la guerre

une étourderie

Typo city. That's one way to describe Thursday's "guerre" edition. A few of the word casualties in the "guerre" or "war" letter follow at the end of this courriel.*

étourderie (ay-tor-dree) noun, feminine
  1. absentmindedness

étourdi,e = scatterbrained, absentminded
étourdiment = carelessly, rashly

à l'étourdie = abruptly
une faute d'étourderie = a careless mistake or blunder
agir par étourderie = to act without thinking or carelessly

Citation du Jour:
Il n'y a malheureusement plus d'étourdis en France.
Unfortunately, there are no more scatterbrains in France.

--Le Prince de Ligne (on the French army, during the revolution).

A Day in a French Life...

The emails began popping into my inbox like exploding kernels of maïs.* I knew it would happen, tôt or tard.* I'd be found out. My cover, blown. Sooner or later, readers would discover the woman behind this letter to be a wannabe, un poseur. My French is rotten and my writing even worse.

The fireworks (or exploding kernels) came on Armistice day (symbolic?). Time to hand over the pen and go back to selling vin* at the vineyard, or to filing paint card samples at Monsieur Bricolage.* I knew it was too good to be true, this life of writer.

Each day, roughly around noon, I reach for the "Envoyer" (send) button where my right index finger hesitates, trembling just above la souris.*

There are professors, linguists and at least one rocket scientist on this list, among a slew of other thoughtful readers.

I think back to how I almost failed high school French, to how, newly expatriated to France, I ordered a marijuana burger instead of a steak haché: "Un steak hashish, s'il vous plaît!" I remember back to the time I meant to tell a French woman how lovely the wooden beams in her house were, except, when I opened my mouth to say "poutre," an awful French word imposter stepped out. (I cannot tell you what I said! Only that it is slang for a female body part.)

As I debate about pushing the "Envoyer" button to send out the day's edition, I can almost hear the rumbling of so many collective laughs.

I push the Envoyer button anyway.

Next, I run to the kitchen and nervously stir les pâtes.*

Because I can't stand it anymore, the idea that I really have blown it this time, created the most ridiculous letter in the history of electronic mail, I run back to the computer to look for the first red flag. My ears lurch forward to hear the first honk. As if emails could sound horns.

I open the exploded kernels. Instead of hate mail, I receive grammar and spelling corrections and encouraging "keep it up" support. Ça va.

While Thursday's guerre edition brought no detractors, a few emails have come close to sending me back to my paint cards at Monsieur Bricolage:

"Why can't you write something intelligent?" one reader said.
Another reader added, "Talk about smart issues rather than personal matters that no one cares about!!!!"
"Why don't you create a nom de guerre* my friend Brigitte suggests, as I plur-nee-shay* over a coq au vin sans vin.* It is too late for a pseudonym. Besides, people would recognize me by my English grammar faults (I repeat the same ones, weekly. It has sort of become a part of this writer's "style"). It took me six months, and many patient reader reminders, to quit writing "it's" when "its" was the correct choice, and a bit longer to learn when to write "me" and not "I" as in "My mom put up a two-man tent for my sister and I." I still mess that one up.

"Never let them see you sweat." Perhaps today's missive was another absentminded avowal, or confession étourdie,* but then...I never did agree with the "Never let 'em" quote. What a frightening world to live in when everyone should be so--composed. A little transparent insecurity, un partage* of doubts and fears, can sometimes encourage.

I hope you will stay with me on this personal word journey; for the French words, bien sûr, but for the stream of words that make up "A Day in a French Life" as well. Because this "life of writer" dream just won't go away, and I still need your pinches, or thoughtful kernels in my mailbox, to remind me that I am still, truly, living my dream.

*References: courriel (from courrier électronique) = email; le maïs = corn, maize; tôt ou tard = sooner or later; le vin = wine; Mr Bricolage = home supply store, like Home Depot; la souris = the (computer) mouse; plur-nee-shay (pronunciation for the verb "pleurnicher" = to whine, to snivel); les pâtes (f) = pasta, nom de guerre = pseudonym;  le coq au vin = chicken with wine; sans vin =
without wine; un partage = a sharing

More about this "life of writer" in my book: Words in a French Life

Dictionary of French Slang and Colloquial Expressions lists approximately 4,500 common slang words and colloquial expressions. Entries include grammatical information, the definition in English, a sentence or phrase to illustrate usage, and an English translation of the example and, where applicable, a corresponding English slang expression. Each entry also identifies the word or phrase by type: student or youth slang, political slang, literary slang, and criminal and drug-related slang.

Cool French Posters / Affiches:

: Cognac Gautier Freres Art Print by Vintage, 24" x 36": Mademoiselle Mouse, Movie Poster by Walt Disney: Vache Qui Rit Art Print by Benjamin Rabier, 20" x 28": Biarritz, Fine Art Print by Debo, 19.5x27.5: Soleil Toute Lannee, Fine Art Print by Roger Broders, 19.5x27.5: Art Poster Print - Ile de France - Artist: Albert Sebille - Poster Size: 20 X 28 inches: Air Afrique, Fine Art Print by A. Roquin, 27.5x39.5: Art Poster Print - Marseilles-Porte de l'Afrique du Nord - Artist: Roger Broders - Poster Size: 24 X 36 inches: Chocolat Suchard, Art Poster by Affiches Publicite: Tournée du Chat Noir, c.1896, Fine Art Poster by Théophile Steinlen, 24x36: Art Poster Print - Monte Carlo Grand Prix - Artist: Chris Flanagan - Poster Size: 8.00 X 10.00 inche: Wagons Lits Cook 1934, Fine Art Print by Adolphe Cassandre, 25x37: Juan les Pins Art Print by Vic Raymon, 20" x 28": Art Poster Print - Agay - Artist: Roger Broders - Poster Size: 20 X 28 inches: L'Amazone, Art Poster by Fuss

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