1. dirt, filth (plural) 2. trash, garbage
ordurier(ière) = filthy
une boîte à ordures = a garbage can
dire des ordures = to talk filth, to utter obscenities
Au pourceau, l'ordure ne pue point.
Filth doesn't bother a pig.
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
St. Maximin la Ste Baume, 1998
The partitioning wall in our 300-year-old village home was as dense as a day-old baguette. Just beyond that wall, lived a couple in their early 70's. They came from Algeria in the 60's, and after the tumult Monsieur secured a job on an apple farm. He had to quit working when a car accident left him disabled, so there he stood, wrinkly faced, on the curb each day, under wrinkly clothes--always the same--a button-down shirt and woolen vest, gray slacks.
His wife wore a traditional scarf around her head, and her palms were colored burnt orange from Henna; I knew the dye wasn't from her hair, but that's about all I understood. When she smiled, which wasn't often, her mouth lit up in gold--every tooth capped in the precious metal.
I used to soak in the tub each night and listen to my Algerian neighbors. Our bathroom must have been part of their kitchen at one point in time, or vice-versa, and now a thin wall separated the two. Their jubilant dinners were such a contrast to Monsieur and Madame's somber daytime visages* and I couldn't get the two moods to match up. Happily, their children came to pay them a visit each night, for so much tristesse* could not be good for a person.
Monsieur Alag stood on the trottoir* just meters from my front door. "Why does that man stand there all day?" visitors would ask. It never bothered me, au contraire, his presence reassured. Though he might never derail a cambrioleur* (crippled as he was) it felt good to greet him each time I opened the door.
The neighborhood poubelle* was located, we soon learned, just inches from our front doorstep. The locals would nonchalantly dump little plastic sacs of daily refuse in the neglected city-owned planter box out front.
This became annoying to say the least. When my father came to visit, he and his wife had the idea to plant a hydrangea in that spot. My dad felt that people wouldn't dare throw garbage atop such a lovely flowering plant.
The neighbors just laughed, "It will be stolen! Wait and see."
This time, the neighbors piled les ordures* around the plant. I looked at Monsieur Alag who just shook his head and looked down at his shoes.
Then something strange happened; less and less garbage appeared. I later discovered the sacs piled several meters away, at the other end of the planter (far from our door). The neighbors walked by and shook their heads, the plant was still there, and in bloom...
I couldn't believe our good fortune either, and searched for an answer. When I looked at Monsieur Alag, he just raised his shoulders and looked at his well-worn shoes. But as I turned to open my door I glimpsed a smile on his face, and understood.
*References: le mur (m) = wall; le visage (m) = face; la tristesse (f) = sadness; le trottoir (m) = sidewalk; un cambrioleur (une cambrioleuse) = robber; la poubelle (f) = garbage can; les ordures = the garbage
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