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Entries from January 2006

frotter

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:
http://www.tessaskitchen.com


..........................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

Expressions:
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.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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rosace

a church in Trans-en-Provence. The circular parts of the design are an example of a rosace pattern (c) Kristin Espinasse

rosace

(ro-zass)

noun, feminine

rose-patterned


After lunch I quickly clear off the table, making room for my daughter to do her math. Jackie sets down her paper, her pencil bag, and her new compass (the kind with two "legs" joined by a hinge—and not the kind that points to the North Pole).

I watch her work the compass until a series of swirls appear on the paper beneath it. I have never used one of these kom-pah (as Jackie pronounces it) and I am fascinated that a simple tool can produce such an intricate design.

My daughter is so deep in concentration that I am startled when she pauses to say:

"Merci d'avoir débarraser la table, maman."
"Oh, you're welcome!" I assure her. 

I watch the appreciative girl as she guides the compass's pencil in a repetitive to and fro motion, making a series of C's, or arcs, that begin to overlap one another as she moves the metal-nosed compass leg from one tip of the arc to another point along circle until a pattern begins to emerge.

"I am making it for my maître," Jackie explains. I recall the teacher, who she is fond of; he has a knack for choosing good books and he  recently told her that "Reading is power!" a thought that encourages Jackie, who enjoys words and writing, but who struggles with math.

My daughter begins another symmetrical design, placing one of the sharp metal legs of the compass into the center of the paper then easing the pencil leg down until its metal nose touches the paper. First she traces a complete circle. Next, she moves the compass, placing its metal nose at another point along the line of the circle. Light feathery swoops follow, the to's and fro's guided by my daughter's steady poignet.

I think about how long it will take her before all those swoops will add up to one of those elaborate designs, and I am impressed by the artist's patience.

"Do you know what this is called?" Jackie look up.

"No," I reply.

"It's called une rosace."

I have to look up the word in a French encyclopedia where I learn that the term is most often used in architecture and design: it is those round stained-glass "rose" windows in cathedrals; it is also the circular decorative molding on certain old French ceilings and an intricate rose-shaped motif in lacework.

Among all the French words my daughter has taught me, rosace may be the least useful in speech (not like the ever-groovy, ever-utterable chiche). That said, I am now seeing rosace patterns everywhere!  Thanks to my little language teacher, who believes that reading is power and that words are as strong as a rose's scent... I am seeing my surroundings with fresh-eyes, through rosey lenses.


French Vocabulary

le maître (la maîtresse) = teacher
le poignet = wrist
le motif = pattern
être chiche (de faire quelque chose) = to be keen on/game for doing something
la maman = mom

Proverb:
  Si votre coeur est une rose, votre bouche dira des mots parfumés. 
   If your heart is a rose, your mouth will say fragrant words.
.
...........Soundclip........................
Listen: hear Jean-Marc pronounce the word 'rosace': Download rosace2.wav

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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clouer

old French car, crumbling ruin (c) Kristin Espinasse clouer (kloo-ay) verb
  to nail, tack; to pin

Also: un clou (kloo) = nail

(audio pronunciation file and expressions follow at the end of this letter)


Proverb:
N'accroche pas tout au même clou.
Don't hang everything on the same nail.

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


Objets autour du lit d'un malade - Objects around a sick person's bed:

-one dry orange
-one bruised banana
-two empty teacups (formerly containing Earl Grey & tomato soup)
-5 disposable stylos*: three black, two blue (3 of which are 'bon à rien'*)
-one book galley/advanced reader's copy for Words in a French Life
-sirop pour la toux*
-one box containing 30 7 tablets of Pneumorel 80
-husband's portable computer
-half a roll of papier toilette* (a Kleenex stand-in)
-one carte de voeux* with photo of irises from friend, Fanny
-one blown glass table lamp the color of lilas*
-one Eiffel Tower souvenir statue from friend, Brigitte
-one mini wooden artist's model
-one cheap clock radio (a gift with purchase) (husband's side of bed)
-various toiles* stacked against wall (Jules's* paintings)
-one late Christmas present for niece
-three stacks of books on nightstand, rows of books beneath, more stacks on floor, including Perfume: The Story of a Murder, by Patrick Suskind, Annie Proulx's Close Range and Prayers from the Ark & The Creatures' Choir by Carmen Bernos de Gasztold
-one pocket-size carnet de notes* with pomegranate design on cover
-dozens of tiny seashells collected along la Côte Vermeille* last autumn
-one fussing Frenchman (object of affection)

.................................................................................................................
References: un stylo (m) = pen; bon à rien = good for nothing; le sirop (m) pour la toux (f) = cough syrup; le papier toilette (m) = toilet paper; la carte de voeux (f) = New Year's greeting card; le lilas (m) = lilac; la toile (f) = canvas (painting); Jules = my mom; le carnet de notes = notebook; la Côte Vermeille = the Gilded Coast (near Spain)

...............................
Listen: hear Jean-Marc pronounce the word 'clouer': Download clouer.wav

Related expressions:
être cloué à son lit / au lit = "to be nailed to the bed," to be very ill in bed
clouer au sol = to pin down (person), to ground (plane)
rester clouer sur place = to be rooted to the spot
clouer le bec à quelqu'un = "to nail someone's beak shut," to reduce someone to silence
être au fond de son lit = "to be at the bottom of one's bed," to be very ill in bed

...........................
Verb conjugation: je cloue, tu cloues, il/elle cloue, nous clouons, vous clouez, ils/elles clouent :: past participle: cloué

Related book: 2000+ Essential French Verbs : Learn the Forms, Master the Tenses, and Speak Fluently!

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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coquille

Coquille

(ko-kee)

noun, feminine

shell



When I am old and wrinkled—well into the troisième âge—I want to race along the shores of Brittany on my Mobylette, that most groovy of French bikes with an engine!

I want to be an eccentric vieille dame. I don't want to care about what anyone thinks, as long as I am not imposing myself on their philosophie de vie. I'll ride my old bike along the seashore. I'll wear black goggles and wrap a long wool scarf, in orange potiron, around my neck. Off I'll fly, scarf ends flowing in the wind.

I'll let go of the pedals, WHEEEEEEEEE... and sing a song by Yves Montand—or a tune from Les Misérables—depending on my mood.

I'll pack a picnic with all my favoris. Inside the panier there'll be boiled eggs, anchoïade, Gratin Dauphinois, pungent cheese, a soft baguette and a flask of Earl Grey. There'll be tangerines to eat and a few squares of dark chocolate.

I'll gather delicate coquilles from the foamy seashore and tie them to my shoes. You'll hear the jingle of seashells when I pedal by.

My voice will be agreeably hoarse, not from les Gauloises or le vin but from whistling all the day long—a habit I'll have picked up at the beginning of the century, when a certain Frenchwoman cautioned: "Les femmes ne sifflent pas! Women don't whistle!" That's when I puckered up and blew another tune... and another... and then one more!

I hope to have a dear old friend, one who is much more excentrique than I. She'll dye her white hair rouge vif or aubergine. We'll tchatche about the current generation and how people need to loosen up and 'profiter un peu de la vie,' enjoy life a little, like us.

I'll say, "Pépéles oursins!" and my old man will return from the rocky pier where he has spent the morning hunting sea urchins. When he cracks open their coquilles, revealing the mousse-like orange roe, I will remember that real treasures don't come with a price tag.

I want to live near the seagulls so that I may slumber beneath their cries and wake up to the whoosh of the sea. I'll push myself to a stand, smooth back my white locks, adjust a faux tortoiseshell comb, and say "Dieu merci!" for another day.

Before I tuck myself into bed at night I will, once again, empty mes coquilles into an old metal cookie tin, a treasure from long ago. Looking over to my seashells, I will give thanks: my cherished, tired tin runneth over.

 

YOUR EDITS HERE
Click here to leave an edit. Don't forget to double-check the vocab section below. Thanks!


French Vocabulary

le troisième âge
 = retirement
Mobylette = a particular model of moped
une vieille dame = a venerable lady
une philosophie (f) de vie = a life philosophy
orange potiron = pumpkin orange
favori(te) = favorite
un panier = a basket
l'anchoïade (m) = anchovy purée mixed with olive oil
un Gratin Dauphinois = a potato casserole with milk, butter and cheese
une coquille = a shell
la Gauloise = brand of cigarettes
le vin = wine
excentrique = eccentric
rouge vif = bright red
aubergine = eggplant purple
tchatcher = to chat (away)
le pépé = grandpa
un oursin = a sea urchin
Dieu merci = Thank God

***

Listen:
hear Jean-Marc pronounce the word coquille Download coquille.wav

Also:
coquille d'oeuf = eggshell, off white (paint)
coquille de poisson = scallop of fish
coquille Saint-Jacques = scallops
coquille de beurre = pat of butter

And:
coquillage (m) = shellfish
coquillettes (f) = pasta shells

Citation du Jour: 

 La vie est ce que notre caractère veut qu'elle soit. Nous la façonnons, comme un escargot sa coquille. Life is what our personality wants it to be. We fashion it, as a snail does its shell. --Jules Renard

Expressions:

rentrer dans sa coquille = to withdraw into one's shell
sortir de sa coquille = to come out of one's shell

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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gargouiller

    Paris shopfront (c) Kristin Espinasse

gargouiller (gar-goo-yay) verb
  to growl (in the stomach), to gurgle, to rumble

[from the word "gargouille" (waterspout) and the 'drole' sound that water makes inside it]

French Proverb:
  Ce sont les tonneaux vides qui font le plus de bruit.
  It's the empty barrels that make the most noise.


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

Jean-Marc invited me to Paris and the Champagne region where he would be presenting his wine portfolio as well as looking for new products (read: champagne!) to offer for export. The trip would be short--one night, two days--and we would need to leave for the airport by 4:30 a.m., but if that was okay with me then I was welcome to join him.

At 4:25 a.m. I am standing by the front door, overnight bag tucked under arm, having kissed my mother-in-law goodbye and having thanked her for watching the kids. By 11 a.m. we are stuck in traffic in Paris's first arrondissement with Jean-Marc noting how our flight from Nice to Paris took less time than our rental car trip from the Charles de Gaulle airport to the city center. While he
fights traffic I look out the window to discover Paris's high-end food district where elegant épiceries fines* like Fauchon and Hédiard and the posh caviar boutique, Prunier, line up.

We find parking and before long we are in a sleek, high-tech elevator. "Are you sure it is okay that I am with you for your meeting?" I ask. "Oui, t'inquiète pas," Yes, don't worry, Jean-Marc assures.

The reception area is contemporary Italian and the geometrical chairs and sofa would look good in any swank Parisian apartment. The CEO appears. He is a former model who worked for the top couture houses before trading fashion for fine foods. It is clear that he still has connections in the fashion world considering his soigné* appearance. Jean-Marc explains that he has brought me along, to which the CEO says dryly, "Oui, je vois," Yes, I see.

He directs us to a conference table which is almost as long as the Concorde but without wings. I place my parka and hand-me-down purse on a chair and that's when I notice the CEO's shoes, which shine. I look down to our shoes, my husband's and mine: Jean-Marc's are passable (no need to polish suede) while my boots are dull.

The receptionist, who looks like she just stepped off the cover of ELLE, sets out mineral water and asks if we would like an espresso. I say no, realizing coffee will only make my nerves feel more out of control in this very controlled environment. Next, we are introduced to an associate whose hair is tied back in a neat ponytail and whose outfit complements the uberswank surroundings: symmetrical, modern, chic. After a brief presentation including each company's purpose, the CEO, his associate, Jean-Marc and I sit facing each other, the narrow width of the Concorde table separating us. A quiet fills the room as information is digested and thoughts are gathered. When the silence becomes so pure that it approaches the perfection of every other symmetric element in the Parisian office with the Italian decor, then, and only then does my stomach roar, offering up one of its most mortifying gargouillements.*

...................................................................................................................
References: épicerie fine (f) = pricy food shop (also: delicatessen); soigné(e) = well-groomed; un gargouillement (m) = growl, rumble (in the stomach)

Listen: Hear my daughter, Jackie, pronounce the verb gargouiller: Download gargouiller2.wav

Conjugation: je gargouille, tu gargouilles, il/elle gargouille, nous gargouillons, vous gargouillez, ils/elles gargouillent  :: past participle: gargouillé

In books:

The Ultimate French Review and Practice: Mastering French Grammar for Confident Communication. A good grasp of grammar enables the foreign-language learner to build skill and confidence in communication. Here's the "ultimate," painless way for intermediate and advanced learners to brush up on the rules. Each grammatical concept is explained and then illustrated with lively sentence examples; extensive exercises offer practice at applying this knowledge in everyday conversation. Also included are "culture notes," authentic documents, vocabulary boxes, and verb charts, as well as a full answer key and index.

Uncorked : The Science of Champagne. "The latest champagne science explained in blissfully plain English by a French scientist." --Tom Stevenson, author of "Christie's World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wine"

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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dedommagement

Chairs (c) Kristin Espinasse
Photo taken at the restaurant "La Grotte" at the end of Marseilles, in Callelongue...

Dédommagement

(day-doh-mazh-mahn)

noun, masculine

compensation.


In a menswear boutique in Draguignan, I stand at the comptoir, hesitating between the powder-blue chemise and the olive-green one. As I hem and haw, Jackie taps her foot, says either shirt will look good on Papa, and sighs for the nième time. I remind her that if she is patient, I will buy her the mood ring she has been asking for—the one all her friends are sporting at school.

Next, the little bells hanging from the shop's entrance begin to jingle as the door opens and a small woman is swept in with the wind.

"Bonjour, Messieurs Dames!" she says, shivering from the cold mistral. The little woman has a purse hanging from the fold of her left arm and she is holding a small boîte in her right hand. Her white hair falls just below her shoulders and is held back with an intricate tortoiseshell comb. She is wearing a dress, nylons, and little heels, which is more effort than a lot of women living this far north of the Côte d'Azur put into suiting up in wintertime.

"Tell Hervé it is from Madame Kakapigeon!" the woman with the box and the heels says.

I look down to the blur of blue and green shirts and mutter the name I have just overheard, not sure I have heard correctly. "Kakapigeon"? Its sound causes me to blush. Poor thing, to have to go through life with such a name!

"Tenez." Madame holds out the box, offering it to the saleswoman. "I'm off to the bank now! Je n'ai plus un radis!"

Our heads bob back and forth as my daughter and I witness the quirky exchange between the lively, gift-toting grandma and the store clerk. My eyes return to the vendeuse, who has taken the box of chocolates with its pretty cloth ribbon.

"Au revoir, mes chéries," says the woman without a radish and, with that, the door swings shut making the jingle bells do their thing.

"What did she say her name was?" I ask, indiscreetly.

The saleslady smiles. "She calls herself 'Madame Caca Pigeon' because she is always feeding the pigeons from her balcony, just above our magasin. The well-fed birds are always 'messing' out in front of the boutique. Madame is sorry for the salissure, but it doesn't stop her from feeding her feathered friends. So every year, about this time, she comes in with her box of chocolates... compliments of 'Madame Caca Pigeon'."

***


French Vocabulary

le comptoir = counter
la chemise = shirt
nième or énième = nth, umpteenth (time)
la vendeuse = saleslady
bonjour, Messieurs Dames = hello, everyone
une boîte = box
la Côte d'Azur = "The Blue Coast", The French Riviera
tenez (the verb is "tenir") = here, take it
au revoir, mes chéries = goodbye, my dears
le magasin = shop
la salissure = filth

===Text beyond this line will not appear in the printed book===

Le Coin Commentaires & Your Editorial Notes
Please list any errors in the English or French text, here, in the comments box.

Note: A final paragraph was removed from this story. I hope that the vignette will stand on its own without the "overworked" ending that has been deleted. If you feel this story needs a punch line, let me know in the comments box!

I may need to add my daughter's age (she was nine at the time) to this, or to another story in the opening of the book. Any other ideas? Click here to comment

 


French Expression:
ne pas/ne plus avoir un radis = to not/no longer have a cent (or a penny) to one's name

 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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♥♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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s'occuper

Josephine Bakers'occuper (so-kew-pay) verb
  to keep oneself busy; to deal with, to look after (someone)

Citation du Jour:
Puisque je personnifie la sauvage sur scène, j'essaie d'être civilisée dans la vie. Since I personify the savage on the stage, I try to be as civilized as possible in daily life. --Josephine Baker


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


Italian Josephine made homemade pizza the size of a hamburger patty, only there wasn't any viande: just a bony anchovy and a meaty olive or two. When she had the energy, she delivered her Italian pies and stayed to watch you enjoy them. And she never charged.

"Ça m'occupe." It keeps me busy, she would say, simply. As I ate, she would sit facing me with her cane, her knitted shawl, and her buckled shoes and reminisce about an American friend, whose name she shared, and the adventures they had back in the 50's along the Côte d'Azur, when one ran an Italian épicerie and the other ran away from Paris. I listened, but mostly studied Josey, whose dark eyes, once dull, now sparkled.

The last time Josephine showed up at my door with one of her trademark mini pizzas she was carrying a black-and-white photograph.
 
"I have something to show you," she said. We sat at the table, I in my one-size-fits-all dress (weeks away from giving birth to my second child) and Josey with her shawl and cane and buckled shoes, the black-and-white photo between us. The scratched and faded image revealed the two glowing Josephines: one "café," the other "au lait." The women were dressed in satin kimonos and holding umbrellas, smiles as big as the complicity they shared. I studied the old photo from afar when suddenly my Josey mentioned that her friend loved to sing and dance....

Sing. Dance. Josephine! That's when I grabbed the photo from the table and viewed, up close, the veritable, the one and only Josephine Baker--the celebrated American danseuse (and sometime secret agent) known to appear at the Paris Folies in nothing more than a jupe made of bananas, her pet leopard, Chiquita, in tow.

My excitement was cut short when Josey told me that she was moving to Saint-Raphael, that her daughter could no longer look after her here in St. Maximin. I quietly set down the photo and looked at my friend as a lump formed in my throat. C'est toujours comme ça, I thought bitterly, just when you meet someone--the kind of person you can just sit with and say nothing to and not feel awkward, the kind that makes a little pizza pie for you because they are thinking of you in your absence--they up and move to a faraway city!

Before Josephine left, she pushed the photo across the table. "C'est pour toi," she said, in her soft voice. I tried to tell her that I could not accept her photo, that she should keep it, but she insisted. I couldn't take Josey's only photo of her with her legendary friend...unless...unless it wasn't the only one? Perhaps there were others? Yes! There must be others of those "girls" in the good ol' days--other snapshots--with leopards and banana skirts and maybe a feather boa or two!

I watched as my Josey padded out the door, little steps with her big-buckle shoes. She seemed so fragile that you might have taken her for a broken-winged bird, but for the leopard-printed tracks in her wake.

 

***

Postnote: I do have a photo of these women, here, somewhere... I promise to post it when I find it. Until then, will you bug me about it ever once in a while?


French Vocabulary

la viande = meat

l'épicerie (f) = grocer's

café = coffee

au lait = with milk

danseuse = dancer

Folies = Les Folies Bergères (famous music hall in Paris)

la jupe = skirt

c'est toujours comme ça = it is always that way

Hear Jean-Marc pronounce the verb s'occuper: Download soccuper.wav

Expression:
Occupe-toi de tes affaires! = Mind your own business!

Conjugation:
je m'occupe, tu t'occupes, il/elle s'occupe; nous nous occupons, vous vous occupez, ils/elles s'occupent


Words in a French Life
: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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foule

Mon cabanon
la foule (fool) noun, feminine
  1. crowd, mob 2. the masses

Citation du Jour
Un grand peuple sans âme est une vaste foule. A great nation without a soul is a vast crowd.--Alfred de Musset

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

Don't miss part I of this story:
http://french-word-a-day.typepad.com/motdujour/2006/01/tablette.html

I looked over to discover his eyes for the first time: a shade of blue mimicking the waters off the coast of Brittany when the sun casts light across its surface. I noticed his skin, rippled like the vagues* that rush in with the morning tide. I thought about our space suits, not the silver combinaisons* that astronauts wear, but the bodies that we inhabit. How time erodes them! Forty
years separated us, the measure, but a speck in the cosmos. When my eyes refocused, I saw a boyish face on the man in 24A. The wrinkles were gone, the white hair now foncé.*

He told me that he had 'escaped' from his nursing home in Fréjus and was headed to Vegas. I learned he was from Brittany, retired from the shipyard and that, as a child, he herded sheep out to pasture. "It was the best time in my life," he said, "far away from la foule.*"

When his story slowed and the tremblements* left his arms I said: "La foule upsets me, too," and shared a few personal misadventures, times when my body betrayed my own mind or vice versa, when a crowd swelled to monster size and suddenly, unexpectedly--

"I passed out in the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport once," I admitted, explaining that the combination of so many foreign voices, the grilling from the stone-faced and gun-toting security guards combined with hunger and fatigue had me 'falling into the apples'* as the French say, or fainting.

Warm, soft hands, weather-beaten from 79 summers beneath the northern sun now held my own. For a moment, and for two unquiet strangers, the reality of travelling in cramped quarters with so many people was forgotten. The man in 24A had asked permission to read my palm. Next, he told me I would live a long life.

When the beverage cart came to a halt for the last time, he said: "No, merci." That's when he asked me for a date by way of the most original proposition that I have ever received.
"Can we meet at 11:30 Saturday night?" he said.
"11:30?"
"Yes. Onze heures et demi.* Just think of me, and I'll think of you--for half an hour. I'll send positive energy your way. It will work. I practice télépathie* with the student interns at my nursing home. They get nervous about their upcoming exams and so I send them healing thoughts."

                                       *     *     *
I didn't mean to stand him up. The truth is, I fell asleep and missed our telepathic 'date'. "That's OK," he had said, in case I missed the hour. "Any time will do, actually. The important thing is to focus. To believe."
                                        *    *    *

I met an octogenarian who escaped from a French nursing home and hopped a plane to Vegas. He said he hadn't found security or happiness in confining himself from the world. That a sheltered life, finally, was no life for him. That, scared as he was to mix with 'la foule,' he had to do it. His words could have been my own. His adventure was beginning. And so was mine.

....................................................................................................................
References: la vague (f) = wave; une combinaison (f) = suit; foncé = dark; la foule (f) = the masses; le tremblement (m) = shaking; onze heures et demi = eleven-thirty; to fall into the apples (from the French expression 'tomber dans les pommes' ) = to pass out, faint; la télépathie (f) = telepathy

Listen: Hear my son, Max, pronounce "la foule": Download foule.wav

Expressions:
en foule = in great number
une foule de = masses of
une foule hurlante = a howling mob
la foule des badauds = the crowd of onlookers

Books on the French language:
Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France
The Ultimate French Review and Practice: Mastering French Grammar for Confident Communication
Mastering French Vocabulary : A Thematic Approach

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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tablette

le caveau = small cellar (c) Kristin Espinasse
une tablette (tah-blet) noun, feminine
  1. shelf; flap; tray  2. bar (chocolate); tablet; stick

.........................
Citation du Jour:
Je ne connais rien de plus érotique qu'une tablette au fort pourcentage de cacao. I don't know of anything more erotic than a bar with a strong percentage of cocoa bean. --Paul-Loup Sulitzer


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

We met on flight 83, leaving Nice, France for New York City. Little did I know that 45 minutes into the voyage I would be agreeing to a date with the man in seat 24A.

We didn't seem to have much in common. To start with, he graduated with the class of '45. As for me, I graduated from high school in '85.

                               *       *      *

I had made my way through first-class, admiring the soft plaid blankets neatly folded and awaiting the lucky travelers. The first-class blankets have a motif* while non-first-class blankets are plain. I noticed the seats in first-class, and how they reclined like the dos* of a yogi.

I headed to the back of the plane, where the seats narrowed, le monde* multiplied and babies shrieked from the fuss of travelers trying to settle in, as comfortably as possible, for an 8.5 hour flight. My breath grew short, and so I paused to respirer.*

The man in 24A sat silent, his blank stare slamming into the tablette* before him. I set down my purse, marking my seat, and reached up to the overhead bin to store my bag, the contents of which would be completely useless to me in the 20 hour voyage ahead, ending in Phoenix, Arizona. I pushed the bin shut, checking to make sure it wouldn't burst open mid-flight.

That is when I heard the formal greeting:

"Bonjour, madame."
"Bonjour, monsieur," I replied.

He didn't say another word until the beverage cart came to a halt before the 25th row, at which point he raised an unsteady arm.

"Je voudrais une bière, s'il vous plaît," I'd like a beer, please.

When the flight attendant said, "That will be four euros or four dollars," he reached into a tan imperméable,* and struggled to find some cash.

The next time the cart halted, monsieur ordered another beer, having since found his wallet. When his cup went dry he shifted a bit and cleared his throat. That's when the paroles* slipped out, a fountain of meaningful words that would end with a proposition. But first, he would say:

"May I take your hand?"

(To be continued in Wednesday's edition... or click here to read the conclusion)

...........................................................................................................
References: un motif (m) pattern; le dos (m) = back; le monde (m) = people; respirer = to breathe; tablette = pull-down tray; un imperméable (m) = raincoat; une parole (f) = word
..........................................................................................................

Listen: hear Jean-Marc pronounce the word 'tablette': Download tablette2.wav

Expressions:

inscrire sur ses tablettes = to make a note of something
rayer de ses tablettes = to no longer take into account something

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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monnaie

old French bank note
la monnaie (mo-nay) noun, feminine

  : currency; coin; change

Citation du Jour:
Un seul mot, usé, mais qui brille comme une vieille pièce de monnaie: merci! One single word, worn-out, but that shines like an old coin: thanks!
--Pablo Neruda

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

At the last boulangerie* along rue Gambetta, not far from the lonely stone lavoir* and close enough to the square to throw an eye* on the kids as they run circles around the kiosk, I order a string,* a boat* and a restaurant (French bread classification according to shape--like a string or boat, and size--big enough to feed clients at a quaint bistro?).

La boulangère* calculates the total out loud and I empty my coin purse into my free hand, fishing out the littlest coins and minding the lint as I try to unload as many of the pièces jaunes* as I can get away with, dignified look and all. When I hand the collection over to the lady behind the register, she repeats the amount due and I realize I've shortchanged the baker. The line of people behind me grows and I fluster and reopen my hand to display what change remains. With nimble fingers the boulangère pecks out the correct monnaie* due as I watch the coins disappear with the regard of a three-year-old.

..................................................................................................................
References: la boulangerie (f) = baker's shop; le lavoir (m) = old washing-place; throw an eye (from the French expression "jeter un oeil"); string = la ficelle (here, a thin baguette); boat = la navette (after the bread's shape--note: 'navette' is usually used to refer to a type of cookie); la boulangère (le boulanger) = baker; la pièce jaune (f) = yellow coin (golden-colored "small" change); la monnaie (f) = change

Listen: hear a very enrhumé (sick with a cold) Jean-Marc pronounce the word monnaie: Download monnaie.wav

Expressions:
la fausse monnaie = counterfeit money
c'est monnaie courante = it's quite common
payer quelqu'un en monnaie de singe (to pay someone with monkey money) = to let someone whistle for his money, to talk pretty and make vain promises instead of paying
rendre à quelqu'un la monnaie de sa pièce = to repay someone in kind

Interesting French monnaie article: http://monnaie.notlong.com

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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