gras
sablier

couette

old advertisement in a shop in Nimes, France (c) Kristin Espinasse

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Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France"...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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la couette (kwet) noun, feminine
  1. duvet, comforter  2. a (gathered) lock of hair

Proverb: Etendez vos pieds selon la couverture. Stretch out your feet according to the blanket.

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A Day in a French Life...

On my way to the shower, I stop at the wicker panier*-on-wheels and kneel beside it, sorting and seizing enough 'lights' to fill the washer, careful to turn all the socks right-side out and shaking my head when dirt falls to the floor (proof that the kids keep on wearing their chaussettes* outdoors and that Jean-Marc is a grown-up kid after all). I set the machine to marche* then step over to the tiled stall, pull the robinet* lever forward and left to chaud,* and begin a second soap and water cycle, only without the spinning program.

Next, I pull on a white terrycloth robe, wrap my hair in a towel, turban style, and leave the salle de bain* to check on the kids' progress. Passing through the bedroom, I pull a crumpled couette* up over the bed, straighten two pillows, picking up a third oreiller* from the floor, shaking it, then tossing it on top of the other two before walking over to the fenêtre* to unfasten and push open the wooden shutters to a cloudless sky and a kiss of cold morning air.

From the hallway, I see Max in the bathroom shaping his hair, stopping every so often to strike a pose. In the next room, Jackie is seated at the breakfast table, pushing muesli back and forth in her cereal bowl with the help of a soup spoon. I notice she has styled her hair and how nice it looks--from the front; the back looks like the underside of a robin's nest, having been brushed forward haphazardly and gathered, along with the front, above each newly-pierced ear and secured with elastic bands, one thin, one fat.

During the car ride to school I look into the rearview mirror. One of my children is wearing an understated mohawk, the other, pigtails. Having learned the French word for mohawk a few weeks back, I ask about Jackie's hairdo.
"How do you say pigtails in French?"
"Les couettes," the kids answer, at once.
"Ahhh... merci! The kwets* and krehts* are shwet,*" I mumble.
That is when the kids look at me as if, back at the shower, I might've gone through a spin cycle after all.

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References: le panier (m) = basket; la chaussette (f) = sock; marche = on/start; le robinet (m) = tap, faucet (temperature control lever); le chaud (m) = hot; la salle de bain(s) (f) = bathroom; la couette (f) = comforter; un oreiller (m) = pillow; la fenêtre (f) = window; kwet (pronunciation for 'couette'); kreht (pronunciation for crête = mohawk); shwet (pronunciation for chouette = great, cool)
                        
Listen: hear the word couette pronounced: Download couette2.wav

Terms & Expressions:
la housse de couette = quilt or comforter cover
se mettre sous la couette =  "to put oneself under the blanket" = to go to bed
glander sous la couette = to hang out in bed

Pull back the couette, prop up a pillow or two and read Hemingway's classic about (as he tells it) "...how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy...":  http://moveablefeast.notlong.com/

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

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