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Entries from October 2010

joyeux

Golden retriever, dog, halloween costume, girl, spider mask (c) Kristin Espinasse www.french-word-a-day.com
Our Jackie turned 5 when this word journal began. Here she is at eleven (two years ago) helping Braise (brez) get dressed for today's birthday party!

     Today marks the 8th anniversary of this French word journal!


joyeux, joyeuse (zhwa-yuh, zhwa-yuhz) adjective

    : cheerful, merry, joyful

Listen to my daughter's message, and to the French word "joyeux": Download Wav or MP3 


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
  "And now.. a Word or Two about You"

I have another confession: I have never been good at événementiel (or "event organization"). Jean-Marc planned our wedding, each and every detail (contacted the French priest, ordered the fleurs, selected the menu, had les bagues engraved, and all but tried on the long white robe & satin-trimmed veil for me).


The "big day" found his blushing bride-to-be tripping over a street grate, late for a very important date! I have been trying to make up for that unforgettable entrance ever since: by continuing to réviser a simple lesson from my husband: relax and enjoy life and, especially, celebrate the milestones!

Today marks the 8th anniversary of this French word journal and I am ready to celebrer this joyful event. I've ordered the flowers (okay, I swiped several from "Mama Jules"), and selected the menu: a sweet and savory buffet of words.

Now listen up: this is where you come in (and not as a clumsy bride!):

Golden retriever, dog, halloween costume, girl, spider mask, mont ventoux, vaucluse (c) Kristin Espinasse www.french-word-a-day.com
.
I would like to ask you to share a word or two... about yourself
.
 Are you an 85-year-old collector of Southwestern art? Or a new mother, up to her ears in dirty diapers? Are you in a marching band? Do you read this word journal in school? Are you famous? ...or infamous? (or related to someone who is?). Do you speak more than two languages? Can you make your ears move? or can you do the splits?

Do you suspect you are the youngest on this list--or the oldest? Are you a tattoo artist or do you dabble in watercolor? Have you invented something? Do you like frogs legs or are you carrément contre la cuisine des cuisses de grenouilles? Do you have an unusual skill? Do you decorate your window sill? Are you involved in a charity? Have you written a book and do you want to "buzz it" here? Are you shy? Ever won a prize? Or eaten an entire pie? Are you on a mission? Do you have a blog or a website and where can we find you on the web?

Now's the time to de-lurk... time to write just a line or two about you... s'il vous plaît! Meantime, thank you for reading this word journal and for helping to create a cozy community as we move into our ninth year: one sweet and savory word at a time.

Thank you very much, in advance, for sharing something about you, in the comments box. Note: the next post will go out on November 5th, after a short break :-)

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


jojo

Municiple flowers, blue shutters, Valréas, Vaucluse, hanging flower pot, France (c) Kristin Espinasse www.french-word-a-day.com
Municipal flower pot in Valréas.

jojo (zho zho) adjective

    : short for "joli(e)", pretty
. 

 Audio file (not available today... désolée!)

 

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

I followed Madame's directions and ended up at the medieval church, looking up at those "magnifiques fronts", the faces of which were almost as long as my own. Staring up at the church's eaves, where sculpted eyes stared back at me, I searched for God knows what: familiarity? unity?

My eyes scoured the stone faces but, try as I might, I could not "connect" or feel the warmth that had left me back at the little placette, where I had said mes au revoirs. Madame with the soft white curls and sentimental scarf  had surely returned to the room behind the window of white hearts. Why had she sent me here? Why were these sour faces so sweet to her?

I hurried back to the farmers' market to pick up a few bricoles before leaving the town of Valréas. Walking along I was awed by the municipal flower pots which lined the polished streets, punctuating every corner. The bright red blooms tumbled over, flowing almost to the cobbled ground. A little girl, no more that three, tousled her mother's hair as the latter knelt down to tie the toddler's shoes. The girl's fingers were light as feathers, little birds in her mother's silky hair. "Ça suffit, chérie," the mother said, standing up in time to fix her disheveled locks. I smiled at mère et fille as the two turned down the street, the sound of church bells behind them. It was eleven a.m.

"Quel joli sourire!" exclaimed the butcher, as I strode past his stand. I stopped, feeling both embarrassed and obliged... I wondered whether we needed some bacon, after all? I took my place in line.

"Yes! A very pretty smile!" repeated the butcher. There was no way I would leave now, and so I stood, awkwardly so. Relief came when the butcher turned his attention to the frail lady in the front of me. "And you, too! What a lovely smile you have!"

"Oh, no. I do not have good teeth," the woman said, apologetically. "Non, je ne suis plus jojo!" She turned, focusing her pale blue eyes on me. "But it is good to smile! Life is hard enough..." she said, gently. With that, everybody in line nodded and clucked their tongues in commiseration. I wondered about the various hardships beneath all those clucking tongues. Was it lost love? Bad health? A job loss?

Next, a man in a wheelchair arrived and took his place in line behind me. Collective hardships were forgotten as tongues abruptly quit clucking. All eyes focused on the butcher, who broke the silence.

"Debout!" "Stand up!" he roared, pointing his knife at the man in the chaise roulante.  

For one surreal moment I stood frozen. If I'd had a pair of earmuffs I would have thrown them over the man's oreilles, sparing him the butcher's words, which seemed to amount to one big and very bad joke.

I turned to greet the man in the wheelchair. His face was handsome or, to borrow a new word I'd just learned from Madame, "jojo". Yes, he was a joli homme or, rather, un bel homme with caramel brown hair and eyes the color of marrons

"Je vous dis, DEBOUT!" the butcher thundered, becoming even more animated.

The moments that followed were awkward, made almost unbearable by the bel homme's silence. Suddenly, his face lit up. "Cher ami," he said to his friend, "I haven't walked in 25 years... and it isn't your half-witted hollering that's going to make a difference now!"

The two men exchanged friendly bonjours and soon it was back to business. "What can I get you today, mon grand?" he said to his friend in the wheelchair. With that, the butcher winked at me as I stood marveling at the locals and their camaraderie.


Le Coin Commentaires

Corrections and feedback welcome! Click here to leave a message.

 

 

French Vocabulary

magnifique = magnificent

le front = face (of statue, building)

la placette = small "place" or (village) square 

mes au revoirs = my goodbyes

une bricole = a thing

ça suffit, chérie = that's enough, dear one

mère et fille = mother and daughter

quel joli sourire = what a pretty smile

non, je ne suis plus jojo = no, I am no longer pretty

debout! = stand up!

une chaise roulante = wheelchair

une oreille = ear

le marron = chestnut

je vous dis debout! = I tell you, stand!

cher ami = dear friend

mon grand = big boy, dear

golden retrievers, girl, chrysanthemum, bamboo, roseaux, canne de provence (c) Kristin Espinasse www.french-word-a-day.com

Our Jackie, with Braise (left) and Braise's son Smokey

pumpkin, climbing vine, Virginia Creeper, vigne vièrge, chrysanthemum, golden retriever, dog, wooden chair, deck (c) Kristin Espinasse www.french-word-a-day.com
Smokey "R" Dokey

pumpkin, chrysanthemum, golden retriever, dog, old grape vine, deck, France, Vaucluse, vineyard (c) Kristin Espinasse www.french-word-a-day.com
                           Thank you, Kathy and Ron, for the mum and for the pumpkin!

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Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
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--Melanie


exquis

Maison rose, bike, fleur de lis, mailbox, stone façade, Valréas, Vaucluse, France, village, no. 5, porch light (c) Kristin Espinasse www.french-word-a-day.com
Just a very fun word to say today: exquis (ex kee): it also describes the endearing woman in today's story....

 exquis (ex kee) adjective

    : exquisite

synonyms: avenant (pleasant), doux (sweet), fin (delicate)
 
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. 

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

It must be getting close to lunchtime. My head is light and my fingers are numb from the cold. I have been taking photos for hours now, weaving in and out of the village of Valréas on market day.

The greasy aroma of rotisserie chicken is pulling me by the nose, back to the rond-point, where I have parked my car opposite the old imprimerie, which is now a fitness studio. Exercise is something I am getting so little of lately. I hope my two-hour leisure walk counts for something (20-minutes on the treadmill?).

Though tempted to see what's cooking at the farmer's market, I am held into place by an invisible tie, mesmerized by this pretty placette before me, where a tall treille of vines makes for a charming front-step awning, or marquise. I am studying the canopy of grapes when a white-haired woman stops beside me and follows my regard to the top of the leafy lattice. She nods her head, which is crowned by soft, shoulder-length curls.

"Il y a de belles photos à avoir par là," she hints, turning her gaze to the passage just below, à gauche.

"Ah bon?" I turn to greet my informant with a bonjour followed by a merci for stopping like that, just to help me, the stranger in jeans and a jean jacket, or modern-day camouflage.

"Attendez une minute," the woman suggests, walking a few more feet to the next doorsill, where she sets down her market panier which is brimming with chrisanthemums. I notice the large antique key that she uses to open the 18th century porte.

I am waiting beside a window with white hearts sprayed onto the glass and realize this must be her kitchen fenêtre.
"J'aime bien ces coeurs," I offer to the silence in between us. 

The woman sets her panier on the other side of the door-well, shuts and locks the door before joining me beneath the treille with grapes that now dangle above our heads like fancy ornaments. She pulls her coat close and I notice the homemade scarf made of loose strings. I have one similar to it, somewhere... I wonder if hers was a gift, too?

The white-haired woman with the homemade scarf points to the end of the impasse on which she lives. Next, she looks down past her feet....
"Below these cobblestones... ça communique...." she confides. I understand that she is referring to an underground passageway. I remember all of the memorial signs I had stopped to read, about all the martyrs that were fusillé by firing squads during the second world war. I imagine a basement cellar inside her village home, with a one-time access to the network of underground alleyways. I wonder if Madame was here during the war? 

Another woman, trailing a cart-on-wheels, walks slowly past the other end of the portico, beneath which we had passed minutes before. "Salut Marie-Jo!" Madame calls out.

"Now there's a relic!" Madame confides, loud enough for her friend to hear.

"What's that?" Mary-Jo replies.

Madame turns to me, answering her friend, indirectly. "This is a visitor who finds our village beautiful!"

Mary-Jo nods, looking a scad confused.

"A relic that one!" Madame giggles.

"Comment?" the relic wants to know. 

"I said 'cover up', Mary Jo. It's cold out!" Having dismissed her friend, Madame returns her full attention to me. "Now, for some good photos, you just follow this path...." and with that Madame offers instructions on where to find a series of magnificient "fronts", or "faces" that were fashioned into a wall. "You must see them! Magnifique!" 

But I am not sold on the idea, and feel reluctant to leave. I don't want pictures of the sculpted faces. I want her face!

"But can't I take your picture?" I ask.

Madame's hand flies up like a bird and lands in her white hair. "It's a nest! A veritable nest!" she declaires, adding, apologetically, that a photo will not be possible.

I do not know what to say next. After all, she is not the disheveled one that she makes herself out to be. No! She is endearing, exquise! Her hair, is winter white and bouclé, and her face is a tableau of soft impressions. I am certainly impressionnée.

Hesitant, I follow her instructions and walk on, regretfully. I could have argued with her. I might have pointed out that that is no bird's nest on her pretty head: the soft, pearly curls, they are her crowning glory.

Le Coin Commentaires: Corrections and feedback welcome here.

 

French Vocabulary

le rond-point = roundabout

une imprimerie = printing shop

la placette = little (village) square, place

la treille = climbing vine, trellis

une marquise = canopy of shelter, awning 

Il y a de belles photos à avoir par là = there are pretty photos to be had this way

à gauche = to the left

ah, bon? = oh, really?

bonjour = hello

merci = thank you

attendez une minute = wait a minute

le panier = basket used to carry "les denrées" (f) or foodstuffs

la porte = door

la fenêtre = window

J'aime bien ces coeurs = I like these hearts

ça communique = this communicates, or joins

fusillé = shot down by a firing squad

salut = hi

comment = what did you say?

magnifique = magnificent

exquise = exquisite

bouclé(e) = curly

 

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wooden signpost, France, chateau de simiane, blue, paint, hotel de ville, Valréa, Vaucluse, France (c) Kristin Espinasse www.french-word-a-day.Com

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Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
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--Melanie


Clochard: My mom meets some of the homeless people of Draguigan

booze, bottle, homeless, sdf, Paris, window sill, ledge, window bars (c) Kristin Espinasse, www.french-word-a-day.com
                                                                                         Bottle on a window sill in Paris.

.
un clochard (klo shar) noun

    : homeless person

feminine: une clocharde

synonyms:
un mendiant (beggar), S.D.F., or "Sans Domicile Fixe" (homeless person)


. 

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

Sometime in 2003... Mom and I are walking through the town of Draguignan when we catch sight of ourselves in a shop window.

"Look at you," Mom says."You look like a washerwoman!" I look down at my favorite shirt and notice how faded it has become. Mom may have a point. Beneath the shirt, my jeans are even more décoloré and fringed at the hemline. En effet! I really do look like a washerwoman! "But then so do you," I counter, and with that we dissolve into laughter.

Ever since Mom's accident, in which she slipped and broke her hip while washing the floor (back in her apartment in Mexico), her life went from bad to worse. Presently she was living with me in Les Arcs-sur-Argens, dependent on more than my help: she needed to borrow my clothes.... 

Because my own wardrobe was a bit classic (read unimaginitive) for her taste, she took to wearing an eclectic mix of "threads". A little bit from Jean-Marc's garde-robe, a little bit from mine. Even an item or two of Max's and Jackie's (such as a candy bracelet or a feather for her hat). But no matter what she wore, if it had a restrictive neckline, she simply tore out the collar. If there's one thing Mom hates, it is restrictions!

There in front of the reflective storefront window, we faced reality: me in my washed-out ensemble and Mom in baggy pantalons, a pair of beat-up hiking boots, and the torn sweatshirt. Her smart fedora and bronze lipstick added a certain je ne sais quoi to her patched-together outfit.

"Why don't you go and buy yourself a pretty new outfit?" Mom suggested. Unlike Mom, I had a credit card and unlike Mom I had a complex. The only thing we had in common on the clothes front was an aversion to shopping. That said, it didn't take too much convincing before I disappeared into the nearest shop. Looking back, I regret not sending my dear mom into the store for a new outfit of her own. It might have spared her the heckling that she received next....

While I was busy in the shop, rummaging through racks of overpriced clothes, Mom loitered in front of the boutique, where she eventually met a few locals.

"Why do you have that?" a man asked, pointing to Mom's cane. 
"Because I broke my hip," Mom explained. 
"You don't need that!" he insisted. "Just look at me. I don't need mine anymore!"

With that the man began kicking out his legs triumphantly. "Look at me! Look at me!" he sang. Next, he did a little dance, punctuated by more kicks and a few arm flaps for art's sake. The man wore a scraggly beard and mustache from which a line of smoke issued. On closer look, a hand-rolled cigarette rested in a corner of his mouth.

"You can do this! You don't have to be a cripple your whole life," he seemed to be saying.

Mom was amazed. "But how did you do this?"

"In France we take care of our people." 

And, fast as that, the man trotted off, up the street and across the way, leaving Mom bedazzled. Oh, the brave hearts she encountered! She loved each and every one with her own full heart.

With me still kicking around in the dress shop, Mom wandered off in search of Mr. Kicks. She hobbled up the road, where, quelle chance!, she found him roaring with laughter before a group of men and women. 

Mom's face lit up on recognizing her new friend; only, before she could advance one more step, another man in the group began shouting at her. Stunned, she froze in her tracks. She was now the object of a half-dozen glassy stares. That's when she heard her friend speak to his colleague in broken English.

"Stop!" he said, raising the palm of his hand dramatically. "She is a beautiful woman. She is very special!" But the other man only continued his protest, this time in broken English. The scene of two men arguing in broken English was so startling that Mom forgot her hurt feelings.

Mom watched as the group became more and more animated. She noticed that some were drinking from beer bottles while others were patiently waiting for the very same. The group was dressed in a pastiche of patterns, all faded and fringed. Mom looked down at her own person and remembered her reflection in the shop window. That is when it all began to make sense: The man who was yelling at her was only defending his own, albeit transient, turf, lest some eager arriviste from another curb threatens to upset his coins-collecting commerce! 

A little while later, I breezed out of the shop with a new pair of pants and a new top. I met Mom, who was returning from the other end of the street. She wore a smile on her face, the kind that is drawn there by angels.
 
"Did you find something nice, Honey?" Mom asked. I told her that I did, and assured her that I would no longer be looking like une clocharde!

A little while later I would realize the (unintentional) indelicateness of my words when Mom shared with me about her half-hour alone on the streets of Draguignan.

 


FRENCH VOCABULARY

décoloré
= faded, washed out

En effet! = as a matter of fact!

la garde-robe = wardrobe

le pantalon = pant

je ne sais quoi = (a certain) something

                                     

Bien dire magazineKeep up your French with Bien Dire (magazine subscription). A 52-page magazine to improve your French that you'll enjoy reading! Full of interesting articles on France and French culture, Bien-dire helps you understand what it is to be French order here



Video: Listen to Jean-Marc pronoune today's word "clochard". Can you understand what he is saying? Write your interpretation in the comments box.

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


frousse

sunset, couche de soleil, mont, ventoux, vaucluse, france, ciel (c) Kristin Espinasse, www.french-word-a-day.com
Travel with me today... to another dimension in time and space... (pictured: Mont Ventoux, left, and Les Dentelles de Montmirail).

frousse (frooce) noun, feminine

    : fright, fear, funk

synonyms: la trouille (avoir la trouille = to be scared stiff); la pétoche = fear

avoir la frousse = to be scared
froussard,e = cowardly, chicken
le/la froussard(e) = coward

Audio FileDownload MP3 or Download WAV

Quand le gremlin est apparu, on a eu la frousse!
When the gremlin appeared we were frightened! 

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

     "Beyond the Boundaries of Imagination"

My 13-year-old and I have begun a new habitude. Nightly, we crawl into bed with my portable computer, prop up the pillows, just so, and watch another episode of The Twilight Zone.

Ever since I told Jackie about how I used to watch the horror/sci-fi show as a kid, she has been fascinated.
"I would wake up in the twilight hours of the night," I tell her, "slip out to the salon, and crank the large handle of our TV to channel 8. Next, I would dive for safety under a blanket on the floor. Any trembling fears I had were aggravated by the looming floor-to-ceiling window beside me. (Mom had had our single-wide trailer improved by cutting through an aluminum wall in order to place a sliding-glass window. While it did "open things up", there were no curtains to close out the dark night, and only a rideau of twisted trees separated the darkened desert from me and the ghosts on TV. If I dared look out to the stars, I could imagine aliens were not far... and in the orange orchard beyond, surely mummies and monsters walked on.

Presently, my daughter and I lock arms and brace ourselves. We learned our lesson with the gremlin that is out to get William Shatner (Nightmare at 20,000 feet).... We won't let our hearts leap out like that again! No more fooling us! (Never mind the amateur "monster" costumes which look, after all, like costumes, zippers up the back and all!). Almost 50 years later, and a good scene is still a good scene.

As we sip our hot chocolates and our café au laits we wonder, now, where "Talky Tina" is hiding herself? (Turns out the threatening "living" doll is in the stairwell, posed, this time, to kill Telly Savalis!). Jackie and I stare at each other after the bad guy's demise, and repeat, "My name is Talky Tina! My name is Talky Tina!" With that we shiver as we abruptly switch internet channels. Time for one last eerie episode for the night....

The surreal stories are fascinating for the twists which come at the end. What's more, there is an underlying moral in many of them. In "Eye of the Beholder" it isn't the "normal" people who are beautiful, but the outcasts of society.  And in "The Hunt," we learn to beware of sweet-talkers, who might sweet-talk us right into the fire and brimstone of hell!

While viewing "Where is Everybody?" Jackie questioned at the end, "What's happening?" We watch as the brave hero babbles to himself while being carried away on a stretcher. "He's gone crazy because he thinks he is all alone in the world," I explain.

After we've watched a dozen episodes we quiz each other, "Which was the scariest?" Jackie is quick to point out the gremlin. Mwaahahaha! I roar, tickling my younger child, before gathering her into my arms.
"Et toi, maman?" she questions.

Holding on to my daughter, I stare out the window, to the endless night sky... not a soul in sight. For me the answer is easy. 

 

Le Coin Commentaires
To leave a response to this story, click here. Merci beaucoup!


French Vocabulary

une habitude = habit

le salon = living room

le rideau = curtain, screen

le café au lait = coffee with milk, white coffee

et toi, Maman? = and you, Mom?
.

 

HOMELIFE

golden retriever, dog, flower, mauve, heart, window, wooden, shutter, tongue, leash (c) Kristin Espinasse, www.french-word-a-day.com

This was a set-up!

DSC_0016

The "Dirt Divas" (Doreen and Malou) gave me dozens of plants. I love these "Gaillardes" ("strong" "well" "vigorous") flowers, which carpet the ground.

DSC_0020

A few DIY projects remain....

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" a great book for learning French pronunciation"
"useful and practical"
"high quality material, good value for your money" --from Amazon customer reviews. Order your copy here.

 

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


n'importe quoi

yellow bastide rhone france provence vines trellis shutters iron gate mountain
I yearned for a French life, but blew my chances the first time around! Read on... 

n'importe quoi (nem port kwah)

    : anything at all; "whatever", "yeah, right!"
..... 

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Dire que les Français ne sont pas accueillants aux Anglophones, c'est dire n'importe quoi! To say that the French are not welcoming to Anglophones, is nonsense. 

 

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

  "Girl Friday"

In 1993 I found myself back in the Arizona desert, having been deported there by one disillusioned Frenchman. Jean-Marc and I had tried to live together—lasting a full ten months—but all that sizzling chemistry that fueled us in the beginning eventually fizzled out, and our Franco-American romance was over. Jean-Marc's mind was set. To prove it, he bought me a one-way ticket back to Phoenix!

Back in Phoenix, I busied myself picking up the pieces of a life I had quickly left behind. The cold, current reality was I needed to find a job, illico! But what was I qualified for? I had a French degree... but no skills!

I didn't want to go back to being a receptionist, and I hated working at the department store... though I loved my customers, who bought both girdles and g-strings from me (I wasn't personally familiar with either culotte before going to work at Dillard's lingerie department). My customers taught me so much and, just before leaving my summer job--to begin my semester in France!--I received a touching letter of recommendation from the most eccentric, glamorous, and mysterious of my clients (see the "complicité" chapter--you can read it for free by doing a search inside feature, here).

No, I didn't want to go back to those jobs. Come to think of it, if I could somehow sidestep the employer thing altogether... that would be ideal!

I wanted more than anything to avoid a train-train or run-of-the-mill existence—especially in regard to employment, which represents the largest part of one's waking hours.

Self-employment, then, became my goal. Yes! Only by working for oneself could one experience freedom! Only by being one's own boss could one work creatively! Only by calling all the shots could one, say, skip out early for a double matinee, large popcorn with extra butter, and a coke.

Suddenly, I had an inspiration...

I could be a "girl Friday". Better yet, I would be my own girl Friday! 

A girl Friday got to do a lot of things. No two days the same! Variety would be the spice of this new (if newly failed...) life. 

I had a car, which was about all I needed, along with the adrenaline of a fresh warrior! Now all I had to do was to decide what I had to offer: what to put on my Girl Friday menu?  Just what, after all, was I capable of? So far I had been good at failing a relationship, but never mind... time to pull up those bootstraps (even if the heartstrings needed a good tug, too!).

Let's see, what were my skills?...

I could help type up papers
I could clear out one's clutter room
I was good at washing cars
I might walk someone's dog?
I could run errands... 
And I sure knew how to apply make-up! (Perhaps offer makeovers???)

....Not to forget that I had a knack for complaining—I had been good enough at it to "win" a one-way ticket out of France!—so perhaps I could offer to "argue one's case" somehow—that is, without having to go to law school. No time for that. I needed to earn some cash!). 

I might not be skilled or trained in any one area, I thought to myself, I might have even neglected these chores in my very own home, but no looking back now!, there were many things I could do! and, in the doing of them, I might just forget, petit à petit, all that I had left behind in France. I might even forget him. (Would Jean-Marc ever give me a second chance?)

Bon. Never mind. I was set! All I needed was a name for my company" (My very own company!!!) But what to call it? It should be something French, non? Never mind my French dream had come to an end, all too suddenly.... 

Because, as Girl Friday, I would be proposing to carry out a variety of jobs, it occurred to me to call my new enterprise "Anything At All". Better yet, why not be fancy—and use the French equivalent! But just what was the equivalent? Would "Anything at All" translate to "N'importe Quoi"? I'd heard the term somewhere before.

N'importe Quoi seemed to mean something along the lines of "You Name It!" (perfect for a service-oriented company, non?), but I still had vague doubts about the actual  translation. What's more, was it prudent for a 24-year-old woman to offer "Anything At All"? Even in English the meaning might be misconstrued....

Despite any doubts, I thought to go ahead with my business-cards order. I could just see the finished product! The card would read, in bold print, "N'importe Quoi!" and there, to the lower right, my name: "Kristi Ingham" with the title "Your Girl Friday". 

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                               What my business card might have looked like... Yikes!

***
Some girl Friday! I never even got around to my first errand: visiting the printer. Instead, I took the first paycheck job I could get, and spent my run-of-the-mill existence in a quiet airpark office, nursing a broken heart. 

It would take another decade or so (a move back to France—which would come sooner than expected, and the foundation of a French family) before I would fully grasp the meaning behind "N'importe Quoi".

Today I sit here at my desk, a self-employed writer, and shake my head sympathetically at the would-be Girl Friday of two decades ago. What a mistake that would have been to call one's company "A Bunch of Baloney" or "Rubbish!" (I cringed when I finally realized the exact translation of my would-be company's name!).

And what folly that would have been, for that failed girlfriend, or girl Friday, to have offered "anything at all"--when what she really should have offered was to share her dream.

***
20 years later and I am sharing my dream... of writing and living with my French loves (family, dogs, friends and readers). Thank you so much for reading!
.

Le Coin Commentaires
Comments, corrections, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box. Thank you for leaving a message, or even a petit bonjour.

***
To find out what happened next, you will have to read my book! Here is an excerpt, from the intro to Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language:

Back in Arizona I found a job selling scale-model cars for a small mail-order catalog, which turned out to be the perfect nurse-your-broken-heart job. Isolated and working in an over-air-conditioned office, I had plenty of time to think about my loss and to watch my French life flash before me: the cottage we had moved into just before I left, the weekends spent fishing oursins, or sea urchins, along the rocky coastline, and ... (click here to order the book.)


This book is especially apropos for people who are trying to find a way in life. Buy a copy for a friend. Order a few copies for gifts. Your book purchases help to support this French word journal. Merci. 

French Vocabulary

n'importe quoi = nonsense, rubbish; whatever

illico (illico presto) = right away

le train-train = life's treadmill

petit à petit = little by little

 

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Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
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hollyhock

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 la rose trémière (rowz tray me yare) noun, feminine
    
    : hollyhock 
 

Audio FileDownload WAV or Download MP3

Pendant les périodes chaotiques, il fallait attacher Smokey à notre rose trémière. During chaotic periods, it was necessary to attach Smokey to our hollyhock.

 

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

    "How to Contain a Dog"

The scene is simple, facile as a flower. The subjects are easy: a plant, a dog, and a leash.

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But if you could sit with me, staring at such strength and mystery, you, too, would see the greatness in such a fragile thing.

Pull up a chair and quietly observe our characters: one furry and golden the other lean and green. Just a couple of underdogs joined by a string.

I think about little old ants and rubber tree plants. I think about Jack and the beanstalk. I am amazed. Who'd have thunk, who'd have thought: so much strength in a hollyhock!

You know the saying "La nécessité est mère de l'invention," and so it was that with all the comings and goings this summer—and what with the busy harvest—we needed a safe place to attach our younger dog.  The picnic table worked fine, until we showed up to dine.... The lampadaire worked for a while, until the shade moved over to the wood pile. That is when the back patio beckoned. But where to temporarily tie our sweet chien? My eyes traveled over to the giant plant....

What began as a seed now stands seven feet high! Thick enough at the "ankles" to hold on to 26 kilos (our dog, or occasional escapee). 

Back at the kitchen table, chaos to my back, I take a moment to marvel at the mighty underdogs. It is just a simple scene, that of a dog anchored to a one-time seedling. So the next time you stare at a glorious maple, think of a hollyhock, and of what it is capable.   

 

Le Coin Commentaires

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 French Vocabulary

La nécessité est mère de l'invention (or "l'industrie") = necessity is the mother of invention

 le lampadaire = street lamp

le chien = dog

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reportage (video + interview)

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"Preachy" in the town of Suzette. Enjoy a free subscription to French Word-A-Day via Email or RSS

un reportage (ruh por tazh) noun, masculine

French definition: Article, chronique réalisée par un journaliste qui recueille des informations sur le terrain. An article or chronicle, produced by a journalist, that gathers in-depth information.Internaute dictionnaire 


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

"Célébrité Fugace"

I wonder whether the French have an equivalent expression to our "Fifteen minutes" of fame? Would they say "Elle a eu ses quinze minutes"? I can't say for sure, though it is a phrase I've never heard. 

My belle-mère would say (indeed she did!) "Tu étais une star!" The passé is key here: était. You were a star. For this is what is implied in "one's fifteen minutes": The glory is short-lived, passagère, making it impossible for any one of us to remain king of the hill. (So much for thrill.) After one's flirt with fiefdom, we go back to kicking up the dirt (or work) in time to re-enter into the obscurity of maturity. Striving after fame, after all, is for the unenlightened! 

(Enough philosophy. Truth be told, I enjoyed every single second of my "quinze minutes"! Obscurity may be a virtue—something for those mature, wise souls who understand the woes of the ego—but, as enlightenment goes, I'm slow.)

***
See a clip from France 3's program "Talents", in which my husband, Jean-Marc Espinasse, was the special guest. In the following segment, I talk about his struggles as a winemaker (although my own struggles—with French pronunciation—tend to steal the show...). Note: the video is available only in French. 

*If you are reading this edition via email, you will need to click over to the site to view the video clip.

Le Coin Commentaires
Comments, corrections, and feedback are welcome. Click here to comment 


Update: According to French Wikipedia, the term "fifteen minutes of fame" is translated to "quart d’heure de célébrité":

« 15 minutes de célébrité » ou « quart d’heure de célébrité » (« 15 minutes of fame » en anglais) est une expression inventée par l'artiste américain Andy Warhol. Cette expression se réfère à l'état de célébrité fugace qui accorde de l'importance à un objet d'attention des médias, puis qui passe à un autre objet aussitôt que l'attention du public s'affaiblit. Il est souvent employé dans l'industrie du spectacle et dans d'autres champs de la culture populaire.

 

 
Portrait de Jean-Marc Espinasse pour l'émission “Talents“ envoyé par BrokenArmsCompany.

To view the entire interview with Jean-Marc, visit www.rouge-bleu.com and see the link in the left-hand column. Note: a certain plug-in is required for the full-length video. Jean-Marc is working on reformatting the video....

French Vocabulary

Elle a eu ses quinze minutes = she had her fifteen minutes

Tu étais une star! = You were a star!

passagère = fleeting, transitory, short-lived

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Homelife

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Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
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--Melanie


la page blanche

Solitary Seat (c) Kristin Espinasse
Solitary seat in Grignon. Free subscription to French Word-A-Day via Email or RSS 

la page blanche (pazh blansh) noun, feminine

    : "the blank page"

 

Audio File. Listen: Download Wav or  Download MP3

Le blocage de l'écrivain, (parfois appelé « syndrome de la page blanche », « angoisse de la page blanche » ou « peur de la page blanche ») désigne, chez un écrivain, la difficulté parfois rencontrée pour trouver l'inspiration et la créativité au moment d'entamer ou de continuer une œuvre. -Wikipedia.fr

Writer's block, (sometimes called "the syndrome of the blank page", "anxiety of the blank page" or "fear of the blank page") designates, to the writer, the occasional difficulty in finding inspiration and creativity at the beginning of writing or when continuing a work.

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

"La Page Blanche and then some"

The last of the harvesters left today. The house is empty, dusty, and cobwebbed. The fridge is full with halves. No need to cook today. Leftovers.

I am feeling as inspired as yesterday's soufflé: no longer high, dry inside. Chewy even.

To chew, chew over, chew on... I wish "ruminatory" were a word, but, no!, it's "ruminating". So be it. No need to go and get vexed. That's just the way it is: "ruminating". Laisse tomber!

And so, in the absence of le mot juste (where they won't let us have "ruminatory"!), we shall be stubborn—even"uproary"! We shall rain on today's word parade! 
 

Le Coin Commentaires
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French Vocabulary

la page blanche = the blank page

laisser tomber = to leave it, leave well enough alone

le mot juste
= the exact word, precise word, just the right word 

 

  France 2010 (101)-1
Vineyard visits: With Amber and Doug Hopwood of Peoria, IL. 

  Gilda and Robert CamutoAnd a few months ago we had a visit from Gilda and Robert Camuto. Check out Robert's latest book, Palmento, "a beautiful and enthralling work" --Eric Asimov. 

Palmento Inspired by a deep passion for wine, an Italian heritage, and a desire for a land somewhat wilder than his home in southern France, Robert V. Camuto set out to explore Sicily’s emerging wine scene. What he discovered during more than a year of traveling the region, however, was far more than a fascinating wine frontier.  Order Palmento here.

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
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--Melanie


treille

La Treille (c) Kristin Espinasse
Trellised vine in the town of Sarrians.  Never miss a word or photo, subscribe to French Word-A-Day

la treille (treye) noun, feminine

    : trellised, climbing vines, vine arbor

le jus de la treille = wine, lit. "the juice of the vine"
treillage =lattice work
. 

Audio File: (the francophones are absent... so you are stuck with my pronunciation of the word of the day... listen at your own risk!) Download MP3 or Download Wav

Les vendangeurs doivent cueillir les grappes qui pendent à la treille.
The grape-harvesters must pick the grapes that hang from the trellised vines. 

 

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

A storm is brewing outside my window and the vines just below are whip-roaring. Stirred up by the southern wind, they will soon lose their leaves to autumn.

My mind moves back to a smooth summer day. I am watching my husband train his vines. No commands are needed (as with the dogs): no sit (assis!), lie down (couché!) or gimme a paw! (donne la patte!). Iron and string are all that is required to get the vine branches to follow the wire.

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(Jean-Marc took this photo yesterday morning... on a Sunday drive to Rognonas for Max's first basketball game of the season.)

I love watching Jean-Marc tend to his vines, especially the unfruitful ones. It takes a lot of love to care for something that produces nothing... except good shade! The vines on our back deck, therefore, give ombre offerings, shady splendor on a hot summer day. 

Now in their third year, the vine branches are spreading out into a great, leafy parasol with the help of the off-duty vigneron (grape vines are his day job, climbing vines are his leisure).

I watch Jean-Marc reach up, up, up to the pergola above. Nothin' doin'. He must come into the kitchen for a chair and step up to these vines in the air. Next, he begins tucking in and weaving so many vagabond vine tendrils, which then continue on track to the end of la treille.

What satisfaction on the vine tender's face after helping so many errant ones 'step' back into place.
. 

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 Le Coin Commentaires

Comments, corrections, and stories of your own are welcome. Click here to leave a message.
 

Jean-Marc's latest article! When not writing for his Rouge-Bleu blog, Jean-Marc is penning posts over at Bonjour Paris. Read the first here!

 

French Vocabulary

 assis! (asseoir) = sit

couché! (coucher) = lie down

donne la patte! = give (me) your paw
 
l'ombre (f) = shade

le parasol = umbrella

le vigneron (la vigneronne) = wine grower 

la treille = vine arbor

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And finally...

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The grape crush goes on....

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Daniel (above and below, left) and Alexis (far right) returned last night to help with the crush. They were out there, knee-deep in grapes, until their dinner turned cold on the table.... Thanks for all your hard work!

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Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
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    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie