Previous month:
April 2006
Next month:
June 2006

Entries from May 2006

vitre

          English
                A message on a shopfront vitre in the town of Sommières.

The book "Mots D'Heures" will delight readers with its Frenchified, phonetic high jinks. See "Books/Livres" at Something French.

la vitre (veetre) noun, feminine
  pane, windowpane; window; glass

Il ne faut pas avoir plus d'enfants que vous n'avez de vitres à votre
voiture. Never have more children than you have car windows.
--Erma Bombeck

A Day in a French Life...
"Can you please come here and record a word for me?" I shout to the man one door down. My husband appears, clears his throat, and waits for me to press the enregistrer* button.

Click...
"Kwee-zee-nay,"* he enunciates, after blowing into the microphone to scatter any poussière.*
"Good. One more time, please."
"Kwee-zee-nay," he repeats.
"Great! Thanks."
"The second one is better," Jean-Marc says, as he always does.

My husband lingers a bit longer than usual, then clears his throat once more. "C'est mieux comme ça les vitres?" Are the windows better like that? he says, fishing for a compliment."

I look up from the keyboard to the portes-fenêtres* beyond my desk. The fine couche* of cypress pollen is gone. Without the dull yellow screen, I learn that the leaves of the dogwood tree are not brown, but garnet red beneath the morning sun, and the grass no longer looks burnt, but is lush and green in many areas.

Jean-Marc looks at me expectantly.
"So clean I keep bumping my head into them as I walk out," I say, of the vitres,* buttering up the window washer for another sound bite.

"Veetre,"* he obliges, after blowing into the mike.

...................................................................................................................
References: enregistrer = to record; kwee-zee-nay (pronunciation for "cuisiner" = to cook); la poussière (f) = dust; la porte-fenêtre (f) = French window/door; la couche (f) = layer; la vitre (f) = window; veetre (pronunciation for "vitre")

Listen: hear Jean-Marc pronounce the word vitre: Download vitre.wav

Word usage/examples:
une vitre blindée = bullet-proof window
le verre à vitre
= window glass
cogner contre (sur) une vitre = to bump into a window
dégivrer les vitres = to defrost the windows
nettoyer les vitres = to wash the windows

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


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


cuisiner

    gallery le garage in Lorgues (c) Kristin Espinasse
    An art gallery in Lorgues, France

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. Order it here.

cuisiner (kwee-zee-nay) verb
  1. to cook  2. to grill (interrogate), to give the third degree to

Cuisiner suppose une tête légère, un esprit généreux et un coeur large.
Cooking calls for a tranquil mind, a generous spirit and a big heart.
                                                                          -
-Paul Gauguin

A Day in a French Life...
Hidden in my office, behind a reflective window, I size up the police officer at our front gate. I recognize him from my children's school where he sometimes directs traffic, except that the forced smile is missing today. I note that he is wearing civilian clothing and standing next to his civilian car.

"There's a flic* out front!" I say to my husband. Jean-Marc looks at me quizzically before checking the window to find the policeman now inching into the yard. "J'y vais." I'll go, Jean-Marc says, and I watch my husband from the same window as he walks across the lawn to meet the officer.

Thirty-two seconds later, arms are flailing, jaws are clapping, and many furtive glances are being aimed at the new annex in the back yard. The men stand ant-like beneath the old cypress tree, nose-to-nose, communicating as only French men can. When the aerobic gesturing stops, the gesticulators storm toward the garage, stomping past the sleepy lavender patch, out of view.

I sit at my computer, now chewing nervously on the Belgian caramels that Jean-Marc brought back from his recent trip north. When the men return to the front gate (and back into view), I witness more wagging tongues, more jumping-jack arms. Finally, the policeman gets into his car and peels out of the driveway. "That's it," I think. "They've found something wrong with our building permit and now they're going to condemn the new garage!"

"What's going on?" I ask Jean-Marc, as soon as he returns.
"Rien. Tout va bien."*
"Everything is OK? It didn't look OK from here!"
"Everything is fine. The policeman measured the garage and found everything to be in order: the building is four meters from the property line on either side and not one centimeter larger than the 20 square meters accorded in the permit."
"I wonder what brought him out here, then?"
"I think it was a neighbor who called the police," Jean-Marc guesses.

I pause to wonder just which voisin* would call the police to tattle on us and, for a fleeting instant, I do not regret missing the annual apéro de quartier.*

Jean-Marc, as if reading my thoughts, says:
"De toute façon,* I'll soon know who did it."
"How are you going to find out who called the authorities?"
My husband's eyes narrow. "Je vais cuisiner le policier!"
"You're going to cook the policeman?"

Oh, my! That does not have a legal ring to it. But 'grill'* does...



FRENCH VOCABULARY
le flic (m) = cop; Rien. Tout va bien. = Nothing. Everything is OK.; le voisin (la voisine) = neighbor; l'apéro de quartier = neighborhood cocktail (get-together); de toute façon = in any case; grill (or 'cuisiner' = to interrogate)

.............................
Expressions:
cuisiner quelqu'un = to give someone the third degree
cuisiner bien/mal = to be a good/bad cook

Listen: hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French word cuisiner: Download cuisiner.wav

Verb conjugation: je cuisine, tu cuisines, il/elle cuisine, nous cuisinons, vous cuisinez, ils/elles cuisinent  => past participle: cuisiné

In books:
Ever read "Comment Cuisiner un Loup" by Mary Frances Kennedy? The book is better known as How to Cook a Wolf, the author, as M.F.K. Fisher.

The Cooking of Southwest France : Recipes from France's Magnificent Rustic Cuisine. "When it comes to French food, many Americans know little beyond the bistros of Paris or the herbs of Provence. But many of France's most delightful culinary traditions are to be found near (or nearish) the Pyrénées." --Publishers Weekly.

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


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


souffler

Souffler
My son and daughter, waiting for the wind to souffle at the Presqu'ile de Giens.

In books: "Michael Le Soufflé and the April Fool."

In the small town of Bakonneggs, France, the grumpy mayor, a pig named Melon de Plume, and a happy red rooster, Michael le Soufflé, battle wits until they learn to enjoy April Fools' Day together. (Includes a glossary of French vocabulary. More info here.)

souffler (soo-flay) verb
  to breathe, to blow; to blast, to whisper

Le vent des hauts-plateaux souffle où il veut : qui peut lui imposer une direction? The wind of the high plateaus blows where it will: who can impose a direction upon it? --Zhang Xianliang

A Day in a French Life...
The kids and I sit at the dinner table sharing gariguette* strawberries and wondering just what papa poule* is up to now.

We watch as Jean-Marc opens the hall closet, retrieves the queen-sized couette,* the white one with the blue boats, and spreads it out over the living/dining room floor. Almost as an afterthought, he tosses a pillow on top. I hold my tongue, lest it lash forth rules about where things belong and
where they don't. I wouldn't mind if Jean-Marc used the blanket as a mat, as long as he swept the floor first! Forgetting about the dusty tiles, I focus on my husband's self-improvement regimen: best not to discourage him from his "homework".

Twice a week Jean-Marc meets with the Oriental philosopher next door. Amid olive trees, umbrella pines, and a thick hedge of budding lavender, our Sri Lankan neighbor takes a break from writing and organic gardening to teach Hatha yoga to one motivated pupil. As with his informal mat, Jean-Marc is not particular about what he wears while stretching his mind and body. I've even seen him practice yoga in Hawaiian patterned swim trunks (the ones that clash with his flowered shirt).

The kids and I lose interest in dessert as we watch the amateur French yogi do a few warm-up poses before bending his body into the shape of a palm tree, a mountain, and a cobra only to rotate his torso into a half spinal twist.
"C'est trop fastoche!" It's too easy, Max declares.
"Can I try?" his sister begs.

The kids and I drop our spoons and race over to the feather-filled mat, tossing aside the pillow to make room for four.
"Tendez vos bras en avant," stretch out your arms in front, Jean-Marc begins.
"Bien horizontalement," very straight and horizontal, Jean-Marc says, pushing his palms into the invisible advancing wall.
"Tenez vous droit!" Stand up straight! he continues. "Soufflez!"*
After we finish the hands-to-the-falling-wall pose (did Jean-Marc make this one up?), Max announces that he has homework to do and I dash off to the kitchen to see about the dirty dishes. Jackie, breathless and climbing out from beneath the invisible wall, voices our thoughts:
"Ce n'est pas si facile que ça, Papa!" It's not as easy as that, Daddy!

....................................................................................................................
References: la gariguette (f) = tasty, southern French strawberry; le papa poule (m) = father hen; la couette (f) = duvet, comforter; soufflez! = breathe!

Listen to my son, Max, pronounce the French verb "souffler": Download souffler.wav

Terms & Expressions:
un soufflé au fromage = cheese soufflé
souffler la réponse = to whisper the answer
on ne souffle pas! = no whispering!
souffler le verre = to blow glass
souffler dans le ballon = to take a breathalyzer test
souffler sur une bougie = to blow out a candle

Verb conjugation: je souffle, tu souffles, il/elle souffle, nous soufflons, vous soufflez, ils/elles soufflent   => past participle: soufflé

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. 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    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


gîte

Photo: my friend Kirsten and her daughter, morgan.le gîte (zheet) n.m.

  : shelter, lodging, home
  : self-catering holiday rental

Il n'avait pas de gîte, pas de pain, pas de feu, pas d'amour ; mais il était joyeux parce qu'il était libre.

He had no shelter, no bread, no fire, no love; but he was glad because he was free.
--Victor Hugo, from Les Misérables

A Day in a French Life...

"In A Pinch..."

Jean-Marc rolls two suitcases over to the gîte--a three room extension we had built several years ago when my mom came to share four seasons of our French life. Two of the rooms are now offices; the third is a guest room with an en-suite* bath.

My friend Kirsten, her daughter, Morgan, and I follow Jean-Marc into the chambre d'ami* where my husband leaves us to catch up on 'les bons vieux jours.'*

"How did we ever get our hair that big?" Kirsten muses, as we sit on the double bed flipping through photos and remembering the 80's in Phoenix, Arizona. I shake my head and hunch my shoulders. "Aqua Net!" Kirsten blurts out, answering her own question. I notice my guest's long chestnut-brown hair and how the sides are now swept back, smooth and flat, into a nacrée* barrette. I pat my head to verify that my own roots have not remembered those big hair days along with us.

I watch my friend unpack her bags, organizing her daughter's diapers and toys before hooking up a portable computer. Next, she unzips her carry-on and waves a red, white, and blue paperback through the air. "I'm going to find my inner French girl while I'm here!" she says, quoting from the book's title. Kirsten's enthusiasm is contagious and I snatch the livre* out of her hands and flip through it while she recounts her experiences since arriving at the Gare du Nord in Paris, where she found herself waiting in a block-long line for a taxi. As she held her sick two-and-a-half year old, she was surprised by a Frenchman who walked up to her and spoke. "You have a small child," he said. This line does not apply to you!" With that she was spirited to the front of the queue and ushered into a taxi.

The stories of courtesy continue. "When Morgan fell sick in Paris, I called the front desk and a doctor appeared at my hotel room within an hour!" And while buying pain au chocolat* at the boulangerie,* Kirsten paused to watch a venerable Frenchman walk in, open a cloth bag one yard long and receive, as if on cue, the baker's baguette. "I love this culture!" Kirsten says. "Don't you?"

I love how helpful and independent my guest is, I think to myself, as I collect the laundry she has hung out on the line for me in her quest to pitch in with the chores. (That is, until I discover the protruding pin marks...) I cringe at seeing how the clothespins have been pinched over the fabric, so that when the clothes are dry the material juts out in the most unseemly places... I check the
front of yet another T-shirt to find more clip clip marks (and not at the waist line). Either Kirsten's inner French girl is being racy... or my friend is up to another one of her practical jokes again. Ah, les bons vieux jours!

......................................................................................................
References: en-suite = in room (bathroom); une chambre d'ami(e)(s) = guest room; les bons vieux jours (m) = the good ol' days; nacré(e) = pearly; le livre (m) = book ("Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl"; le pain au chocolat (m) = chocolate croissant; la boulangerie (f) = bakery

Listen: hear Jean-Marc pronounce the word gîte: Download gite.wav

Expressions:

le gîte et le couvert = room and board
le gîte rural = country inn (a self-catering accommodation)
le gîte d'Etape = youth hostel
.
Nouveaux Gites Ruraux 2006 Edition French Country Home Rental Guide, **in French** with an English Introduction
More in books:
"Play and Learn French" : The fun, easy, and natural way to get kids started in learning French.
SmartFrench Audio CDs for Beginners II
French for Children (Language for Children Series) (Audio CD)

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


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


noyau

Marseilles (c) Kristin Espinasse
View from my mother-in-law's apartment, in Marseilles.

Tapenade

(tapenahd)

noun, feminine

olive paste


When my mother-in-law, Michèle-France, looks out the window of her two-room apartment, she can just about see the paquebots leaving Marseilles's Old Port, for Casablanca. That is when the memories of childhood in her beloved Maroc come flowing back.

One floor below, Janine is also staring out to sea from behind her tiny kitchen table, where she sits with her crippled little dog and waits for the telephone to ring.

At times like these, when nostalgia and solitude weigh on their hearts, Michèle-France's 4th floor apartment turns into a spicy olive-paste factory as my mother-in-law puts her petite voisine to work; her neighbor's job is to remove the noyaux from the olives.

Great bowls of hollow black fruit are soon delivered by 3rd Floor Janine up to 4th Floor Michèle-France, who mixes the olives with a couple of bay leaves, some anchovies, capers... and a few top-secret ingredients. The mixture is then marinated overnight. The next morning the mélange is poured into a food processor for grinding.

All that pitting and pulverizing plucks the loneliness right out of the women's souls, and the resulting pots de tapenade have the women on the train in no time, delivering the latest batch of bonheur to family and friends.

On Wednesday, Michèle-France brought over six mustard jars full of tapenade—three flavored with fresh basil leaf, three with red bell pepper—for Max's birthday celebration. As we sat at the table chatting, I spread spoonfuls of the dark olive paste over a sliced baguette before sinking my teeth in... Crunch!

"Janine doesn't always get the pits out of the olives," Michèle-France confided. "She can't see that well. I always know when she's left a noyau behind because my mixer goes CRACK CRACK!"

"Je vois..." I sympathized with my belle-mère as we held our sore jaws in our hands while our own teeth went crack-crack over yet another missed pit. But that didn't stop us from savoring the latest bocal de bonheur, and raising a toast to la petite voisine Janine.

French Vocabulary

le paquebot = liner, steamship
le Maroc = Morocco
la petite voisine, le petit voisin = term of endearment for "little neighbor"
le pot = jar
le mélange = mixture
la tapenade = olive paste made from crushed olives, capers, anchovies, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil
le bonheur = happiness
le noyau = pit
je vois = I see
la belle-mère = mother-in-law
le bocal de bonheur = jar of happiness

 

EDITS HERE, PLEASE!
This story may need a name change ("noyau" or "pit" doesn't capture the theme, which is on helping another, or sharing. "Solidaire" might be good, but it's so similar to the English "solidarity". How about "Tapenade"? or would "Bonheur" be the most fitting, for happiness can be as simple as sharing a simple culinary chore). Any suggestions welcome. Thanks for pointing out any typos, in French or in English, and any other rough spots or inconsistencies! Click here to comment.

 

Listen: hear the word noyau pronounced: Download noyau2.wav

Expressions:
le noyau familial = the family unit
cracher un noyau = to spit out a pit.
des fruits à noyaux = stone-fruit
électrons autour du noyau = electrons around the nucleus

La vie est une cerise. La mort est un noyau. L'amour un cerisier.
Life is a cherry. Death is a pit. Love is a cherry tree.
 --Jacques Prévert

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


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


parier

Bonbon (c) Kristin Espinasse
photo: a street vendor of sweets in Nice.

Paris Sweets : Great Desserts From the City's Best Pastry Shops: An elegant gift for Francophiles, armchair travelers, bakers of all skill levels, and certainly for oneself. --Broadway Books

parier (par-yay) verb
   to bet

Le meilleur moyen pour ralentir un cheval est de parier sur lui. The best way to slow down a horse is to bet on him. (From Murphy's Law: "One way to stop a runaway horse is to bet on him." )

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
After circling our town's parking lot, then heading down the lane that runs between the old music kiosk and the town hall, we have come to the end of our parking possibilities. There are no available spaces. Even the illegal spots have been snapped up.

When Jean-Marc stops the car in the middle of the road, killing the engine, my nerves perk up and prepare to be rattled.

"If someone comes," he says, now half-way out of his seat, "move the car."

At this point, I am beginning to wonder if stopping for bonbons is really worth a parking amende.
"Why don't we just go straight to the beach, as we planned?" I suggest.

"Because I promised the kids candy," Jean-Marc insists.

I convince my husband to park in front of the Crédit Agricole bank when the no-parking zone near the ATM becomes up for grabs. Jean-Marc pulls up to the strip of yellow diagonal lines and parks over them. Next, he gets out of the car and crosses the street to enter the Maison de Presse, where the man who sells magazines and newspapers doubles as the candy man.

After a few minutes spent waiting in the car, Jackie's patience wears thin. "Je parie qu'il regarde les journals," she bets. 

"JourNAUX," Max pipes in, correcting his sister's grammar.

We pass the time betting or correcting or just watching the villagers walk by, occasionally waving to those we know. When the kids begin to wonder what is taking their father so long, I realize Jean-Marc has indeed perused a few newspapers, scanning the sports headlines, before walking up to the counter and asking for "deux mélanges" (the owner's clue to fill two small white sachets with a mix of candy from the plastic bins next to the register).

"Je parie qu'il mange un de nos bonbons," Jackie says, causing Max to zero in on the shop window and see if anyone is stealing HIS sack of candy.

Meanwhile, I am amused at the thought of Jean-Marc eating bonbons in the book shop.

Finally Jean-Marc--in shades and a Hawaiian shirt that reflect his casual attitude--returns. The kids verify that the bonbon sachets are intact and I look down to discover a third bag of candy. Qu'est-ce que c'est?

"It's for you and me," the man in the aloha shirt smiles.

Mirroring his sourire, I pick up the small white sachet and notice the slogan next to the candy maker's name: "C'est beau la vie!" it reads.

The French words mirror my thoughts: Life is beautiful.

...............................................................................................................
French Vocabulary

le bonbon
candy

une amende
parking ticket

la Maison de Presse
store selling newspapers, magazines, and books

Je parie qu'il regarde les journals
I'll bet he's looking at the newspapers

le sachet
bag

Je parie qu'il mange un de nos bonbons
I bet he's eating one of our candies

qu'est-ce que c'est?
what is this?

la sourire
smile

Listen: hear the word 'parier' pronounced: Download parier2.wav

Terms & Expressions:
un parieur (une parieuse) = a punter, better
parier pour = to bet on
parier contre = to bet against
parier à coup sûr = to bet on a certainty
parier aux courses = to bet on the races

Conjugation: je parie, tu paries, il/elle parie, nous parions, vous pariez, ils/elles parient  => past participle = parié

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.

Dictionary of French Slang and Colloquial Expressions lists approximately 4,500 common slang words and colloquial expressions. Entries include grammatical information, the definition in English, a sentence or phrase to illustrate usage, and an English translation of the example and, where applicable, a corresponding English slang expression. Each entry also identifies the word or phrase by type: student or youth slang, political slang, literary slang, and criminal and drug-related slang.

.....Le Kawa, continued................................................................
More on Friday's word, le kawa (coffee), from a few friends (who also offer total immersion language programs in France--just click on their emails (replacing "AT" with @) for more info)!

From Maribel (mzabbanATclub-internet.fr):
"...l'origine de Kawa vient d'Afrique du Nord...tout comme "kif kif" pour pareil.... les français se sont appropriés ces mots qui ne sont ni de l'argot, ni du français, mais que tout le monde connaît et utilise."

(...the origine of kawa is North African, like (the term) "kif kif" for "the same"... the French have adapted these words that are neither slang, nor French, but that everyone knows and uses.)

From Nadine (nadalangATcomcast.net):
"Saviez-vous que le mot kawa est le mot arabe (francise)  kahwa? (tout comme "toubib", docteur?)
(Did you know that the word kawa is the (Frenchified) Arab word "kahwa" -- like "toubib" is for doctor?)

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


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


faire-part

Faire-part
fehr-par
noun, masculine
an announcement (of birth or marriage or death) 

 


This morning I received an email from a longtime reader. Only, on closer look, there was something unusual about the courriel: the sender's full name was repeated in the email's subject line. The last time I received such a letter from a subscriber address it was bad news.

Clicking open the email, I soon learned that the sender was not a reader of my newsletter, but the son of a reader. The email was a faire-part announcing that his mother, Ginny, had passed away.

Ginny.... Like Cher, Madonna, Oprah, or Martha, it took only a prénom for me to recognize her each time her name popped into my inbox. I never hesitated opening her emails, which were full of warmth and self-deprecating humor. How could she be no more?

Caught off guard, I clicked shut the email and sat back to stare at my inbox, where the letter was sandwiched in between dozens of emails labeled "SPAM". Heartless spam! I quickly deleted the intruder messages in order to safeguard this touching nouvelle.

Clicking open the email again, I noticed how the next line of the letter reflected the newly-peeled sentiments inside of me, including sorrow. 

The writer was apologetic about the delivery format of his message:
"I'd prefer a more personal way to let you know, but for many of you, this is the only contact information I have...."

I wanted to thank Ginny's son for informing this stranger who, under the circumstances, felt something like a voyeur or an illegitimate mourner. After all, how to explain the relationship that I had with his mother, who was, in effect, a "virtual" acquaintance—someone I had never seen or spoken to in person?

My mind was normally as busy as a hummingbird's wings, and now a new and sorrowful stillness reigned inside: a stranger's grief... my own.

I began to wonder. Had I answered Ginny's last email? I went back over the 61 courriels received from Ginny in the four-and-a-half years since she began responding to my internet column.

She addressed me as her "Chère amie du courrier électronique". Other times, I was "Chère Madame" or "Chère Kristin" or, simply, "Chère amie", to which she added, in her signature humble way, "si l'on ose à le dire" ("if one might be so presumptuous as to say").

I noticed that self-effacing "P.S." that she usually added: "Réponse Pas Nécessaire" ("No Response Necessary", she always insisted, as if to say "you must, or should have other priorities than answering this silly note").

In the dozens of to-the-point emails that Ginny sent, she rarely spoke of herself and, when she did, she mostly poked fun at her persona: "Salut d'une vieille dame de Californie," she once wrote, and I can still remember the smile that it forged across this rigid-while-working face.

I learned that the "vielle dame" was a teacher and "when lucky ... taught French." Mostly, Ginny offered encouragement and support. As to my first, practically pasted-together book (which she bought) she wrote: "I hope you sell a jillion of them!"

Whether in French or in English, her signature lines varied, and light-heartedly so, bringing to life one unforgettable character in my inbox: "Ginny 'la bavardeuse'," or "Ginny in the foothills of the Sierra, off Highway 50". By associating a "place" with her name, I could better identify this French Word-A-Day lectrice in an inbox full of unfamiliar names. For me she was "Ginny dans le piédmont.... where we are three inches low in rainfall" and "Ginny in Placerville, just downhill from Lake Tahoe" and, finally, "Ginny en Californie... qui rêve d'un voyage en Norvège cet été."

Ginny, wherever you are, in the piedmont or, finally, up north (yes "up north" I trust...)—YOU ARE MISSED! And while I never knew the color of your hair, the tone of your skin, or the twinkle in your eye—you were indeed a mystery to me—I knew a charming precious lot about "la vieille dame de Californie".

P.S.: Ginny, I wished my own signature line had as much zip, character, and warmth as yours... I'm sure that the teacher in you would be encouraging—so here goes:

Love,
Kristin
"une moitié-vieille dame de Provence qui a beaucoup apprécié votre éloquence électronique"
("a half-old dame in Provence who very much appreciated your electronic eloquence.")

Your Story Edits Here.
Thank you for helping to correct grammar and punctuation. Also, does the story read clearly? Click here to submit a comment or correction


French Vocabulary

le courriel
email

le faire-part
announcement (of birth, marriage, death...)

le prénom
first name

nouvelle
news, update

la bavardeuse
 (le bavardeur)
the chatty one

la lectrice
reader

 

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


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


kawa

Kawa
In the mid-1880s... more than 42,000 cafés may have been operating in the city of Paris. (In comparison, Seattle, America's stereotypical coffee capital, has only about 60.) Unlike the members of today's drink-on-the-run coffee culture, 19th-century Parisians lingered in the café... --Bertina Loeffler on "The World of the Paris Café"

le kawa (kawa) noun, masculine
  --informal or slang for "cup of coffee"

Noir comme le diable, Chaud comme l'enfer, Pur comme un ange, Doux comme l'amour. Black as the devil, Hot as hell, Pure as an angel, Sweet as love. --Talleyrand (on how coffee should be).

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

Joseph, the Sicilian carpenter, sets down his ruler next to the new sink.
"Tu bois trop de café," he says, in his usual, blunt manner, like when he says "Give me a glass of water," or "Get me the broom."

"I know," I admit, firing up the espresso machine anyway.
"Ce n'est pas le café américain,"* Joseph fusses.
"No. ...It is Italian."
"Bene!"* says Joseph. "Give me a cup."

.................................................................................................
References: tu bois trop de café = you drink too much coffee; ce n'est pas le café américain = it's not American (or what the French call "weak") coffee; bene! (Italian) = good!


Expressions:
"Café bouillu, café foutu" = boiled coffee is spoiled coffee
le jus de chaussette = coffee with too much water, a.k.a. "American coffee"

More coffee terms:
"un petit noir" (un p'tit noir) = "a little (cup of) black" (an espresso)
un expresso = espresso
un café serré = "a tight coffee," short, with a little water
un café au lait = equal parts coffee and milk
un noisette (un café noisette) = a small coffee with une larme ("tear" or "drop") of milk

Among friends, you might also use the informal term "kawa": "Un kawa, s'il te plaît!" "Coffee, please!"

Listen: hear the word 'kawa' pronounced: Download kawa.wav

Cappuccino/Espresso: The Book of Beverages This perennial best-seller offers scores of recipes for cappuccinos, lattes, mochas and other espresso-based beverages. You’ll also find history and information on flavored syrups, toppings and garnishes.

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


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


but

Soccer"French football"... Check out the vintage poster and note card.

le but (bewt) noun, masculine
  aim, goal, objective

Le but n'est pas le but, c'est la voie. The goal is not the goal, it is the journey. --Lao-Tzu

A Day in a French Life...
Across from my desk, the long-legged bistro chair looks past the undressed window to the green grass on the other side. Two four-foot tall goalposts flank that oblong terrain of pelouse* above which the cheers of children form a delightfully audible ozone.

When my fingers come to a screeching halt on the keyboard, I sometimes look up from my desk to check on the action out on the field. The scissoring legs of the soccer players, which guide spinning ball to net, seem to unscramble my brain until I have scored my own mot juste.*

Today Max and his friends Clem, Luca, and Alex are playing. Clem kicks the ball shy of the goal to the other end of the yard. Following the ballon,* my eyes leave the little window to my left and pick up the scene, stage right, thanks to the French windows on the next wall. There, I see Max hop over the flagstone path and continue chasing the ball which stops short of Jean-Marc's vineyard
(...currently four rows of vines including Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre). With the action completed my eyes return to the computer screen only to dart up moments later when I hear a crashing sound. The soccer ball has flown through the narrow opening of the window.

Max freezes beneath the chestnut tree. As he drags his feet toward my office I am given the time I need to decide how I feel about the unexpected blast. For that, I look for clues on my 10-year-old's face: half smirk, half whipped-dog. I take a quick inventory of my office--nothing broken, just a pile of letters which have shot from my desk and fallen to the ground like a flurry of chicken feathers. In the seconds that follow, Max enters the room, head held low, eyes peeking out from beneath his brows. The friends on the soccer field are at a standstill, waiting for the ruling decision: will they be sent home or will the game continue?

It must be that fire of hope in my son's eyes which reads "Pardonne-moi, maman,"* for when his questioning look meets mine, the answer is easy and I reply:

"BEWT!"*

...........................................................................................................
References: la pelouse (f) = lawn; le mot juste (m) = the precise word; le ballon (m) = ball; Pardonne-moi, maman = forgive me, mom; BEWT! = GOAL!

....................................................................
Listen to the word "but" pronounced by a French speaker.*

French Idioms & Expressions:
aller droit au but = to get straight to the point
aller sans but = to wander aimlessly around
être encore loin du but = to have a long way to go
n'avoir aucun but dans la vie = to have no aim in life
dans le but de faire = with the intention of doing
marquer un but = to score a goal
de but en blanc = point-blank

Dictionary of French Slang and Colloquial Expressions lists approximately 4,500 common slang words and colloquial expressions. Entries include grammatical information, the definition in English, a sentence or phrase to illustrate usage, and an English translation of the example and, where applicable, a corresponding English slang expression. Each entry also identifies the word or phrase by type: student or youth slang, political slang, literary slang, and criminal and drug-related slang.

*visit Jean-Marc's wine blog at http://a-la-recherche-du-vin.typepad.com

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


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


froisser

Jackie (c) Kristin Espinasse
Receive a free subscription to French Word-A-Day or sign up a friend.

froisser (frwa-say) verb (sound clip at the end of this letter)

  1. to crumple, crush, crease 2. to hurt, offend

...l'indépendance de l'adolescent. Si on froisse en lui ce droit qu'il vient de se découvrir avec ravissement, il... révolte. ...the adolescent's independence. If we crush in him this right, which he has just discovered with delight, he...rebels. --Rex Desmarchais

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

With its winding cobblestone floors and a fountain around every corner, our medieval village-in-the-sky doubles as a celestial bike ride for my 8-year-old daughter.

Standing on her bike's pedals, Jackie descends the serpentine path of 10,000 hand-laid stones. Happy to walk, I follow behind my daughter and hear the intermittent screech of the bike's brakes. She's a good rider and she is cautious when rounding the tight corners. 

I bet all that tire screeching sounds like whinnying in Jackie's ears and that her imaginationi has taken flight along with those wheels which have surely turned to wings. Looking down, she no longer sees pedals but the hooves of Pegasus. 

For a magical moment, one little girl swoops over stones polished from nine centuries of shuffling feet and glides alongside mosaic-tiled courtyards before touching down in front of the town's campanile, which announces the eighteenth hour in six resounding strikes.

My daughter's return to earth is jolting as only the transition from heaven to earth can be. With the lofty village at her back, she lands where the medieval district tapers out onto the modern sidewalk. There, she steps off her preternatural pedals right into a pile of crottes de chien.  Just like that, her chimerical ride from the top of the ancient village to the bottom has come to a disenchanting end.

"It's okay, Jackie!" I reassure her. "Ça porte bonheur!"

But Jackie is inconsolable as she drags her tainted shoe over a patch of gravier. I am surprised by my daughter's reaction. She's humiliated! I can't understand how stepping into dog-doo can hurt one's feelings so. 

Finally, I see the truth in my daughter's response. After all, isn't that how we fall: right off our dreamy Pegasus and into a heap of merde? Crumpled so, our misadventurous souls refuse to be consoled, but remain froissé. We punish ourselves.

I step aside and let my daughter sort through the you-know-what. When the pained expression leaves her face, she throws her right leg over the bike's frame and, with the push of the pedal, she's off. Vas-y ma fille! And don't look back!

French Vocabulary

la crotte de chien = dog-doo

ça porte bonheur = that brings good luck

le gravier = gravel

la merde = sh--

froissé = hurt
vas-y = go on!
ma fille = my girl 
 
Listen: hear the word froisser spoken by my daughter, Jackie:

Verb conjugation: je froisse, tu froisses, il/elle froisse, nous froissons, vous froissez, ils/elles froissent  past participle: froissé

'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


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California