Une saccade + Tic Talk: Let's talk about tics (did you know "Tourettes" is named after a Frenchman?)

Mediterranean port of La Ciotat south of France
Our bustling port here in La Ciotat. Today we're talking about a word we share with the French. A tic is "a frequent usually unconscious quirk of behavior or speech" (Merriam-Webster). Read my story and then share your own experiences in the comments. Merci!

TODAY’S WORD: une saccade 

: jerk, twitch (movement)

saccader (verb): to tremble, shake, jerk

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Click here to begin listening


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

Have you read about a certain eye exercise that improves vision?
Bref, all you do is look left, right, up, down, rouler les yeux, then repeat. Do these ocular rotations several times a day and eyesight will supposedly improve. 

But if that were true I would have 20/20 vision by now—without even trying! Because for years I’ve done the left, right, side-to-side sequence sans s’en apercevoir. I say “unknowingly” because I only became conscious of the repetitive eye movements when we lived at our first vineyard

UN AUTOMATISME?
It was during the busy wine harvest when I stole away for a break in my room. I remember laying in bed “stretching” my eyes in different directions when it struck me I’d been doing this a lot lately and that all this straining could be damaging! What if my eyes stuck that way (or one of those ways)? Even that didn’t stop me from doing the eye equivalent of scratching an itch. (And getting the same sort of relief).

Blink, stretch (left), blink, stretch (right), rouler, rouler…. I didn’t think much more of the “eye-scapades” until recently when the habit seemed to get worse. I began to wonder: is there an explanation for these forced eye movements and how common is it? Do you, dear reader, do such a thing? What’s this thing called?

UNE MANIE?
Is it a simple compulsion? A habit? Un TOC? The internet didn’t list “eye stretching” among other popular obsessions, such as:

⇒ biting one's nails (ronger les ongles)
⇒ pulling one’s hair out (arracher les cheveux)
⇒ picking at one’s skin (gratter sa peau)
⇒ picking one’s eyelashes, eyebrows (arracher les cils, ou les sourcils)

UNE SACCADE?
Meantime, I googled an interesting term having to do with repeated eye movements: une saccade (French for “jerk”) is a quick, simultaneous movement of both eyes between two or more phases of fixation in the same direction. According to the Oxford dictionary, saccade means literally ‘violent pull’, (from Old French saquer ‘to pull’).

UN TIC?
Tic is big word (often associated with Tourette’s)... maybe that’s why so many of us don’t make the conscious connection between our repetitive behavior and ticcing (ticking?). Here’s a non-exhaustive list of tics (when the following behavior is continuous):

⇒ blinking (clignements des yeux)
⇒ shoulder shrugging (haussements répétitifs des épaules)
⇒ Foot or finger tapping (tapotements involontaires du pied ou des doigts)
⇒ Sniffing (reniflements),
⇒ Throat clearing (raclement de gorge)

Saperlipopette! Looking over the 2 lists above, I realize I am not alone: some of my family members have either une manie or un tic—everything from continuous throat-clearing to incessant hair-pulling to a spectacular neck jerk. It appears that such gestures may be related to fatigue, anxiety, tension, or stress--even excitement or happiness. The heartening news is that,  just like a sneeze, tics can be controlled...

Ha! Tell that to a control freak.

***

TIC TALK
Share your thoughts about tics and manies (compulsions): do you or a loved one suffer from one? Can you name a famous person with one? (Tennis champion Rafael Nadal, who before serving, rubs his ears and pinches his nose and bottom—il frotte ses oreilles, pince son nez et sa fesse. These are knowns as tics or "little routines", for which he is sometimes mocked.). Are all tics related to Tourette’s? Is there a positive side to tics? And do you know of a technique to reduce or eliminate this sometimes embarrassing behavior? Share your knowledge in the comments box.

FRENCH VOCABULARY 
bref =  in short
rouler les yeux = roll the eyes
sans s’en apercevoir = without realizing it
rouler = roll
une manie = habit, obsession 
un TOC (trouble obsessionnel compulsif) = OCD obsessive-compulsive disorder
ronger les ongles = to bite one’s nails 
arracher les cheveux = pull out one’s hair
gratter sa peau = to pick at one’s skin
arracher les cils, les sourcils = to pick one’s lashes, eyebrows 
une saccade = jerk, twitch
les clignements des yeux = eye blinking
les haussements répétitifs des épaules = shoulder shrugging 
les tapotements involontaires du pied ou des doigts = foot or finger tapping
les reniflements = sniffing
le raclement de gorge = throat clearing
saperlipopette = good heavens!
frotter ses oreilles = rub one’s ears
pincer son nez, sa fesse = pinch one’s nose, one’s bottom
Gilles de la Tourette
From Wikipedia: Tourette syndrome was named by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot for his intern, Georges Gilles de la Tourette, who published in 1885 an account of nine patients with a "convulsive tic disorder".

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. PayPal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


An exhausting surprise at Jackie’s Alpine “hébergement”

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Serre Chevalier Vallée, with its snow-capped cimes. Photo by Jean-Marc

TODAY’S WORD: se soutenir 

: to help one another, to support one another

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Listen to Jean-Marc’s recording, click here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

On Monday, Jules and Smokey opted to stay cozy at home while the remaining members of our household made the three-and-a-half-hour trajet from La Ciotat to Serre Chevalier. Jackie moves there next week, but this week her two-day formation began, and we wanted to be there pour la soutenir

Having dropped Jackie at Jules Melquiond Sports, we took advantage of le déplacement to get some work done. For our son, Max, a wine salesman at Domaine de La Mongestine, that meant visiting a few accounts in nearby Briançon, including a cool wine cellar called 1000 & Cimes, and a favorite restaurant Le White, located high up on the snowy slopes. Meantime, Jean-Marc checked on a few of his clients in Chantemerle village... and my job was to tag along, paying close attention to all the details in order to report back to you, Dear Reader. The pressure is on, now, to type up this report by Friday. Je suis à la bourre! Je suis charrette!

I really love this last term "charrette", learned while watching yet another wine tasting. This time we were chez Hervé et Eliane in their lively chalet in Monetier-les-Bains. The couple heartily welcomed us, smack in the middle of several projects--including a reconversion of their spa/hotel, now called "Alliey & Spa appart-hotel". 

"Je suis charrette!" Hervé admitted, pushing aside the contents of his kitchen table to make room for a tasting of Mongestine wines. Charrette? What an interesting way to use this word! What exactly did the expression mean?

"It comes from journalism and deadlines," Hervé said, swirling some rosé, “you know, ‘to be pressed’." The dégustation continued as I took mental notes for my own rédaction and deadline. Our brief meeting over, we said goodbye to Hervé and Eliane in time to pick up Jackie for lunch at L'Alpin, in Briançon, and enjoy a decadent meal: raclette (a gigantic half-wheel of cheese “au lait cru” heated by a copper bar. Diners scrape (or 'rake') the cheese onto a plate). Miam, miam!

After her first 9-5 day at Melquiond Sports, we met Jackie in time to visit son hébergement: a tiny, 15-square-meter studio located up the hill from the ski shop. Small as it is, this apartment is une vraie trouvaille given accommodations are extremely hard to find (so many seasonal workers needing a place to stay).

The ad mentioned "4th floor" (really “5th,” in American English) and no ascenseur, but we counted two extra flights as we huffed and puffed our way up to the apartment from the lower hill (only 5 flights if you hike up the hill and enter from the front :-).

Seven flights and no elevator? I trusted our girl could do this hike several times a day. But it could prove inconvenient when she's pressed—-when she’s charrette! Speaking of charrette, she's going to need something like that--a cart with wheels--to drag her groceries up all those stairs. Bon courage, ma fille! It will all work out. And it'll be quite a work-out at that!

Voilà for our quick aller-retour to the Alps this week. Jules was happy we made it home safe late last night, in the pouring rain. She and Smokey are the most adorable welcome home committee, one of them wagging a tail the other offering a warm hug. This brings us back to the word soutenir, which is what this trip was all about.


FRENCH VOCABULARY
se soutenir = to support each other
le trajet = journey, trip, drive
soutenir = to support
le déplacement = business trip
la cime = mountain peak, pinnacle, summit 
la formation = training course
être à la bourre = to be running late
être charrette = to be pressed, overwhelmed
la dégustation = wine tasting
la rédaction = writing, essay
la Raclette = a local dish made of cheese, charcuterie, and potatoes
fromage au lait cru = unpasteurized cheese
miam! = yum!
un hébergement = accommodation, lodgings
une trouvaille = a find
un ascenseur = elevator
bon courage = good luck
une charrette = a cart with wheels
un aller-retour = round trip 
soutenir = to support
le chamois = goat antelope 

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Max woke before dawn to hike up and see les chamois—a goat-antelope native to these glorious mountains.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. PayPal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Guess Where Jackie is moving?... and the expression “être sur son trente-et-un”

Chantemerle Serre Chevalier Vallée Alps France
The French Alps at Serre Chevalier. Have you heard of this popular ski resort in Southeastern France?

TODAY’S WORD: être sur son trente-et-un 

  : to be all dressed up, all dolled up

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Click here to begin listening


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse
“Être sur son trente-et un”

Behind a curtain at Le Printemps department store, dans une cabine d’essayage, my daughter is trying on an elegant black pantsuit. The gabardine costume is similar to an outfit a friend wore to Saturday’s dressy gala...

“Jackie, that looks great on you! It’s a classic and you will have it for a very long time. Dress it up or down—you could wear it just about anywhere!"

My 24-year-old agreed, adding, “I can wear it to work....”

Her comment was so innocent... Truth be told this was not an appropriate outfit for her new job. Should I gently enlighten her? After all, this would not be the same dress code as Baccarat... shouldn’t she know that by now? 

By now, seven weeks since leaving Miami after une escroquerie, our cadette was doing better. Gone was the numbness, la colère, and the depression. Maybe it was a good sign she suddenly wanted to wear a power suit? I just wouldn’t want her to feel out of place—when even France feels out of place to her right now. And I’m so afraid she’ll get back on that airplane and disappear...yet I’ve got to be honest with her and quit handling my grown girl with kid gloves.

“I don’t think this is something you could wear for your new job at the ski shop...” 

“Pourquoi pas?” Jackie countered and this time Innocence wasn’t talking. This was Boldness. She reminds me of her grandmother when that rebel spark flies out. 

Jackie’s grandmother, Jules, also worked in a ski shop. While we wore jeans (my sister Heidi and I worked there too) Mom wore silk dresses and patent leather pumps at The Alpine Ski Keller, in Phoenix Arizona. But that was the 80s. That was also a time of transition in Jules’ life. There, in “The Valley of the Sun,” Mom went on to become a top producer in real estate before burnout led to her early retirement in Mexico. 

Back in France, in Serre Chevalier Vallée, Jackie will soon be in a similar transition. While she has recovered from a terrible scam, she is still trying to find her footing, après avoir perdu pied. Going back to Miami is tempting, but something tells her ce n’est pas le bon moment. So when a friend put up a Help Wanted sign in their family-owned ski shop, the universe seemed to be nudging.

Bienvenue à Jules Melquiond Sports!
Since getting the job, Jackie’s been busy researching the company, founded by Jules Melquiond. champion de ski et ex-slalomeur de la grande équipe de France des années 60.... Searching the company’s Instagram account and its website, Jackie shared various nuggets with me as I cooked dinner: “Did you know the shop sells luxury ski apparel? And that it boasts one of the best French boot-fitters in the country?”

Skilled boot-fitters? Our girl is sure to find her footing in the mountains! And high-end apparel? She might be able to sport that elegant costume after all. But for now, please join me in wishing Jackie bonne chance at Jules Melquiond Sports. She begins training next week!

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I leave you with a postcard from the collection of love letters Jean-Marc sent me 30 years ago... the message on the back is timeless as our daughter begins a new chapter in the Alps.

Serre Chevalier est un pays magnifique. Tout est sain et je me plais à venir ici...avec toi. Serre Chevalier is a beautiful place. Everything is healthy and I enjoy coming here...with you. —Jean-Marc

FRENCH VOCABULARY 
être sur son trente-et-un = to dress up 
la cabine d’essayage = fitting room, dressing room 
le costume = suit
une éscroquerie = a scam
un(e) cadet(te) = youngest
la colère = anger
pourquoi pas? = why not
Serre Chevalier Vallée = major ski resort in southeastern France
perdre pied = to lose one's footing, to be overwhelmed
ce n’est pas le bon moment = this isn’t the right time
champion de ski = ski champion 
équipe de France = French team
bonne chance! = good luck!

Chantemerle sapin de noel wood heart door star
For more photos and a story about a stolen kiss in the Alps, click here.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. PayPal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens