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Entries from April 2005

grignoter

French sea = mer (c) Kristin Espinasse  
Wisteria and the deep blue sea off Toulon...

Yesterday I had the chance to "grignoter une salade" with a friend along the seashore in Toulon... more about that adventure in the next edition.

grignoter (gree-nyoh-tay) verb
  1.  to nibble at one's food
  2.  to eat away at (savings, natural resources...)

Expressions:
grignoter une place = to obtain a seat (coucil, court, board)
grignoter du terrain = to gain ground
grignoter entre les repas = to snack between meals
grignoter son adversaire = to gain ground on one's opponent

...........................
Citation du Jour
Le bonheur est une petite chose que l'on grignote, assis par terre, au soleil.
Happiness is a little thing that we nibble, seated on the ground, in the sun.         --Jean Giraudoux

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

(Don't miss the story that originally appeared here, along with the vocabulary below--now a part of this book!)

......................
*References: un petit creux (m) = a little hunger; un gouter (m) = a snack; une mauvaise conscience (f) = a guilty conscience; le frigo (m) = the fridge; la gêne (f) = embarrassment; Pâques (m) = Easter; debout (adv) = standing; un pois chiche (m) = a chickpea; tu as une petite faim, cherie? = are you a little hungry, darling?; une cachette (f) = a hiding place; une frite (f) = a french fry; le niveau social (m) = social standing; bon appétit = enjoy your meal; rouge-tomate =
tomato-red

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pudibond

Laundry (c) Kristin Espinasse

pudibond,e (pew-dee-bohn, bohnd) adjective
  1. prudish, prim and proper

la pudibonderie (f) = prudishness, primness

....................................
Citation du Jour
La perte d'une certaine pudeur comme la perte de la pureté sont les causes profondes de la décadence du monde.

The loss of a certain sense of modesty, like the loss of purity, these are the profound causes of the world's decadence.
--Mère Teresa

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

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

.....................................................
*References: le linge (m) = washing; la pince à linge (f) = clothespin; recommencer = to do again; à vos souhaits! = bless you!; le sous-vêtement (m) = underwear; la culotte (f) = panty; le soutien-gorge (m) = bra; le caleçon (m) = boxer shorts; le soleil (m) = sun; l'étendoir (m) = clothesline; et compagnie = and the rest; deux = two

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le béguin

Bagnolseglise_1le béguin (bay-gehn) noun, masculine
1. (from "embéguiner," to put something in the head) a passing fancy
2. (from béguine) = hood (of beguin nun); bonnet (baby); cap

Expressions:
c'est mon béguin = I've got a thing on him/her
avoir le béguin pour quelqu'un = to have a crush on someone
avoir le béguin pour quelque chose = to fancy something
être le béguin de quelqu'un = to be the object of someone's affection

Citation du Jour:
L'admiration n'est, comme la joie, qu'une composante de l'amour. Admiration, like joy, is only a component of love. --Dominique Lévy-Chédeville

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

In French, the expression "avoir le béguin pour quelqu'un" means "to have a crush on somebody".

My husband is on his way home from a two-week tournée* in the States and I've gone and found myself smitten by another foreigner: someone two-and-a-half times my age.

I drive to the end of the red earth to meet her. Max and Jackie are in the back seat and I warn them:
"You are going to be guests," I begin.
"Est-ce que ça veut dire qu'on ne paie pas--Does that mean we don't have to pay?"
"Max! Now listen. We are on our best--"
(This is their clue to fill in blank...)
"Manner," Jackie answers.
"Manners. No. But close. Behavior!"
"We are on our best--"
"Behavior!" the kids say, in unison.
"Good!"

We enter clusters of parasol pines, driving through a forest of gigantic broccoli. The earth's tint in this part of le Var* is somewhere between sienna and brick-red, the color of my native Arizona, of the Grand Canyon or Sedona. In the distance, the seaside towns of Fréjus and St. Raphaël, beyond: the dark blue liquid horizon.

My friend Michèle has invited us to her home in Bagnols-en-Forêt to meet a woman who has lived through two world wars. The-one-I-will-soon-be-smitten-by almost didn't make it to lunch, preferring to stay home and supervise the workman who were busy scrubbing her tiled terrace with white vinegar. The workmen are fond of her as well. She says it's due to the beer she gives them at the end of the work day; it doesn't occur to her that it might be her charm that has the men on all fours, knees soaked in vinegar, scouring past six. When she's out of beer, she knocks on the neighbor's door, a spry Frenchman at 72 ans* (eighteen years her junior) who wears a black toupee and has a handle-bar mustache; he gives her the beers to give to the fragrant workmen.

I study her from beneath the flowering cherry-tree, its full white blossoms muffle the rumbling of one thousand nectar-hungry bees. Looking up through the trees, to the sky she says:
"It is not le Mistral when the clouds are out. When the Mistral wind blows through, there is not a cloud in sight."

I am not interested in clouds or le Mistral, not anymore, and I pull my chair closer to hers.
"What brought you to France?" I say.
She tells me that when her husband died twelve years ago (here, I pause to calculate: when she was 78...) she decided to go west, to the South of France, and build a summer nest.

As she speaks, I can't help but admire her the structure of her face: rectangular; it is the best of oval, the best of square. Her eyes are that pretty shade between "steel" and "powder": robin's-egg blue. Her short hair is that quality of white that tips the edges of the blue sea, and it falls back off her face in thick, endless waves.

As she sat there, relaxed yet upright, now talking about her 35-year-old grand-daughter (an art teacher in Texas) I tried to pinpoint just what part of Angleterre* had rubbed off on her voice.

I noticed her earrings: large pearl-colored disks, and I made a note to wear such earrings in 53 years, as if les boucles d'oreille* would render me as beautiful as she.

She tells me that her sixty-three-year-old daughter has a butterfly tattoo on her hand.
"She got it thirty years ago."
"Were you upset?"
"No. But I told her the butterfly might look a little different when her skin begins to wrinkle."
"Does it?"
"It looks quite nice, actually."

My eyes left hers and I stared down at my own smooth hands in silence. I wanted to tell her that she is like that butterfly.

......................
*References: une tournée (f) = tour (prospecting for business); le Var (m) = a department in SE France (Provence-Alps-Côtes-d'Azur); l'an (m) = year; l'Angleterre (f) = England; une boucle d'oreille (f) = earring

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un épi

Gold_buttons
"Les boutons-d'or" "Les pissenlits" ~ Dandelions

Today's edition is "une rediffusion" or "rerun" from one year ago today.

un épi (ay-pee) noun, masculine
  1.  ear (of corn); spike (of flower)
  2.  cowlick (of hair)
  3.  diamond cluster
  4.  a loaf of bread shaped like a seed-head of a stalk of wheat

[From the Latin, spica (point)]

Expressions:
en épi = at an angle
être garé en épi = to be parked at an angle (to the curb)

French Proverb:

Quand on jette deux grains de blé à un oiseau, il en prend un, et Dieu fait un épi de l'autre. When we throw two grains of corn to a bird, the bird takes one, and God makes an ear of wheat with the other.


A Day in a French Life...
by Kristin Espinasse

My 6-year-old was climbing into the back of the car, when I said:

"Jackie, mets-les en avant--put them up front," referring to some items hindering her path.

"That's 'devant' maman,* remember?" Oh yes, she'd recently given me that lesson..."devant" for "up front" and not "en avant" which must mean "before" or something...

"Alright, alright--get inside the car already. I learned French three times your age ago--how come you speak better than I do?"

We headed down the one-lane path, direction: l'école.* I was enjoying roadside wildflowers, particularly les coquelicots,* which are now jutting out of the rock walls that flank our path; another happy find: wild sweet peas and, more abundant still, those mini marigolds that are thick and pushing up through grass lawns in our neighborhood. As my eyes continued to survey the scene, I caught sight of a curious growth. Double-taking via the rearview mirror, I discovered, to my horror, a great bunch of my son's hair, sticking straight up!

I reached back, swatting down the unruly tuft of hair, but the mass just shot straight up again. I navigated the next 20 winding meters or so with one arm on the wheel, the other trying to flatten out several startled strands of fine hair.

"Max, you need a haircut!" Jackie said.
"Did you brush your hair this morning, Max? Really!" I added.
"Those are épis*--I can't help it. I'll cut it with the ciseaux."*
"Oh no! Don't you dare cut your hair! We're going to le coiffeur!"*
"Here, take this," I said, handing a small plastic bottle of water to my son. "And don't pour! Put a little on your hand and hold your hand on your head. No, not that way. First push the hair down. There you go, now hold it!"

"Voilà, c'est bon!"* Max complained.
"No, it's not good. It's still there. Hold your hair!"
"It's sticking, mommy!" he assured.
"That's right, it's sticking straight up!" I said. Jackie held her mouth and pointed at Max's épi, bursting with enthusiasm for her brother's predicament.

"Jackie, tais-toi!"* Max said.
"Max, just hold on to your hair! O.K. Let's see now... Mon Dieu,* we've got to cut your hair!"

We reached the main road in the village and, looking out the window, I noticed that the other villagers' locks were en pétard* as well, thanks to le Mistral wind, which was out and en force.* Hairdos went to hell as bangs blew north, toupées fluttered hither and thither, barrettes went bust. Max's wayward tuft would fit in just fine.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
une maman (f) = a mom; l'école (f) = school; un coquelicot (m) = a poppy; un épi (m) = a cowlick; les ciseaux (mpl) = scissors; le coiffeur (m) = barber; Voilà, c'est bon! = There, that's good!; tais-toi = be quiet; Mon Dieu = My God; en pétard = blown up, exploded (a pétard is a firecracker); en force = in force

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le ménage

le linge = laundry (c) Kristin Espinassele ménage (may-nazh) noun, masculine
1. household; couple
2. housework

Expressions:
le grand ménage = spring-cleaning
faire le ménage = to do the housework
faire du ménage dans sa vie = to sort one's life out
la scène de ménage = ... or when couples "blow up" publicly
se mettre en ménage = to get married, to live as a married couple
le ménage à trois = "household for three"...
faire bon/mauvais ménage avec quelqu'un = to get along well/badly with someone
...................................
Proverb
Il n'y a pas d'église sans sermons, ni de ménage sans querelles.
There is not a church without a sermon, nor a household without a quarrel.


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

Recommended Reading: don't miss the story, now part of a book, that originally accompanied this edition and included these French vocabulary words:

le salon (m) = living room; le ménage (m) = housework; la poubelle (f) = garbage can; le balai (m) = broom; Allez! = Come on! (Let's get going!); la salle de bains (f) = bathroom; le lave-linge (m) = washing-machine; le lave-vaisselle (m) = dishwasher; la cuisine (f) = kitchen; le linge (m) = the washing, laundry

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
 
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un bonbon

Bonbon_2
Bonbon stand in Nice.

Words_in_a_french_life Words in a French Life: "...a heart-winning collection from an American woman raising two very French children with her French husband in Provence, carrying on a lifelong love affair with the language."

un bonbon (bohn-bohn) noun, masculine
1. a piece of candy

(bonbon is the "redoublement" or reduplication of "bon") bonbon = goodgood

Also:
bonbons anglais = fruit drops
bonbon à la menthe = mint
bonbon au miel = honey drop

Bonbon synonyms:
une friandise; une sucrerie (aimer les sucreries = to have a sweet tooth)

Expressions:
coûter bonbon = to cost a lot
avoir ras le bonbon = to be fed up
casser les bonbons à quelqu'un = to upset someone

.................................
Citation du Jour
Qui dit : "c'est facile comme de prendre un bonbon à un bébé" n'a jamais essayé de prendre un bonbon à un bébé.

Whoever said: "it's easy--like taking candy from a baby" never tried to take a piece a candy from a baby.
--John Irvin
......................................................
*References: une chose (f) = a thing
References to bonbon in literature:
Cocktail Food: 50 Finger Foods with Attitude
Cocktail Food: 50 Finger Foods with Attitude by Sara Corpening Whiteford, Lori Lyn Narlock, Mary Corpening Barber, and Carin Krasner
Sweets: A History of Candy
Sweets: A History of Candy by Tim Richardson

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links

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Arts / Artists :: Edward B. Gordon :: Robert Burgess, Photographer :: Kylee Milner :: Catherine Stock :: Lara Berch :: mindonfrance.com :: Jill Butler :: Postcard from Provence :: Kim Miles :: NZ-Artists :: Sandy Feet :: Artist-At-Large :: Marti Schmidt

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le toit

Les Toits = French rooftops (c) Kristin Espinasse
Les toits / Rooftops

Overheard in the car on the way to school this morning:
"Eh, Jackie--attention à ton dos aujourd'hui!"
(Hey, Jackie--watch your back today!)

I don't think 9-year-old Max needs to worry about his little sister. Jackie got up early to cut out and color her paper fish... now all she needs is a kilometer of tape and she can "pin" fish until her thumb begins to pulse.

Watch your back today, lest you be the target of this old French practical joke in which the joker tapes a paper fish to your back and shouts "Poisson d'avril!" (April Fool!) when the jig is up!

le toit (twa) noun, masculine
  1. roof

Expressions:
habiter sous les toits = to live in an attic flat
le toit du monde = the roof of the world
avoir un toit = to have a roof over one's head
chercher un toit = to look for a place to live
vivre sous le même toit = to live under the same roof


Un compromis fait un bon parapluie, mais un mauvais toit.
Compromise makes a good umbrella, but a bad roof.
--Robert Lowell

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

(A true story about a former neighbor in a former village. Our home was attached to the same row of homes as his--and it's a good thing we weren't sharing roofs... read on and find out why.)

                                      *     *     *

What do you do when you are a good-looking, but dirt poor sculptor whose roof tiles are crumbling?

You wait until the Provence sky turns black and the diamond specks begin to pop into view, one by one across the now glittering ciel.* When the campanile* strikes two, you ease open your chipped, on-their-last-limb shutters, slip out from your third floor window, hoist your firm fesses* up to your dilapidated roof...

...inch over to the roof of le voisin* and, one by one, lift his roof tiles, returning chez vous,* to replace, one by one, your own broken tiles with those of your neighbor

Only your neighbor, the aging Italian immigrant and sometime insomniac, does not fall like flies (as all the village women do) before your physique--and he is not charmed senseless by your sweet talk. He wants his roof tiles back--tout de suite -- or he's sending les flics! And they won't drop like flies before your good looks. But your roof tiles will. Oh, your roof tiles will!

...................................................................................................................
*References: le ciel (m) = sky; le campanile (m) = bell-tower; la fesse (f) = buttock (les fesses = buttocks, bottom); le voisin (m) = neighbor; chez vous = your place (your home); tout de suite! = pronto; le flic (m) = cop, policeman

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
 
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