged from an exaggerated fear of a guest finding a peroxided hair in his or her soupe aux légumes* to the French discovering how fade* even tartiflette* (strong cheese melted over potatoes) can be when prepared by a failed student of home economics.

Understanding from the get-go what it meant to be up against the French in the kitchen (a feeling similar to what it is like to be the odd one out on a beach full of monokinied underweights* along the French Riviera), I searched for a solution and found one: fajitas. Mexican food would be the one thing I could prepare by which the French could not compare notes or, worse, judge against the national standard (as they could gratins, quiches, soufflés or mousses). Even a flopped fajita could pass inaperçu* given that the French would not know how a fajita is supposed to turn out in the first place. Besides, how can you mess up a fajita? (Read on.)

And so it was that I served fajitas each and every time the French were invited over. Simple: grill the chicken, slice and fry red and green peppers, onions, put out plates of sour cream, grated cheese, guacamole, diced olives... My plan worked and an added plus was that the French (accustomed to four-course meals) were distracted enough by the do-it-yourself "build one's own" aspect of the fajitas that they forgot to question the absence of the two other courses. With the vegetables of a starter, the meat of a plat principal* and the cheese of a cheese course all rolled into one, I had stumbled onto a 3-in-1 shortcut. Secure now in my two-course offering (I served homemade chocolate chip cookies for dessert--a hit!) I could relax. (For a time.)

At some point my stock of frozen tortillas (gifts from friends coming over from southwest, USA) ran out. But I soon discovered boxed tortillas at the grocery store's produits étrangers* section. One night, as we sat at our table with two other families, the littlest guest suddenly dropped his 3-in-1, as one might drop a biscuit riddled with maggots. With that, he shouted the equivalent in French of "These are really gross!" The boy's mom swiftly reprimanded him, but it was too late. Though fleeting, I had seen the commiserative look on her face.

In the end, it turned out to be the boxed tortillas that were dégoûtantes or 'gross'. (Jean-Marc assured me that the little boy was probably expecting to bite into a crêpe, and was sorely disappointed to discover a tortilla). Even so, I never made fajitas again.

As I replace Mexican fare with the occasional gratin, quiche or soupe aux légumes, I am beginning to understand that it is not the French whom I am up against in the kitchen but one nervous, peroxide-haired cook.

........................................................................................................
References: Marseillais(e) = from Marseilles; la soupe aux légumes (f) = vegetable soup; fade = tasteless; une tartiflette (f) = potato, bacon and cheese casserole; monokinied underweights = topless, skinny women (read about this fiasco on p. 222 of my book); inaperçu(e) = unnoticed; le plat principal (m) = main dish; les produits étrangers (mpl) = foreign products
.
Listen: Hear 8-year-old Jackie say "C'est fade!" (It's tasteless!): Download cest_fade2.wav

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


noeud

A colorful slice of Sète, an historic port on the French Mediterranean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Noeud

(neuh)

noun, masculine

bow


Heading down the couloir, I hear a low hum coming from my daughter's room. Peering around the door, I find Jackie sitting on the floor, one leg extended, the other bent with the knee up. Her arms encircle the bent leg with its scraped genou and her fingers are caught in her shoelaces. With a sigh, she frees her hands from the tangle, only to pick the laces up again before repeating this mantra:

Pour faire un noeud
Je fais une boucle
Je tourne autour
Je passe par le petit trou
et je tire...
...Raté!


To make a bow
I fashion a loop
I circle around it
I pass through the little hole
and pull....
...Missed!

Jackie brushes a lock of hair away from her face and begins again. As my eight-year-old repeats the chant, I can just imagine the pressure she must be under. Earlier, her brother had warned her that if she couldn't tie her shoes by the time she was twelve, she would be la honte of middle school.

I think about my disservice to my daughter in opting for all those Mary Janes and tennis shoes with the Velcro closures. What was a helpful shortcut for a busy mother is now an honteux obstacle for her daughter.

Hands now clasped in supplication, I stand quietly by the door listening to a few more shoelaces-tying attempts:

Pour faire un noeud...
To make a bow...

I watch, front teeth pressing into lower lip, until the last line of  the mantra changes:

...et voilà!
...and there I have it!

With a sigh of relief, I slip away unnoticed and carry on down the hall, my heart swelling. That's my girl!


YOUR EDITS HERE
Thanks for your edits, here.

French Vocabulary

le couloir = hallway, corridor
le genou = knee
la honte = the shame
honteux (honteuse) = disgraceful                                             



Listen
: Hear my son Max pronounce the word "noeud": Download noeud2.wav
Hear Jackie say "un noeud de chaussure" (a bow): Download noeud_de_chaussure_2.wav

Also: le noeud papillon = bow tie; le noeud coulant = slipknot

Expressions:
une tête de noeud = an idiot
avoir un noeud dans la gorge = to have a lump in one's throat
un sac de noeuds (sack of knots) = something very difficult
faire un noeud à ses lacets = to knot one's (shoe) laces

References to the French word noeud in litterature:

The Book of Practical Fishing Knots  
The Book of Practical Fishing Knots by Geoffrey Budworth
Le classique des noeuds  
Le classique des noeuds by Franck Ripault
Ecrits: The First Complete Translation in English  
Ecrits: The First Complete Translation in English by Jacques Lacan and Bruce Fink
The Lives of the Great Composers  
The Lives of the Great Composers by Harold C. Schonberg
Hugo's Les Miserables (Cliffs Notes)  
Hugo's Les Miserables (Cliffs Notes) by Amy L. Marsland and George Klin
Piano Roles: A New History of the Piano  
Piano Roles: A New History of the Piano by James Parakilas
André Breton: Surrealism and Painting  
André Breton: Surrealism and Painting by Andre Breton, Mark Polizzotti, Simon Watson Taylor, and André Breton
From the Royal to the Republican Body: Incorporating the Political in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century France  
From the Royal to the Republican Body: Incorporating the Political in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century France by Sara E. Melzer and Kathryn Norberg
Dictionary of Medicine: French-English with English-French Glossary  
Dictionary of Medicine: French-English with English-French Glossary by Svetolik P. Djordjevic

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
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"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


feindre

Max in QueyrasImage: Mister soi-disant* Malade. Photo taken last summer in Queyras.

501 French Verbs includes a bilingual list of more than 1,250 additional French verbs, helpful expressions and idioms for travelers, and verb drills and tests with questions answered and explained.

feindre (fehn-dr) verb
   to pretend, to feign

Feindre, c'est se connaître. To pretend is to know oneself. --Fernando Pessoa

A Day in a French Life...
Not an hour after I'd chauffeured a very high-spirited Max to school, the principal rang to tell me that my ten-year-old was fébrile* and would I come to pick him up? "Did you hear that? Il a toussé,"* the principal said, referring to the cough in the background. I recognized Max's cough--the feinte* one, that is. Now one French verb, "feindre," to fake, took over my mind but I set it aside, reminding myself to withhold judgment.

At the principal's office, I recognized the expression on my son's face, which said: "I am only guilty of not looking as sick as I am." We'll see about that! I thought, studying the malade* whose crooked smile told me more than a thermometer would.

No sooner had I pulled the key from the lock, having closed our front door, and Max had pulled the couette* from his bed and was comfortably settled on the couch. In the kitchen, I bit into a tablet of paracétamol* and placed the crumbled half in a teaspoon of cerise* jam while listening to my patient's woes (underscored here and there by that familiar cough) from the next room.

"Ça va mieux, Max?" Feeling better? his sister asked, returning home for lunch and joining him at the table. "Tu n'as pas l'air malade!" You don't look sick, she added. Max ignored her and helped himself to a second serving of gratin dauphinois* before tearing off another sizable morceau* from the baguette.

It was while polishing off half a barquette* of strawberries that Max gave himself away. "I can always take the math exam tomorrow," he mumbled, as if to convince himself.
"Math exam?" I reacted, eyes narrowing.
Max looked up, surprised by his inadvertent slip of the tongue.
"Exams make me cough, too!" I snapped, reaching for the gratin before Mister soi-disant* Malade went back to polish that off as well.

..................................................................................................................
References: fébrile = feverish; il a toussé = he coughed; feint(e) = affected, feigned, fake; le malade (m) = the sick one; la couette (f) = duvet, comforter; le paracétamol (m) = acetaminophen; cerise = cherry; le gratin dauphinois (m) = potato casserole with milk, butter and cheese; le morceau (m) = piece; la barquette (f) = carton; soi-disant = so-called

Listen: hear the French word 'feindre' spoken: Download feindre2.wav

Expressions:
feindre d'être/de faire = to pretend to be/do
feindre de dormir = to pretend to be asleep

Verb conjugation of feindre: je feins, tu feins, il/elle feint, nous feignons, vous feignez, ils/elles feignent; past participle = feint

'Words in a French Life'. Ask for it at your local bookstore or order it here.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
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"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


jeton

poppies in provence (c) Kristin Espinasse(Photo: the poppies are here!)

Today's story originally appeared (in a different form) in Volume III of Words in a French Life, the third in a series of self-published books, parts of which have been selected for this Touchstone edition.

un jeton (zhuh-tohn) n.m.
  token; counter (game); chip

Un conquérant est un joueur déterminé qui prend un million d'hommes pour jetons et le monde entier pour tapis. A conqueror is a determined player who takes a million men for chips and the whole world for baize.*  --Comte de Ségur (*baize is the green felt fabric used to cover gaming tables)

A Day in a French Life...
In the parking lot at Super U, I steered my emptied chariot* (shar-ee-oh) toward the cart return. Just as I was gathering up momentum to push the chariot into a line of carts, chain-locked one to the other, a young woman approached me, smiled and held out a one euro coin...

It is not uncommon for an arriving shopper to offer a one euro coin for a returning cart--saving you the trouble of reinstalling the cart, wrestling the coin from the chariot's handlebar, only for the shopper to re-insert another coin and wrestle the cart back out again. A troc (or trade) like this is uneven when the previous shopper has inserted a token or 'jeton' (plastic or metal coins which are offered at the supermarket for those who don't have a euro on hand) since the next shopper would then lose his or her euro, retrieving instead a worthless jeton upon returning and chaining the cart.

While the young woman stood waiting for my answer, I realized I had used a fake coin to free my cart instead of real money. "Non," I said pointing to the coin slot on the handlebar of my chariot. "Il y a un jeton dedans." There is a token inside, I explained. When the young woman stood there smiling and pushing the euro coin toward me, I realized she hadn't understood. After repeating "There is a token in there!" it was déjà vu all over again, with the young woman (who by now I had decided spoke less French than I) standing there smiling hopefully and offering me the same two-toned coin. The image of this innocent shopper discovering the fake coin at the end of her shopping errand troubled me...

...somewhat. The greedy thought did cross my mind--truly shot across it, as a star might dart across the ciel*--to accept her money. Shoppers of little virtue do this. But that would be oh so 'faux jeton' or hypocritical after trying to help, not to mention downright moche!*

Instead, I chained my chariot, pulled the plastic jeton from its handlebar and waved it through the air. "C'est un jeton!" I said, illustrating my point. And, simple as that, there would be one less Good-Samaritan-cum-Faux-Jeton* in the Super U parking lot.

..............................................................................................................
References: un chariot (m) = cart; le ciel (m) = sky; moche = bad, rotten; un faux jeton = a hypocrite

Expressions:

avoir les jetons = to have the jitters
recevoir un jeton (dans la figure) = to be hit in the face
être plein de jetons = to have a lot of dents (car)
toucher ses jetons = to draw one's fees

Listen: hear the word 'jeton' spoken by my daughter, Jackie: Download jeton2.wav
..........................................................................................................
"Joie de Vivre is a charming book about the simple things in life that make the French so French, and the Americans so crazy about the French." -Daniel Boulud
..........................................................................................................

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


troc

TrocPhoto: Jean-Marc, right, tastes wine near Montpellier.

My Life in France by Julia Child is a "playful memoir of the famous chef's first, formative sojourn in France with her new husband..." --Publishers Weekly.

le troc (trok) noun, masculine
  exchange, barter

Synonyms: échange (m) (swap), commerce (m) (trade)

L'amitié n'exige rien en échange, que de l'entretien.
Friendship demands nothing in exchange, except upkeep.
--Georges Brassens

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

When our newly-hired carpenter, Joseph, opened the back doors of his fourgonette* I noticed the custom shelves he had built along the aluminum side walls. They weren't noble--indeed, if I had seen the shelves (which were rough-edged and built from scrap) before signing the kitchen contract, I might have questioned his workmanship. But the shelves serve their purpose--keeping Joseph's tools tidy and at hand. Besides, I reasoned, Joseph's too busy working on others' shelves to have time to worry about his own. (You know the old saying about how the cobbler's children have the worst shoes in the village: 'Les cordonniers sont les plus mal chaussés'.)

"This is for you," Joseph said, reaching into the back of his van and handing Jean-Marc a plastic bag. Jean-Marc accepted the bag, surprised by its lourdeur.* Next, my husband set the bag down and we all three peered inside.
"C'est du loup." It is wolf fish,* Joseph explained.
"Loup!" I thought.
"Loup?" Jean-Marc's face appeared skeptical.

We examined the fresh catch, whose bulging eyes and sharp tails were intact.
"You'll need to gut and scale them. Do you know how?" Joseph asked.
"Oh, yes! Jean-Marc knows how," I assured myself, almost tasting the fish.
"Merci, Joseph," Jean-Marc began, "but we can't take all of them... two or three would be--"
"Take them. They're yours!" Joseph insisted.

To my understanding, Joseph was sealing the deal we had made earlier when we chose his devis* above the others, selecting him to fit our kitchen with a new countertop and shelves. I kissed our new carpenter on both cheeks, thanking him for the dozen loups which we would barbeque, bake, marinate, powder with flour, pan-fry, drizzle with lemon, freeze, reheat and smack our lips over encore et encore.* And to think, just this week, I was remarking how we don't get enough protein--"it's always pasta this, pasta that!" While I was giddy about the fish and all of its savory incarnations, Jean-Marc remained hesitant. But before long, my husband's face lit up and he invited Joseph over to the garage-cum-cellar to offer him one bottle of Provence rosé and one bottle of Bordeaux from his stock as a wine merchant.

"Only two bottles!" I thought. Either it is really good wine (in troc* for the fish) or poor Joseph is getting the short end of the stick. "Have you got a case of champagne?" Joseph inquired, perhaps thinking about short sticks.

"A case?!" I thought, no longer worried about Joseph, who could fend for himself. Mentally, my arms weighed the dozen fish on the one hand and the wine and champagne on the other. The scale tottered, searching for equality between the wine and the wolf fish. "Could it all equal out?" I now wondered, thinking about the devis and the labor Joseph had agreed to in exchange for euros and centimes. Could money be superfluous at this point? Couldn't we settle woodwork with wine as well... by practicing l'économie de troc?*

This seemed to be an idea that the carpenter and the cork popper were presently weighing, as they leaned against an old wine barrel and, full glasses in hand, toasted to the first of what would surely be many trocs to come.

***
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....................French Vocabulary......................
la fourgonnette (f) = a functional light van with two back doors; la lourdeur (f) = weight; wolf fish ("le loup de mer"--also called ocean catfish or sea bass); le devis (m) = work estimate, quote; encore et encore = again and again; le troc (m) = barter, trade; l'économie de troc = barter economy

Listen: Hear the word 'troc' pronounced: Download troc2.wav

Expressions: faire du troc = to barter

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.