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Entries from December 2006

traineau

Sleigh
The closest thing to a sleigh that I could find in my photo album. Taken in the Piedmont.


Faire le Traineau

fehr-leuh-tren-oh
 
to drag one's bottom

 

As if my son and my daughter aren't busy enough doling out French vocabulary and minding their mother's grammar, I now have a dog teaching me quirky Gallic slang! The latest expression, holiday-related at that, sounds more like a dance:

"To do The Sleigh."

On second thought, and depending on which meaning of today's word you use, "faire le traîneau" might not be a Christmas term at all, but a cross-dressing one:

"To do The Drag."

It was while watching our dog, Braise, schlep her furry bottom across the front lawn that a friend inquired: "Elle a des vers?" suggesting that our golden might need to be ver-me-foo-zhay (something that sounded like "worm fumigation" to me, a fate I wouldn't wish upon even a worm).

"Elle fait le traîneau," the vétérinaire explained, during yesterday's appointment.

"I'm sorry Doctor, could you repeat that?" said I.

"Elle fait le traîneau," she's doing the drag. 

"Ah, bon?" I looked over at our four-legged Drag Queen. Oh she's sly, that one, busy illustrating double-meaninged French expressions, and all the while living a double life! Next thing you know she'll fancy fuchsia on her claws and a conical-cupped bra à la Madonna.

                                    
French Vocabulary

Elle a des vers? = Does she have worms?

vermifuger = to deworm

le/la vétérinaire = veterinarian

Elle fait le traîneau = she's doing the drag

Ah, bon? = Oh, really?


===Text beyond this point will not appear in the book=== 

EDIT THIS STORY, PLEASE
Did you spot any typos or misspelled words (in French or in English). Does the formatting look "off"?  Any suggestions will be helpful to me! Click here to comment.

Update: maybe we need to scrap this story.... I'm reading your comments and will see about either fixing the vague parts and/or changing the story ending. This story has been scrapped! It  won't appear in the book. 


Listen to French: hear Jean-Marc recite today's quote: Download traineau.mp3
Il devient alors chien de traîneau dans un pays de glace et de neige ou seuls les plus forts peuvent survivre.

Terms & Expressions:
le chien de traîneau = sled dog
la promenade en traîneau = sleigh ride
l'aspirateur traîneau = canister vacuum

French Christmas CD 

 You'll love this French Christmas CD, click 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 
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--Candy T., California


cocotte

Cocotte2
La boucherie/butcher's: a place cocottes, French or otherwise, ought to steer clear of.

Rosetta Stone French (CD-ROM) -- "an award-winning method used by NASA and the Peace Corps". More language software here.

une cocotte (ko-kowt) noun, feminine
  1. hen, chic  2. pot, cooker (for making stew)

In French, cocotte (the feminine diminutive of coq) is originally a child's name for "hen" (coq...cocotte) (in English "cluck-cluck") and has a further two meanings: my sweetie ("ma cocotte") and "tart" (as in trollop or kept-woman).

                                                 *     *     *

Column_19
I was sipping rose petal tea from a dainty tasse* and eating a second slice of lemony citron cake at Dominique's when I learned that a hooker is a cooker in France. "Cooker!" I gurgled, slapping my knee. Considering the heat involved, the word seemed apropos.

Dominique was explaining to Gwen, who'd brought the "cookers" over, that they are also called "poules."
"Well, I could've told you that!" I thought, eyeing the poules from across the room. They looked like hens to me. I could have also told you the French word for "cooker" (cocotte). But what I could not have told you three days ago was that a cocotte is a hooker like a cocotte is a cooker.

Setting our teacups on their silver-rimmed saucers, we studied the "cookers" with their thin, pipe-cleaner legs, soft felt kissers, and pliable bodies (loose bean bags that they were). There they sat, up above the fireplace, long legs dangling over the mantle, watching us eat cake. Can you believe they each wore a fire engine red mohawk? (Or "crest" is it?) Dangling legs aside, these cocottes of Gwen's didn't exactly resemble "les femmes de moeurs légères" or ladies of light morals.

"You can call hookers 'poules'?" Gwen wondered, keeping an eye on her girls across the room as any one in the trade would. The sewing trade that is. As for me, I stood there, cake in hand, hiccupping an old French word with a new-for-me meaning: cocotte! cocotte! cocotte! Fun sounding words have that effect on those of us in the word trade. Cocotte-cocotte-cocotte!

We thanked Gwen for our "hookers"--a thoughtful early Christmas present (and hand-made at that!) and I thanked Dominique for enlightening me on yet another French word. While "cooker" may not be a direct translation for "hooker" in French, you could say that a cocotte is a hooker is a cocotte is a cooker!
                                             *   *   *   *   *

Cocotte One of Gwen's cocottes, chez moi.

(In the background, one of Rodin's cocottes...)

.....................................................................................
References: une tasse (f) = cup

                                                   *     *     *
If you enjoy French Word-A-Day, you might like to help support it. Find out how, here:
http://french-word-a-day.typepad.com/motdujour/2005/06/contribute.html

                                                  *   *     *
More on the term sizzling term cocotte:
"(The French have) more words for "working girl" than any other language I know....There's cocotte, horizontale, grisette, demi-mondaine, courtisaine, demi-castor, dégraffée, irregulière, femme galante...At some stage, disconcertingly, the definitions blur, and common prostitutes at the bottom of the ladder become revered courtisans at the top."
  --from True Pleasures: A Memoir of Women in Paris

.............................................
Terms & Expressions:
les oeufs en cocotte = baked eggs
en cocotte = in a stew (cooking)
la cocotte minute = pressure cooker
Allez, hue, cocotte ! = Come on, giddy up, let's get going!
.
Last minute shopping? Some ideas:
A game my kids rave about.
L'Occitane sampler.
Gift certificate.

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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  ♥ Send $25    
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--Candy T., California


indigne

Lamorra
Season's Greetings from La Morra, Italy.

        Learn French in your car : a simple, direct approach to language learning.

indigne (an-deen) adjective
  shameful, disgraceful, unworthy, worthless, inadequate

Qui ne continue pas à apprendre est indigne d'enseigner.
He who ceases to learn cannot adequately teach.
--Gaston Bachelard

                                  *    *    *

Column_18
When my 9-year-old came running out to the garden, all teeth and waving an Advent calendar as if it were a winning Loto* ticket, I had yet another mère indigne* moment. Where had I stashed that one? I wondered, of the calendar. "I found it in the bottom of the armoire," my daughter said, eyes still glued to the colorful package. Jackie didn't seem to mind that we'd missed opening so many of those little "doors" beneath the calendar dates and I would soon understand why.

Still feeling guilty about the misplaced calendar (which I vaguely remember receiving in the mail a few years back after it had been lost in transit) I set aside my book, sprang from the garden chair and its patch of winter sun, and followed my daughter into the kitchen to help put together the pop-up structure.

With the assembly instructions located beneath the calendar's base, I had to hold the cardboard unit above my head and assemble it mid-air. When all sides were taped we stood staring at a Nativity scene. Jackie finished the Three Wise Men cut-outs and we taped their feet to the cardboard base, beneath which twenty-four pieces of stale chocolate were hidden.

With the help of  Jackie's friend Manuella, we began "setting" the calendar to the correct date, a process involving the piercing of cardboard, the opening of numbered doors, the tearing of foil, and the gobbling up of chocolate. Jackie reached behind the door for December 1st and I noticed the dark candy was faded. When it was my turn to eat December 3rd, I discovered the chocolates were a bit tasteless but that didn't stop me from eating December 6th and 9th. At this point the girls were popping open the doors and handing me my chocolates. It wasn't until I sat there with December 12th melting on my tongue that I realized.....

"Quelle horreur!* I ate my mother-in-law!" The girls looked stunned.
"I mean I ate my mother-in-law's birthday!" The girls looked amused.
"I mean I ate December 12th -- which WAS Grandma's birthday!"

Panicked, I looked over to Jackie who was busy eating The Day After Grandma's Birthday, a.k.a. December 13th. That meant it was too late to call Jean-Marc's mother on her anniversaire.* I could now slap the words belle-fille indigne* across my forehead.

Feeling worthless and dumb as the cardboard pop-up I'd just assembled, I dialed my belle-mère* in Marseilles. As the phone rang, I looked over at the Three cardboard Wise Men for encouragement. Two of them had tumbled over from the faulty tape job. We're not perfect either, they seemed to say.

.....................................................................................................................
*References: Loto = French lottery; une mère (f) indigne = unfit mother; quelle horreur! = how awful!; l'anniversaire (m) = birthday; la belle-fille (f) indigne = unworthy daughter-in-law; la belle-mère (f) = mother-in-law

Hear French spoken: listen to my son, Max, recite today's quote:
Qui ne continue pas à apprendre est indigne d'enseigner. Download indigne2.wa
v


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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  ♥ Send $25    
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"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


baiser

Alba
The red-as-lips walls of Alba, Italy.

Tell_me_more_2In French language software: TeLL me More French -- Used everyday in more than 10,000 academic institutions.


le baiser
(beh zay) noun masculine
   kiss

Un baiser est un tour délicieux conçu par la nature pour couper la parole quand les mots deviennent superflus. A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous. --Ingrid Bergman

                             *     *     *

Column_17
No one speaks English in Alba, Italy. And why should they? Their mouths are busy speaking Italian (when not wrapped around truffles or trembling lips...).

Jean-Marc has pulled the car over three times to ask for directions. The Italians walk right up to the passenger window and, with their whole body engaged in a hula hoop motion, seem to indicate a roundabout, or road junction. With that, their hips settle before a chop chop chop of the right arm. That means "straight on!" I say to Jean-Marc. Grazie!* we say. Prego!* they smile.

Two roundabouts later, Jean-Marc parks next to a bustling outdoor market, red brick buildings all around, and we make our way into the ancient quarter of town. A grandmother with an American accent is chatting to a baby in a poussette.* I have the urge to say something but I'm not sure what. The last time I said "Hi, I speak English too!" (at my local market) the English couple looked at me as if my pants zipper was undone.

With a sigh, I pass the American and hold on to my husband's hand and that's when we run into the kissers. Jean-Marc's eyebrows shoot up and down, up and down as he draws my attention to the steamy scene. I look over to find a couple of Italians standing in the middle of a high traffic pedestrian lane. Apparently handholding isn't original enough and so they're linked at the head.

"Remember when we used to kiss like that?" I say to Jean-Marc, only kidding him because we never used to kiss like THAT.

I'm still staring at the couple, staring as only a traveler can when she's an ocean away from home and when cultural rights and wrongs are still blurry enough that one might stare until the Italian cows come home. Jean-Marc doesn't seem to mind my staring, in fact did he even hear my comment? I clear my throat: "Remember when we used to kiwmmmmmmmmmmmmmhhhmmmm--"

I feel a tightening around my waist and notice my feet have left the ground. The buildings are spinning around me as I twirl along with my husband who seems to feel that handholding is no longer original enough.

.................................................................................................................................
References: Grazie! (Italian) = Thanks!; Prego! = (talian) Please! (You're welcome); la poussette (f) = stroller

Hear French: Listen to my daughter, Jackie, recite today's quote: Download baiser.wav
Un baiser est un tour délicieux conçu par la nature pour couper la parole quand les mots deviennent superflus.

In Gifts:
DoisneaubaiserThe famous kiss by Robert Doisneau: Le Baiser de l'Hotel de Ville

OccitanetravelL'Occitane Shea Travel Treasures Set

CaferougecalenderThe Cafe Rouge Calendar

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


le sapin

 

Sapin (c) Kristin Espinasse
Photo taken in Serre Chevalier, near Briançon

Sapin

  (sah-pahn)

noun, masculine

fir tree
.

When Max came into the kitchen announcing, "Papa a acheté un sapin," I folded the dishtowel, set it down and took a deep breath. I knew the Christmas tree would be trunk-size—all the better to fit into the back of an economy car—and not tall, like the spruce my mom used to whisk home (space limits were not an issue... Mom had the tree tied to the top of her '68 Camaro).

"Cela suffira," I reminded myself, hoping to have finally learned a lesson. The tree, whatever it is, will be just what we need, and failing that, it will at least be real! Only, when I saw what my husband, The Nonconsumer, brought home this time, every nerve in my body became a live wire.

There in the center of the salon stood the most abominable tree that I had ever laid eyes on. I knew better than to open my mouth lest the bassesse of language, French or English, should spew forth. Meanwhile my nerves began to short-circuit, and it was only a matter of time before the sparks reached my tongue, causing it to ignite.

"How much did you pay for it?" I questioned, teeth clamped.

"Twelve euros," Jean-Marc answered, jaws relaxed.

Twelve euros! That's 15 dollars... about how much he would spend on a decent bottle of wine—one that we might share in a single night. But a Christmas tree—that's something we could have spent a little more on, for we would enjoy it for an entire month! 

After a moment of silence so thick you could hang tinsel on it, Jean-Marc challenged me: "You can take it back if you don't like it." His remark was delivered with the coolness of a peppermint candy cane.

"It is not for me to take back. YOU take it back!"

My husband's next response was to slam the door. I watched the ripple effect as the tinsel fell to the floor. 

I looked down at the artificial arbre. A Christmas tree should be at least as tall as a child, I reasoned. Staring at the sapin de Noël, I noticed its mangled branches and its missing foliage. It was a fake fir, one so cheap that it came with its own styrofoam ornaments! And was that "presto tinsel" stuck to the branches? 

I thought about the nine-foot-tall Colorado spruce that was Mom's joy to decorate. The ornaments were not automatically glued to the branches. They were handmade! One year Mom covered the tree with white colombes and pheasant plumes. She took the ordinary blue boules and dressed them up with peacock feathers (using only the fancy tops, or  what she called the "eyes" of the feathers). Her zeal for holiday decorating didn't stop at the giant tree—she had those doves "flying" from the branches to the front door!

My eyes returned to the bedroom door, which had just been slammed shut. I looked back down at the Christmas tree. The longer I stared, the uglier it appeared.

"It is the ugliest tree that I have ever seen!" I declared, and pulled off what decorations Jean-Marc and Jackie had put up. I yanked apart the tree and shoved it into the stupid bag from which it came. Still smarting, I returned to the kitchen and slammed the dirty pots and pans around in the sink, the sink without a garbage disposal! Only in France!

"You're so complicated," my Frenchman used to say as I struggled to adapt to his country, to his ways, to his small-treed holidays. Over the years, I began to suspect that he had a point. Indignation turned to industry as, little by little, I began ousting the surplus and the superflu—learning the difference between want and besoin, all the while simplifying, simplifying!

The sum of all that effort now stood before me, concrete in form, via this, the simplest tree.

"But I want a COMPLICATED Christmas treeeeeee!" I cried out, shoving the sponge back into the pan as I scoured and glowered. "I want a showy, superfluous, SUPERCALIFRAGILISTIC spruce!"

Just then I heard the rustle of faux branches and a whisper....

"Il est beau!" Max was saying to his sister.

"Oui, regarde," she agreed, softly.

I listened to the clanking of aluminum bulbs.... Peeking around the corner, I witnessed the scene. Max had pulled the tree back out of the bag and reassembled it. The branches, still tordues, now had a colorful array of bulbs, some chipped, some dusty, some new—all carefully hung. There were so many decorations that the empty parts, where branches seemed to be missing, were now filled in.

Jean-Marc was on his knees searching for an electrical outlet. Finding one, he plugged in the tree lights, but when he turned to reach for the switch.... my hand was already on it. Our eyes locked.

My husband smiled as I flipped the switch. When the tree lights went on, the room came to a swift hush. In the silence she appeared: La Joie—an étincelle here, a sparkle there—happiness filling the room, its presence so real, so palpable, you could hang tinsel on it.

 

French Vocabulary

Papa a acheté un sapin = Papa's bought a Christmas tree
çela suffira = that'll suffice
le salon = living room
la bassesse = baseness
un arbre = tree
le sapin de Noël = Christmas tree
la colombe = dove
la plume = feather
la boule = ball
le superflu = superfluity
le besoin = need
il est beau = it is beautiful (tree)
oui, regarde = yes, look
tordu(e) = twisted, bent
la joie = joy
une étincelle = spark, sparkle

 

====Note: any text from here, on, will not be included in the book.=====

Your edits here, please!

Thank you for searching this story for any typos or blips or inconsistencies in formatting. I appreciate your efforts! Click here to submit corrections.

 

Expressions:
sentir le sapin = to have one foot in the grave
passer un sapin à quelqu'un = to dupe someone

Also:
le sapin de Noël = Christmas tree
*sapin also = coffin
*sapin is a color (vert sapin)

Proverb:
Avec un morceau de pain, on trouve son paradis sous un sapin. With a hunk of bread, one finds his paradise under a fir tree. 

Listen to French: hear Jean-Marc recite today's proverb:
Avec un morceau de pain, on trouve son paradis sous un sapin. Download sapin4.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


"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


accueillant

Tenuta_montanello
Taken at the bed and breakfast in Italy.

Smartfrench_2SmartFrench CD-ROM --"the smart way to learn French"

acceuillant,e (listen to the sound clip, below) adjective
  welcoming, friendly

Le véritable poète a pour vocation d'accueillir en lui la splendeur du monde. The true poet's vocation is to welcome within himself the world's splendor. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

                                                             Column_15
My high heels scraped over the jagged cobblestones and I linked my arm through Jean-Marc's for balance, stopping to throw my head back for a view of the hilltop castle beside which we now stood. Large spotlights, fitted into the ground between the old stones, lit the medieval walls which disappeared into the black Piedmontese sky.

Jean-Marc and I continued down a winding path in Castiglione Falletto in search of pasta. When the first restaurant was full, we shrugged our shoulders and headed toward the brightly lit sign that read "BAR". From the bar's terrace we approached a window and peered in. The place was empty but for an older woman and two men who sat playing cards. The woman made eye contact and motioned for us to come in. When we hesitated, she opened the door and came out to greet us.

"We just want a plate of pasta," Jean-Marc explained, not yet recovered from his truffle and cream lunch in Alba. "No pasta," the woman apologized. Then, as if an Italian light bulb went off in her head, she chirped "Risotto!"

We took a cushioned seat at the back of the bar, just beneath a strip of fluorescent lights and next to a blaring TV. Noticing the program "A Prendre Ou A Laisser" (Take It Or Leave It), Jean-Marc remarked about how the Italians had adapted the French game show. "How do you know the show didn't originate here?" I argued, this to a man who still believes Barolo could be a French wine (given the Piedmont winemaking region used to be part of France).

When Jean-Marc asked our doting hostess about the wine menu, I shot him a look that said that THIS was no place to be a wine snob, we were in a BAR after all--not a wine bar but a European snack bar.

"This will be good," I assured Jean-Marc. "Pull your chair over next to mine." He did, only to begin swatting at fruit flies which collected above his wine glass. His arms fell to the table after I shot him another look, not wanting the sweet lady who had given us such a warm welcome to worry about a few flies.

The woman, who called herself "Renza,"* brought out a platter of thinly sliced cold cuts, delivered with a smile, followed by a look of uncertainty. I nodded enthusiastically while elbowing Jean-Marc. "MmmMmm, this is very good!" he assured her. And it was.

As we ate the first course, I could hear Renza chopping away in the kitchen. Minutes later we would be drooling over her celery, walnut and gorgonzola salad, pulling the lemon pips from our olive stained lips.

When Renza tried to enlighten us on bagna cauda,* the third course just before the risotto, we couldn't understand an Italian word she said. Undeterred, she pointed to the roasted yellow peppers, the halved onions, and the "hot bath" they found themselves in. "B-a-g-n-a c-a-u-d-a!" she repeated.

The final dish was rice. Just rice. (And who'd have thought that Just Rice could be this good?) We pushed aside the leftover risotto, too full to finish, and watched wide-eyed as Renza returned with a wicker basket full of sliced Italian cake, or "panettone," unshelled peanuts, clementines and a sprinkling of wrapped Italian caramels.

When the bill came I thought Jean-Marc might start dancing, just like those fruit flies above his wine glass: only nine euros for his five-course meal (and the wine, only two-fifty per glass)! Jean-Marc pulled out a twenty and fished around for another ten. Renza accepted the twenty and pushed his wallet closed, sealing the transaction with a smile as warm as b-a-g-n-a c-a-u-d-a.

                                    *     *     *
Renza_1left, Renza and me.
References: Renza (recipes and more about Renza in this book); bagna cauda = a warm sauce (anchovies, olive oil, and garlic) for bread and boiled/roasted vegetables
*To find Renza, just look for "La Terrezza Bar Da Renza" when in Castiglione Falletto.



Hear French:

Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and quote: Download accueillant.wav

Accueillant/accueillante.
Le véritable poète a pour vocation d'accueillir en lui la splendeur du monde.

In Gifts & Books:
CreusetrisottoLe Creuset risotto pot made of enameled cast iron for even heat distribution

PanettoneChristmas Napoli Panettone Cake - Traditional Italian Dessert

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


méli-mélo

Melimelo
A méli-mélo of textures in this colorful vitrine taken at Bergdorf Goodman in New York.

Rosetta_1Rosetta Stone French (CD-ROM) is an award-winning method used by NASA and the Peace Corps


le méli-mélo (may-lee may-lo) noun, masculine
  muddle, jumble, medley, hodge-podge, mishmash

                                     *     *     *

Dans le méli-mélo, j'ai toujours préféré le méli. In the hodge-podge, I've always preferred the hodge. --Jean-François Deniau

(The one time I ask Jean-Marc to find a quote and he comes up with this doozy.
"Can you translate that for me?" I say, baffled.
"In the méli-mélo, I've always preferred the méli," my husband replies.
"But, I know that! I mean, the quote doesn't make any sense!"
"I know," Jean-Marc sympathizes. "It's absurd." I notice the look on my husband's face: a méli-mélo of embarrassment and amusement, and a jumble of charm to me.)
.

Column_13
The man seated next to me on flight 118 from New York to Paris turned out to be a rabbi. A French rabbi who missed his calling as a fashion designer. "I might've been the next Tom Ford," he confided. Speaking of Gucci, he turned to the pretty Parisian to his right, in 34E. "What is your favorite purse?" he queried. I listened, surprised by what I figured to be an unorthodox subject for
a rabbi: haute couture.*

"Oh, I don't know. Tu sais,* I have many purses," the Parisian admitted. Amazed that one could tutoyer* a rabbi, I almost missed the rest of the conversation in which the rabbi said something about Longchamp being a favorite of his and that we ought to check out the boutique in Paris.

"As for cold cream..." he began, before extolling the qualities of a certain French cosmetics company. Was this a joke? I wondered, of the skin and style conscious scholar.
"So you're a rabbi?" I questioned, in disbelief. "What, then, is a rabbi?"
"Good question! That is exactly what we asked ourselves during the rabbi convention in New York," the man with the untrimmed beard replied.

The embarrassment that I felt from asking a stupid question quickly faded: I was only asking what thousands of rabbis were asking themselves over the weekend. One stupid question down, now was my chance to straighten out a méli-mélo* of information that I'd collected over the years related to Judaism.
"What do you call the hat that you have on?" I began.
"A Kippa."*
"And the other hat that you had on on top of that one?" I said, referring to the wide-brimmed chapeau* that he'd removed earlier.
"A hat," teased the rabbi, who went by the prénom* Mendel.

When I learned that Mendel did not teach in a synagogue I asked if that meant that he was a virtual rabbi. "Please, I prefer the term 'Traveling Rabbi'."

Around about then, the beverage cart came to a halt before row 34 and that is when the Traveling rabbi ordered a beer. A beer!
"Don't worry," Mendel said, noting my surprise. "C'est cacher."*
"Casher?" Oh, there was so much more to learn! Between cold cream, couture and casher--where to begin?

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References: la haute couture (f) = trend-setting fashions; tu sais = you know; tutoyer = to "tu" someone (to use the informal "you" in conversation); le méli-mélo (m) = mishmash; la kippa (f) = yarmulke, scull-cap; le chapeau (m) = hat; le prénom (m) = first name; c'est casher = it's kosher

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Listen to Jean-Marc recite today's quote:
Download meli_melo.wav
Dans le méli-mélo, j'ai toujours préféré le méli.

Selected Yiddish terms in American English w/ their French equivalents:
  chutzpah = le culot = cheek, nerve
  gelt = le fric = money
  kibitz = mettre son grain de sel = to meddle
  kvetch = se plaindre = to complain
  mazel tov = félicitations = congratulations
  mishmash = méli-mélo = hodge-podge
  nebbish = empoté,e = nerdy
  nosh = gouter = to snack
  schlep = trimballer = to drag
  schtick = le numéro = routine

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In Gifts:
LollipopsLollipops Paris Cell-Phone Purse

EspadrilleAnkle Wrap Espadrille

ImananceLancome Imanance Environmental Protection Tinted Cream SPF 15

Chatelaine_1French language magazines

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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