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Entries from January 2007

élire

Elire
Voting time is just around the corner in France...

French With Michel Thomas: "The Fastest Way to Learn a Language"

élire (ay-leer) verb
  to elect, choose

Les Américains éliront-ils une femme à la présidence?
Will Americans elect a woman for the presidency?

            --headline for the journal Tolerance.ca


                                                  Column_37
Listening to French news I learn that French soccer legend Michel Platini is running for president.

Well, why not? I think, recalling a motley bunch of candidates in past U.S. elections, including former stars of the big screen and even muscle-bound athletes. Platini is as good a pick as any, I decide, and perhaps in five years* time even Amélie* or Gérard* will be in the running for president of France and, well, what of it?

Why not have a beloved footballeur,* a respected sports figure for prez? At 51 years young, Michel Platini (who is already a knight, having been named Chevalier of the Legion of Honour) is a shoo-in for President of France.

Perhaps Platini is truly the knight in shining armor, arriving in the midst of French elections where candidates' bloopers and blunders are...bountiful (this latest boo-boo from Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal--after she answered "one" when questioned on the number of French nuclear submarines--only to change her mind, "Ah yes, seven" [there are, apparently, four]...). As for the charismatic, right-wing candidate Nicolas Sarkozy ("Sarko")--is it true he doesn't drink French wine? Gaffe city.

"Platini for prez...Pourquoi pas!" Why not? I say to my husband, still amazed at just how fast presidential candidates arrive onto the political scene these days and, it appears, win....

As Jean-Marc joins me in front of the tube to hear Platini's emotional acceptance speech, he clears up my misunderstanding. "Non, chérie,* not President of the French Republic," he clarifies, "President of European Soccer".

...................................................................................................................
Reference: five years = duration of French presidency; Amélie = Amélie Mauresmo, tennis champion; Gérard = Gérard Depardieu, French actor; footballeur (footballeuse) = soccer player; non, cherie = no, dear

Audio Clip: Download elire.wav
Listen to my daughter, Jackie, pronounce today's word in the following sentence:
Les Américains éliront-ils une femme à la présidence?
.
Terms & Expressions:
élire domicile = to take up residence
.
In Books & Gifts:
I'll Always Have Paris (Paperback) by Art Buchwald

La Rochere Bee Tumbler

Marie Claire Idees (magazine, in French) for a wide range of crafts and projects.

In music: Bonsoir My Love by Josephine Baker

..................................
Verb Conjugation: Élire
j'élis, tu élis, il/elle élit, nous élisons, vous élisez, ils/elles élisent; past participle = élu

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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rab

Rab
Water to "spare" in the French Alps at Villeneuve-la-Salle

Check out SmartFrench --"the smart way to learn French"

le rab (rab) noun, masculine
  1. seconds, second helping
  2. spare, extra, extra time

(from the military (slang) term "rabiot" (surplus / what remains after distribution)

Example Sentence:
Malgré 9 minutes de rab, Perpignan ne pouvait marquer de nouveaux points... In spite of 9 minutes overtime, Perpignan could not mark any new points... --Rugby recap from the journal "Sport 24"

.
A Day in a French Life...
by Kristin Espinasse
                                                           
Every French kid sprints when the chef cries out "Il y a du rab!"* (that is--when it is a matter of greasy, crispy frites*). Like the French, I sprinted when the cook shouted "Seconds!" only it didn't matter what was leftover. I loved canteen food and adored cafeteria culture. From selecting an ice cold carton of whole milk to watching the ladies in hairnets plonk another helping of mashed potatoes onto a divided tray, steam rising up and giving the women's round faces a healthy glow. They looked as if they enjoyed mashed potatoes too.

The French women that my son sees behind the thin glass partition are petite, fragile-nerved and wear long faces. "Du calme!"* they shout. "Ça suffit!"* While I don't remember any hollering back at my canteen, it seems to me those soft-spoken servers from my childhood wore halos above their hairnets (or maybe love is coloring my memory, as I did and still do adore mashed potatoes and
ice-cold milk).

You won't find cartons of fresh milk in France, but tall glass pitchers of eau potable,* and my son doesn't get to break apart one of those starchy commercial buns but enjoys a golden crisp baguette with his meal, the latter a handy French utensil for pushing scattered pois* onto the fork and for soaking up vinaigrette (just as a soft bun, to be fair, is convenient for sopping up creamy ranch dressing).

Come to think of it, the only thing our cafeterias have in common is that which divides us: namely the glass window after which either mashed potatoes or frites were (are) sometimes on display. I never saw a chocolate éclair beyond that window, and my son, Max, should he ever discover a square of Jell-O beyond the smudged glass, wouldn't know how to order it let alone what to do with the jiggly mass.

Speaking of dessert, it just may be one more thing my childhood has in common with my son's: that is, when the famous chef's call "Il y a du rab!" "Seconds!" came, there may have been extra frites and a surplus of patates* for the taking, but there was never any leftover dessert.


...................................French Vocabulary....................................
Il y a du rab! = Seconds! (There's extra for the taking!); les frites (fpl) = French fries; du calme! = calm it down!; ça suffit = that's enough!; l'eau potable (f) = drinking water; les pois (petit pois) (m) = peas; la patate (f) = potato

Audio Clip: Hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French word for extra in this sentence: Download Rab.wav Malgré 9 minutes de rab, Perpignan ne pouvait marquer de nouveaux points...

Terms & Expressions:
en rab = to spare (Avez-vous une gomme en rab? = Do you have an extra eraser?)
faire du rab = to do (or work) extra time (military)
coûter du rab = to cost extra
avoir quelque chose en rab = to have extra
un rab de temps = extra time
quelqu'un veut du rab? = anyone want seconds?

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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baffle

Lesarcssurargens
Les Arcs-sur-Argens, where our story begins....

Rosetta Stone French (CD-ROM) -- "an award-winning method used by NASA and the Peace Corps"

un baffle (bafl) noun, masculine
  speaker (stereo)

While "les baffles" is an informal term, accoustic speakers are originally known as "les enceintes".

("Enceinte" is also the French word for "pregnant"...which gives a new name to stereo speakers ("preggers".)


Column_35
The French word baffle is better heard than seen. Firstly, when you hear the French say it, you do not hear the "l" and so you're not tempted to pronounce it. I hadn't even realized that the "l" existed until I looked up the word in the dictionary. But that is not the only reason the French word baffle is better heard than seen as I learned the other day while setting out for a voyage south.

Reaching for my seatbelt, having put the key into the ignition, I was startled by an abrupt shuffling sound. Frozen in place with my eyes scanning the front of the car, I let go of the ceinture* and threw my torso around. "Haaaaah!" said I to a backseat minus one crazed cambrioleur.* With no one there I relaxed.

When the noise returned, this time toward the front of the car and in a rapid succession of knocks, I sprang back into place, my eyes wildly searching for the source du bruit.* Silence....

The knocking returned and with it another fear-induced jolt. Bon. Calme-toi,* I reasoned. Looking over to the side mirror, I became convinced that someone was putting a new twist on Ding Dong Ditch only I hadn't seen a French kid run off after "dinging" and no giggles could be heard.

The next thump-thump-thump! had me jumping out of my car, convinced the knocking was coming from within. Having sped 'round the vehicle, checking front and back floorboards once again, all I could come up with were three tennis balls, two empty water bottles, and a few harmless candy wrappers.

A pop-pop-pop! now sounded, loud and clear. Remembering the recent extreme weather shift, I thought to myself (in a silly me fashion) that, obviously, a large block of ice was melting, causing the car's frame to implode and, hence, that sound.

When the beating resumed, this time with an organic twist, I made a snap decision to abandon plans to drive to Puget-sur-Argens. No way I'm getting back in that freaky car--something is dying in there!

Indeed, the sound was that of the living. Some struggling beast was trapped somewhere in that car. The sound was coming from the driver's side door. I put my hand to the door to see if I could feel a lump moving... Enough--I'd heard it!--but to go any further would be to see "it" and I didn't want to put a beady-eyed face to this abominable sound.

Meanwhile, the clock was ticking and I would be late for my appointment. I decided I could probably drive bête à bord* for the next forty-five minutes, reaching my destination on time. But it was the image of a rat gnawing through the door panel and scurrying across my car only to come to a screeching halt on my shoulder--and the screaming and swatting that would ensue--that discouraged
me.

I knelt beside the car door, putting my ear to the panel. A circular metallic sound could now be heard followed by an explosive "spit-spit-spit!" beating that I'd originally taken for a knock. The whirring in-and-out static brought to mind a 1950's sci-fi film in which an eccentric scientist tries to establish
contact with Mars. The sound I was hearing was like a channel shifting transistor radio. By then, my ear was right over the front stereo speaker where, coincidentally, the sound was strongest.

Just before my mind drew up the image of an alien rat stuck inside the front speaker, a moment of lucidity came over me and, remembering the car's faulty stereo system--always set to blast on contact and (this time, it appeared) stuck between channels, I shot up, shut off the ignition, and silenced the imaginary beast once and for all.

...............................................................................................................
References: la ceinture (de sécurité) (f) = safety belt; le cambrioleur (la cambrioleuse) = burglar; le bruit (m) = noise; Bon. Calme-toi = Right. Calm down; la bête (f) à bord = beast on board

Audio clip: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French word for "speakers" (and listen, along with wide-eyed me, to that "l" that is miraculously present, contradicting the first paragraph of my story...!): "les baffles" Download Baffles.wav


Books & Gifts:
The Very Best of Edith Piaf

igourmet's Favorites - 8 Cheese Sampler

Madame Figaro magazine (in French): articles include food, fashion, beautiful and inspiring photographs

That classic cube of pure Olive Oil Marseille Soap, in a small terra cotta dish

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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sans-abri

Toit
Abbé Pierre's "holy anger" drove him to fight for the rights of those "sans-toit," without a roof over their head

Check out "Behind the Wheel French" -- an 8 CD language course:
.
le (la) sans-abri (sahns-ahbree) noun, masculine & feminine
  homeless person

-sans-abri means, literally, "without shelter"
-les sans-abri = the homeless

La mort de l'abbé Pierre, apôtre des sans-abri, bouleverse la France
The death of Abbot Pierre, apostle of the homeless, shatters France

                                 --headline from the journal "l'Orient Le Jour"


Column_34
Day before yesterday, I watched and listened as the French mourned the death of their favorite personnage: l'Abbé Pierre, voted third greatest Frenchman after Charles de Gaulle and Louis Pasteur.

"Abbot Peter" was the short priest with the long beard, the white-haired legend in the black beret, the former resistance fighter in a dark cape who now clutched a bleached wood cane.

Like his appearance, Abbé Pierre, who once broke his vow of chastity, yielding to the force of desire, was man of contrast. Humble and soft-spoken, he was driven by a "holy anger" and known for his passionate outbursts when speaking for the homeless. He once told Jean-Marie Le Pen to "shut up!" after the president of the National Front implied that all of France's ills stemmed from
immigration.

His beliefs were sometimes unorthodox as he felt that priests should be able to marry, gays should be able to adopt, and women, to be ordained. Above all, Abbé Pierre believed in the homeless and their unspeakable living conditions; caring for the sans-abri* would be his life's mission.

While President Chirac was said to be bouleversé* by Abbé Pierre's death, it was the thoughtful words of a homeless man that touched the most as I listened to the midday news: "Sa mort, ça me fait plus mal que la morsure du froid," his death, it hurts me more than frostbite."

Frostbite and hunger were on Abbé Pierre's agenda, made famous in 1954 when he stole into a radio station, demanding the microphone. It was a murderous winter for the homeless in Paris and an old woman had just been found frozen to death on the Boulevard de Sebastopol, an eviction notice still in her hand. Reaction to Abbé Pierre's outcry was overwhelming and the French, both rich and poor, responded with blankets, coats, heaters and money as well as rice, pasta, bread, chocolate and canned food. Charlie Chaplin (exiled in Paris at the time and made famous for his character the "Little Tramp") handed over thousands of francs, explaining, "The money belongs to the vagabond I portrayed".

It was in 1949 that Abbé Pierre founded the Emmaus Society with the idea to "travailler avec des pauvres pour des pauvres" to work with the poor for the poor. The poor that followed him were also known as the "Ragpickers" for the junk they collected, organized and now sold in open-to-the-public warehouses throughout France. For this, Abbé Pierre was sometimes referred to as the
"ragpickers' saint".

Activist for the poor for over five decades, at 5:25 a.m. on January 22nd, at the age of 94, Abbe Pierre's light went out when he died in Paris after being admitted to the hospital for a lung infection. The feisty yet humble Frenchman had requested that the following words be written on his tomb: "Il a essayé d'aimer." ("He Tried to Love.")


...............................................................................................................
References: les sans-abri (mf) = the homeless; boulversé(e) = deeply upset

Audio File : Download sans-abri.wav
Hear my daughter, Jackie, pronounce today's word in the following phrase:
La mort de l'abbé Pierre, apôtre des sans-abri, bouleverse la France

In Books, Etc...
Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France

Bouquet de Provence clock

French chocolates in a red heart tin

Môme magazine contains games, comic-strips, illustrated vocabulary and interesting articles on different aspects of the French-speaking world, specific to students studying the French language for a minimum of one year.

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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la mère porteuse

Jean-Marc Espinasse (c) Kristin Espinasse
Jean-Marc who earned the title "Chief Grape" after years of caring for his precious "babies". Read about them, in the following story. 


la mère porteuse (mair-por-tuhz) n.f.

  : surrogate mother

(One who carries a child for a couple or for a single person is also called "une mère accoucheuse")

Click on the following French sentence to hear it spoken by Jean-Marc:

La législation concernant les mères porteuses est encore assez floueThe legal position concerning surrogate mothers is still quite vague. 
--from Insider's French: Beyond the Dictionary


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

Three days each week my husband can be found two-and-a-half hours north of here, in Sainte Cécile les Vignes, caring deeply for somebody else's grapevines.

While I am needed here at home, unable to join Jean-Marc during this exciting time, he does his best to share the experience with me.

"Oh, they are healthy!" he says of the vines, like a proud mother-to-be who has just received a clean bill of health from her midwife. Jean-Marc puts the portable phone to his belly, level with the tall vines, and I can just hear our "children's" heartbeat: it is the creaking of the dormant, woody vines as the wind whips through the valley of the Rhône.

"But isn't it cold?" I worry.

"The wind is good for them--keeps them dry and free from disease!" Jean-Marc assures me, as a mother-to-be might assure her husband that all the ice cream she is eating (calcium!) is, in fact, good for the fetus.

Lately, I see Jean-Marc as the surrogate mother. While he isn't actually carrying a baby, he is caring for someone else's grape, touching and nurturing vines that we hope will one day be ours. Our new vine babies are still in the womb, so to speak, as we cannot yet hold them--or rather "hold title" to them--and while we are hopeful to get the bank loan, we have yet to sign the final purchase papers.

But back to our surrogate mom who, I might add, positively glows these days as any woman with child would. I can't help but compare these very different, yet similar periods of gestation: just as Jean-Marc was helpless to assist when I was "with child," trusting me to eat right and get enough sleep, I must now trust that he is making the right decisions for our future "children".

"I am not going to use pesticides," he declares over the phone, in yet another long-distance call from our future vineyard. It is as if he has said "I am not going to give the children antibiotics!"

"But won't they fall ill?" I fret, a couple of hundred kilometers away from being able to help out (or to intervene!).

"It is important to build their resistance!" he says, rather protectively.

Hanging up the phone, I feel a sort of envy that only helpless husbands can feel for the glowing mother-to-be, maker of so many delicate and vital decisions. I want to participate in my "children's" development, yet can't. The only one I can care for is my tired and moody, ice-cream-guzzling "wife".

Returning home after another weekly trip north, our surrogate mother complains.

"Oh, j'ai mal au dos!"* he groans, taking off his heavy pruning belt. "Be careful with your back," I warn, fixing him a cup of tea, adding an extra bit of milk....

Tired as he is, our glowing mère porteuse* has already got the "nannies" lined up (a few calloused-handed men in steel-toe boots) and has given them their orders: no harsh chemicals, only organic supplements such as copper and sulfur.

"Be sure to feed them good minerals!" he orders, wondering if he should really trust others to care for his young'uns.

If all goes according to plan, we will hold title to twenty-one acres of vines by the end of March. For now, there is nothing for a future caretaker to do but to trust and wait; I must relax, letting my wife bring those grapes to term. The needy vines will be here soon enough, hungry, crying to be held (pruned), changed (harvested), and fed a careful and regular measure of minerals--at which point I will be left with one exhausted partner, moaning about how the past two trimesters have wreaked havoc on his once lithe body: "Oh, my chapped hands! Oh, my aching back." And I'll shake my head and think to myself, Oh, women!

***
Update: 1n 2012 Jean-Marc adopted some olive trees... and is now caring for them and planting more vines at Mas des Brun, near his beloved Mediterranean Sea. Read his journal here.
...................................................................................................
avoir mal au dos = to have a backache; avoir mal au dos = to have a backache; la mère porteuse (f) = surrogate mother

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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pâte

Pate_2
Lots of dough behind these beaded curtains. Italian bakery in Ceriana, Italy.

French Before You Know It Deluxe--quickly learn to understand and speak 1,000 common French words and 250 essential phrases.

la pâte (pat) noun, feminine
  pastry, dough, batter, fritter mix

(...not to be confused with the masculine noun "pâté" [pa-tay])

les pâtes (lay pat):
  pasta, noodles, spaghetti

Les nations ont besoin de héros et de saints comme la pâte a besoin de levain.
Nations need heroes and saints just as dough needs leaven.
--Gustave Thibon
                                                
                                                      *     *     *

Column_32
Those normally reserved French get all mushy when speaking to our golden retriever. I listen to their praise, translating the French words correctly or incorrectly as I hear them. "T'es une PAT,"* I hear.  While I get the gist of the Gallic word that is pronounced "pat" (gentle, sweet, easy...) I still
wonder just what exactly the French are calling our pup?

"She's a paw!" they seem to say, goochy-gooing our puppy, Braise.
"A real noodle!" they insist.
"What a rag!"* they coo.
"Oui, t'es gentille," Yes, you are nice, they assure her. "You are a real PAT!"

I vow to ask the next pat utterer, who turns out to be my unsuspecting sister-in-law, just which French "pat" (pâte or patte) they are referring to. "Oui, t'es une patte!" Cécile says, ruffling the soft fur on Braise's head, unknowingly stepping into my language trap.

"Would that be 'patte' or 'pâte' -- 'paw' or 'pasta'?" I inquire, before getting a little testy: "...or maybe you're calling her a "rag"! Is that what you're implying?!"

Cécile, my belle-soeur,* looks pensive. "A paw," she confirms, only to change her mind. "No, a dough...je crois."*

Dough! That's it--they're calling our dog a "dough". Now this makes sense and I couldn't agree more that Braise *is* like dough: soft all around like a dough boy (or girl), with a disposition sweet as cookie batter (indeed her coat is cookie-dough colored), but mostly she is pliable, stretch- and pullable as pâte à pizza.* And one could, not that one would, toss her up into the air after a
few pizza dough spins for nary a complaint on her part, sweet, supple chienne* that she is.

Then again, those French may be calling her dough as in dodo or noodle brain, but that is only because our pup hasn't yet learned how to offer a paw (or patte). And did it ever occur to the name callers that maybe Braise herself, bilingual dog that she is, was confused and that that is why she still doesn't lift a paw when asked to "donne la patte"?* And all this time she thought we had
mistaken her for a noodle cooker. "Give us a noodle! Give us a noodle!" we seemed to be saying, convincing her--and in our own words!--that we had truly lost our noodles.


...............................................................................................................
References: PAT = the sound of "patte" (paw) ant "pâte" (dough); rag = la patte (second meaning); la belle-soeur (f) = sister-in-law;je crois = I think; la pâte à pizza (f) = pizza dough; la chienne (le chien) = dog; donne la patte = give me your paw

Audio Clip: Hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French word for "dough": Download Pate.wav
Les nations ont besoin de héros et de saints comme la pâte a besoin de levain.

Related Terms & Expressions:
pâteux (pâteuse) = pasty, sticky, coated
la pâte à modeler = modeling clay
la pâte à papier = paper pulp, paper mache
un coupe-pâte = dough knife
la pâte à pizza = pizza dough
la pâte à pain = bread dough
la pâte brisée = flaky "broken dough"
la pâte à cake = pound cake batter
la pâte à son = bran / brown bread dough
la pâte feuilletée = puff pastry
la pâte à gaufres = waffle mix
la pâte à bugnes = Lyonnaise fritters
la pâte à choux = pastry dough for making profiteroles, cream puffs, & eclairs
mettre la main à la pâte = to get to work
une pâte molle (personne) = pushover
............................................................................
In Books and Gifts:
Doughs, Batters, and Meringues (French Professional Pastry Series)

Great Pates Baroni poster!

Provence print French bread or napkins reversible fabric basket. More Provence fabric baskets here.

Beignet Mix for crispy, powdered-sugar coated fritters. Snack on them while reading Hot Beignets & Warm Boudoirs.

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

NEWSLETTER SIGN-UP: Has a friend forwarded you this post? Sign-up to receive your own free subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here


blondinette

Blondinette
A take-out pizza parlor in Marseilles' eighth arrondissement

French With Michel Thomas: "The Fastest Way to Learn a Language". More language learning software here.

blondinette (blohn-dee-net) noun, feminine
  blond- or fair-haired girl, woman

blondinet = blond- or fair-haired boy, man

Example Quote:
Une dame vint un jour me demander de donner des leçons à son fils, blondinet de cinq ans, joufflu comme un chérubin et espiègle comme un démon. One day a woman came to ask me to give lessons to her son, a blond-haired boy of five, chubby as a cherub and mischievous as a devil.

--French text from the book "Pour développer notre mémoire par l'audition, la vision, l'idée." by Georges Art

                                                *     *     *

Column_30
My nine-year-old woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning and things went from bad to worse at the breakfast table when she scolded her brother for helping himself to the last of the Choco Pops. I wondered what the French equivalent of "first-come, first-serve" was but, given my girl's moodiness, decided not to ask. Instead, I mentioned there was plenty of oatmeal left but that I had polished off the Weetabix.

When my daughter directed her wrath at me, defenseless there in my plush robe and puffy slippers, I snapped back, regrettably so.

Half an hour later Jackie came into the bathroom, asking sweetly for a hair pince.* "Ah! Does this mean that you are speaking to me now?" I replied. Strike two.

In the car on the way to school we were silent, listening to the symphony that is the sunrise, golden rays playing against the vine fields, dew drops coating the earth, amplifying the orchestral morning light. I could hear the music. Did the scene sing to my daughter and bring as much peace?

I drove up to the elementary school and turned off the motor, remaining quiet as the engine was. Jackie rested her head on my arm and it was then that I noticed a shiny streak on her cheek underlined by another just-fallen tear.
"Tell mommy everything," I said, pulling my daughter close.
"Elle m'a traité de blonde!" She treated me like a blond! Jackie sobbed.

Jackie's so-called "Pire Ennemie"* was at it again, taunting her this time for the color of her hair. This explained the moodiness back at the breakfast table as well as the pince, which my daughter has been using to tuck away most of her blondinette* locks.

This also explained the temporary (brown) hair color kit that she talked her dad into buying a few weeks back. I spent last weekend struggling over the French instructions (until Jean-Marc tugged on one of my own blond locks, pointing out that the instructions could also be read in English...just one column over...).

Back in the car, I sympathized with my daughter. "She treated you like a blond!" I said, hiding my amusement at the "insulting" accusation. Apparently at my daughter's school, to ruffle someone's feathers you don't treat them badly, you treat them blond.

                                         *     *     *

Post note: Picking up Jackie from school, I asked how things went at recess (referring to the One Who Bullies Blondes). "C'est réglé," it's under control, Jackie assured. I found out later that Jackie's Pire Ennemie now had wheat-colored streaks painted into her own brunette locks. I wonder if she had been "traité de brune"?*

...........................................................................................................
References: une pince (f) = hair clip; pire ennemi(e) = worst enemy; blondinette (adj.) = light colored; traité (traiter) de brune = treated brunette (or teased for being brunette) and, literally, to call someone a brunette (as traiter de blonde means to call someone a blond)

.....................................................
Related Terms & Expressions:

la blondeur (f). = blondness, fairness
blondasse (adj.) = insipidly fair, washed out; dull, dishwater blond
blondin, blondine (adj.) = blond
blondir (verb) = to bleach, to go blond
blondissant (adj.) = yellowish, golden
une bière blonde = lager beer
cheveux blond doré (golden hair), blond ardent (auburn hair), blond vénitien (strawberry blond), blond platine (platinum blond), blond cendré (ash blond)


Audio Clip:
Listen: Hear the French word for "fair-haired" in the following quote: Download Blondinet.wav

Une dame vint un jour me demander de donner des leçons à son fils, blondinet de cinq ans, joufflu comme un chérubin et espiègle comme un démon.

....................................................................................
In Books & Gifts

Savoir-Flair: 211 Tips for Enjoying France and the French

Le Creuset Stoneware Oil and Vinegar Set, Blue

Poster:  Les Hommes Préfèrent les Blondes / Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Fallot Dijon Herbed Mustards - Set of 4 French Mustards

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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bahut

Bahut_sanglier
Today's totally unrelated to the word or story photo: Wayward Sanglier. (We'll just have to call this little guy--observed trotting through my neighborhood, cares to the wind--"Bahut".

SmartFrench CD-ROM --"the smart way to learn French". More language learning software here.


le bahut (ba-ew) noun, masculine
  1. chest, sideboard
  2. (slang) school, high-school
  3. (slang) truck, car, taxi, cab
  4. the low wall that forms a base for a wire fence

De coffre transportable, le bahut devint un meuble fixe.
From transportable trunk, the chest became a fixed piece of furniture.


  --from the book "Dictionnaire raisonné du mobilier français de l'époque
    carlovingienne à la Renaissance" by Viollet-le-Duc
.

Column_29
Monsieur and Madame D., in taking pains not to track dirt inside the house, all but left their shoes out on the bristle paillasson.*
"Ne vous inquiètez pas. No worries. Please, come in!" said I.

I took Madame's coat, then Monsieur's, turned on my heels and, along with my guests, paused before the busy coat rack--the one place I'd forgotten to unclutter. Eyeing the heap, which included Jackie's wool scarf, the dog's laisse,* Jean-Marc's three-quarter manteau,* Max's K-way,* a beret, a casquette* and my own camera bag, I realized I had but one trick left up my sleeve: A great toothy grin which drew my guests' attention away from the mess as I invited them over to the next room.

In the salon we gathered around the laptop to listen to Jean-Marc read aloud from the promesse de vente.* A lot of "Ça veut dires" and "bien entendus" were explained and confirmed before my husband printed out four copies of the promise papers on which sixteen sets of initials along with sixteen signatures were penned across the pages.

Business out of the way, we took seats around the table basse* where champagne and my belle-mère's* not-to-be-rivaled spicy black olive tapenade* were set out.

Relaxed, our buyers began to arrange their furniture.
"Your mother's armoire would go nicely there," Monsieur D. said, pointing a glass of bubbly to the wall beside the cheminée.*
"Tu as raison," You're right, Madame agreed, adding that they might place the bahut* along the wall off the kitchen.
"Très bien. J'allais dire la même chose!" Very good. I was about to say the same, Monsieur D. enthused, complimenting his wife. Next, they puzzled over where to place the television....

As Monsieur and Madame D. mentally arranged their future nest, I lost myself in my own reverie and pictured a cozy living room, Monsieur in his warm-up suit, Madame setting aside her knitting to check on that wild asparagus quiche turning golden-brown in the oven; Monsieur exclaiming "Ça sent bon, Cherie!" that smells lovely, Darling, Madame returning to the room, to the acajou* bahut and selecting a few of her grandmother's Limoges dinner plates with which to set the table, Monsieur setting aside the morning paper, Var Matin, to assist his once blushing bride....

Monsieur and Madame stood, with Madame feeling a bit "light in the head" from the champagne. Waking from my bucolic dream, I noticed the longing* that I had felt earlier had vanished; in its place a welcome feeling of detachment. My home would be their home.

                                   *     *     *

One hundred more stories from this French life, here.

......................................................................................
References: le paillasson (m) = doormat; la laisse (f) = leash, lead; le manteau (m) = coat; le K-way (TM) = cagoul, waterproof coat; la casquette (f) = cap; la promesse de vente (f) = promise to sale; ça veut dire = that means; bien entendu = well understood; la table basse (f) = coffee table; la belle-mère (f) = mother-in-law; la tapenade (f) = pureed olive spread; la cheminée (f) = fireplace; le bahut (m) = sideboard; acajou = mahogany; longing = (subject of the last story)

Audio clip:

Listen: Hear the French word for chest pronounced in the following sentence: Download Bahut.wav
De coffre transportable, le bahut devint un meuble fixe.



In Books & Gifts:
Modern day bahut -- Antiqued Chest

Bake great pies /quiche /scalloped potatoes in this oversized pie dish.

La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange: The Original Companion for French Home Cooking

In Gourmet food: Home Bistro Quiche Sampler

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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souhaiter

Clothespin
Clothespins wishing for something to hold on to.

Rosetta Stone French (CD-ROM) -- "an award-winning method used by NASA and the Peace Corps". More French language software here.

souhaiter (sweh-tay) verb
  to wish for

Tous les changements, même les plus souhaités, ont leur mélancolie.
All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy.
--Anatole France
.

Column_28
Monsieur and Madame D. walked up the stone-flanked Chemin St Claude, stole under a narrow bridge beside which poppies burst in springtime, and made the hairpin turn leading to an old mill, its wooden wheel having done one last tour* sometime in the last century. Behind the giant roue,* where water falls over a stone wall and splashes across the moss-covered slab below, droplets hit the ground where figs once fell in summertime, coloring the earth purple.

Having passed the sleeping fig tree, Monsieur and Madame took up a single lane road which leads to the thyme-scented garrigue* and its forest beyond, to a south-facing villa they might soon call home. Having reached a shallow fossé* along which wild asparagus grow and are snapped up each spring by local gourmands,* they turned right and walked along a field where a great parasol pine and an old stone cabanon* have held their ground, resistant to the restless tractors and newly laid cement blocks of the surrounding lots. There they made one last turn, walked to the end of a stone path and knocked on a door the color of which could be described as somewhere between the green of a neighboring olive grove at daybreak and the hard-to-crack shell of those heavenly almonds that grow at the top of the hill at Saignon.

"They're here!" Jackie shouted and I hurried over to my daughter, smoothed down my chemise (drying the sweat from my palms) and opened the front door to welcome our buyers. As I wished them "bienvenue"* I wished a bit, too, that I were in their shoes.

......................................................................................................
References: le tour (m) = turn; la roue (f) = wheel; la garrigue (f) = moor, wild mediterranean scrubland; le fossé (m) = ditch; le gourmand (la gourmande) = one who is fond of food; le cabanon (m) = stone cottage, shed (also hut, cabin); la bienvenue (f) = welcome


Hear French:
Listen to my son, Max, pronounce the French word for "to wish for" in this quote:
Tous les changements, même les plus souhaités, ont leur mélancolie.
Download souhaiter.wav

Selected Terms & Expressions:
souhaiter la bonne année = to wish somebody Happy New Year
souhaiter la bonne chance à quelqu'un = to wish someone good luck
souhaiter à quelqu'un de réussir = to wish someone success
ce n'est pas à souhaiter = it is not to be desired

Verb conjugation: souhaiter
je souhaite, tu souhaites, il/elle souhaite, nous souhaitons, vous souhaitez, ils/elles souhaitent; past participle = souhaité
.
In books & gifts:
Cote Sud magazine: "A superbly illustrated decoration magazine about the art of living a sumptuous life in the South of France."

Amelie: Original Soundtrack

French 'Huile d'Olive' Cruet  -- olive oil bottle

Race to the finish with this sleek new version of Mille Bornes, the classic auto race card game.

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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hypothèque

Hypotheque
Though we still don't know if our loan has been approved, or if our home will be mortgaged, Jean-Marc has gone ahead with the plans for his wine cellar.

hypothèque (ee-poh-tek) noun, feminine
  mortgage

Une dette flottante est un navire hypothèque.
A floating debt is a mortgaged vessel.
--Jean-Charles (French humorist)
.

Column_27
At the Crédit Agricole bank I tugged on the perfect green leaf of a benjamin ficus tree. The plant looked real enough but just as I was about to stick my finger into the terracotta pot to check, the banker returned.

"Thanks and we'll be in touch," the banker said, handing us back one French and one American passport, just-copied documents to be added to a five inch thick folder full of information on our vineyard project.

Jean-Marc had spent the last hour trying to convince Monsieur Thomas to lend us the money for the viticole* property. Though we have signed promise papers to buy the vines and handed over the five percent down payment, we are unable to write a check for 95% of the purchase price, due sometime in March.

"If we find a buyer for our own home in the next week, will you reconsider the hypothèque?"* Jean-Marc asked, trying to avoid the short-term mortgaging of our home and the astronomical fees involved. Considering our house had been on the market almost two months it wasn't likely to sell anytime soon, certainly not in off-season. I stared at the hopeful expression on my husband's face, surprised by his wishful thinking. The banker seemed positively amused.

Not five days later, as Bacchus is my witness, a man and a woman walked onto our property and offered to buy our home. On December 30th we signed papers promising to sell it to them.

Until the ink begins to dry on the final contract, the bank loans having come through, we won't know if this vineyard dream is for real or if, like the perfect green leaves of the banker's tree, illusory. Only Bacchus, god of vine and wine, grinning up there in the Ste. Cécilian heavens beyond, knows who will collect those sweet grapes come harvest time.

....................................................................................................
References: viticole (adj.) = wine, wine-growing; une hypothèque (f) = mortgage

:: Audio clip ::
Hear the French word for mortgage in the following expressions: Download hypotheque.wav

lever l'hypothèque = to take away the obstacle
prendre une hypothèque sur l'avenir = to mortgage the future
hypothèquer = to mortgage, hypothecate, to secure (by mortgage)
une hypothèque à taux variable = variable rate mortgage
une hypothèque de deuxième rang = a second mortgage
une hypothèque sur les biens mobiles = chattel mortgage
un contrat d'hypothèque = mortgage deed
purger une hypothèque = to pay off a mortgage

........................................................................................................
In books and gifts:
Monet's House: An Impressionist Interior

Travel accessories: silk money belt for travel.

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

NEWSLETTER SIGN-UP: Has a friend forwarded you this post? Sign-up to receive your own free subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here