troc
feindre

jeton

poppies in provence (c) Kristin Espinasse(Photo: the poppies are here!)

Today's story originally appeared (in a different form) in Volume III of Words in a French Life, the third in a series of self-published books, parts of which have been selected for this Touchstone edition.

un jeton (zhuh-tohn) n.m.
  token; counter (game); chip

Un conquérant est un joueur déterminé qui prend un million d'hommes pour jetons et le monde entier pour tapis. A conqueror is a determined player who takes a million men for chips and the whole world for baize.*  --Comte de Ségur (*baize is the green felt fabric used to cover gaming tables)

A Day in a French Life...
In the parking lot at Super U, I steered my emptied chariot* (shar-ee-oh) toward the cart return. Just as I was gathering up momentum to push the chariot into a line of carts, chain-locked one to the other, a young woman approached me, smiled and held out a one euro coin...

It is not uncommon for an arriving shopper to offer a one euro coin for a returning cart--saving you the trouble of reinstalling the cart, wrestling the coin from the chariot's handlebar, only for the shopper to re-insert another coin and wrestle the cart back out again. A troc (or trade) like this is uneven when the previous shopper has inserted a token or 'jeton' (plastic or metal coins which are offered at the supermarket for those who don't have a euro on hand) since the next shopper would then lose his or her euro, retrieving instead a worthless jeton upon returning and chaining the cart.

While the young woman stood waiting for my answer, I realized I had used a fake coin to free my cart instead of real money. "Non," I said pointing to the coin slot on the handlebar of my chariot. "Il y a un jeton dedans." There is a token inside, I explained. When the young woman stood there smiling and pushing the euro coin toward me, I realized she hadn't understood. After repeating "There is a token in there!" it was déjà vu all over again, with the young woman (who by now I had decided spoke less French than I) standing there smiling hopefully and offering me the same two-toned coin. The image of this innocent shopper discovering the fake coin at the end of her shopping errand troubled me...

...somewhat. The greedy thought did cross my mind--truly shot across it, as a star might dart across the ciel*--to accept her money. Shoppers of little virtue do this. But that would be oh so 'faux jeton' or hypocritical after trying to help, not to mention downright moche!*

Instead, I chained my chariot, pulled the plastic jeton from its handlebar and waved it through the air. "C'est un jeton!" I said, illustrating my point. And, simple as that, there would be one less Good-Samaritan-cum-Faux-Jeton* in the Super U parking lot.

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References: un chariot (m) = cart; le ciel (m) = sky; moche = bad, rotten; un faux jeton = a hypocrite

Expressions:

avoir les jetons = to have the jitters
recevoir un jeton (dans la figure) = to be hit in the face
être plein de jetons = to have a lot of dents (car)
toucher ses jetons = to draw one's fees

Listen: hear the word 'jeton' spoken by my daughter, Jackie: Download jeton2.wav
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"Joie de Vivre is a charming book about the simple things in life that make the French so French, and the Americans so crazy about the French." -Daniel Boulud
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