A Phantom Pregnancy, A Hysterectomy & A New Job + French word for Stubborn

Smiley faces wooden shutters La Ciotat France
Spotted in La Ciotat centre ville: Notice the little slippers, les chaussons, dangling from the highest window. Below, can you see the smiley faces on these pink pots? Smiles here at home, as well, now that our dog is feeling better after undergoing surgery one week ago. Also, read to the end to find out who got a new job!

TODAY’S WORD: BUTÉ (bew-tay)

  : stubborn

Other French words for stubborn include têtu, obstiné, and entêté

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

It all started with an unusual stream of yippy yelps, followed by moaning, crying, and whining. Next, came the overly amorous advances toward our couch pillows, les coussins, and the realization our chienne was acting very odd lately.

It must be the breed, I shrugged. American shepherds are highly vocal, intelligent, and need a lot of attention and care, in addition to loads of activité physique. Perhaps Ricci wasn’t getting enough exercise, now that Jean-Marc was away in New Zealand? My morning beach strolls and evening circles around the block were not enough to work out all that pent-up energy in our 3-year-old toutou.

But when the local male dogs began making a demi-tour along the boardwalk, bee-lining down to Ricci at the beach (their owners shouting “Reviens!”) we began to suspect our dog was in heat again.

Jackie figured it out first: “Elle est en chaleur!

“But it’s only been two months since her last cycle,” I said, unbelieving. 

“Better take her to the doctor,” Jackie urged.

 A trip to the véto produced more than a few surprises. The first was an encounter with a reader of this journal, who revealed herself with a soft-spoken Bonjour, Kristi.  I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard my name spoken by a stranger! Stéphanie was on her way out with her cat when, on our way in, we held open the door in time to make the connection. During a few aller-retours (there were a total of 3 cats to transfer to her car) we learned we were near neighbors! 

"A bientôt pour un café!" Waving goodbye to our new friend, Jackie and I continued to the front desk, where we were led into the examination room with Ricci—in time for surprise number two and three…

Not only was our dog in heat, she was in the middle of une grossesse nerveuse—a phantom pregnancyas evidenced by the lait maternel she was producing, and also by the échographie. The ultrasound also revealed water in her uterus. The vet explained that not only was this not safe, but it could affect fertility which made me wonder if this is why our dog—a former chienne reproductrice—was retired from breeding and put up for sale?

We made an appointment for an Ovario-hystérectomie (for a week later, the time for the "Finilac" medication to suppress or  end the lactation) and then waited nervously until Ricci came out of surgery.                                            

The past week, post-op, has been a challenge given our dog is one stubborn patient, refusing to drink enough or to "do her business" (faire ses besoins) as usual. But then this isn't business as usual, after an invasive procedure, and who wouldn't be bull-headed when struggling with a large plastic cone? While we call it an “Elizabethan collar,” the French have their own shameful synonyms for the plastic contraption designed to keep dogs and cats from licking their surgical wounds:

1) la collerette de la honte (cone of shame)
2) l'abat-jour (lampshade)

While those are amusing terms, our cone-headed convalescent is not smiling. Elle boude. She’s also refusing to come when I call her, obliging me to pick her up and haul her up and down the stairs. And, once in bed with me, she runs circles around the mattress like a bull in a china shop, her roughhousing punctuated by an abrupt KICK! as she settles beside me, finally, only to groan.

"She’s such a drama queen!" Jackie laughs, seeing through the act. Because the moment we remove the cone Ricci’s hummingbird energy instantly returns. But put the cone back on again and she reverts to a slug….

She is stubborn! In fact, I think she wins The Most Stubborn among all our feisty family members. Just to be sure, I check with Jackie…
"Who is the most stubborn? Grandma Jules or Ricci?"


"Really?" I’m surprised.

"Ok, who’s next after Grandma and Ricci?


"Me?” (And here I thought I was a pushover!) "Oh well, stubborn people rock!"

"True!" Jackie laughed. Well, that makes Grandma Jules a rock star…and little Ricci a Rockette. As for the other stubborn members in our family, I'd say Max, Jackie, and Jean-Marc tie for 4th place!

Off now to cater to our doggie drama queen. One more week of the cone, er—la collerette de la honte—and Ricci can hold her silky head high again. I think I will be as relieved as my dog when that annoying, clumsy piece of plastic is finally removed. Bon débarras!

My daughter, Jackie, and Boo-Boo (one of the million terms of endearment for our dog. How many do you have for your animal de compagnie?) 

And now for some good news: Jackie has a summer job bartending in Cassis before she enters business school in the fall (à suivre...to be continued...).

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Sound file: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French terms below

La Ciotat = La Ciotat
le centre ville
= town center
le chausson = slipper
= stubborn
le coussin
= pillow
la chienne = female dog
l’activité physique = physical activity 
le toutou = dog (in slang)
le demi-tour = U-turn
Reviens! = Come back!
Elle est en chaleur = she’s in heat
le véto (Veterinaire) = veterinarian
à bientôt pour un café = see you soon for a coffee
une grossesse nerveuse = a phantom pregnancy 
l’échographie = ultrasound, sonogram
le lait maternel = breast milk
une chienne reproductrice = breeder
réformé(e) = retired
l’hystérectomie = hysterectomy
faire ses besoins = do your business 
la collerette de la honte = cone of shame
(m) = lampshade
elle boude = she's pouting
bon débarras! = good riddance!
un animal de compagnie = pet

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Ricci dog with blow up surgical cone
I bought this blow-up cone online but it did not work for our long-nosed dog! So it is back to the plastic collerette de la honte.

La Route des Souvenirs/Memory Lane: Picture of Mom with some delightful locals taken after Jules moved to La Ciotat from Mexico in 2018. Wish Mom luck as she returns to the clinic today for another injection. (And wish Ricci luck as she'll be on her own with her big cone while I drive Mom to Marseille.)

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Bougeotte = Wanderlust, the need to move about + A New Attraction The Paris Airport

Charles de Gaulle airport paris photo by Dmitry Avdeev
Terminal 1 at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Photo: Dmitry Avdeev


    : wanderlust, travel bug
    : restless, ants in your pants, move about

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristin Espinasse

Special thanks to those who have signed up for one of Jean-Marc’s Provence Wine Tours. For anyone interested, there are a few places left so don’t delay.  And now, if you are new to this journal, here’s a brief intro to my husband of 30 years, “Chief Grape.” 

After graduating with a degree in accounting, Jean-Marc made a career U-Turn to pursue a growing passion for winemaking. We left Marseille in 1995, after the birth of our son, for St. Maximin, where Jean-Marc became sales director for Château Ferry Lacombe. Next, a headhunter wooed him over to the prestigious Château Sainte Rosaline in Les Arcs-sur-Argens (where, incidentally, this blog began). From there our future vigneron did a brief stint at GAI (an Italian bottling machine manufacturer) before buying his first vineyard in Sainte Cécile-Les-Vignes where he made his first award-winning wines, including Lunatique. Five years later he acquired his dream vineyard near Bandol. (If you read our memoir you know how this ended.). Pulling himself back up by his rubber bootstraps, Jean-Marc stepped out of that bucket of grapes and into his first boutique, creating a successful wine shop here in La Ciotat only to develop la bougeotte, itchy feet or wanderlust, once again! When Jean-Marc suddenly sold Le Vin Sobre in 2023, he left many of us wondering just what would Chief Grape think up next? 

A little over a year later and he can finally spill the grapes….

Introducing “Bougeotte": Disco, Wine & Spirits Bar.
Combining three of his loves: travel, spirits, and dance, our intrepid traveler’s comeback is sure to make a splash at the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport where it is set to take off this fall. Catering to wine lovers and those who are looking for something physical to do during a 2, 4, 8 or more hour layover, the disco bar will be known for its pre-departure dance-a-thons.

Needless to say, we are all doing a happy dance, given a very real risk of losing our Chief to New Zealand (where several headhunters have already tried wooing the French winemaker over to their wine cellars once his contract at Whitehaven Winery is finished at the end of the month). 

Working together as a family, this new boogie business fits neatly with the skills of each family member: our son Max (also in the wine business), graduate of Montpellier Business School, is securing the airport rental space and the alcohol license. Our daughter Jackie (former bartender), recent graduate in web design, is in charge of the bespoke drinks menu & the website, and Grandma Jules, after a recent slumber, is ready to put her people skills to use at the hostess stand. I offered to handle the coat/baggage check, where I can sit at a desk with my laptop and write (think of all the colorful characters I’ll have for inspiration…). Ricci our American Shepherd, will be our in-house emotional support dog for weary travelers and Max’s girlfriend Ana, a kinésithérapeute, or physiotherapist, will advise on dance moves to combat the effects of long-haul travel. Finally, my sister-in-law, Cécile, a movie set builder, with skills in masonry and ironwork, will design the wooden dance floor and the main attraction: a fantastic wrought iron cage suspended in the air by a giant chain. We call it our safe haven for that customer wishing to consume more than a few drinks. Once their alcohol level returns to “well-behaved passenger” level (to be verified by a lazer wand, pictured below) a door on the cage will spring open and our tipsy-no-more traveler will make it to their gate on time!  

My best friend Susan, CEO of Critics Choice Vacations, is flying in on Saturday to help set up a CCV antenna booth, where we will be able to rebook passengers who, reeling from so many dancing endorphins, have decided to extend their Paris layover in time to join us for our Dimanche Dance-a-thon (Kristi’s favorite as it is gospel music only on Sundays. Oh Happy Day!). 

That reminds me, I am also in charge of communications and my first job is to program ChatGTP to write a press release. (See below.) Oh, and for those of you who have already reserved a Provence Vineyard Visit with Jean-Marc this summer, be assured Chief Grape (soon-to-be "Chief Disco") will honor every appointment through September 23rd when Bougeotte Disco, Wine & Spirits Bar opens. Better bring your dancing shoes because he’s so excited about his new Paris project he’s liable to danser le Mia*.

*video at the end of this post

Le_Café_de_la_Danse photo by Blisten
Bougeotte Underground Disco. If you look closely, the glass wall in the back looks onto the underground Paris catacombs which extend all the way out to Charles de Gaulle. Who knew they were that far-reaching!

Cage in paris
Le Cage. That wand you see will be used to measure alcohol level via the palm. photo: Antoine Tavneaux. I leave you with our press release:


**Introducing Bougeotte: Paris's Newest Airport Disco Set to Open at Charles de Gaulle Airport**

Paris, France - April 1st, 2024 - Travelers passing through Charles de Gaulle Airport will soon have a groovy new destination to unwind and dance away their travel fatigue. Bougeotte, an innovative airport disco conceptualized by renowned entrepreneur/winemaker Jean-Marc Espinasse, is set to open its doors on September 23rd, 2024.

Derived from the French term for a person who loves to move around or travel, Bougeotte promises to be a haven for jet-setters seeking a unique and energizing experience at the airport. Strategically located just after customs, the disco will offer travelers a refreshing escape before embarking on their onward journey.

One of Bougeotte's standout features (apart from “Le Cage”) will be its signature drinks menu, by Jackie Espinasse, curated to combat the effects of jet lag. Patrons can indulge in anti-inflammatory concoctions such as the "Melatonin Margarita" and the "Pistachio Pina Colada," specially crafted to rejuvenate weary travelers and set the mood for an unforgettable night (or day) of dancing.

In addition to its eclectic beverage selection, Bougeotte will feature a large-screen TV displaying dance moves tailored to alleviate the discomfort of long-haul flights, including the notorious "jambes lourdes" (heavy legs). Guests can follow along and shake off the weariness of travel, embracing the rhythm and energy of the disco.

Jean-Marc Espinasse, the visionary behind Bougeotte, expressed his excitement about the project, stating, "Bougeotte is more than just a disco; it's a sanctuary for travelers to unwind, connect, and immerse themselves in the joy of movement. We're thrilled to bring this innovative concept to Charles de Gaulle Airport and provide travelers with a memorable experience that transcends the ordinary—while sparing them from the usual airport money grabs, i.e. all those duty-free shops."

Bougeotte invites international travelers with an upcoming layover in Paris to join in the celebration of movement, music, and Mourvèdre. Mark your calendars for September 23rd, 2024, and prepare to experience the magic of Bougeotte at Charles de Gaulle Airport. 

For more information and updates, visit Bougeotte's website at www.APRILFOOLS.com

Media Contact: Kristin Espinasse  [[email protected]]

Did you fall for this year's April Fools story? I'd love to know here in the comments.

Nightclub photo (by Blisten): this is actually La salle du Café de la Danse à Paris
Cage photo (by Antoine Tavneaux): A Faraday cage in operation: the women inside are protected from the electric arc by the cage. Photograph taken at the Palais de la Découverte in Paris (Discovery Palace) 


Mille mercis to the following readers who sent in a donation following my "fou rire" post. This truly is a reader-supported journal and I appreciate your help in keeping it going!

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With thanks and love from Kitty WP, Niagara Region, Canada

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Fou rire? Éclat de rire? How to say deep belly laugh in French

Dusk in La Ciotat old port mediterranean
Dusk in La Ciotat, where today’s story begins…

Jean-Marc’s PROVENCE WINE TOURS begin again in May! Cassis, Bandol, Châteauneuf-du-Pape—don’t miss our beloved winemaker’s favorite stomping grounds for grapes! Click here.


    : the giggles, hysterical laughter, deep belly laugh

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

It's dusk and I'm alone at home, emptying the dishwasher. When Ricci suddenly starts barking, I look over at our baie-vitrée only to startle at the sight of a figure looming beyond the glass, on the front patio. Our dog is yipping like crazy now, causing my heart to leap. Qu'est-ce qui se passe? Qui est là?

Ouf! Exhaling a sigh of relief, I recognize the young woman wearing sweatpants and a hoodie. Back now from her boxing class, it is only my "coloc," my roommate as she jokingly calls herself. I unlock the glass door to hear laughter on the other side. "Oh, Mom! You should’ve seen your face!"

"Trop drôle!" Har, har! I say, stepping aside to usher my daughter into the house. Noticing all the groceries, I wonder, hadn't I sent Jackie for some veggies and meat, seulement? Memories of my own antics when I lived with my dad flooded back—a time when I'd occasionally sneak in a Vogue magazine or some Maybelline mascara alongside our groceries, courtesy of Dad’s credit card. 

Still, I can't help but want to audit this latest grocery haul, and my daughter, as usual, can read my mind: "What’s up, Mom?" Jackie says, in her relaxed way. After two seconds of self-control, I blurt out my thoughts: "It’s just that I hope you didn’t buy things we already have…." That said, I resolve to keep the peace, even if I'm imploding inside. I will always struggle to lâcher prise. But it’s worth asking, now and then, just what is it I'm holding onto?  


Given Carrefour supermarket has an extensive beauty section, I'm wondering if un masque concombre purifiant or another soin intensif capilaire got mixed in with our "groceries." I'll just have a peek, now and then, as Jackie puts away les courses and I resume unloading the dishwasher.

"Bread?" I say, looking over from the cupboard. "But we already have that."

"Mom, I want to make sandwiches this week," Jackie says, with a hint of exasperation. She's tired of my one-pot meals? But they're convenient: make once and feast for days! Next, my volunteer shopper sets down a bunch of citrons verts

"Jackie! What do you need 12 limes for?"

"I like to cook with them, and they're great in water," she explains, with a touch of mischief.

"Well, OK," I relent. "But you know I can’t bear to toss out food."

"That I know!" Jackie laughs, recalling the 5-day-old chili I ate for breakfast. "I’ll pray for you!" she had said. I was touched by my daughter’s sudden piety…until I realized she was teasing me (she'd prayed I would survive the chili!).

(Prout! Prout! [Toot! Toot!] Evidence I’m still alive!)

Next, I stumble upon some cheese. "Parmesan. But we already have some!"

"I like the grated kind, Mom. It's for some carbonara I’m making you. Allez oust! Go do something else!"

"OK. OK!” I’m a few steps out of the kitchen when… “By the way, how was your meeting at the fitness club in Marseille? Did you sign up?"

"It was great. Yes, I signed up," Jackie smiles.

"Did you pay three months upfront?"

"I did."

"You did!" I say, surprised by an involuntary, head-to-toe wiggle punctuating my words.

"Mom? What did that mean?" Jackie laughs, mimicking my wise-cracking wiggle.

"I don't know!" I play dumb, but my body language has already given me away. I can now see how uptight I am being--so much so my body’s trying to wiggle me out of it!

“Just what was that?” Jackie teases, doing The Wiggle as she speaks, easing a few giggles out of me.

“Nothing, it’s just…” I begin to laugh… “You spent the same amount on your gym membership as I just spent on groceries…and I guess I was trying to make a point!”

Wiggle, wiggle! Jackie illustrates she gets my point.

But of course, she does! She can read me like a book. Not only does she have a high emotional IQ, but she’s street smart too, having weathered her share of mésaventure. After getting scammed in Miami and returning to France, Jackie has gradually built back her savings, her self-esteem, and enough trust in others to move on. That she can laugh this way today and encourage others to do the same is a testament to her strength. I can see it as we stand there bantering in the corner "ring" of our living room:

Jackie, still in her boxing attire, still laughing, performs a left-right punch to the air, signaling to me to loosen up a bit. Her antics are disarming and by now I’m laughing so hard my stomach muscles hurt. Ça y est, I think I know what it is I’m holding onto, after all: a lot of fou rires. It is clear I need to let go and laugh more often. And don’t we laugh the hardest with the ones that know us best? Their message is the same: you’ve got to laugh at yourself, let go and let others help you to do so.

Prout! Prout! From here on out I vow to keep trying! 


Jackie with sunglasses
Jackie, in Bormes-Les-Mimosa two summers ago.

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Click here to listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French and English vocabulary

la baie-vitrée
= glass door
Ouf! = phew!
le/la coloc = housemate
trop drôle = ha ha (sarcasm)
seulement = only
lâcher prise = let go
le supermarché = supermarket
un masque concombre purifiant = purifying cucumber mask
le soin intensif capilaire = intensive scalp treatment
les courses = groceries
le citron vert = lime
Prout! Prout! = Toot! Toot!
Allez, oust! = Go! Get out of here!
la mésaventure = misfortune

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I have enjoyed French Word A Day since about 2006. I always learn something - about French or France, about Les Espinasses, about human nature and life. It's a great blog. --Marianne R.

I really enjoyed today’s story. Your words are so visual that it feels like I witnessed the whole thing! Thank you! Linda F.

Ricci paws and pebbles
Stumbled across these artistic rocks on the beach, with beautiful handwriting. What is the story behind them? Why were they left behind? Share your guesses in the comments.

Paws and pebbles on the beach
When we were looking for a dog, Jackie suggested the name Marcel--because it is "doux" (soft). We then found Ricci and kept the name she was given, even if it sounds like Richie to me. (To think, she might have been...Marcella!)

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety