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Entries from March 2005

un jouet

Jouets_1un jouet (zhway) noun, masculine
1. a toy

Also:
un coffre à jouets = a toybox

Expressions:
être le jouet de = to be the victim of something
être le jouet d'une illusion = to be the victim of an illusion

Citation du Jour:
L'hirondelle, le jouet préféré du vent. The swallow, the wind's
favorite toy.
--Jules Renard

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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cuisiner

gallery le garage in Lorgues (c) Kristin Espinasse
cuisiner (kwee-zee-nay) verb
  1. to cook  2. to grill (interrogate)

Expressions:
cuisiner quelqu'un = to give someone the third degree
cuisiner bien/mal = to be a good/bad cook

......................
Citation du Jour:
Cuisiner suppose une tête légère, un esprit généreux et un coeur large. / Cooking calls for a tranquil mind, a generous spirit and a big heart.                  --Paul Gauguin

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A Day in a French Life...

The policeman pulled up to our house, blocking our driveway with his bagnole.*

I studied the officer from my desk beneath the window, noting that he was in civilian clothing and driving a civilian car. I recognized him from my children's school, where he sometimes directs traffic. The forced smile was missing.

Instead of going outside, I went to get my husband. "There is a police officer out front," I said. Jean-Marc looked at me quizzically before I returned to the window to find the policeman now inching into the yard.

Next, I watched my husband approach the officer. Thirty-two seconds later arms were flailing, jaws were clapping, and many furtive glances were shot to the new annex in the back yard.

The men stood ant-like beneath the cypress tree, nose-to-nose, communicating as only French men can. When the aerobic gesturing ceased, the conversationalists stormed toward the garage, stomping past the sleepy lavender patch, and out of view.

I sat at my computer chewing on a few Belgian chocolates that Jean-Marc had brought back from his recent trip north, waiting nervously for the men to return to view. When they did cross the threshold, back into my window frame, I sat up to witness more wagging tongues, more jumping-jack arms. Finally, the policeman got into his car and sped off.  "That's it," I thought. "They're going to sabotage the garage!"

"What's going on?" I say, before Jean-Marc has closed the door.
"Rien. Tout va bien. Nothing. Everything is OK."
"Everything is ok? It didn't look OK!"
"Everything is fine. He measured the garage. Tout va bien."

We had just built the annex, careful to respect the neighborhood norms: that the building be 4 meters from the fence on either side, and no larger than 20 square meters.

"I think it was a neighbor who called the police," Jean-Marc said.
"No!"
"De toute façon,* I'll know soon."
"How will you know?"
"Je vais cuisiner le policier."
"You're going to cook the policeman?"

That does not have a legal ring to it. But "grill" does.

.........................................................................................
*References: une bagnole (f) = a car (slang); de toute façon = in any case

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.

To read more stories about this French life, click on the book cover below:

Book

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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Volume II

Volumeiisecondedition_2 From the back cover:

“I love the way you infuse humor into these pieces. I think you have a knack for pinpointing the lines between American thoughts and ways of going about things and French ways—in a humorous way!”

—Jessica L'Esperance Managing Editor, France Today: The Journal of French Travel and Culture

A pastiche of readers’ impressions:

….even more enjoyable to read than your electronic missives…you have a gift of painting a moment…atmospheric, emotional pieces…bittersweet and private pensées…your columns, and your life, strike such a chord with me…C'est magnifique!...I read it with tears rolling down my face…your stories truly move me...your experiences come from the heart that's why people can identify so readily with you…fabulous!...informative and entertaining…insights and French expressions that you can’t find in a dictionary…your words truly bring your experiences to life…the stuff of which dreams are made!...the insight that I get from your letters is like having a personal window from which to view French life & customs…your column makes me feel more of a human, with more hope for my own frailties…your courageous simple honesty continues to impress...you have a gift of enhancing the feeling and metaphor of your vocabulary into the spirit side of life, and adding insight, in a heart-clutching way…you are a delightful writer and reading your accounts of daily life en famille and with friends helps me feel connected to a culture and country I love…your insight into the French culture is quite interesting…J'aime lire vos histoires…you have just the most wonderful way of weaving a story…It is clear you are a keen observer of life, a wonderful writer, and a very fun maman133 pages. (This book is no longer available.)


To read more stories about this French life, click on the book cover below:

Book

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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ramasser

ramasser (ra-ma-say) verb
  1. to pick up
  2. to harvest

Expressions:
ramasser quelque chose à la pelle = to obtain loads of something
être à ramasser à la petite cuillère = to be exhausted
ramasser une bûche,* un gadin,* une gamelle,* une pelle* = to fall, to fall flat on one's face

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Citation du Jour
Il y a des jours où, pour juste se laisser vivre, il faut ramasser son courage à la petite cuillère.

There are days where, just to survive, we must pick up our courage by the teaspoonful.
--Renald Tremblay

......................................
A Day in a French Life...

(The story that originally appeared here, with the vocabulary below, is now part of this book!:

Book

...................................................................................................................
*References: une bûche (f) = log; un gadin (...found only in the expression "ramasser or prendre un gadin"); une gamelle (f) = dish; une pelle (f) = shovel; le sécateur (m) = clippers; un Arcois, une Arcoise = one who is from Les Arcs; le voisinage (m) = neighborhood; par terre = on the ground; le mégot (m) = cigarette butt; Kronenburg = brand of French beer; Monsieur Propre = Mr. Clean; dimanche après-midi = Sunday afternoon; bonjour = hi; le PQ (slang) (m) = toilet paper; le prospectus = leaflet; à gogo = galore; la canette (f) = can (of soda, beer); et voilà = all done; la poubelle (f) = garbage can; un outil (m) = tool

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.

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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un soulier

Figanieres, Var, France (c) Kristin Espinasse 
un soulier (sool-yay) noun, masculine
1. a shoe

Expression
être dans ses petits souliers = to feel awkward or ill at ease

Proverb
Mieux vaut user des souliers que des draps.
Better to wear out the shoes than the sheets.


...........................................
A Day in a French Life...

(The story that originally appeared here, along with the French vocabulary, below, is now a part of this book!)

...............................................................................................................
*References: one kilometer on foot, it wears, it wears... it wears down the shoes, two... three kilometers on foot...; la bagnole (f) = car; l'éspace (m) = space; voyons = let's see; la fugue (f) = running away; le trottoir (m) = sidewalk; l'église (f) = church; le soulier (m) = shoe

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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cuver

Pradel cabanon = Pradel shack (c) Kristin EspinasseThe favorite cabanon I told you about the other day. (photo, left)

cuver (koo-vay) verb
  1. to ferment
  2. to sleep it off

Expressions:
cuver son vin = "to ferment one's wine," to sleep it off
cuver sa colère = to sleep, work or walk off one's anger, to simmer
down


Citation du Jour:
L'humanité est une vieille ivrognesse qui, pour le moment, cuve sa dernière guerre.
              Humanity is an old drunkard who, for the moment, sleeps off its last war.
--Jules Romains

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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piger

piger (pee-zhay) verb
  1. to measure
  2. to understand, to get it

Expressions:
tu piges = get it?
pige-moi ça! = take a look at that!
je n'y pige rien = I just don't get it
n'y piger que dalle = to understand nothing

Also:
un(e) pigiste = (piecework) a typesetter; a freelance journalist who is paid by the line

Citation du Jour:
La jeunesse a cela de beau qu'elle peut admirer sans comprendre.
The beauty of youth is this: it can admire without understanding.

                   --Anatole France

......................................
A Day in a French Life...

(The story that originally appeared here with the French vocabulary, below, is now a part of this book!):

Book

*References: la porte (f) = door; salut, maman = hi, mom; ouf! = phew!; l'élève (mf) = student, pupil; sans lignes = without lines; Je dois écrire cent lignes, maman = I have to write one hundred lines, mom; le devoir (m) = homework (faire ses devoirs = to do one's homework); ça t'apprendra = that'll teach you; fatigué = tired; il ne pigera rien comme ça = he'll never understand a thing that way

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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la dalle

Roquebrune_2
The village of Roquebrune-sur-Argens (VAR)

la dalle (dal) noun, feminine
1. paving stone, flagstone; (concrete) slab

Also:
que dalle = nothing at all

Expressions:
avoir/crever la dalle = to be starving
n'y piger que dalle = to understand nothing
avoir la dalle en pente = "to have a sloping floor," to be a boozer
Je n'y vois que dalle = I can't see a damn thing

Citation du Jour:
Le sage trouve l'édredon dans la dalle.
The wise man finds eiderdown in concrete.
--Henri Michaux

..........................................
A Day in a French Life....

Trying to occupy the kids with Papa Poule* away for the weekend was a real épreuve.* In planning a Sunday drive out to Roquebrune-sur-Argens I fought the urge to just stay home, lie on the floor and let the kids run circles around me. You might as well have poured une dalle* and stuck my two feet in it -- I seemed to move forward at such a velocity: a legs-wading-through-wet-cement-pace, struggling to get our trio out the front door.

My husband is a "gets-things-done" type of Frenchman, which is one of the reasons I uttered an emphatic "OUI!" at the église* 10 years ago. I have always been impressed by his verve for life--not that I agree with his mode d'emploi or "how to" in getting from point A to point B. A typical trip to the plage* will have him throwing a BATH towel into the trunk and tapping his feet impatiently while I am knee-deep in preparation for the same outing. Whereas I might 'throw in the towel' and want to collapse into a chaise longue* on the back patio (because I can't find the BEACH towels or the sun cream and it's taking forever to gather sunglasses, snacks, an air-mattress, hats, water...) he'll get us to the beach, even if it means showing up with nothing more than a threadbare IBIS* hand towel.

While you could describe my life as a painting ("Still Life in Provence"?) in which there is quiet beauty and a fair amount of joy in the lavender-packed hills; mystery and an ongoing saga near the midnight-blue sea -- you could describe my husband's as a soccer match: "Marseilles attacks Le Monde"* in which life is a vast green field, the goal, when the work is done, is to have fun, to get a kick out of his friends (whose humor I do not always understand) and to run shouting through the field, head flung back, mouth wide open as if to drink in the rain, arms spread out in victory and in awe of this world. Two different earth dwellers, we are, from two different continents, just beginning to appreciate the other's art de vivre.*

And so it was that over the weekend, and in the spirit of my husband's "get out and live life to the fullest" approach -- I emerged from my comfortable still-life painting to high-tail this homebody out the door. Though I would rather have sipped coffee on the front porch and watched the neighbors amble by, I left my stagnant tableau* and entered the field.

Given that I had adopted my husband's "life's a game" philosophy, if only for the weekend, it was not so surprising to be met by immediate resistance from the opposing team.

"I don't want to visit another village," the kids wailed as I chanted, "Keys, glasses, wallet... camera, kleenex, jackets..." trying to organize our périple.*

"Well, do you want pizza? If you'll visit the village with me, and let mommy snap a few photos, I'll take you for pizza after." I began by bribing and ended by making threats.

I coaxed two grumpy Gauls into the car and we headed down the RN7,* past the parasol pines, past the prostituées,* past my favorite lone cabanon* with the old Pradel sign painted across its facade.

Once in Roquebrune the party poopers perked up. "Look, Jackie," Max said, squealing as he sailed down the arm of an escalier.*

They loved the hilly village with its winding alleys, and they gargled with laughter while running up and down the narrow pedestrian streets. All the chasing and sliding emptied their reserves, and when we finally collapsed into the car to head out of Roquebrune, Max said to his sister:

"T'sais ce que c'est 'd'avoir la dalle,' Jackie?
("Ya know what 'd'avoir la dalle' is, Jackie?")
"Non."
"C'est d'avoir faim. It's 'to be hungry'."
"J'ai la dalle. I'm hungry!" she said.
"Moi aussi," I added, happy to be in accord, at last.

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*References: papa poule = father hen; une épreuve (f) = test, ordeal; la dalle (f) = cement floor; une église (f) = church; la plage (f) = beach; la chaise longue (f) = deckchair; IBIS = a popular budget hotel chain; le monde (m) = world; art de vivre = way of/art of living; le tableau (m) = painting; le périple (m) = trip; RN7 (la route nationale sept) = state highway 7; la prostituée (f) = prostitute; le cabanon (m) = shed (also: country cottage); l'escalier (m) = stairs

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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une échelle

Boulangerie_7
"hors saison"     ...off-season in Roquebrune-sur-Argens

une échelle (ay-shell) noun, feminine
  1. ladder
  2. scale (of map)
  3. musical scale

Also:
une échelle d'incendie, de sauvetage = a fire escape
une carte à petite/grande échelle = a small-scale/large-scale map
une échelle à poissons = a fish ladder; salmon leap
une échelle mobile = a sliding scale (of prices)

Expressions:
faire la courte échelle = to give someone a helping hand
monter à l'échelle = "to climb the ladder," to be duped
tenir l'échelle = "to hold the ladder," to help someone rise socially
il n'y a plus qu'a tirer l'échelle = there's no point in trying any further

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Citation du Jour
Chacun est responsable de la planète et doit la protéger à son échelle.
Each is responsible for the planet and must protect it on his or her own scale.
    --Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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une jupe

une jupe (zhewp) noun, feminine
  1. a skirt

Also: un jupon (nm) = petticoat, underskirt; bit of skirt

Expression:
aimer le jupon = to love anything in a skirt
être toujours dans les jupes de quelqu'un = (to always be in the skirts of someone) to depend on someone too much

Citation du Jour:
La rime est un jupon, et je m'amuse à la suivre.
The rhyme is a skirt, and I have fun chasing it.
  --Jean Richepin

........................................
A Day in a French Life...

My 7-year-old invited a friend over yesterday. "I brought my chaussons,"* the little girl said, adjusting her glasses with a forefinger and holding up a pair of fuzzy pink slippers with the other hand. "Chouette,"* said I.

The little mademoiselles painted their fingernails, donned colorful swirly jupes,* applied sparkly powder to their delicate visages* and danced to "Femme Like U" by K'maro, reducing themselves to giggles each time I inquired, "Qu'est-ce qui se passe ici? What's going on in here?"

For lunch we had four-cheese pizza and pommes frites.* When conversation came to a lull, our invitée* with the pink fuzzy pantoufles* remarked, "C'est calme ici."*

Jean-Marc and I looked at each other nervously. "So, do you have a brother or sister?" my husband said, breaking the silence. And with that a deluge of personal information spit forth like gargled red wine from the mouth of an oenologist:

"No, I have a gerbil. My dad chews gum every morning for breakfast. My grandparents watch "Attention à la Marche" which really annoys me! My mom's name is really Corinne but people call her 'Coco.' She prefers Coco. I was held back a grade, because I'm p-a-r-e-s-s-e-u-s-e.* My cousin lives in Corsica. I go to bed at 6 every night."

"You go to bed at six?" Jean-Marc said, beating me to it.

It began to dawn on me that my own children must be spilling les haricots* about us each time they go to their friends' homes. I can only imagine what they say about Jean-Marc and me...

I can just hear my daughter admitting:

"My dad wears a dress."

(What the other parents won't get the chance to understand is that it isn't really a dress per se--but a souvenir from Djibouti, Africa, where it's okay for real men to wear gowns (or traditional 'boubous') and where my husband used to audit hotels. He received the dress as a gift; it's since become his preferred lounging attire.)

Likewise I imagine Max saying:

"My mom scrapes her tongue with a potato peeler each morning."

(The potato peeler was, again, a gift--from my Sri Lankan neighbor who used to teach me yoga once a week. One of the lessons included hygiene and health, and the importance of cleaning the tongue. As he didn't have an extra tongue-cleaning apparatus to offer, he went to the kitchen and found the smooth "u-tailed" stainless steel peeler. I popped out the offensive blade and use the wide tail end to gratte.* It works so well I never bothered to order a real tongue scraper. I do, however, get strange looks at airport security.)

I suppose, taken out of context, those behaviors seem odd, but such rituals are beside the point. What's important is that we don't eat gum for breakfast and we don't sit in a vegetative state before the TV like two overcooked French leeks about to be pureed into a tureen of vichyssoise. We are just normal parents, sometime savvy dressers, (free of halitosis), and receptive to odd gifts.

*References: le chausson (m) = slipper; chouette! = neat!; la jupe (f) = skirt; le visage (m) = face; pommes frites (fpl) = French fries; l'invité(e) = guest; une pantouffle (f) = slipper; C'est calme ici = It's calm here; paresseuse (paresseux) = lazy; le haricot (m) = bean; gratte (gratter) = to scrape

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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