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Entries from March 2007

waters

Waters_2
This image (taken in Trans-en-Provence) seemed a little more classy than the other one that was set to appear here.

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Oh, no! you say, such a lot of potty talk lately! Believe me, I'd rather chat about French farm hens or even Frango mint shakes (how I miss them!) but when you gotta go, you gotta go, and we all need to go forth in this, the language of love or, shall we say, "lav"?

"Alors ça, maman, c'est passionnant!" Why, mom, that's just fascinating! my son says with false enthusiasm when I tell him I am working on the Toilet edition and could he help me with the French equivalent of "lavatory"? I ask if I can share the word "chiotte" (can, john) worried it might be vulgar (though I hear it all the time!).

"Mom, don't do it!" he warns. "Why can't tomorrow's 'word of the day' be 'inquiétant'?"
"Worrisome" for tomorrow's word? Well, okay, I can take a hint. Even so...on with the show!

                                 *     *     *

les waters (lay wah-tair) noun, masculine, plural
  toilet, loo, lavatory

(from the English term "water-closet")

Dans mon experience, s'il faut allonger la jambe gauche pour maintenir fermée la porte des waters, c'est l'architecture moderne. In my experience, if you have to keep the lavatory door shut by extending your left leg, it's modern architecture. --Nancy Banks Smith
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                                                           Column
When Max returned from his school trip to Venice I wondered what most impressed him about the famous City of Water. The gondolas? The singsong accent of the Italians? The shimmering canals? The pizza?

Forget pizza, what my son remembered most were the pigeons and the potties. As for the first, they were everywhere and in abundance in the Piazza San Marco* and they danced around (and over!) the children to the utter delight of all. Regarding the second, well, no one seemed privy to where the potties were.... But like anywhere else in the world, money talks.

"I only had eighty centimes," Max complained.
"You mean you paid EIGHTY centimes to use the bathroom?!"
"No, mom. I paid one euro. I was short twenty centimes but another kid loaned me the money. Oh, by the way--we owe him!"

One euro to use the petit coin?* On second thought, I do remember the parent teacher meeting where the teachers talked about toilets being an issue on a trip like this. One doesn't just mosey on into a café, then dart over to the restroom. And the old European standby of ordering an espresso (cheapest thing on the menu) in order to use the toilet wasn't a solution (one couldn't exactly order fifty-five espressos--for as many students--and then line up)! Besides, kids like cola and so the dilemma just turns into a vicious circle.

"They were so clean!" Max exclaimed, remembering the waters.* (That's "wah-tair" and the second rhymes with "hair.") Well, I hope the expensive restrooms were clean! And for one euro I hope Max took his sweet time. "You were entitled to at least fifteen minutes for that price!" I informed my son of his rights. Why, in a Sanisette (one of those enclosed, automatic toilets found along busy Parisian streets) one euro equaled over half an hour of toilet rent.

These days you no longer have to pay for Sanisettes and many free toilets exist across France, just look for the signs "WC" (pronounced vay say). But, as the old French saying goes, "les bonnes affaires coûtent chères," or "a good deal is costly." It might even cost you your pants.... Returning from Sainte Cécile last Sunday, I pulled
into a rest stop and waited as a woman approached the outdoor lavatory. Beyond the wooden door was a Turkish toilet or "squat pot," that is, a hole in the ground with a grid on either side in which to place one's feet. The woman wavered. Next, she bent forward, reached down to her pant legs, and began
rolling them up. She took care to zip her coat pockets shut, not wanting the contents to fall into the loo. After a slight pause, she reached down again, this time double-knotting her long shoelaces so that no part of her person (apart from the soles of her shoes) could possibly come into contact with, or so much as drag across, the stall floor.

Zipped, tied, double cuffed, and no longer hesitant, into the waters she went....

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
la Piazza San Marco
= Saint Mark's Square; le petit coin ("the little corner") (m) = restroom; les waters (mpl) = lavatory


:: Audio Clip :: click the following sentence to hear this sound file:
Dans mon experience, s'il faut allonger la jambe gauche pour maintenir fermée la porte des waters, c'est l'architecture moderne.

Related Expressions:
Où sont les toilettes?  = Where is the restroom?
Où sont les w.c. (vay say)? = Where is the toilet?
.
Shopping:
French language crafts and projects magazine
Stone (Granite) Mortar and Pestle -- a must for French pistou!
Rosetta Stone French (CD-ROM) -- "an award-winning method used by NASA and the Peace Corps"

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


convive

Convive
Sainte Céciliens and the art of conviviality.

convive (kon-veev) noun, masculine and feminine
  guest (at table), fellow diner

                                                         *     *     *

Rarement nous pouvons découvrir un homme qui dise avoir vécu heureux, et qui, son temps fini, quitte la vie content comme un convive rassasié. We rarely find anyone who can say he has lived a happy life, and who, content with his life, can retire from the world like a satisfied guest. --Horace
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                                                            Column
Our first guests arrived bearing fruit. "I thought you might be able to use these," Aunt Marie-Françoise said, explaining that she had just emptied her frigo.* She and Uncle Jean-Claude would be leaving for New York to kick off a two week tour to represent their Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines and did not want the food to go to waste.

Peering into the bag of ripe pears, ready-to-eat bananas and peel-me-now navel oranges, I wondered where to put the fruit? We had yet to install countertops let alone shelves. Just then I remembered the crisper drawer but discovered the knee-high refrigerator was full. While the top of the mini-fridge made for a precious stretch of counter space, the two-burner stove had taken up residence there. Above it, a pan held water waiting to be boiled and poured over the instant grounds for an after lunch espresso. What space remained was quickly filled, this time by two dishtowels covering a bed of drying lettuce leaves.

Then, the thought came to me...we were missing a centerpiece! I set the colorful fruit in a basket (having given the fork, knife, and spoon freeloaders the boot) and watched as our new home took on a cozy, lived-in hue. The silverware found its place at the table where it surrounded the paper plates and plastic cups--the latter, a reminder that the house was far from settled.

If we were now sharing knives and eating salad with our very hands, it was because our first convives* had agreed to join us for an impromptu meal, never mind the limited place settings.
"C'est rigolo de manger comme ça!" It's fun to eat like this! Aunt Marie-Françoise assured me, while using her fingers to pluck up another lettuce leaf. The kids giggled while following her example, even asking for more salad for the first time in their lives!

Meanwhile, I handed my knife to Jean-Claude who sawed off another hunk of Corsican cheese before using Jean-Marc's spoon to scoop out another helping of fig jam to spread over the cheese. "Anyone need a fork?" I asked, offering one up. We put away three Cécilienne pizzas before changing paper plates for a serving of creamy Tarte Tropezienne and a side of semi-sweet strawberries.

And so it was, surrounded by suitcases and shelfless walls, that we enjoyed our first festin.* And while there were no glasses to clink, the clatter of our voices echoed through the farmhouse, filling in the empty spaces with a warm, chin-chinning conviviality.

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References: le frigo (m) = fridge; le (la) convive = guest; le festin (m) = feast
                     
:: Audio Clip :: Download convive.wav
Hear my daughter, Jackie, read today's quote:
Rarement nous pouvons découvrir un homme qui dise avoir vécu heureux, et qui, son temps fini, quitte la vie content comme un convive rassasié.

Terms & Expressions:
un bon convive = a good table companion

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


bercail

Bercail
Le bercail / Home. (Picture of Uncle Jean-Claude installing the temporary "stairs" until we get the chance to build some...)

le bercail (behr-kie ["kie" like "pie"]) noun, masculine
  1. fold, sheepfold
  2. home, the family fold

Quand les bushman d'Afrique du Sud rentrent au bercail, ils s'enduisent la langue de boue pour exprimer leur attachement à leur sol. When South African San bushmen come home, they smear their tongues with dirt to express their love of the earth. -from the book Extra/Ordinary Objects


                                            Column
Friday afternoon the kids, the dog, the garden chairs, and I crawled north along the autoroute du soleil.* Crammed into the car along with the forks, knives, sheets, lamps, peanut butter, and other indispensables,* we fought rush-hour traffic and a wind so strong it sent us zigzagging into the future. Undaunted, we raced like snails to make it to Saint-Cécile before the sun slipped below the western plain and its never-ending vine horizon. We were on our way home, if only for the weekend.

Pulling into the driveway, we were met for the first time by the starry lights of the town of Séguret. Looking north, we could see the village of Carignan -- now a great cluster of fallen stars beneath a blackening sky. I finally could understand Jean-Marc's decision to part with the pigpen. Taking the splinter of a farm shed out of the eye, we could see the starry heavens beyond. Past the fallen barn, the land plunged into a valley of vines bordered by a spring water creek and a wild, thyme-scented garrigue.*

Something about the field and the rushing water recalled my American childhood and for once I felt the restless gypsy within me stagger to a halt. Silenced by the discovery, I studied the scenery beyond and noted the uncanny similarities. Though an ocean away and on another continent, there it was, the
landscape of my childhood reflected here, in the French countryside. There, was the purple mountain that I gazed at as a child (only our mountain was called Shaw Butte, not Mont-Ventoux). And here, below, the rushing water of a French spring, like our desert wash (or stream bed) back home after the monsoon season. Looking up, I saw the field that once bordered our mobile home park. The dirt field with its sweep of desert broom where I used to collect wildflowers now blossomed with grapevines. The mountain, stream, and field aligned to reproduce perfectly my childhood stomping grounds. I turned now to revisit my long-lost home. Only, instead of the single-wide trailer, I stood facing an immense French farmhouse. The washing machine, once parked out on the front porch, had disappeared along with the desert mirage and, with it, the teenage sisters who fought over the bell-bottomed jeans inside of it.

In French, the word "bercail" is synonymous with "home" and the French have a saying: "ramener au bercail la brébis égarée" (to bring the lost sheep back to the fold). I have this feeling, here in my heart, not far from where that gypsy stopped dead in her snail-paced tracks, that I have finally come home.

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References: l'autoroute (f) du soleil = superhighway of the sun; indispensable = essential; la garrigue (f) = wild mediterranean scrubland

                  :: Audio Clip :: Download Bercail.wav
Après les vacances on rentre au bercail.
(After vacation we return home.)

Terms & Expressions:
les douceurs du bercail = home sweet home
bercail pour agneaux = sheepfold, sheep pen
rentrer au bercail = to come back to the fold (politician), to return to the fold

French language software
FRANCE magazine
Au Bon Marché Rusted-Tin Clock

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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"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


saigner

Braise
Our dog, Braise, in all her French glory--and towering over her kingdom of Ste Cécile.

saigner (say-nyay) verb
   to bleed

Quand le lion saigne, les chacals reprennent courage.
When the lion bleeds, the jackals regain courage.

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                                                    Column
After searching for weeks, I found the first clue smack in the middle of the hallway. And I didn't have to look too far before another trace appeared. Then, true to the French saying "jamais deux sans trois"* I found the third splotch, this time in front of the fireplace, blazing red like spit ember.

To my relief, the little crimson spots disappeared beneath a shower of ammonia and a swipe of sopalin.* But in some areas the blood had fallen right into the grooves between the floor tiles, making it impossible to scrub out.

Armed with window cleaner and rolls of paper towels I remained on alert, ready to obliterate the next drop. But by day three our home was beginning to look like a Gallic crime scene. Of course this wasn't true, no signs of struggle were to be found, and you needn't worry about so many finger-pointing French flics* queuing at my front door, search warrant in hand. Mais, non! My only crime was in letting the blood shed. Disposable couches* would have come in handy.

"Try dog diapers!" friends suggested. I didn't even know that dogs menstruated, or estrated--make that "underwent estrus" (or is it oestrus?). Whatever. Dogs bleed! And diapers? Who knew? After all, who would have thought that dogs lost teeth like toddlers, snored like old women, hiccupped like barflies and--this latest revelation--paraded their PMS through the house as if to brag: I am woman hear me roar.

There'll be roaring alright. Indeed, the time has come to have a talk with my ten-month-old about the birds and the abeilles.* For our golden retriever, Braise, is no longer a puppy, but a pouty-lipped postmenstrual PUPPY MACHINE.

Puppies! Oh, no. No, no, no!  Too early for that. And, in view of all those suitors lining up at the front gate, howling and hungry for a one night stand, eyes pushing out like pinballs (va-va-voom!) we'll have to make this talk short and get right to the point. Braise will get the same thundering tirade that all
us Marcus women got. Not the Southern French Catholic side of our family, but the American Jack Mormon side (the generation preceding the waving, hands-in-the-air Born Again Christian side) and these women don't mince words. As great Grandma Audrey would say to Braise: You make your bed, hon, and you can just lie in it! This, mind you, is said more as a threat than as self-styled dictum.

And if Braise doesn't look white in the face like us Marcuses did, that's just because she didn't quite understand the threat (she's a French dog). So hear this, Mademoiselle Braise, and be forewarned: comme on fait son lit, on se couche!*

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References: jamais deux sans trois = never two without three ("bad things come in threes"); le sopalin (m) = paper towel; le flic (m) = cop; la couche (f) = diaper, nappy; une abeille (f) = bee; Comme on fait son lit, on se couche! = As one makes one's bed, so one lies in it!

                        :: Audio File ::
Listen to my son, Max, pronounce today's word in the following quote: Download saigner.wav
Quand le lion saigne, les chacals reprennent courage.

Terms & Expressions:
  se saigner aux quatre veines = to pay through the nose
  saigner du nez = to refuse a challenge, to flinch
  saigner un fossé = to drain a ditch

Reverse dictionary: the English expression first, French equivalent second
  "with a bleeding heart" = le coeur navré de douleur
  "you bleeding liar!" = sacré menteur! (sacrée menteuse!)
  "my heart bleeds for you" = tu me fends le coeur

Verb Conjugation: saigner
je saigne, tu saignes, il/elle saigne, nous saignons, vous saignez, ils/elles saignent ; past participle = saigné

In Store for you: Frenchy must haves:
French language learning software
Please. Pretty, pretty please...s'il vous, s'il vous, s'il vous plaît....buy my book! Merci beaucoup!
Marie Claire Idees (crafts and projects magazine)

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


chantier

 

Chantier_2
Where pigs and poules once roamed. The little barn before the bulldozers arrived.

le chantier (shon-tee-yay) noun, masculine
   1. building site (construction); workshop, ship-yard
   2. a place where great disorder reigns
       ("lieu où règne un grand désordre") -Petite Larousse 2000

The famous words of Général Lyautey:
     Un chantier vaut un bataillon.
     A workshop is worth a battalion.

"'A workshop is worth a battalion,' said Lyautey time and again, for, to him, an army was less a fighting machine than an assemblage of doctors and artisans."  -from "The History of French Colonial Policy" by Stephen Henry Roberts
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Column
On Monday, March nineteenth of the year deux mille sept* in the southern French town of Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes, located in department number eighty-four (otherwise known as the Vaucluse), two notaires,* two sellers, and one of twenty-five* buyers spent three long hours transferring the title of one 17th century farmhouse, or "mas," and eight hectares (or 19.77 acres) of Côtes du Rhône vines. If the paragraph you are reading seems formal, longwinded, absurd, in any way affected, silly, glib, or downright confusing, well then you should have seen the sales contract!

Not twenty-four hours later (or the very next morning) the newly acquired property, formerly a haven of pay,* turned into a noisy, crumbling shon-tee-yay* when the bulldozers rolled in and the demolition crew arrived.
.
From hundreds of kilometers away, I followed the event via satellite.
"They arrived at eight!" Jean-Marc bubbled with enthusiasm.
"Eight o'clock?" I asked, pushing my ear into my portable phone.
"Eight of them!" my husband shouted back.
"Eight of them arrived at eight o'clock?" I gathered, still uncertain.

"It's really incredible!" Jean-Marc cried out as if he had just parachuted from the top of the Eiffel Tower...and landed beside the shimmering Seine. The shimmering part is true, for Jean-Marc was standing beside the crystal clear spring waters which border the farmhouse. There he stood, knee deep in the rush of land acquisition. From the sound of Jean-Marc's voice, I can now imagine that the thrill of bungee jumping is nothing compared to the brain's response when it careens towards its destiny, falling within inches of the sacred, rock hard earth; a vine plentiful, grape gorgeous earth. I listened as my husband's dream came true.

"Can you hear them?" Jean-Marc asked. Instead of rushing water, I heard a crushing sound. "They just attacked the cochonnière!" As the trucks roared in the background, Jean-Marc reported that the pig-sty had just been demolished. Remembering the white structure with painted blue doors, I quietly mourned the cochonnière. I would have liked to keep the pig-sty, naturally. I have never been a neat freak but find a kindred soul in the most dilapidated things.

The demolition centered on the pig-sty/poulailler* and the west wing of the farmhouse (where the tractor was once parked). The old saint, still in his niche* above the front door is intact, if a bit shaken, wondering if the Apocalypse was here, and the end of the world near. By the end of the day, the rubble was cleared away and Jean-Marc was one step closer to building his much longed-for cellar where he will produce and store his French wines.

Jean-Marc explained that he couldn't talk much longer, that he was racing to get things done. "Je suis à cent cinquante à l'heure!"* he exclaimed, adding that he had a surprise and was I sitting down to hear it? Before the roof turned to rubble, the demolition team salvaged stacks of ancient terre cuite.* One of the grayish terracotta tiles was dated 1696! The roof will eventually be replaced and the room carefully renovated--only with older tiles than I had imagined.

Chaos, disorder, bouleversement,* confusion, scuffle (and even bordel)* are all synonyms to the French word "chantier." I can vouch for that, having lived among French rubble in the past. And patience is the best prayer during renovation. But to utter one plaintive peep about this latest upheaval would be, as the French say, mal placé or "out of place". For the kids and I are far from the chaos this time, and by no means living in a shanty. But you would be correct to call our new digs a veritable "shon-tee-yay."*

................................................................................................................
References: deux mille sept = 2007; le notaire (m) = notary; twenty-five = while we own the farmhouse, we are joined by 24 vine (or wine?) investors who are counting on the grapes to deliver!; pay = French pronunciation for paix (peace); shon-tee-yay = French pronunciation for chantier = construction site; le poulailler (m) = hen house; la niche (f) = nook; Je suis à cent cinquante à l'heure! = I am (going at) one hundred kilometers an hour!; la terre cuite (f) terracotta; le bouleversement (m) = upheaval; le bordel (m) = brothel (second meaning: shambles, disarray) ; shon-tee-yay (chantier) = a place where great disorder reigns

:: Audio Clip ::
Hear my daughter, Jackie, pronounce today's French word in this quote: Download chantier.wav
Un chantier vaut une bataille.*
 
*correction should be "bataillon"

Terms & Expressions:
chantier de bois = timber-yard
chantier de construction navale = shipyard
les chantiers de la marine = the dock-yards
être en chantier = to be under construction
chantier (in Canadian French) = lumberjack's headquarters

Notaire notary  (c) Kristin Espinasse
An old notaire's office in 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    
    ♥ 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


crapulerie

Crapuleries
Independence Day: My son Max is headed to Italy!

crapulerie (krap-ew-lair-ee) noun, feminine
  1. villainy
  2. a dishonest act

[from "crapule" (scoundrel) and borrowed from the latin "crapula" (intoxication") -- synonyms include "la canaillerie" (a low trick) and "la fripouillerie" (roguishness)]

                                  *     *     *
Car on sent là...toute l'écume du monde, toute la crapulerie distinguée, toute la moisissure de la société parisienne... For we smell there...all the scum of the world, all the distinguished villainy, all the mold from Paris society... --from Maupassant & the American Short Story By Richard Fusco
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                                                                   Column
Where do French fifth-graders go on their annual field trip? They cruise down the glittering canals of historic Vuh-neez.* Geez! you say. Don't French kids have all the luck?

Well, not every French kid at my son's collège* gets to go to Venice. Only those who signed up for the art program do. Students who took Environment are on their way to wet and wild Camargue. There, pink flamingos and wild Camarguais horses are poised to assure them that art is for the birds (the non-pink ones) at a time when the very water-based paints some artists use might one day be as numbered as the feathers on their backs!

Last night Max boarded a bus for the all night trajet* which will end in the City of Light. Along the way, the car* will stop in Romeo and Juliette's hometown of Verona where students can practice the art of woo. "Je t'aime...Je T'AIME!" they'll chance to declare, bright eyes glued to so many empty Veronese
balconies.

While the kids are excited about the four-day trip (Max even bought a new tube of scented, cement strength hair gel in case he happens upon a modern day Juliette), back at the school library the parents were given the lowdown on how five teachers planned to keep fifty-five chatty, tête-en-l'air* tweens in line, or strictly channeled, while navigating the famous City of Water.

In addition, parents were told what to pack and what to preach. As for packing, we should provide for the long bus ride a sac à dos* in which to store a small carnet* for sketching, twenty to thirty euros cash, a jetable* camera and a sac poubelle* (for any projectile voh-me*). Moreover, it would be our job to preach the values of global citizenship, namely, to remind our cement haired citoyens* that they would be representing France, that their every move would be closely scrutinized by an unblinkable, ever-present Italian eye; that, above all, the pint-size would-be scoundrels must keep their wandering hands under control while in the souvenir shop, for if so much as one knobby-kneed kid walks out with an unpaid for glow-in-the-dark gondola stuck to the inside of his pocket. Well, hell hath no fury like a country scorned!

Listening there in the library, fearful and frantically scribbling down notes, my pen stopped in its tracks, caught on the first four letters of an amusing French word. The teacher-chaperone was concluding his warning speech.... "...Alors," he said, "pas de crapuleries!"

Crapuleries? I wondered about word origins and if the French word "crapulerie" had anything to do with a certain four letter word (rhymes with scrap) that we have back home. Whatever it meant, the kids weren't to give him any of it. Rather, they were to cut the crapuleries out of their agenda.

............................................................................................................
References: vuh-neez = French pronunciation for Venise (Venice); le collège (m) = junior high school; le trajet (m) = journey, trip; le car (m) (autocar) = bus, coach; la tête-en-l'air = head in the clouds, distracted; le sac à dos (m) = backpack, rucksack; le carnet (m) =notebook; jetable = disposable; le sac poubelle (m) = trash bag; voh-me = French pronunciation for vomit; le citoyen (la citoyenne) = citizen

:: Audio Clip ::
Hear how to pronounce the French word "crapulerie" in today's quote: Download crapulerie.wav
Car on sent là...toute l'écume du monde, toute la crapulerie distinguée, toute la moisissure de la société parisienne...

Terms & Expressions:
la crapulerie humaine = human villainy
commettre une crapulerie = to commit a dishonest act

In Store for you:
language software
Alain Souchon
French / Italian film: Il Postino with Philippe Noiret
Nutella
Môme (magazine) language practice for students of the French language

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


menthe

Syrop2
Sweet competition for that ol' classic menthe à l'eau.

la menthe (mont) noun, feminine
   1. mint

Some accidental wisdom from a 19th century French distillery book:
...on doit prendre la menthe au moment de sa floraison.
...we must take the mint the moment it flowers.


    --from the "Nouveau Manuel Complet du Distillateur Liquoriste"
          by Lebeaud, de Fontenelle & Malepeyre. 1879.
.

                                                              Column
They don't have a word for serendipity in France. They have three: "une découverte heureuse" or "a happy discovery". To say that an event is serendipitous is to say that it is an "heureuse" event. Believe me I was smiling when I bumped into my daughter's former math tutor at the farmers market yesterday. There she stood, framed by a wall of syrup, her bright, calculating face set off by a rainbow of colors (all those fancy syrup bottles at the syrup stand just behind her). There was strawberry syrup, blueberry syrup, grenadine, peach, cinnamon, orgeat,* black currant, cherry, kiwi, caramel, bonbon, lavender, red poppy and menthe.... Mint!

I realized then and there that math, for my daughter, is like the mint flavored syrup once was for me, foreign. And it was something I did not like but eventually developed a hankering for. I remember shivering as the French sipped their diabolical mint drinks, mint syrup poured over carbonated lemonade for a "diabolo menthe". I liked mint okay, as long as it was in gum, just like Jackie likes math okay when it equals a gum-getable sum (like the fifty French cents she earns after shampooing the dog, then off she trots to buy more ewba bewba*).

Arithmetic wasn't my flavor as a kid either and as an adult I don't understand French math, specifically division. It's all backwards. When I was in school, you put the number to be divided, "le dividende," to the right of a curved bar and the other number, "le diviseur," to the left. Then you threw your scabby
fingers up into the air and began to count. Not so in civilized modern France.

I admit that I cannot help my daughter with her homework and even if I could she wouldn't allow it, not after the humiliating dictation incident a few years ago. She fired me back in the first grade when a smooth talking candidate came vying for my job--a native French speaker at that, her father. He loves mint syrup and majored in accounting.

But with a mother who almost failed high school and a father out traipsing through a vine jungle (Jean-Marc has seven more rows to prune at his new job as wine farmer) Jackie has been struggling with long division all on her own. And so the chance meeting back at the syrup stand was sweetly serendipitous. And while the English may have only one word for "happy discovery," my francophone daughter now has two: math tutor.

.......................................................................................................
References: l'orgeat (m) = sweet syrup made from almonds, sugar and rose- or orange-flower water; ewba bewba = French pronunciation for "Hubba Bubba" (gum)

:: French Audio Clip ::
Listen to my son, Max, recite today's quote: Download menthe.wav
...on doit prendre la menthe au moment de sa floraison

Terms & Expressions:
  une menthe à l'eau = a (glass of) peppermint cordial
  la menthe verte = spearmint
  la menthe anglaise, poivrée = peppermint
  pastilles de menthe = peppermints
  un bonbon à la menthe = a mint (candy)
  une infusion à la menthe = mint tea
  vinaigrette à la menthe = mint sauce
  chocolat fourré de crème à la menthe = mint chocolate

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


ketchup

Ketchup
It's a rat race even for plants: French hollyhocks trying to ketchup catch up to the vines above.

ketchup (keht-chuhp) noun, masculine
  1. ketchup (or catsup)

Sure, point it out. "But ketchup isn't a French word!" you argue. Yahhuh it is! (Well, more of a word than yah + uh-huh or "yahhuh" which, though fun to say, isn't a word in French OR English). If you cringed reading "yahhuh," then you can just imagine how those "keepers of the French language" over at L'Académie française must have reacted when the bloody term made it into some of the most hoity toity of French dictionaries. Mr. Ketchup, for here we have a masculine noun, is positively dapper listed there under the "style" section in some dictionaries. Here are just a few examples:

=> mettre du ketchup sur son hamburger = to put ketchup on your hamburger
=> ajouter du ketchup = to add ketchup
=> apporter du ketchup = to bring ketchup (some B.Y.O.B., others B.Y.O.K.)
=> accompagner un plat de (ou avec du) ketchup = to garnish a dish with ketchup

Update: Apparently the Académie is flexible....Here is their official definition of ketchup: Mot anglais, probablement issu du chinois. Condiment préparé à partir de tomate et d'épices, au goût légèrement sucré. ("An English word, probably from Chinese. A condiment made from tomato and spices, with a slightly sweet taste.")
                                *     *     *
And here, in today's quote, a bit of ketchup philosophy:

La douceur du ketchup adoucit la force de la moutarde...Il faut de tout pour faire un monde. The sweetness of ketchup softens the force of mustard...It takes all kinds to make a world. --from Moutarde et ketchup by Pierre-Jean Verhoye

                                                               Column
I watch, stunned, as Jean-Marc picks up a bottle of ketchup and squirts a small red pool next to his riz cantonais.* The only thing French about this is its singular quality, that is, each aliment is in its place (ketchup on one side, fried rice on the other). Next, I watch my husband haul the ketchupped rice into his mouth. Beurk!*

Squeezing ketchup over a meal in France seems sacrilegious. But then, this isn't French food. This is take-out, and the squirting of ketchup, well--just another take on take-out.

While I watch, wide-eyed, my kids don't bat a French eye. Instead, Max seconds the motion and Jackie says "passe moi le ketchup, s'il te plaît." As Max draws the bloody mark of Zorro over his own fried rice, he brags about his neighbor friend. "At Alex's house you can eat ketchup so hot your mouth will fall off! Oui, ça arrache la bouche!"

Meanwhile, I wonder if my own ears have been arrachées, or pulled off. Am I hearing right? Since when have the tables turned so that now the French are as fond of ketchup as Americans once were?

That Americans put ketchup on all of their food is legendary (if only to the French). Wrong, wrong, wrong. Just take a look at this French definition for ketchup: condiment à base de jus de tomate utilisé dans la cuisine anglaise. Well, there you go, the French cite the English as the official ketchup
gourmands. Maybe they pour it over those meat pies? Will have to ask my friend Michele....As for me, I enjoy ketchup with my scrambled eggs. Come to think of it, there are scrambled eggs in the fried rice that we are eating....

It turns out that Jean-Marc's fried rice/ketchup pairing is right on target and not because of the egg coincidence. According to Wikipedia, ketchup first appeared in Eastern Asia. And while one dictionary says ketchup is an English word derived from Hindi, another suggests it might be a Malayan word. Will
have to ask my friend Alicia....

When all is said and done, ketchup may have come from the Chinese in the first place--which would make the squirting of ketchup over take-out apropos, après tout.* And, given that the Malay word means "taste," that would make Jean-Marc's gesture far from tacky, but rather, in good taste.

..........................................................................................
References: le riz cantonais (ree-kan-toe-nay) (m) = Cantonese fried rice; beurk! = yuck!; après tout = after all

:: Audio File ::
Here my son, Max, recite today's quote: Download ketchup.wav
La douceur du ketchup adoucit la force de la moutarde...Il faut de tout pour faire un monde.

In Store for you: Frenchy must-haves:
Music: Benabar
Butterfly Film
French software
Vie En Rose Book

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


bribe

Bribe
Une bribe, or fragment of an scene; taken during summer break in Brittany.

As for today's word, "une bribe," (pronounced ewn breeb) how about beginning with a French definition?* Bribes, then, are "phrases prises ça et là" (sentences taken here and there) and "passages décousus d'un text, d'une conversation" (disconnected passages cut from a text, from a conversation). That's right, "snippets". Bribes are bits, scraps, fragments, odds and ends, if you like. They are also the "restes d'un repas" or leftovers.

Did you know that the English word "bribe" can be traced back to the French verb "briber" (to beg)? A bribe was once known as "piece of bread given to beggars" (today, a bribe is simply known as a "piece of bread" or "une bribe de pain"--so don't get your feathers ruffled the next time your host passes the bread  basket).

                               *     *     *
Back for a moment to the English meaning. Bribing judges is considered unethical, so I will sit here with my fingers firmly croisés.... My book Words in a French Life has been short-listed for the Blooker Prize! (That's right bLooker: the world's first literary prize devoted to 'blooks': books based on blogs.) Many thanks to the writer and artist Eve Robillard who told me about the Lulu Blooker prize and encouraged me to sign up. Congratulations to Tertia Albertyn, Jerome Armstrong, Markos Moulitsas, Frank Warren, Colby Buzzell, and Seth Godin, whose books made the nonfiction category. Check out all the books here.


                                                         Column_48
Oh, yes, life is perfect in Provence. Perfect! Never a bad hair day, so to speak. Everything is rosy, always! Over here nylons don't run (heck, they aren't even worn) and the car always starts....when the battery isn't dead. Here for you today, snippets or "bribes" from a journal I kept last summer, including one or two not-so-rosy moments.

                                        *     *     *
"Just picked up Max from summer camp. Max was very happy to see us, though he wouldn't let me kiss him in front of the kids."
                                   *
"Jean-Marc told the shop keeper to keep the two centimes in change, that maybe it would improve her bad mood. I was horrified (even if he was right)."
                                   *
"I spent the afternoon at the beach, fully clothed, hiding my head under a T-shirt while the kids and Jean-Marc swam and built sand castles."
                                   *
"We sat on a bench at Port Tudy eating nougat glace* and watching the rocking boats. One of them caught my eye: a little green pointu* called 'Vadrouiller'.*"
                                   *
"After a good nap, we headed to Les Grands Sables plage* to be whipped around by a sandstorm until I suggested we leave."
                                  *
"The French woman was refreshingly chatty. Every so often, she'd reach over to tap me on the arm to underline her point...we talked about fashion..."I am conservative," I apologized. "You mean classic," she offered."
                                   *
"The room had a two-burner stove where I stood swatting at flies so dumb even instinct couldn't save them."
                                    *
"De toute façon, I said to Jean-Marc, women handle pain better than men...Jean-Marc responded by complaining to Max (who was still holding a throbbing toe): "Arrête de hurler comme une gonzesse!" Quit screaming like a broad!"
                                               *
"I am now inside the little rental kitchen, having left Jean-Marc out on the veranda. Here, I can enjoy my ice cream in peace, the little of it that there is, stuffed as it were into a container no bigger than a French pill box."
                                              *
"Je ne suis qu'une pauvre vieille chaussette," I am just a poor old sock, Jackie sniffed, with extra drama, complaining about how I was two minutes late picking her up from school.
                                             *
"BUNET--the name of the Italian dessert I ate while fuming mad at Jean-Marc...what a buzzkill to eat cake when you're angry."
                                             *
(This last "bribe" or snippet, comes from a journal entry dated August 19th, 2006): "...and I hate reading these diaries ten years later and finding only scribbly, whiney pages. Best to scribble about the balsamic scent of the eucalyptus...and leave the howling to the wind."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: French definition of "bribe" from "12 Dictionnaires indispensables"; la glace (f) = ice cream; un pointu (m) = small fishing boat; vadrouilleur (vadrouilleuse) = wanderer; la plage (f) = beach
.
:: Audio Clip ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French word "bribe," in today's quote: Download Bribe.wav

Une bribe de pain, rompue entre les doigts, avait suffi pour chaque convive
A piece of bread, broken between the hands, had been sufficient for each guest. --from "Histoire des Arabes et des Mores d'Espagne" by Louis Viardot

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


niche

Niche
The fixer-upper where we are fixing to move to. The glass is shattered, the dream intact.

une niche (neesh) noun, feminine

  1. alcove, nook, recess; kennel, doghouse
  2. trick, prank, hoax

La vertu, comme le corbeau, niche dans les ruines.
Virtue, like the raven, nests in ruins.
--Anatole France
.

                                                               Column_47
Aunt Marie-Françoise is showing me the emerald green waters at Isle-sur-la-Sorgue* when I point to a hole in the wall, just across the river, and ask if there's a name for it. "Une niche," she answers, returning an admiring gaze to Sorgue's waters, less famous than its antique markets.

I study the "niche" in which stands a small stone figure. I ask Jean-Marc's aunt if she knows any expressions to go with the term. Her eyes search the glittering waters below. Then, like a lucky fisherman, she reels in a catch (or phrase, but not a catch phrase) as if from the waters below. "Où est-ce que tu te niches?" she inquires, more as a statement than a question. "It means 'where do you live'?" she explains.

The image of a doghouse comes to mind, not because I live in one but because some men do. I decide to share the expression with Aunt Marie-Françoise.
"We say 'He is in the doghouse', when a man gets into trouble." My charming tour guide is staring at me and I wonder if she has just discovered a blip in the puritan society that I am told I come from. This time, I don't let the French down. "You know, like when he forgets to buy flowers for the wedding anniversary, or fails to take out the garbage for weeks at a time...."

                                    *     *     *
Lately I have been wondering about the name for the alcove in which saints sometimes stand, saints who are statues that is, or vice versa, for everyone knows that real saints are too busy to hide out in cubbyholes but stand barefoot to God's green earth, arms held out to the suffering.

Back in Sainte Cécile, where we spent winter break and where we are fixing to move this summer, I wonder about the small stone saint above our front door. Just what is its purpose if not to serve as a constant reminder that Someone is watching over us? Perhaps the answer lies in the question, which suits me just fine as I have always needed to believe that someone is guiding my steps. Alone, I trip over my own shoelaces before I even make it to the hills that need climbing.

Another perk to having a saint overlooking our front patio is this: should Jean-Marc forget flowers on our wedding anniversary, well then, out there under the stars (in a niche* of his own) he'll be in good company.

                                      *     *     *
..............................................................................................................................
Vineyard update: The bank in Ste. Cécile has agreed to loan us the money! Along with private investors, we will be officially acquiring eight hectares of vines on March 19th!

References: Isle-sur-la-Sorgues (a.k.a. the Provençal Venice); une niche (f) = doghouse

French Idioms & Related Terms:
  une nichée = a nestful, brood, litter
  faire une niche à quelqu'un = to play a trick on someone
  nicher = faire son nid (to build one's nest)
  se nicher = to lodge
  niché dans un fauteuil = curled up in an armchair

Also...
dénicher = to take (bird, eggs) out of the nest; to leave the nest; to discover, unearth (antiques, treasure...)

In Books, French magazines, and language software:
Find all types of temporary work around the world not only in advance, but also while traveling.
Rosetta Stone French (CD-ROM) -- "an award-winning method used by NASA and the Peace Corps"
Marie Claire Idees (magazine, in French) for a wide range of crafts and projects.

::L'Occitane Hand Cream Honey, almond and coconut oil are blended with Shea Butter to create this unique and extremely effective moisturizer.

Have bag will travel: The most versatile carry on valise, by Rick Steves 

Carry on

 

 

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