lance
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cloche

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French Word-A-Day is back now that winter break is over and our kids are in school again--growing their brains with soustraction,* imperfect (tensed) verbs, poetry, geography and more until the electric cloche rings at 4:30 p.m. Ahhh....

une cloche (klush) noun, feminine
  1. bell

Une ville sans cloche est comme un aveugle sans sa canne. A town without a bell is like a blind man without his cane. --Jean Fischart

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A Day in a French Life...

                Our new neighbors, The Clochettes

We returned home from the snowy French Alps to find the empty lot across the street occupé.* "Well, that was fast!" I said, as we pulled into our driveway past the flowering hydrangea bush. Here in southeast France, I have witnessed houses pop up like champignons* but this was the first time I've seen the tenants flock to the property even before the toit* was set.

Max, Jackie, and I rushed over to check out the new neighbors who were already making a racket. Not only were they noisy (with all that bleating and bell clanking), but they were restless. Still without a roof over their heads, only the pine and butterscotch-leafed chestnut trees for cover, they were busy working in the yard, cutting back most of the wild grass--and needless of a clunky machine--they were mowing it with their mouths...

A portable fence now ran the length of the block, defining their domain. "Territorial ones at that!" I thought. The kids and I studied the greedy newcomers from the foot of a crumbling stone restanque,* just next to a row of beat-up mailboxes beneath which a pile of flyers was scattered, the promotional offers now bleeding and blurred from the sun and rain. Jean-Marc collected the mail before bending over to pick up the soggy litter.

"Regardez leurs clochettes!"* Max said pointing to the copper-plated bells around the neighbors' wooly necks. On closer look, our new neighbors were not so new. Come to think of it, I'd seen the four-legged gitans* eating their way across other pastures in our area. I'd even driven two kilometers per hour--all the way home from the village--when caught at the tail end of their nomadic flock.

Early the next morning I slowly parted the curtains at the kitchen window to spy on our foraging friends across the street. Instead, I saw clear past the lot, unhindered by the bulky baaing beige mass, all the way to the baker's home with its bright burgundy shutters, which were still fastened shut. I hurried out of the house and over to the dirt road to watch the mass exodus of 200 moutons* (and one awkward âne*) in transit once more, headed down the country lane toward the blooming garrigue,* having up and moved 'à la cloche de bois'.*

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References: la soustraction (f) = subtraction; occupé = occupied; le champignon (m) = mushroom; le toit (m) = roof; une restanque (f) = terrace held by a stone wall; regardez leurs clochettes! = look at their (little) bells!; le gitan (la gitane) = gypsy; le mouton (m) = sheep; un âne (m) = donkey; la garrigue (f) = wild Mediterranean scrubland; déménager à la cloche de bois = to sneak off in the night
Ne comptez pas les moutons--Don't count sheep...the next time you're up late, see an excellent French film.

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Listen: Hear the word cloche pronounced Download cloche.wav

Terms & Expressions:
Quelle cloche! = What an imbecile!
avoir l'air cloche = to look stupid
clochettes bleues = bluebells (flower)
une cloche à fromage = cheese cover
se taper la cloche = to stuff oneself

Another story about a cloche--this time "la cloche volante" or "the flying bell"--in my book "Words in a French Life":
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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."
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