House in Saignon (c) Kristin Espinasse

frotter (fro-tay) verb
    to rub

(more on frotter--including pronunciation--at the end of this edition)

Citation du Jour:
  Il faut voyager pour frotter et limer sa cervelle contre celle d'autrui.
  One must travel to rub and polish one's brain against that of others.
--Michel de Montaigne
A Day in a French Life...
In the sleepy outskirts of Lorgues (southeast France) I park next to an open barn, leaving my parapluie* in the car before walking through a gentle rain, down the slippery moss-covered path to an old bastide* where an English painter and chef has built her nid d'amour* in one 'branch' of an old rectangular maison.*

Arriving at the front of the two story country house, I bypass the porte d'entrée* and, following the chef's directions, turn left toward the steps on the side of the building. Climbing the escaliers* just opposite the centuries-old tilleul* tree, I admire a wicker loveseat on the terrace above. Its fluffy coussins,* I imagine, have been stored for the winter.

The front door of Tess's apartment opens into the kitchen where the artist's watercolors (which vary from the woods of Vermont to the Drôme's lavender fields) line the entrance and are offset by a multicolored chandelier* sconce. The kitchen table, in the center of the room, holds a stack of the last six issues of Beaux Arts. Hung along the wall to the left, above the sink, Provençal pottery from the seaside town of Bandol is whimsically outlined in a string of tiny white lights; beneath, a crowded shelf runs the length of the narrow kitchen, an eclectic assortment of tea tins sits at the end of it next to a window whose faded red shutter opens upon a field of sleeping vines. On the back wall above a butter-yellow armoire, sits an old metal tub with sunflowers painted across its front.

Having toured the living room, stopping to admire an oil abstract of the Nile, I pause in the hall to view a series of framed sketches--costume designs from 1949--drawn by Tess's mom, a former couturière for the late John Huston, filmmaker extraordinaire.

In the bedroom, stretched out over a cozy quilted bedcover, or "boutis," I spy Cabas (slang for 'wicker basket'), the slumbering black cat. On yet another bookshelf, a collection of little boxes in porcelain, glass and wood--each with its own story and some with treasures inside. Even the bathroom, painted sea foam green, has its charm with its quirky cistern toilet which can only be
properly flushed by climbing up on the dainty seat to reach the upper chain. In the last room--the artist's atelier--on the easel, a large figurative oil painting of a vase of pivoines* is underway; on the table against the wall, designs for future paintings.

I am making my way back to the kitchen when the spirit of my friend's home takes hold and a string of playful words escapes me, falling from my lips in one admirative gasp:

"I wish some of this would rub off on me!"

My shoulders take up where my words have left off, shimmying over to a selection of beautiful objects; there, my back follows suit and, in one abrupt turn, I find my dos* in a mock frottement* pretending to rub up against the decor as if to underline my spoken wish.

*     *     *
Meet Tess and join her for her fun-filled COOKERY COURSES IN PROVENCE. Visit:

..........................French Vocabulary............................................
le parapluie (m) = umbrella; la bastide (f) = country house in Provence; le nid d'amour (m) = love nest; la maison (f) = house; la porte d'entrée (f) = front door; un escalier (m) = staircase; le tilleul (m) = linden or lime (tree); le coussin (m) = cushion; le chandelier (m) = candelabra; la pivoine (f) = peony; le dos (m) = back; le frottement (m) = rubbing

Encore /more on frotter:

frotter also means "to scrub," "to strike" (match)

Listen to the word "frotter": Download frotter2.wav

frotter une allumette = to strike a match
se frotter contre quelque chose = to rub against something
ne vous y frottez pas! = don't get involved! don't meddle!
"qui s'y frotte s'y pique" = "who rubs himself there gets stung"

Verb conjugation: je frotte, tu frottes, il/elle frotte, nous frottons, vous frottez, ils/elles frottent; past participle = frotté

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.

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