kif-kif! + list of Arabic words you will hear when in France

Port-Cros island off the south coast of France (c) Kristin Espinasse
The island of Port-Cros, where those who love nature roam.... This protected site, off the coast of Hyères, is a protected paradise. Put this one on your bucket list -- unless you suffer from island fever or prefer to lick windows ("shop", that is) when on vacation. Only one boutique on this island--and it sells foutas. Read on.

Mas de la Perdrix - visit this charming rental in the south of FranceProvence Villa Rental Luberon luxury home; 4 bedrooms, 5 baths; gourmet kitchen, covered terrace & pool. Views of Roussillon. Click here.  

 

Today's word is woven within the following post, where you'll find many more useful French (whoops! Arabic terms!) You'll be happy you learned them when next you find yourself strolling down a southern French beach. Among the chant of the cicada and the crashing waves, these Arabic words will sing-song along--as natives in the South of France shoot the breeze, using words that have naturalized just as certain foreigners have. Tee-hee!

 

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

If you think you learn a lot by reading a language blog... you'll learn even more by devouring the comments readers post. Voilà, so much for my sneaky way of alimenting my own français

This morning I sneaked into the comments to learn a thing or two or three when I spotted Hani's commentaire:

"Has the word fouta been used long in France? It is actually an Arabic word meaning towel..."

Aha! So fouta means "towel". Well now that makes sense! Delurking in time to write my own comment, I thanked Hani for the insight... only my message ended up in my blog's spam filter! (I'll fish it out in a sec... For some reason, Bill's and Julie's comments often end up there, too. And this morning Odile was trapped in the filter! Ah well, if I find any other comments--or yours there--I'll fish them out too. So much for the disappearing comments caper!) 

Meantime, Hani's comment inspired today's post: a list of oft-heard Arabic words used here in the south of France (and perhaps beyond--in Lyon or in Paris?). And because I've been meaning to share photos from Jean-Marc's and my recent getaway, I'll marry the vocab words with the photos. The terms won't necessarily match the images, but just like a good couple they will compliment each other :-)

 Speaking of couples, here we go--

Jean-Marc and Mr. Sacks ride the ferry (c) Kristin Espinasse
Jean-Marc and Mr. Sacks on the Ferry to Port-Cros. One of these guys has lost weight--and it ain't saggy ol' Mr. Sacks!

Yes, look who joined us on our getaway: Mr. Sacks! No, that's not a cabas, that's my husband's beloved, takes-with-him-every-where bag--the adorable Monsieur Sacks (see him in all his glory here!).

1. cabas = shopping basket

  Arrivng at the harbor of Port Cros. No, we didn't travel via fishing boat :-)

And this just may be Mrs. Sacks. (Notice the blue Hawaiian beach bag--she appeared here, too, hidden somewhere in the "reunited with ex husband" post.) Mrs. Sacks was a gift from Reader Fred Caswell (hi! Fred!), who brought her to me at a New York city book signing. He also brought his lovely wife Nancy (Bonjour, Nancy!). See, Fred, I really do use the soulful bag--even though you apologized when you offered it, wondering whether it would be of any use. Useful? It's a staple! Long live Mrs. Sacks!

By the way, those aren't babouches, those are loafers on my feet: 

2. babouche = slippers

Epicerie on Port Cros island (c) Kristin Espinasse
The island's épicerie or grocer's or mini-market is, as the sign says, "at the top of the stairs, to the right"

 We didn't see any toubibs on the island. Had we seen a doctor, my guess is he or she would look like this--for all the natives wore shorts and loose-fitting tops--and all the locals were barefoot or pieds nus, which gave them an even more je n'ai pas un souci au monde (or not a care in the world) look.

3. toubib = doctor

Port-Cros harbor and village (c) Kristin Espinasse
A dump, a hole, a godforsaken place? I think you'll agree that the village of Port-Cros is no bled

4. bled = the "boondocks" as we say back home, or a remote--or rural--place

Mini Moke (c) Kristin Espinasse
I hope Brian is reading. My sister's beau loves cars and would appreciate this cross between an American jeep and a skateboard--designed by the British Motor Corporation.

Port-Cros does have a little in common with a bled paumé (a one-horse town), in that no cars are allowed on the island--apart from the cheery Mini Mokes or low-riding island jeeps! Bikes, or vélos, are not allowed either, as Jean-Marc learned. All the more reason to enjoy one of the many protected sentiers, or hiking trails.

signposts or island direction (c) Kristin Espinasse

"Would you like to go to Plage du Sud or return to Port Man," Jean-Marc offers. 
"C'est kif-kif". It's all the same," I answer. All the beaches are beautiful!

5. kif-kif = a fun term that means "the same thing", or "c'est pareil" or "six of one half a dozen of the other"

Prickly pears on the island of Port-Cros (c) Kristin Espinasse
It's hard to resist capturing these figuiers de barbarie, or prickly pears--much easier to take by photo than by hand. The island of Port-Cros is a parc national, filled with interesting plants above, and sealife, below. As for dogs, or clebs, the sign on the ferry boat mentioned they were not allowed on the island. 

6. clebs = (slang) dog

Island dog - golden retriever (c) Kristin Espinasse

Well then, I wonder where this gal came from? Hmm? Hmm?And all her friends that decorated the windows and lounged beside the café chairs where the tourists sipped steaming cups of kawa

7. kawa = coffee

DSC_0479
I wanted to take a little space, just un chouïa, to show you this seagrass called "posidonia" that is found on the island and in the calanques nearby our home...

8. chouïa = a little

DSC_0490
The posidonia piles up high along the seashore--making a comfy natural mattress for an afternoon siesta: perfect for forgetting about those nagging fardeaux awaiting the tourist back home....

9. fardeau = burden or emotional toll

  la méduse or jellyfish (c) Kristin Espinasse

Speaking of burdens, a violet tribe, or smala, tormented the seaside. Here we see a member of the jellyfish family... two of which bit me! Are people who swim in these waters brave--or seriously maboule?

10. smala = tribe or large family
11. maboule = mad, crazy

little island (c) Kristin Espinasse
Cash, or flouze, would have been useless as there were no pharmacies on the rugged coast. So I remembered a tip I'd learned from one of the info boards at the tourist office...

12. flouze = cash or "bread"

How to Treat a Jellyfish Sting

  1. rinse with salt water (this is convenient...)
  2. apply sand to the area (hot sand is best) ; massage gently
  3. to remove tentacles: find a flat-sided object to scrape off the sand plastered over the wound (a credit card would have been ideal, but I used a sharp-ended pebble).

Tip! Don't do what I did: When my stings were not apparent, I began to doubt whether or not I'd truly had a painful run-in with the jellyfish. Worse, I began to apologize for being such a big baby! Just in case, I went ahead and half-heartedly treated the invisible area, using the protocol mentioned above.

A day or two later things weren't so invisible. Two large bumpy wounds were unmistakable--one on my ankle was the size of a sand dollar, the other a "slap" across the hand -- both deep red and itchy as can be! So when in doubt -- go ahead and thoroughly treat the area, making sure all tentacles have been removed. 

I leave you with one last word, close to my heart: taboulé!

My mother-in-law, Michèle-France (born in Marocco), makes the very best. And because she is moving this week, I'll end this post and say "see you next week"... 

...insha'Allah (if God be willing).

Kristin

 

garde-manger (c) Kristin Espinasse
A garde-manger or dish protecter--perfect for keeping the winged ones out of the taboulé!  

Comments  and corrections welcome here. I'd love to know if you enjoyed these photos and words--or have come across other Arabic words adopted by the French. Thanks for joining the discussion here in the comments box.

 

 New to this language blog? You might enjoy Blossoming in Provence. Here's a Amazon review from Debnance at Readerbuzz:

Blossoming in Provence

 

I read Espinasse’s earlier book, Words in a French Life, a few years ago and liked the way she connected stories from her new life in the south of France with French vocabulary lessons. Blossoming in Provence is more of the same. And equally inviting.

Island of Port-Cros (c) Kristin Espinasse
The heavy object, to the right, looks like "une meule" or grindstone. Wonder what it used to grind? There are plenty of wild olive trees on the island, but no local olive oil, it seems....

Would you like to see more pictures of the island of Port-Cros? Have you ever been there? Let us know, here in the comments section

(Just making sure you have not confused the island of Port-Cros with the nearby island of Porquerolles, shown in this blog post.) 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
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"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


What to do on Porquerolles Island? Que faire sur l'île de Porquerolles?

Le Port pizzaria on Porquerolles (c) Kristin Espinasse

Jean-Marc and I stole away to Porquerolles island recently. Because it was play and not work, I didn't pay a lot of attention to detail or think about what could be shared in another France city guide.

This is where you come in. If you have been to Porquerolles, or have researched it while planning a future trip on the southern French island, please share with us here some of the activities and tips that come to mind:

  • hotels
  • restaurants
  • ferry info
  • what to pack
  • how to get around on Porquerolles
  • activities for kids
  • favorite beaches
  • what not to miss
  • nearby islands and towns to visit
  • etc... 


Meantime, I'll share a host of photos and add some interesting facts beneath them, in hopes that you'll be inspired to visit this little pedestrian island only a hop, skip, and ferry ride from the coat of Giens. 

Jean-Marc and "Mr Sacks" on the main square in the village of Porquerolles (c) Krisin Espinasse
Jean-Marc and Mr Sacks on the main square in the village of Porquerolles. Eucalyptus trees frame la place which is lined by boutiques and café-restaurants. 

  • The size of the island = 12,54 square kilometers (or 4,84 square miles)
  • It's one of the 3 Hyères islands a.k.a. "the golden islands"

 


Island dog and laundromat on Porquerolles (c) Kristin Espinasse
 Island dog and laundromat. 

  • Though you'll see plenty of island dogs, the village of Porquerolles gets its name after the wild boar that once roamed the island


Mehari and island vehicles on Porquerolles (c) Kristin Espinasse
You cannot bring your car onto the island, but you can appreciate some of these local classics-on-wheels. The one of the right is a Méhari. You see lots of these off-roaders threading through all the foot traffic.

sandwich hut on the port of Porquerolles (c) Kristin Espinasse
 Save a few euros by ordering a sandwich and eating it on one of the many benches that overlooks the gravel square or the port or, better yet, take a picnic and hike inland a few kilometers for a view of the vineyards and vergers, or orchards or for this view:

Calanque in Porquerolles (c) Kristin Espinasse

  • Not pictured here... but among the many points of interest is the botanical garden or la conservatoire botanique national méditerranéen de Porquerolles


Exotic door in Porquerolles (c) Kristin Espinasse
 Off the main square there is a long alley of what seem to be bungalows. This narrow had one story habitations on either side and one had the urge to jump up and down like a pogo stick... to see what sort of bucolic scene was on the other side of these walls....

  • It is said that in 1912 the island was purchased as a wedding present for a lucky bride-to-be. Buyer François Joseph Fournier then planted 500 acres of vines. (No wonder Jean-Marc loves this island!)
  • In 1971 the state purchased most of the island in an attempt to preserve it from development.


Artisinat on the island of Porquerolles (c) Kristin Espinasse
Out in front of the artist's house... or one of the artist's homes. There must be plenty of them living on this begs-to-be painted island.

Domaine Perzinsky on the island of Porquerolles (c) Kristin Espinasse
Walking towards Domaine Perzinsky, on our way back to the village.

Porquerolles vineyards were among the very first to be classified Côtes de Provence. There are three vineyards on the island:

  • Le Domaine de l’île
  • Le Domaine de la Courtade
  • Le Domaine Perzinsky



Le fort du Grand Langoustier (c) Kristin Espinasse

There are nine forts on the island of Porquerolles, including Le fort du Grand Langoustier (pictured) and Le fort Sainte-Agathe.

DSC_0369
From the port of arrival, this is the first beach on the left. Pass in front of all the cafés, go around the corner and you're there! Off season you'll see this peaceful scene. 

  • Porquerolles was the inspiration for Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Teddy Bears on the island of Porquerolles (c) Kristin Espinasse
The laid back islanders on Porquerolles are known as les porquerollais (see exhibit A, above... and if you love teddy bears, see exhibit B here!)

To respond to this post, thanks for leaving a message here in the comments box.

For help creating this edition, I looked up facts in these guide books/sites. Click on the titles to view them:

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Has this post tickled your fancy for Porquerolles? Will you be adding  it to your bucket list? I'd love to know, here in the comments box.

Check out some of the excellent reader-submitted tips or What to do in France guides:

Kristi's nap (c) Jean-Marc Espinasse
After lunch I borrowed Mr. Sacks for a pillow and took a nap while Jean-Marc went hiking and photographing.

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


conjoint

Le Bateau Ivre (c) Kristin Espinasse
A little bar/restaurant in the bay of Locmaria, on the island of Groix.


Conjoint

(kon-zhwan)

noun, masculine

spouse



Just off the coast of Brittany, on a small island habitée by Groisillons and teeming with French tourists on wobbly bicyclettes, there is a quaint port called Locmaria, where The Drunk Boat overlooks the bay at high tide (and low, for that matter, but for the purpose of this conte the marée shall be high, high as the curious individual bathing in its shallow waters)....

"Ah, nature fresh and free. Yes, freeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

I can just hear his French words echoing across the sandy beach, translating themselves in midair before reaching The Drunk Boat bar on the boardwalk above, near to which a red-faced tourist stands hesitant. Red-faced, not because she is a native of the desert, which she is, but because her Frenchman (he who bathes in shallow waters) has been caught, once again, en flagrant délit with Dame Nature. Yes, caught red-handed (and mud-in-the-hand) as you will soon discover.

It isn't the first time he has been found courting La Dame; take him to the powdery depths of the canyon at Roussillon, and he'll brush red and yellow ochre across his stubbled face. "A tradition," he explains (the earth-smearing, not the stubble). Bring him to a crowded beach in his beloved Marseilles, and he will inhale the salty waters beyond (via a noisy nose gargle). "Good for the sinuses," he exclaims. Cart him off to the wild garrigue and he will begin chewing on the local herbs (good for the gums, I wonder?). Go where he may, and he will find a way to press the earth unto himself. He's Monsieur Nature.

Back at the bay in Locmaria, it is another day in Paradise for Monsieur Nature, who can be found applying mud—sloshing it on from neck to knee—only, he calls it vase (pronouncing it "vaz," as if a neat word would render his act less, well, filthy).

Standing knee-deep in the ocean, he scoops up the smelly vase, slops it on his arms and across his chest before a vigorous scrub-down, oblivious to the audience now gathering before him: there are the seagulls, beady eyes bulging, and the little crabs looking on, astonished, and even the mussels—clinging to a nearby rock—have opened their shells for a look-see. "Get a load of this," they clatter, their long, salmon-colored tongues wagging.

This, dear reader, is my mud-faced conjoint and that curious behavior of his, in a clamshell, is the difference between him and me; the difference, I now realize, between really living life and poetically lusting after it from the boardwalk above.



*     *     *
 EDITS HERE PLEASE. Click the previous link to point out any typos or obvious ambiguities in this story. Thanks!

French Vocabulary

habitée (habiter) = inhabited
les Groisillons = inhabitants of the Island of Groix
la bicyclette = bicycle
The Drunk Boat (Le Bateau Ivre) = the name of a bar along the boardwalk
le conte = tale, story
la marée = tide
pris en flagrant délit = caught in the act
la Dame Nature = Mother Nature
la garrigue = wild Mediterranean scrubland
la vase = slime, mud, mire
le conjoint, la conjointe = spouse

French Pronunciation:
Listen to the word "conjoint" in the following sentence: Je vous presente mon conjoint. Please meet my wife (or husband). Download conjoint.wav.


DSC_0014
Missing a little French in your weekend? Love photos of France? Check out Cinéma Vérité.

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


moule

Mussels (c) Kristin Espinasse
Our son, Max, collecting mussels on the Island of Groix (Brittany).

"The Oysters of Locmariaquer," by Eleanor Clark, is a vivid account of the cultivation of Belon oysters and an excursion into the myths, legends, and rich, vibrant history of Brittany and its extraordinary people. Order it here.

la moule (mool) noun, feminine
  1. mussel  2. a lethargic, clumsy person; an imbecile

The masculine of "moule" has a different meaning.:
  1. mould  2. tin, pan (cake)
Tous nous sommes faits d'une même argile, mais ce n'est pas le même moule.
We are all made of the same clay, but not the same mould. --Mexican proverb

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

Every since I was a freckle-faced gosse* and my Dad broke the news that nothing in life is free, I've secretly relished each and every exception to the money rule. Now that I'm grown up, and as I go about managing my own porte-monnaie,* I realize such exceptions eventually come at a price. Still, the child within me can't help but éclater* with joy each time she encounters a freebie.

By day ten in Brittany, and after so much slopping through the mud, Jean-Marc's skin shined from his own "vaz* therapy" and I must say that the inner child in me beamed as well, imagining just how much something like this would have cost in some 5-star spa. But unblemished skin--or appearance--ranks low on a child's list of Cool Freebees; appetite is everything. Discovering that we could eat for free and to our heart's content on the French island of Groix was akin to watching a trio of sevens line up at the casino in Monte Carlo.

At the port of Locmaria, Jean-Marc, Max, and Jackie hopped from rock to rocher* on their way out to hunt for moules,* the petrol-blue shells of which clung to a bed of rocks at low tide. While I admired the hard-shelled bouquets that lay across the ocean floor, the child within me shouted victory at another free meal for the taking; add those mussels to a steaming bath of olive oil and wild rosemary (pushing up like thorny weeds across the island, free as a prick in the finger) and we'd soon dine like gluttonous rois.* I slung a red net sack over my shoulder and followed my hungry clan out to sea.

With a child's conviction and a woman's caution, I searched for the biggest mussels, twisting them free one by one from their mother rock, before adding them to the growing stash in the red sack.

Back at our rental we sat around the table, pinching the salmon-colored meat from the shell, the latter steamed over the burner or fired open on the barbeque. Jean-Marc showed us the pinching technique whereby a newly-emptied mussel becomes the pincer-utensil (in place of a fork). The child in me rejoiced--not only was the food free, but so was the tableware! (Dad, are you reading this?!)

After four or five meals (lunch/dinner/lunch/dinner--and again lunch!) with the mussels en vedette* I must admit to breaking down and begging the child within to let me spring for a pricey island pizza -- you know, one with the works! After all, everyone knows that nothing is gained without "works".

...................................................................................................................
References: un/une gosse (mf) = kid; le porte-monnaie (m) = change purse; éclater = to burst; vaz (pronunciation for "la vase" = silt, mud, sludge); le rocher (m) = rock; la moule (f) = mussel; le roi (m) = king; en vedette = starring (the mussels)


French Pronunciation:
Hear my son Max's sentence: On a peché des moules sur l'ile de Groix. We hunted for mussels on the Island of Groix. Download moule.wav
                                                      
Terms & Expressions:
la moule d'étang = swamp mussel
la moule de rivière (also known as "une mulette") = river mussel
le moule à gaufres = waffle iron
le moule à tarte = quiche/pie plate, flan dish
casser le moule = to break the mould

...........................................................
In books: bi- and multi-lingual VISUAL dictionaries!

French English Bilingual Visual Dictionary.

The Firefly Five Language Visual Dictionary: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian.

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