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Entries from December 2005


une Maison à Valbonne = a House in Valbonne (c) Kristin Espinasse
                                 Christmastime in Valbonne.



noun, masculine


The following letter is an intimate look into la naissance of a certain "thrice-weekly" journal from France. This online blog began in October of 2002 following its earlier pen-and-paper beginnings—as letters that were sent via snail mail to a group of beta readers: my family and friends! For this opening story-letter, I have chosen a Wild West theme, one that seems fitting, considering my southwestern roots. Though I left the Phoenix desert half a life ago, a part of my heart forgot to board that plane to France.

To You, the Reader (A Story about You and Me)

In October of deux mille deux I began a website, a vitrine of sorts, for my writing. I put up a few published stories, a bio and un livre d'or, and waited beside my virtual mailbox, ginger ale in hand.

A few tumbleweeds blew past, but no publishers. My address, my website—my writing—remained in a cyber ghost town.

I continued to peddle my words, sending out queries for my stories. I did not sell many.

I thought to offer something to attract editors and publishers, and so I stepped out of my cyber-office and nailed up a sign. It read: "French Word-A-Day." I waited patiently for a customer. More tumbleweeds blew past. No publishers.

I continued to show up at the page, or keyboard, each morning and the stories collected like so many stars over a sleeping desert on a warm summer's night. As for l'espoir, I had that. Still, no publishers came.

But you did.

You must've seen the sign out front. You signed up for French words and accidentally found yourself in my French life. You must have said, "Pourquoi pas?" then pulled up a barstool, ordered a ginger ale, and settled in.

Your presence reassured me. I wrote and wrote and wrote a little more. And mostly I hoped you would not leave town when the next cyber stagecoach passed through. At least not until I figured out what it was I had to say.

Then one day you said: "Thank you for your missives," and I ran to my dictionary to look up that word. You also wrote: "Thank you for your vignettes."

"'Vignettes'! 'Vignettes'!" I giggled, doing a little square dance. I never knew what to call "it" besides an "essay" (which, I felt, was a spiffier term than "diary entry").

Many good months passed with small writing victories, and a former ghost town came to life.

But my joie was short-lived. A menace and a few mean-spirited e-mails arrived. I almost yearned for those tumbleweeds. Instead, I mentioned my soucis in a letter, and suddenly it was Showdown at the French Word-A-Day Corral! You showed up with your posse and told the bandits to get out of town. Then you turned to me and said: "Don't let the !@#& get you down!"

While others don't understand the life of a former desert rat-turned-French housewife-turned-maman and, recently, struggling écrivaine—you do.

At a shop in Draguignan, the vendeuse says: "Your name sounds familiar. What does your husband do?" I fall back into a slump, reminded that what I really am is a pantoufle-footed housewife with a backup of three loads of laundry and a sink full of dirty, mismatched assiettes.

I return home to the dirty dishes and the laundry—and to a letter from a reader, which says: "Thank you for your stories." I sit up straight, dust off my keyboard and am reminded that what I really am is a working writer—if only I will show up at the page, and write, each day.

So, thank you, dear Reader, for helping me to live my dream: for reading my—missives—and for your thoughtful words of support. Although publishers and agents may not be beating down my porte, each time I crack open the door—there you are.

In the new year, I'd like to continue with the stories, expanding the gist of this French Life. I hope you'll stay in town because I have figured out that I do, indeed, have something more to say. In fact, there is so much that I have not yet told you.

And while you know of the light-hearted, bubbly side of this expatriation, Real Life continues to rumble within my writing veins, like a rowdy, drunken saloon girl, wanting to be heard. Only I will need to slap her cheek, pour a bit of cool water over her head, take a tissue to her running mascara and tell her to have faith, that her story will be told, if she will only show up at the page.

May you, too, live your dream in the coming year.

Bien amicalement,

French Vocabulary

la naissance
 = birth
deux mille deux = two thousand two
la vitrine = showcase
le livre d'or = guestbook
l'espoir = hope
pourquoi pas? = why not?
la joie = joy
un souci = worry
une maman = mom
un(e) écrivain(e) = writer
la vendeuse = saleslady
la pantoufle = (house) slipper
une assiette = plate
la porte = door
bien amicalement = best wishes, yours

Le Coin Commentaires - Story Edits
Did you find any typos in this story? Any vocabulary words missing from the vocab section, below? Any other style or technical concerns that you would like to point out? Please leave a message in the comments box, here. Thank you very much!
Update: in the third paragraph from the end, I am having difficulty knowing what to do with the years (originally, only two years—"2005" and "2006"—were mentioned. Five years have passed, since...). If you have an idea on how to present or update this, let me know. Perhaps I should take out the years and keep "in the new year"?
I am also wondering about how to work in the very first paragraph--which is fitting for the blog post, but not for an introductory or first chapter in a book. Any ideas on how to resolve this are welcome! Perhaps I should leave it out? (In which case I'll need to remember to remove the vocabulary words from the vocab section! Oh, the blips of speed-publishing!)

Update: I am reworking the intro paragraph, check it out, now, and please let me know if you have any edits. Here is the paragraph that I took out:
For this last edition of 2004, a more personal look into la naissance of this letter from France; a background on how it came about, and its raison d'être(besides building one's vocabulary!). Most of the stories in 2004 were in keeping with a French theme. For today's personal story, a Wild West theme seems fitting, considering my Southwestern roots. Though I left the Phoenix desert one third of my life ago, a part of my heart forgot to board that plane to France. 

Update: Four weeks after publishing "To You, the Reader (A Story about You and Me)," I was contacted by an editor at Simon and Schuster (!), this, thanks to a certain reader/writer who discovered my online stories. The book that resulted from that e-mail is available for purchase

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Christmas in Provence Noël en Provence (c) Kristin Espinasse

croire (krwar) verb
  1. to believe, to trust  2. to think

Citation du Jour:
Etrangement, on en veut souvent à la personne qui vous dit une vérité difficile à entendre, impossible à croire. Strangely, you often resent the person who tells you a truth difficult to hear, impossible to believe. --Marc Levy

A Day in a French Life...

Max, Jackie and I are seated at the table, drinking sirops de fraise.*

"Maman,* do you know what 'si' means in Italian?" Jackie says, sharing another language lesson from class today. When Max perks up, his sister's brow furrows.
"Bouche cousue, Max!" Don't tell! Jackie warns.
"'Si' means 'oui'," he answers, anyway.
"Non," Jackie replies. "'Si' means 'yes'!"
"C'est la même chose!" It's the same thing! Max complains. When Jackie ignores him the subject turns to Christmas and to the news that "le Père Noël n'existe pas," Santa Claus doesn't exist.

"Since when don't you believe in Santa Claus, Jackie?"
"Depuis que Max m'a dit qu'il s'est caché sous le sapin et qu'il vous a vu avec les cadeaux," since Max told me he hid under the tree and saw you guys with the presents. "Impossible. Our tree has never been big enough to hide under!" I answer, evasively. "Besides, I know only one person who believes in le Père Noël and she is in first grade," Jackie adds. It occurs to me that so many little
French lips have been flapping around the schoolyard, questioning the existence of Papa Noël.

I study the non-croyants,* who seem to share a secret about Santa. My daughter is wearing lopsided pigtails held in place by mismatched hairbands. I think about the French expression she has unwittingly taught me during the Italian lesson when she told her brother to shush--"bouche cousue!"--and how delightful its literal translation is: "mouth sewn!" My mind then wanders to the party poopers who decided the jig was up for Père Noël. I pull out my letter to Santa and note "spools of thread" and "a truckload of big-eyed needles" -- my last two requests for L'Homme en Rouge,* along with the strength to sew so many French mouths shut so that the next time my daughter inquires, "Et toi, t'y crois?" And you, do you believe? French têtes* may shake, but one American mom will shout out: "SI!"

*References: sirop de fraise = strawberry syrup (drink); la maman (f) = mom; non-croyant = non-believer; L'Homme en Rouge = The Man in Red; la tête (f) = head

Listen: Hear Max pronounce the word "croire": Download croire.wav

faire croire = to persuade
   faire croire à quelqu'un = to brainwash
croire au père Noël = to be naive
c'est à n'y pas croire = it's unbelievable
en croire quelqu'un = to take someone's word for it

je crois, tu crois, il croit, nous croyons, vous croyez, ils croient

croire is from the Latin, "credere" which is also Italian for "to believe."

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Provencal Les Pointus = Fishing boats (c) Kristin Espinasseune âme (am) noun, feminine
  1. soul; spirit; heart; essence

Citation du Jour:
La patience est le sourire de l'âme.
Patience is the soul's smile.

--Philippe Obrecht

A Day in a French Life...

In the tiny fishing village of les Goudes, the second to last port along Marseilles' limestone coast, Jean-Marc admires the small Provençal fishing boats while I snap photos. The names of the "pointus" have as much character as the boats themselves: the fun-loving "Fanny" has received a new coat of white paint and the thick green line around her waist has been filled in again; "Paulette's" sides are a bit chipped which suits her personality; further down the dock, the boats "Saint Antoine" and "Saint Nicolas" rock in silent meditation.

Stepping off the docks on our way out of the port, we hear, "Do you want some wood?" Jean-Marc and I turn toward the voice. "Please, take some," the man in the salt and pepper beard continues. Jean-Marc stares down at a pile of driftwood. As if reading his mind, the fisherman replies, "It's no good for burning." Before Jean-Marc can decline, the man adds, "but you can make art out of it."

Jean-Marc and I look at each other. "I'll show you," the man says. "My name is Camille," he offers, pronouncing it 'ka-me.' "Venez," Come. I look over to the boats: Fanny and Paulette seem to wink and so I enter the fisherman's cottage.

Inside Camille's cabanon* the walls are whitewashed--except for one--which holds the cheminée* and is painted azure-blue. To the right of the front door is a matchbox kitchen delineated by a U-shaped counter; the kitchen floor is slightly wider than the fisherman's belly. Knives line the wall below a few dented casseroles.* There are two wooden tabourets* on the opposite side of the concrete counter, which overlooks the small room with the azure wall. "These chairs are called 'assis-debout.' Workers lean back on them, not quite seated (assis), not quite standing (debout)." Camille demonstrates, pretending to shuck oysters on the counter before him.

"Venez," he says, standing. We take the stairs which lead to a bedroom just off the wooden mezzanine. We walk single file past the unmade bed to the terrace, which overlooks the tiny port and where Camille has put more driftwood out to dry. I see Fanny and Paulette who are bumping hips on the sparkling dance floor that covers the sea all the way to Africa; the wooden Saints, Antoine and Nicolas, bob up and down and seem to make the sign of the cross in response to the dancing she-boats.

We leave the terrace, pausing before a chest of drawers. Camille points to the applique* that camouflages a lightbulb on the wall above; it reminds me of a buffalo scull from my native Arizona, only this one is made of bois* and not bone. "Voilà. You can create something like this," he says, reminding us of the woodpiles bleaching beneath the Mediterranean sun. I admire the applique,
wondering how we could ever make something so clever as this.

We return to the room with the azure wall to stand in front of the windows which are level with the boats outside. Camille explains that each year he paints the shutters and each year the Mistral wind strips them all over again. Last year he solved the problem by painting them with a product used on boats like Fanny. I study the painted blue shutters until my eyes land on a bookshelf below. "Do you know what that is?" Camille says. "The lavandières* used to wash clothes inside there. The linens were pushed against the "shelves" in order to free the dirt from the cloth."

At the end of our visit Camille tells us that the fishing port of Les Goudes is where the soul of Marseilles lies. I wonder if Camille might be the âme* of Marseilles incarnate, but I don't tell him this. Instead we thank him for the driftwood and promise to "make art out of it."

*References: le cabanon (m) = cottage; la cheminée (f) = fireplace; la casserole (f) = saucepan; le tabouret (m) stool; une applique (f) = appliqué (bulb/lamp cover); le bois (m) = wood; la lavandière (f) = woman who handwashes clothes, washerwoman; une âme (f) = soul

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."

Listen: Hear my son Max pronounce the word âme: Download ame.wav

une âme soeur = a kindred soul
rendre l'âme = to give up the ghost
se donner corps et âme à quelqu'un = to give oneself body and soul to someone

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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Bella Pizza (c) Kristin Espinasse
"Livraison Gratuite!" The sign reads "Free Delivery". Photo of pizza parlor taken in Marseilles' 8th arrondissement.

noun, masculine
wooden shoe, clog, sabot  

In the eighth arrondissement of Marseilles, at my mother-in-law's apartment complex, Jean-Marc and I climb several flights of stairs until we reach the last two doors in the building. One of the portes has a sign on it that reads "peinture fraîche." The wet paint warning causes us to automatically curl our shoulders inward and pull our suitcases close.

Jean-Marc slides la clef  into the keyhole and pushes open the door to my belle-mère's one-bedroom apartment.

"Vas-y," Go ahead, I say, trying to catch my breath after stepping off the French Stairmaster. We have just climbed four flights of stairs! How does my poor mother-in-law manage without an ascenseur

My belle-mère's apartment, where we've come for a weekend getaway (Belle-Mère is staying with the kids, at our place), carries me back to my first impressions of France, to the quirky things I'd forgotten (after having gotten rid of them, for comfort's sake), to the Frenchness that's worn off things and places—the foreignness I wish would still pop out like so many doors on an Advent calendar, each with its own sweet cultural surprise.

All that stair-climbing has caused me to work up a sweat. After depositing my overnight bag in the bedroom, I make my way to the salle de bain. I have to enter my belle-mère's tiny bathroom sideways, inching my way to the tub known as un sabot, which in French means "slipper bath"—and for good reason: the bathtub is only slightly bigger than a pantoufle! 

The tub has an unusual bi-level base—stand or sit! I choose to stand, but when I automatically reach out to tug closed the shower curtain, there isn't one. Oh yes, I'd forgotten about that: shower curtains are rare in France!

A bit awkward in the curtainless bain-douche, I juggle the shampoo and the savon—all the while balancing a hand-held shower head so as not to flood the bathroom.

After the shower circus, I make coffee on one of those space-saving, three-in-one appliances where the lower drawer is a dishwasher, the middle section is an oven, and the burners are on top. I put water on to boil and go searching for a coffee mug; instead I find a stack of porcelain bols and am reminded that the French still drink their café-au-lait from a bowl, just as they still eat their cake with a spoon and not une fourchette.

I spend the rest of the weekend running into the Frenchness that I had left behind when we packed our bags and left Marseilles for the countryside ten years ago, for a home which has, over the years, gone from French to functional, from quirky to comfortable, from bi-level to... banale.

From the word sabot we get the verb saboter: "to bungle," or "to walk noisily." Come to think of it, it's no wonder I've become desensitized to the uniqueness that is France: I've been making too much noise and can no longer perceive it!

May this be a reminder to tiptoe past the Gallic culture that still whispers out from every French nook and cranny, to travel forward—light on my feet—so as not to "sabotage" this ongoing French experience.


Your Edits Here
Thanks for checking grammar and punctuation. Is the story clear enough? Good to go? Share your thoughts, here in the comments box. P.S. Thanks for checking the vocab section, too! 

French Vocabulary

un arrondissement
a city district 

la porte

la peinture fraîche
wet paint

la clef

la salle de bain

la belle-mère

go ahead

un ascenseur

la pantoufle

le bain-douche

le savon

le bol
bowl for drinking hot liquids

la fourchette

boring, ordinary 


(Text from here, on, will not be included in the book)

Listen: Hear the word "sabot": Download sabot.wav

Terms & Expressions:
une baignoire sabot = short tub for taking baths "assis" (seated)
voir venir quelqu'un  avec ses gros sabots = "to see someone coming"-- to see someone's true intentions


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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noun, feminine 
a purposeless walk, a wander

One hour before the sun slips behind the deep blue Massif des Maures, I ring my neighbor's doorbell.

"On essaie un autre chemin aujourd'hui?" I offer.

"Pourquoi pas?" replies my friend, known affectionately as La Voisine. And off we march for our weekly chat-on-heels.

On the edge of our voisinage, our pace slows to accommodate the quiet scenery. We drift past a lone vineyard, its unkempt vines a contrast to the majestic castle in the darkening sky beyond. We mosey down a dirt path flanked by sleeping fig trees, their dry feuilles having nodded off weeks ago. We laugh as we amble past the free-range chickens scattering to and fro as if the French sky was falling toward their wrinkly feet. We saunter toward the river to cross over a slender bridge no longer than an afternoon line at the post office. The river now at our backs, we hike the chemin de terre leading to the medieval village of Les Arcs-sur-Argens.

Above certain village doors we see dates etched into the stone lintels: 1638... 1524....

"Treizième, celui-là!"  La Voisine points out. I look up to admire another ancient doorway, grateful for the friend who has awakened this dreamer to another detail that might have gone unnoticed. How much more we take in when we walk with a pal! What might have been little more than a lazy stroll, is now a study on all things historical.

We continue our balade, weaving through a maze of tiny ruelles, walking where sewage once flowed as freely as village gossip, when families emptied their chamber pots into the narrow canal running down the center of the now-cobbled streets.

We steal around another bend where gray rock walls give way to a slew of multicolored facades in pistachio green, custard yellow and rum raisin red—village homes crammed together like so many colorful candies in a pack. The cobblestone path is littered with lipstick-red fruit—les arbouses—which reminds me that I could just kiss the French ground beneath my feet for all that I have seen over the course of our promenade.

"Take another path today," my mom always says. If you are reading, chère maman, please know that I am.



YOUR EDITS PLEASE! To correct any text or grammar -- or to add feedback about this story, please use the comments box located at the end of this post. Thank you very much!

French Vocabulary

Massif des Maures = local mountain range

On essaie un autre chemin aujourd'hui?
Shall we try another path today?

Pourquoi pas?
Why not? 

la voisine, le voisin

le voisinage

la feuille

le chemin de terre
dirt track

Treizième, celui-là!
Thirteenth century, that one!

la balade

la ruelle
narrow street

une arbouse
arbutus-berry [from the wild strawberry tree]

chère maman
dear Mom 

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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   Sidewalk / Trottoir restaurant chalk board menu, France, brick path (c) Kristin Espinasse,
   a sidewalk under autumn leaves in the Varois village of Flayosc

le trottoir (troh-twahr) noun, masculine
  1.  sidewalk, footpath, pavement

[from trotter (to trot)]

Hear my son, Max, pronounce the French word "trottoir": Download trottoir.wav

le trottoir roulant = moving walkway or "travelator"
le trottoir couvert = arcaded sidewalk
faire le trottoir = to "walk the streets"

Citation du Jour:
Pardonnez à ceux qui vous ont offensé et apprenez à changer de trottoir.
Forgive those who have offended you, and learn to change sidewalks.

--Jérôme Riquier

A Day in a French Life...

"La Collecte de Fonds"

I sped up to the trottoir before easing my car's right front tire onto the curb. Next, I inched the vehicle forward until the second tire climbed the curb, level with the first. Voilà, curbside parking à la française.

As I waited in the warm bagnole for my children's school to let out, my eyes traveled up to the window in the bâtiment across the street. Each day I park my car as mentioned and each day I look for the grandma in the window. There, behind the chipped flowerpots with their thirsty, petal-thinning marguerites, beyond the dull window and the parted lace curtains, I see the soft outline. That's when I lower the volume on my radio, not wanting to annoy la mémé in the window.

This afternoon two men, dressed identically in navy blue uniforms and black steel-toed boots, approached la porte just below Mémé's window and rang the sonnette. I looked up, noting Mémé had disappeared from behind the curtain. She must be on her way down the stairs to open the door, I thought. Anticipation grew as I realized I was about to see the full version of Mémé and
not just a puff of gray hair and a dark profile.

The men continued to ring when, upon closer look, I realized they might be paramedics. "Mémé!" I rolled down my window and shouted, "Elle est là! Je l'ai vue! Allez-y--foncez!" She's there! I saw her! Go ahead--charge on in!

"Merci, madame," they replied, casually. That's when I saw the calendars under one of the pompier's arms. And then it clicked. Mémé hadn't fallen ill. Mémé was hiding from the firemen, in order to get out of forking over 10 euros for the Firefighter Fundraising Calendar. And she might have gone unnoticed--until a clueless bonne Samaritaine went blowing her cover.

References: le trottoir (m) = sidewalk; voilà = (and) there you have it; la bagnole (f) = car; le bâtiment (m) = building; la marguerite (f) = daisy; mémé (f) = endearment for grandma; la porte (f) = door; la sonnette (f) = doorbell; le pompier (m) = firefighter; bon(ne) samaritain(e) = good samaritan

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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   Poissonnerie = Fish market (c) Kristin Espinasse
   A shopfront in the southern French village of Flayosc

une araignée (a-ray-nyay) noun, feminine
  1. spider

une araignée de mer = spider crab
une toile d'araignée = cobweb, spider's web

Hear my 8-year-old, Jackie, pronounce the word araignée: Download araignee.wav

avoir une araignée au plafond (or 'dans le plafond') = to have a screw loose

Citation du Jour:
Quelques gouttes de rosée sur une toile d'araignée, et voilà une rivière de diamants.
A few drops of dew upon a spider's web, and there you have a river of diamonds. --Jules Renard

A Day in a French Life...

Forty-eight silk weavers came crashing down just outside my husband's office fenêtre.* My first thought was, "Death by insecticide!" With that, I set down my basket, pressed my nose to the window, cupped my hands around my eyes and peered into the accused's office. "Have you been spraying chemicals again?" I asked. When Jean-Marc shook his head in denial, I leaned back to examine the multi-legged unfortunates.

On the red-tiled window-sill, there, where I usually put my panier* as I go about hanging the laundry on the line opposite, lay the 48 araignées.* Scattered around the leggy corpora delicti were broken pieces of clay--delicate little chips no bigger than shaved chocolate. It looked as if the spiders had made their home in a tiny pot which then fell from a hidden ledge behind the window shutters. While the spiders' fate remains a mystery, their passing will not go unnoticed. In honor of these unlikely (and to some, unsightly) heroes, a little chanson* about their compatriot, who survived a similar chute*:

              :: L'Araignée Gipsy :: 

L'araignée Gipsy  -- Gipsy the spider
Monte à la gouttière -- Climbs up the rain gutter
Tiens voilà la pluie! -- Here comes the rain!
Gipsy tombe par terre --Gipsy falls to the ground
Mais le soleil a séché la pluie --But the sun has dried the rain
L'araignée Gipsy --Gipsy the spider
Monte à la gouttière...  -- Climbs up the water spout

Hear Jackie sing the song (replay it for the unbroken version!): Download araignee_song.wav

(The author to the song "Araignée Gipsy" is unknown)

English version:
The itsy bitsy spider
Climbed up the waterspout
Down came the rain
And washed the spider out
Out came the sun
And dried up all the rain
And the itsy bitsy spider
Climbed up the spout again

*References: la fenêtre (f) = window; le panier (m) = basket; l'araignée (f) = spider; une chanson (f) = song; la chute (f) = fall

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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     Savon la roue - roue = wheel (c) Kristin Espinasse
     Soap advertisement on the side of this building in Brignoles, France
If you enjoy French Word-A-Day and would like to support it, find out three ways in which you can help
chauffer (sho-fay) verb
1. to warm (up), to heat (up)
2. to warm, make warm
     Also: se chauffer = to warm oneself

Hear my daughter Jackie pronounce the word "chauffer": Download chauffer2.wav

je chauffe
tu chauffes
il/elle/on chauffe
nous chauffons
vous chauffez
ils/elles chauffent
ça chauffe = things are getting heated
ça va chauffer! = sparks will fly!
un chaud et froid = a chill
chauffer les oreilles à quelqu'un = to get someone angry
se chauffer les muscles = to limber up
chauffer l'affaire = to strike while the iron is hot

French Proverb:
Le soleil ne chauffe que ce qu'il voit.
The sun heats only what it sees.

A Day in a French Life...

The sun may be out and heating up the garrigue* but in our yard each blade of grass is wearing its own icy helmet. On my way to shower I realize I have no clothes to dry, so using the sèche-linge* to heat the room is out of the question. Searching for a solution I remember a tip I once received from Jean-Marc's aunt.

Marie-Claire, an editor in Paris, lives in a 300 square foot apartment. She is très originale* in all she does, from making fancy chiffon-like gift wrap with ordinary sacs de poubelle* to heating her tiny Parisian apartment with a hair dryer.

On a past visit to Paris, Marie-Claire, or "Michou" (me-shoo) as she's called, showed us a travel-size hair dryer on a shelf near the floor. "Watch this," she said, reaching down to flip the hair dryer's lever to "marche."* The whir of the sèche-cheveux* made it difficult to understand the words which followed, but when Michou shut off the dryer I caught the tail end of her spiel: "...and like that it takes just minutes to heat this room!"

Looking out the window, I see each blade of grass quiver beneath its own crystal bonnet. The frosty scene underlines my predicament of a room sans chauffage.* Feeling très originale I reach for the hair dryer, flip the switch.

*References: la garrigue (f) = mediterranean scrubland; le sèche-linge (m) = (clothes) dryer; très originale = very original; le sac de poubelle (m) = garbage bag; marche = on; sèche-cheveux (m) hair dryer; sans chauffage = unheated

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