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Entries from May 2007

solidaire

Poppy
When coquelicots unite they set the French countryside aflame...

solidaire (so-lee-dair) adjective
  standing together, united, interdependent

Pourquoi nous haïr ? Nous sommes solidaires, emportés par la même planète, équipage d'un même navire. Why hate each other? We stand together, carried by the same planet, a crew of the same vessel. --Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
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                                                              Column
From beneath the shady mulberry tree in our front yard I look out over a leafy green sea. Not two months ago, barely a feuille* separated our terrace from the two-lane country road beyond. Now the full-grown vines form a natural screen of privacy behind which one can pace about in one's pajamas and leave the grapes in the first row to do the blushing--something they are literally trained to do.

I set my coffee cup down on the picnic table and revel in the cool morning quietude. Jean-Marc and the kids have gone into town to buy bread and I hope the baker is working though it is a jour férié.*

Férié! I remind myself to stay put in this garden chair, to resist the temptation to dress--let alone unpack my car and distribute yet another load of vaisselle,* linens, and bric-à-brac* which I have hauled up from Les Arcs* at the start of this three-day weekend.

I relax back into the chair only to begin plucking lint off my polyester robe-turned-"attrape tout". The clingy "catch all" cover-up (one of my warmest) is a veritable, wearable dust buster and about as attractive as one. It occurs to me that I wouldn't even be caught dining on dandelion roots* while dressed this way! So why not change? Because nobody can see me, I remember. Youpi! J'adore cette vie privée--cette liberté!*

That's when I hear the engine and turn to discover a tractor which grumbles to a stop not ten meters from my neat bubble of liberty. It is too late to keep up appearances and, at this point, I only hope the contractor will recognize me and not ask to speak to Madame Espinasse. Without mascara to prove their existence, my eyelashes look seared--all the better to highlight the blotchy skin beneath. Sans maquillage,* dressed in that Velcro robe which has picked up every airborne particle from here to the pits of Paris, traces of the sandman in my eyes and ten-hour breath... I greet our mason.

"I thought today was férié?
"It used to be. But since 2003 it is a journée de solidarité.*
"Oh," I say, casually running my hand through my hair, hoping to puff it up. I pause to glare at the good-for-nothing screen of vines where the grapes, no bigger than câpres* this time of year, respond with some sassy solidarity of their own (via a collective blush that would make a vintner proud).

                                      *     *     *

......................................................................................................
References: la feuille (f) = leaf; le jour (m) férié = public holiday; la vaisselle (f) = crockery, dishes; le bric-à-brac (m) = odds and ends; Les Arcs (Les Arcs-sur-Argens) = medieval village in the Var; to dine on dandelion roots = (from the French "manger les pissenlits par la racine / to eat dandelions by
the roots" (to be pushing up daisies); Youpi! J'adore cette vie privée--cette liberté! = Yippee. I love this private life--this freedom!; sans maquillage = without makeup; journée de solidarité (explanation follows...); la câpre (f) = caper

The "lundi de Pentecôte" (Pentecost Monday), formerly a rest day, was sacrificed in 2003 after the deadly heatwave in which healthcare services were limited. For most Frenchmen it is an unpaid working day (the wages from which are turned over to the government and deposited into a solidarity fund for elderly and handicapped citizens). Read more here.
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:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and quote: Download solidaire.wav
Pourquoi nous haïr ? Nous sommes solidaires, emportés par la même planète, équipage d'un même navire.

Shopping:
Lonely Planet French phrasebook
Roger & Gallet Signature Mini Guest Soaps
Rosetta Stone French (CD-ROM) -- "an award-winning method used by NASA and the Peace Corps"
In Music: The No Comprendo by Les Rita Mitsouko

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    
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    ♥ 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


piscine

Piscine
Minus Cancer: my mom (in 2003)--post-op and playing the game of life again. (That's her, arms in the air, ever in praise, in the second to the last lane where her grandson, Max races beside her and into the shallow piscine in the town of St. Maxime).

la piscine (pee-seen) noun, feminine
  swimming pool
  (slang) the French secret service

En amour, il y a un temps pour plonger, mais il faut attendre que la piscine se remplisse si l'on ne veut pas plonger dans un bain de pieds. As for love, there is a time in which to plunge, but one must wait until the pool fills up unless one wants to jump into a footbath. --Fanny Ardant
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                                                       Column
"Il est là, Max?" Is Max home? Three skinny boys in floral print shorts want to know. I step out onto the front porch to greet the passers-by. When I answer that my son is away, the boys waver like a trio of balloons the day after a birthday party.

"Did you want to know if the pool is working today?" I ask, on a hunch. The balloons perk up, heads nodding enthusiastically. And then the pinprick:
"No. It is even greener than last week," I answer, breaking the bad news. "A real swamp!"

Pop! I listen to the sound of hope bursting. The boys sigh, deflated, and I can almost hear them wondering what is so bad about a pond-like piscine* when water is water: be it blue, green, cloudy, or clear.

The hot afternoon drags on, minus a splash in a swampy pool, and the boys are just bored enough to forget their former bashful selves. The speaker of the group, an eleven-year-old from Tunisia (who learned French only two years ago but now speaks Proust's language better than the swamp lady...) breaks the silence.
"You are anglaise?"*
"No, American," the swamp lady responds.
"Why do you live here when you could live in America?" Proust questions while another boy, who sports a gold loop earring, nods, and the third boy, a head shorter than the two, stutters "Pourquoi? Pourquoi?"
"Because I like France!" I admit.
The boys look at each other as if I have said "ants" instead of "France."
"But America is better!" Proust argues.
"That depends."
"Do you know any stars?" the boys inquire, hopeful looks spreading across their faces.

I wasn't sure. Did that time I saw Dick Van Dyke, albeit way, way across the parking lot and standing on the roof of a strip mall, count? Come to think of it, what was Dick Van Dyke doing up on top of the mall? Was it an outdoor presentation of Fiddler on the Roof? Was that even Dick Van Dyke? Sometimes childhood memories are as surreal as dreams.

"Do you know 50 Cent?" the swim-trunked trio asks, nods, and stutters impatiently.
"No..."
"Snoop Dogg?" Proust inquires. The boy with the gold earring nods and the littlest boy repeats "Snoop Dogg? Snoop Dogg?"
"Uh, no..." I didn't know the famous American rappers. I knew only of their run-ins.

"Well, it's hot in France!" Proust says, determined to prove his point: that France is so uncool it might as well be hell.
"It's hot where I come from too," I offer, so that the boys don't feel so bad.
"But everybody has a piscine in America!" Proust replies, exasperated.

Well...That's not true! But who am I to go bursting their bubble about l'Amérique*--where the grass is undoubtedly greener and probably doesn't even grow in your pool (as it seems to at the swamp lady's...).

...............................................................................................................
References: la piscine (f) = pool; l'anglaise (l'anglais) = Englishwoman (Englishman); l'Amérique (f) = America

:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and recite the quote: Download piscine.wav
En amour, il y a un temps pour plonger, mais il faut attendre que la piscine se remplisse si l'on ne veut pas plonger dans un bain de pieds.

Terms & Expressions:
faire des longueurs de piscine = to do laps in a pool
se baigner dans une piscine = to swim in a pool
une piscine à vagues = a wave pool
une piscine en plein air = an outdoor pool

Shopping
In bilingual books: "The Astonished Universe," by Helene Cardona: "a tour de force of language and phonetics." --Joanne Harris, best selling author of Chocolat.
Le Pere Pelletier Lavender syrup 8 oz glass old fashioned bottle
Rosetta Stone French -- where graphical speech recognition displays your voiceprint and compares it to native speaker to help improve pronunciation

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


effacer

Effacer
Home sweet home. We will miss it.

effacer (ay-fas-ay) verb
  to efface, obliterate, delete; to wash out, wipe out

Il faut des torrents de sang pour effacer nos fautes aux yeux des hommes, une seule larme suffit à Dieu. It takes torrents of blood to erase our mistakes in the eyes of men, a single tear suffices for God. --François René de Chateaubriand

                                                                 Column
Four weeks before D-day,* and I find myself obsessing about the child size fingerprints along the door frames and switch plates throughout our house and will I remember to unclog the shower drain? I must wash the walls, scour the sinks, and rub out any remnants of a life, our life.

Not seven years ago we moved into this nest. I remember unpacking boxes in the pink tiled bathroom. Opening up the built-in armoire, to place our belongings, I found a few strands of hair in the drawers and make-up stains along the cupboard door: traces of another woman's life. Was it a happy one?

The pink tiles were removed long ago, the walls painted over in an unforgiving tone, as witnessed by the fingerprints which give themselves away like giggling toddlers hidden behind trembling curtains. (How they squealed when I found them! My children that is.)

As I wander in and out of the rooms, sponge in hand, erasing traces of my own vie* I hope that the future proprietor will forgive me for any remnants that I have unintentionally left behind.

The crumbs in the floor crevices, should one or two remain, tell stories of a testy maîtresse de maison* who tried, time and again, to get the damn loaf to come out right. The miettes* fell from the hands of sympathetic family members who braved their way through yet another batch of burnt biscuits.

That hole in the bathroom door, let me explain.... There is an old armoire crowded into the hallway, the sharp edge of which meets that door each night as my daughter flings open the latter, letting out the maximum amount of light to shine across the hall and into her room reassuring her that Dame
Blanche* is nowhere in sight.

The trail of pin marks along the wall (in the last room) held tacks which in turn held up champions: Boris Diaw, Steve Nash, and Samir Nasri; sports stars who spoke to a young Frenchman, if only between these four walls of my son's room.

And there, in the guestroom, along the pinewood floor you'll find a drop or two of ultramarine and indigo blue...paint from my artist mother's brush which she set down when she took up the battle within her breast, and won.

Mea Culpa for the tiny shard behind the oven. I'll admit to feeling a great relief at the time that wine glass slipped out of my hand...and slammed against the far wall. (Intentionally missing its target, who later forgave me as I forgave him.)

In these five rooms there have been passionate times as well as prayerful ones. We are moving on now, leaving the past behind, though our traces linger.
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                                       *     *     *
"Words in a French Life" is full of stories that take place in this house: skip past the flying glass (or "plate-shattering" disagreements) in the book's intro and read about a fiery survivor: my mom. Don't miss it in paperback.
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References: D-day = le déménagement (m) = moving, relocation; la vie (f) = life; la maitresse de maison (f) = lady of the house; la miette (f) = crumb; la Dame Blanche = "The Lady in White" = a ghost that haunts French children (and some adults)

:: Audio file ::
Hear my daughter pronounce today's French word and quote: Download effacer.wav
Il faut des torrents de sang pour effacer nos fautes aux yeux des hommes, une seule larme suffit à Dieu.

Terms & Expressions:
effacer une tache = to wipe out a stain
effacer le corps = to stand sideways
effacer les épaules = to throw back the shoulders
effacer quelque chose de sa mémoire = to erase something from one's memory
s'effacer = to become obliterated, to wear away; to fade

Verb conjugation:      
j'efface, tu effaces, il/elle efface, nous effacons, vous effacez, ils/elles effacent
past participle = effacé

Shopping:
Bonsoir Lune, the popular children's book "Goodnight Moon," in French
In Music: Tourist by Saint Germain -- not a lot of words, just waves of the sound kind
France Magazine
New French Country: A Style and Source 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


potin

Biot
No blabbermouths in this corner of Biot; just books.

le potin (poh-tehn) noun, masculine
  gossip, tittle-tattle
  noise, din, racket

Duroy sentit brusquement une sensation de froid, une sorte de crispation nerveuse, un besoin d'injurier et de gifler ce bavard. Mais il l'interrompit simplement pour lui demander: "C'est votre nom, Saint-Potin?"

Duroy felt a sudden chill, a sort of nervous contraction, a wish to insult this gossip-monger. But he merely cut him short by asking him: 'Is Saint-Potin your real name?
--from the book "Bel-Ami" by Guy de Maupassant


                                                          Column


by Kristin Espinasse


Gossip is something I hate to love and French gossip is my particular weakness.

Mais, tu ne savais pas? But, didn't you know?
Tu connais la dernière? Do you know the latest?
Or, as my husband says when he wants to get my attention: J'ai un scoop pour toi!*

What? What! What did you hear about her? What do you know about him? Tell me something--anything!--about the French that will make me feel less...étrange.* But isn't that why my ears bend so easily? In hearing about someone else's misadventures, I feel less like a misfit myself.

And so it was that I longed to be just another gold bangle on one woman's emphatically flapping wrist. How else could I get close enough to hear whatever it was she was saying that had the other women at our table crowded together like grapes on a vine? Seated at the opposite end of the grapevine, I tried to read the wrist-flapper's lips but reading French lèvres* isn't my forte.

"Well, this is the last time I sit next to Jean-Marc!" I muttered, looking past the women's husbands who were in a heated debate about the physics of pétanque.* (Specifically: could one play boules* on a cruising ship as one does on stable ground? Wouldn't a steel ball land off target?)

"Ef aygal em ah!" (F = ma) one of the men pointed out, arguing that the ship's speed would have no effect on the heavy steel ball's landing.

F = ma... I wonder if the man really knew what he was talking about or was simply throwing out some fancy sounding equation. I don't know what the letter equation means but I understand it has something to do with the law of acceleration and, in turn, why I have unconsciously placed myself this far away from the women: so as not to get swept up in the tongue-wagging turbulence.

.

~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~
j'ai un scoop pour toi
= I have a scoop for you; étrange = strange; la lèvre (f) = lip; la pétanque (f) = petanque, a.k.a. "boules"; une boule (f) = (steel) ball

:: Audio Clip ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and example sentence: Download potin.wav
POTIN. Duroy sentit brusquement une sensation de froid, une sorte de crispation nerveuse, un besoin d'injurier et de gifler ce bavard. Mais il l'interrompit simplement pour lui demander: "C'est votre nom, Saint-Potin?"

French Terms & Expressions:
  le dernier potin = the latest (scoop)
  faire du potin = to make a fuss, to stir things up
  potiner = to gossip
  ça a fait du potin = it made quite a stir

Synonyms:
  un commérage, une cancan = piece of gossip

Shopping:
Language learning software
Music: Francis Cabrel
Film: Avenue Montaigne -- starring Cécile De France
Nutella

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


délabré

Delabre
An almost ramshackle façade gets a colorful lift with a charming trompe-l'oeil.

délabré,e (day-lah-bray) adjective
dilapidated, impaired, broken, ramshackle

délabrer (verb) = to wreck, ruin; to spoil

Les grandes souffrances qui peuvent délabrer à jamais une vie affective ne se rencontrent que chez ceux qui connaissent la passion. Great sufferings that can forever ruin an emotional life only meet where those who know passion dwell.  -Boris Cyrulnik
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                                                             Column
Every time my husband and I get into another "Who Does More Around Here?" skirmish, the answer is always plain to see: I DO!

Do you see the clothes pile up? The washing, drying, pommes frites frying* machines as they fill, empty, and fill again? Of course not. Nobody notices the sweaty "behind the scenes" saint.

And then my husband moved north to the farm...

...and the hot shower went cold,
the creditors cried,
and the rats turned fanatic in the attic.

Then--
the stove light sizzled,
the recycle bins burst,
and the pool held not water but pond fodder.

Finally--
the portable phones petered out,
the sliding glass door took another route, jammed,
then (perforce) came out.

No. Nobody ever sees the sweaty "behind the scenes" saint; we only notice his absence.

                          *     *     *

Farm update: The kids and I are looking forward to joining Jean-Marc in four weeks' time (when school is out and the movers arrive). In the meantime, our saint is sweating it out up north, where there are bees to break-in, grapes to grow, a house to overhaul (and dirty dishes and piles of clothes to contemplate :-)

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References: pomme-frites (les pommes de terre frites) (fpl) = French fries

:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French word "délabré" and read today's quote: Download delabrer.wav
Les grandes souffrances qui peuvent délabrer à jamais une vie affective ne se rencontrent que chez ceux qui connaissent la passion.

Terms:
délabrement = ruinous condition
se délabrer = to fall into decay, to go to rack and ruin; to become impaired

Shopping:
Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen by Clotilde Dusoulier
TeLL me More French -- Used everyday in more than 10,000 academic institutions
The organic French herbs kit contains a specialized mix of herbs, perfect for French cooking

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


MAP

Map
Beneath woodcarved porticos across France (and behind portes-fenêtres just above them) the French are mad about bread!

une MAP (map) acronym
  (une) machine à pain (breadmaker)

Que ceux qui ont faim aient du pain! Que ceux qui ont du pain aient faim de justice et d'amour! May those who are hungry have bread! May those who have bread be hungry for justice and love! --Abbé Pierre

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Column
At our annual family picnic seventeen members of my belle-famille* sat, eyes smiling in anticipation, as they waited for the unveiling of the grand MAP.* My MAP! Normally presents are not exchanged on this occasion but, the picnic taking place at our new farm, my belle-famille saw an opportunity for an impromptu crémaillère.*

Making room for the present, we pushed aside platefuls of homemade clafoutis* and "chocolate mayonnaise"--dessert so rich it covers your thighs with delicate, caviar-shaped cellulite.

While the aunts helped lift the bread machine from its box, carefully removing the Styrofoam packaging and placing the instruction booklet in my clammy hands, I felt the first wave of performance anxiety. Bake bread for the French? She who was raised on store-bought tortillas?

And so it was that my first loaf turned out tortilla flat. It occurred to me that this had something to do with my laissez-faire attitude toward yeast: let the bread make itself without it. I had all of the other ingredients after all...and couldn't baking soda be a substitute?

A quick trip to the market and a teaspoonful of levure* later... and loaf two was rising to the French heavens! I peered into the oven at light, fluffy Brioche* (Corn Tortilla's sweet muse). Brioche would become my muse as well, for the simple fact the she was a smashing success--only without the "smoosh" this time!

A power outage played its part in the demise of loaf three. So I made bread salad with that one. When the kids complained, I assured them that, technically, we were still eating a sandwich and things could be worse--we could be drinking one! Well, the bread was soggy enough... they pointed out.

I emptied the crisper drawer into the bread pan for experiment number four and a carrot loaf appeared three and a half hours later! The principle behind the breadmaker (that all the ingredients can be thrown together haphazardly, then paddled together by a programmable robot) especially appeals to the inner mad scientist within me.

"Loaf Five: Banana bread!" I sing, when Max walks into the kitchen as I am tossing pine nuts, oats, a blackened piece of fruit and a swirl of honey into the steel UFO that hogs our kitchen counter. My kids don't see anything scientific about the heavy, gummy breads that have replaced their airy, golden (and oh-so-BO-ring) baguettes. No, they only see the madness.

.....................................................................................................................
References: la belle-famille (f) = in-laws; MAP = (la) machine à pain = breadmaker; la pendaison de crémaillère (a.k.a. "la crémaillère") = housewarming; clafoutis = creamy, egg-based dessert with (often) unpitted cherries; la levure (f) = yeast; la brioche = light roll (or loaf of bread) enriched with eggs and butter, slightly sweet
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And now a message from our wanna-be breadwinner:
It is not science and it is not madness (OK, just a little of the latter)--it is just one person's lifetime dream of writing from home: a reality that meant giving up the "day job" and the "bread" that came with it. If you enjoy this homespun word journal, please help to support it. Click here for more info.

Thank you!
Kristin

..............................................................................................................
:: Audio File ::
Listen to my daughter recite today's French quote:
Faire son pain soi-même revient à la mode grâce à la machine à pain qui facilite la tâche. (Making one's own bread is popular again thanks to the breadmaker which facilitates the task.) From "Livres hebdo," 1982. Download map.wav

Shopping:
Programmable Breadmaker: two models: here and here.
French Bread Pan
Paperback "Words" -- more slices of French life 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


camionnette

Camionnette
Crashing into the marguerites. Oh, the dangers of driving in Ceriana, Italy (where we saw the little camionnette).

la camionnette (ka-me-oh-net) noun, feminine

  pick-up truck; small van, minivan

La camionnette démarre avec fracas et la jeune fille ferme derrière elle la lourde porte, relique de temps moins sûrs. The truck starts up with a roar and the young girl closes behind her the heavy door, a relic from uncertain times. —from "La Nouvelle revue des deux mondes"
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Column
I was wondering about what to get my son for his birthday when Jules called from Mexico to offer her two centavos worth:

"Get him a car!" she rooted.
"A car? He is turning twelve, Mom."
"It's not too late! Your uncle Rusty and I didn't start driving until we were twelve...or was it eleven? Hmmm. I had an old Ford pick-up!..." my mom reminisced.
"Mom! Max can't drive!"

The conversation was surreal until I remembered that my mom's clock does not tick to world time. She doesn't even have a watch. And lest day and night become nagging reminders of Father Time's regulatory nature she'll sleep with the sun and dance with the moon just to shake things up. She's a rebel that way and wouldn't want her grandson to be driven by society's clock--which brings us back to driving...

Come to think of it, my sister Heidi and I, pint-sized Thelma and Louises at the age of thirteen and nine, used to careen across the dusty desert floor, in Grandpa's Jeep, tumbleweeds spinning in our wake. With Heidi at the wheel, we killed time (something Mom might've approved of)—this after a breakfast of burritos and beer, coffee being bad for a kid. My grandfather made the turkey burritos and shared the Budweiser. We only had a few sips of it—though Grandpa's poodle, "Poo-Poo," got a generous splash in her bowl each morning. The beer cans were then strung by the tab along my grandmother's clothesline. BB guns poised, we'd spend the afternoon shooting at the cans from the deck where my grandparents' singlewide trailer was set in cement. The year was 1977. We were in Bouse, Arizona.

I am a long way from the desert now and just a tumbleweed's trot from the French Drôme* as I clutch the phone, feeling iffy about my mom's suggestion.

"Well, tell Jean-Marc about my idea, Honey, and see what he thinks," Mom says, trying to sell me on the idea. "So much safer than a motorcycle!" she argues. "Braise* could ride in the back and Jackie or mom or dad next to Max. Max would learn all about mechanics...I would suggest finding a garage where Max could meet a mechanic and learn how to keep his truck running."

By the time I hang up the phone I am spinning with anxiety. Then, I recall our neighbor's "garage." Monsieur Delhome has at least four tractors in that massive steel hangar,* the walls of which are covered with tools. One entire wall is a veritable tools-n-parts museum. He could probably build a camionnette* with all that metal....

Bingo! Max can build his own car! (And, I reckon, by the time he's figured out how to assemble the monster he'll be old enough to drive it). Off to Feu Vert* now...to buy my son a wrench and the French equivalent Kit Car magazine. I can afford that (and this mother's nerves could afford a break now).

.....................................................................................................................
References: French Drôme = a department in southeastern France, where the towns Nyons and Valence are located as well as the charming town of Grignan. The Drôme is located north of the Vaucluse department; Braise = our one-year-old Golden Retriever; le hangar (m) = shed; la camionnette (f) = pick-up truck; Feu Vert (Green Light) = French auto parts store

:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's French word and quote: Download wav
La camionnette démarre avec fracas et la jeune fille ferme derrière elle la lourde porte, relique de temps moins sûrs.

 Also: camionnette de livraison = delivery truck

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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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louper

Louper
A missed catch: loop (+ screen) + cat = unloopable cat

louper (loo pay) verb
  1. to miss  2. to mess up, to flunk

("louper" is used in informal conversation)

  Il ne faut pas louper le coche,* mes amis!
  We musn't miss our chance, my friends!
--Henriette Chardak
     *coach, barge; rater le coche = to miss the boat
.

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

After a hearty lunch of poulet rôti,* spicy eggplant ratatouille, and rosemary herbed potatoes (and seconds of all three!), I suspect that my son is brimming with health and not at all as sick as he claimed to be when the alarm clock rang this morning. ("Aïe! J'ai mal au ventre!"* he had complained.)

"Well, well, Max, you certainly have the peach!"* I declare, as the French do when pointing out how good they feel. "Maybe I could take you to school now?"
"Mommy," Max pleads, "I need a day off."
"Well, you'll have a lot of class work to catch up on, so don't come crying to me!"

Max shows me a disarming smile before asking what's for dessert. I bring out a bowl of aromatic garriguettes--strawberries so sweet you'd swear they were sugar cubes blushing in disguise. I pass Max the can of whipping cream, figuring that he might as well enjoy his sick day even if he is guilty.
As he eats, he reviews which classes he has missed:

J'ai loupé les maths*...
J'ai loupé la musique*...
J'ai loupé la téchno*...

Listening to my son's losses, I try to balance the debit. While Max missed math, music, and technology, he didn't miss doing the dishes (this, without my asking), he didn't miss making me a surprise cup of tea ("C'est bien chaud!"* he announced, his shining eyes carefully steadied on the steamy surface of the tea lest it spill as he walked), and he didn't miss collecting a handful of roses (after he slipped out to the garden, scissors in hand). Finally, he didn't miss selecting a vase (our best coffee cup in the cupboard) and arranging the flowers into an attractive bouquet before delivering them to my desk. "For you, mommy," he offered.

"J'ai loupé un peu d'histoire." I missed a bit of history, too, my son admits as I poke my nose deep into a pink blossom. Learning about another "louped" class I feel slightly annoyed. Then I get to thinking about Max's history book and all the "important stuff" that is recorded inside for students to study and recall. Why shouldn't this moment be memorized too? How unworthy of note one boy's stolen day may seem to historians who'll never document the sweetness of this tea, nor record the gift of a tender heart.

.........................................................................................................
References: le poulet (m) rôti = rotisserie chicken; Aïe! J'ai mal au ventre! = Ow! I have a stomach ache; avoir la pêche = to feel great; j'ai loupé les maths = I missed math; j'ai loupé la musique = I missed music; j'ai loupé la téchno (technologie) = I missed technology; c'est bien chaud = it's very hot

:: Audio File ::
Listen to me pronounce the word "louper" before my daughter reads today's quote: Download louper.wav We musn't miss our chance, my friends!
.

Terms & Expressions:
  louper son cours = to miss one's class
  louper son bus/train = to miss one's bus/train
  louper le coche = to miss an opportunity, to miss one's chance
  louper son coup = to miss one's chance
  A ne pas louper! = Not to be missed! (program, event...)

Verb conjugation:
je loupe, tu loupes, il/elle loupe, nous loupons, vous loupez, ils/elles loupent => past participle: loupé
Complete Guide to Conjugating 12000 French Verbs

More in shopping....
Made in France: perfumed envelopes--liberate their fragrance in a clothing cupboard, the car, travelling bags or under a pillow
Lavender Honey : Aromatic when used for basting
Rosetta Stone French (CD-ROM) -- language learning via "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


essaim

Essaim
My husband "King Bee" looking for a Queen. Thanks to our neighbor, Jean-Marie, he found a swarm (see it in the photo? just above the word "bee". Now to pry the buzzing mass from the underarm of that branch...

un essaim (eh-sehn [silent "n," nasal sound]) noun, masculine
  : swarm (of bees)
  : crowd, swarm (of people); bevy (of girls)

Ce qui n'est point utile à l'essaim, n'est point utile à l'abeille.
That which is not good for the swarm, neither is it good for the bee.
                                                                         
--Montesquieu

Column
My husband isn't one to flirt with ideas. He homes in on a fancy... then sees that it doesn't pass! He's done this with wine, women, and now...worker bees. For the wine, he left audit, or accounting; for the woman, he left Owch,* and for the worker bee he's leaving allergies--my allergies--in the dust.

That dust! How it pours out from behind his giant tractor wheels... From the tractor cab, Jean-Marc points to the flowers and wild herbs which crowd in along the rows of grapevines. "I'm going to make honey!" he announces. "It will cure you!" He theorizes that the abeilles* will collect the local pollen (from all those sneeze-inducing blossoms) and that if I eat enough honey I'll be immunized! He really just wants to wear one of those bee space suits, if you ask me. It's the closest thrill to walking on the moon.

Speaking of space, I can tell you from experience that a Vauclusian vineyard in wintertime looks just like Mars: flat terre* all around, nothing but gnarly alien claws jutting out of the barren ground.

Those bare "claws" grew green heads over the past month and when I visited our wine farm last week the organic fields had returned to their earthy selves. Next to the leafy vines, just down by the creek, I saw where Jean-Marc had placed the ruche.* The glass-sided beehive was chosen a few weeks ago after we spent an hour in a bee shop in Bollène. A very patient saleswoman, "Véro," helped us assemble the most basic beekeeper start-up kit which basically stopped our credit card in its tracks. But, when Véro explained we could make more than 20 kilos of honey, I got to calculating... Things were looking lucrative until Véro asked if we had a "sehn"... We'd need one to begin the honey process. A sehn, a sehn, a sehn...I mumbled. There'd be no honey without it.

The first week I told anyone who would listen that we needed a sehn, which in my mind was a fancy queen bee and entourage, but in the mind of the French--and judging from the intrigue written across their twisted faces, it must've been something entirely different. Turns out I had been telling everyone that we needed a boob.*

Do you think I was embarrassed? Sure, but there have been worse language gaffes and I've said things, unintentionally, that only a French obstetrician can say without flinching. Such are the hazards of hijacking a foreign tongue (which to me is less risky than flirting with 50,000 worker bees and a few hundred doomed drones). I'll leave that to King Bee.

..............................................................................................................
References: "owch" = my husband's ex-girlfriend, so-named for the stinging effect she had on me -- read about that here; une abeille = bee; la terre = ground, earth; la ruche = beehive; boob = the French word for "breast" is "le sein" (sehn) which sounds like the French word for swarm (essaim) (eh-sehn)
                     
:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's French word, then the quote: Download Essaim.wav
Ce qui n'est point utile à l'essaim, n'est point utile à l'abeille.
http://french-word-a-day.typepad.com/motdujour/files/Essaim.wav

Terms & Expressions
un essaim de jeunes filles = a gaggle of girls
essaimer = to quit the hive and form a new colony, to hive off
faire l'essaim = to swarm; to spread out, expand
un essaimage = swarming

Shop......................................................................................
The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden
Thousand Flower Le Grand miel honey in decorative metal pail - 26 oz from Bernard Michaud, France

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
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--Candy T., California


le scrutin

Scrutin
The French voted yesterday...and we have a new French president!

le scrutin (skroo-tuhn) noun, masculine
   ballot; poll

...ce scrutin marquera l'accession au pouvoir d'une nouvelle génération, après les 12 années de présidence de Jacques Chirac...

...this ballot will mark the accession to power of a new generation, after twelve years of presidency for Jacques Chirac... --Radio Suisse Romande
.

                                                         Column
I was driving along the Highway of the Sun* when the horizon went from blue to brown. Pointing to the sienna sky, I warned the kids that we were in for a storm.

The raindrops came pelting down from out of nowhere to blot out our crystal clear view. We were no longer surrounded by cars but faint specks of yellow light, like goldfish in a bowl of milk. Deep in the fog I turned on my headlights and told the kids to keep quiet. My daughter put a leash on Braise, told her she was a good dog, and the clatter of rain now filled the silence.

The telephone rang, jolting my heart as thunder might. Max answered, said hello to his father, and assured him we were almost home. My son listened to his father for a few moments before the call was ended. "Qu'est-ce qu'il y a? What's up?" I asked.
"We have a new President!" Max announced.

Before either of us could react my daughter spoke.
"Look, mommy," Jackie cried out, "we are driving into the rainbow!" I looked up to discover a complete arc-en-ciel.* Max mentioned that the colorful arc was an optical illusion but that didn't stop all three of us from seeing it. We noticed the rainbow's fiery rays in green, yellow, and red.

"What were the chiffres?*" I asked Max, returning to the historical event.
"Sarko,* 53 percent. Ségo* 47."

The kids and I stared out the window and noticed that, other than the fiery arc, the skies were still unclear.

...................................................................................................................
References: l'autoroute (f) du soleil = the A6 & A7 motorways to the south of France; l'arc-en-ciel (m) = rainbow; le chiffre (m) = figure, number; Sarko (Nicolas Sarkozy) = the new President of France; Ségo (Marie-Ségolène Royal) = Socialist candidate for the 2007 French presidential election

Terms & Expressions:
  le scrutin secret = secret vote
  le scrutin découvert = open vote
  le jour du scrutin = voting day
  dépouiller le scrutin = to count the votes
  ouverture/clôture du scrutin = start / close of polling
  le tour de scrutin = ballot
  voter au scrutin = to ballot
  élire quelqu'un au scrutin = to ballot for someone
  procéder au scrutin = to take the vote
  demander le scrutin = to ask for a count
  scrutiner = to poll, vote

In Gifts and more:
Marie Claire Idees (magazine, in French) for a wide range of crafts and projects.
"Words in a French Life" -- now available in paperback!
TeLL me More French -- Used everyday in more than 10,000 academic institutions

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