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--
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
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
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
4. bled = the "boondocks" as we say back home, or a remote--or rural--place
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.
"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"
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
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
8. chouïa = a little
9. fardeau = burden or emotional toll
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
12. flouze = cash or "bread"
How to Treat a Jellyfish Sting
- rinse with salt water (this is convenient...)
- apply sand to the area (hot sand is best) ; massage gently
- 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).
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.
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.
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