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February 2007

Entries from January 2007

tailler

TaillerCancelled! The Words-n-Wine event in Aix has been cancelled due to a "rupture de stock." While those words caused a bit of excitement at the time the bookshop owner spoke them ("What? My book is sold out?") an email to the publisher revealed the humble truth: many more copies exist and it looks like I am not an overnight success (just a bit delusional). That said, there is never a rupture of words here at the blog, so please enjoy today's photo and story and thank you for reading!

In French language software:
TeLL me More French -- Used everyday in more than 10,000 academic institutions. More French language software here.

tailler (ta-yay) verb
  to cut, carve, hew; to engrave, sharpen; to trim, prune

Le silence est aussi plein de sagesse et d'esprit en puissance que le marbre non taillé est riche de sculpture. Silence is as full of potential wisdom and wit as the unhewn marble of great sculpture. --Aldous Huxley


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It is understood that any pruning that I will do in the town of Ste. Cecile des Vignes will be ceremonial. Let's be clear on one thing: I will write about the vineyard adventure, Jean-Marc will live it.

But with only two months left to prune 30,000 vines and the clock ticktocking, the big grape bubble that I am living in is about to pop: Jean-Marc will need my help out in the field, whether he admits it or not.

"You can stay in the car," my husband sympathizes, as we pull up to the property--land that still does not belong to us, but that we have permission to farm. The owner, having signed promise papers to sell us the land, is officially free of the chore.

Forget frisquet*--it is freezing cold outside, colder here in the Vaucluse than back home in the Var. The sun will set in the next hour and that will put a stop to pruning one way or another. Reassured, I put on a thick bonnet, gloves, and ask Jean-Marc to help me attach the portable electric shears. The heavy battery pack rests low on my back, held in place by thick elastic suspenders. I snap the belt shut while Jean-Marc adjusts the straps over my parka. Next, I head over to the Carignan vines for a crash course in "la taille" or pruning before I am set loose in one of seven vine parcels.

"I'll be right back," Jean-Marc says, following the man from Eco Vignes to the Grenache parcel to collect a sample of terre* for a lab analysis. On my own now, I study the electric sécateur.* I need only to depress a button for the sharp blades to snap shut. This, along with the robotic scissoring sound, terrifies me. As I watch the shears clamp down on a branch, easily slicing through its thick arm, I realize that a dainty finger would be incidental to its bite.
"Always keep one hand behind the back," Cousin Sabine cautioned me back at her farm.

"Six porteurs* per vigne," I mumble, repeating my husband's words. "Six holders per vine," holders of future grape clusters, we hope. I am to cut after the second "oeil".* Does that one count as the first "eye"? I ask myself, dropping to vine level to study a thick mass near the base of the "porteur". I still can't believe Jean-Marc trusts me with his vines. What if I am massacring them?

Before signing the promise papers for the vignoble* we had talked about spending February 14th in the Tuscan hills. Instead, Valentine's day will be spent in a blustery cold valley, Cupid's bows gliding through the air in the form of so many arrow-thin branches. "Try to pitch them in the middle of the row," Jean-Marc suggests of the felled limbs, "...if you can," he adds, so as not to push his luck. There we were, half-way down a row of vines he'd left off pruning the week before. By the top of the hour, we would barely reach the end of the row.

My fingers were now frozen around the shears. Hunched over the sleeping vines, I think about my ceremonial pruning, how it resembles a ceremony* I almost missed some twelve years back, on a hill beside the Mediterranean sea at dusk: there is the aisle of vines, like the church aisle I eventually walked down, there is that sacred hush just before the bride walks in, just before the sun disappears beyond fields of ethereal vines glowing pink beneath the setting sun, there are the jitters (here, from the freezing cold, back then from nerves), and there are the words that currently escape my mouth in a visible cloud of breath "for better or for worse." And with the setting sun, one great fiery ball melting into the horizon beyond, it couldn't get much better than this.

                                                  *     *     *
*see a photo.

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References: frisquet (frisquette) = chilly; la terre (f) = earth, soil; le sécateur (m) = shears; le porteur = "bearer" (fruiting vine); l'oeil (m) = eye or "bud"; ceremony = read about the near-fiasco wedding ceremony in my book.


Listen to French: Hear Jean-Marc recite today's quote: Download tailler.wav
Le silence est aussi plein de sagesse et d'esprit en puissance que le marbre non taillé est riche de sculpture.

Terms & Expressions:
  bien taillé = neatly trimmed, well-sharpened
  tailler la route = to hit the road
  tailler une bavette = to have a chat
  tailler des croupières à quelqu'un = to make difficulties for someone

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Books and More:
"Tailler la moustache"/trim the mustache and more French expressions in Schaum's Outline of French Vocabulary.

From Vines to Wines: The Complete Guide to Growing Grapes and Making Your Own Wine by Jeff Cox

Seda France Tea Inspired Candles & Le Creuset 4-1/4-Quart Soup Pot with Cover

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
 
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♥ Contribute $25    
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le pelage

Toilettage_1
Where French dogs go to perk up & prettify their pelage.

Update on Words-n-Wine: The book event in Aix-en-Provence has been cancelled due to a "rupture de stock" at Book-in-Bar (and difficulty re-ordering the book ).

"Pimsleur French I" includes 30 lessons of essential grammar & vocabulary. More French language software here.

le pelage (puh-lazh) noun, masculine
  fur, coat

Synonyms: le poil (fur), la toison (fleece), la robe (coat); la fourrure (fur)

Le rugissement du félin évoque le bruit de l'allumette contre le grattoir, tout comme les rayures de son magnifique pelage rappellent des flammes qui dansent. The big cat's yawning snarl evokes the spitting sound of a struck match, just as the colors of its fiery coat suggest dancing flames.
   
--bilingual text from "Matchbox Labels" by Jane Smith and Natasha Lomas

                                                 *     *     *

Column_25
In thirty-six days my tile floors will be carpeted, never mind that wall-to-wall moquette* might be kitsch in France. It's the dog that is cramping our home style. If Braise* keeps this up, the shedding of her summer pelage,* then we'll have new floor covering within five weeks.

The upshot is that we will no longer need to wear slippers to buffer our feet from the cold ground. But then, all that fur tends to stick to the toes, toes which get carried into the bed each night, the fur ending up in the sheets, forming another blanket and there's no need for that as we already have feather couettes* to keep us warm at night.

All this fallen fur means that vacuuming has gone from a weekly to a daily chore. Various hose attachments are needed to draw up the clumps of golden retriever hair which land on the sisal rug in the kitchen, beneath my daughter's iron bed, under my belle-mère's* rush-bottomed chairs and below the fake Christmas sapin,* the hair imitating just fallen snow.

This morning after I had vacuumed the rez-de-chaussée,* I sat down to rest only to notice the fur-lined couch. I looked over to my daughter whose sweater's weave now including pet poils.* I glanced down at my jeans and discovered a fur ball teetering on the cuff. Saperlipopette!* My daughter and I were carpeted just like the floor had been, fur-coated just like the couch! And while several thousand poils beneath one's toes eliminates the need for slippers, I draw the line at wearing dog fur on my back.

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References: la moquette (f) = wall-to-wall or fitted carpet; Braise (pronounced brez) = our 7-month-old golden retriever puppy; le pelage (m) = coat, fur; la couette (f) = duvet, comforter; la belle-mère (f) = mother-in-law; le sapin (de Noël) (m) = Christmas tree; le rez-de-chaussée (f) = ground floor; le poil (m) = hair; saperlipopette! = my goodness!, gadzooks!

Listen to French: Hear my son, Max, recite today's quote: Download pelage.wav

Le rugissement du félin évoque le bruit de l'allumette contre le grattoir, tout comme les rayures de son magnifique pelage rappellent des flammes qui dansent.

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In Gifts:
Geo, a French-language magazine, reports on ecological issues around the world more French magazineshere.

The charming Bistro Leon wall clock

Woman's Best Friend: Women Writers on the Dogs in Their Lives. And don't miss this delightful story from this woman writer.

A book my son, Max, is reading over winter break (you might love it too!).

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
 
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice


boîte

Boite
Boxy letters on a building in Marseilles.

Bonne Année 2007! A new story for you today to bring in the New Year. Enjoy.

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

une boîte (bwat) noun, feminine
  1. box, tin (can) 2. office, agency  3. club (nightclub)

La vie est comme une boîte de sardines ; nous cherchons tous la clé.
Life is like a can of sardines and we are all looking for the key.
--Alan Bennett

                                                                           Column_23
At a restaurant at the Hôtel du Parc in Lorgues, I joined my English friend Alicia, her Russian beau Misha, and their eight guests who'd arrived from as far west as Mexico to bring in the Nouvelle Année.* Something one of the women at the table said underlined a New Year's goal that's been forming in my mind: to think outside the box.

The Mexican woman sat facing me. Upon hearing that my husband was looking for cement tanks for his future wine cellar, she said: "I know someone who sells cement!" To this, the woman's husband gently corrected her: "Honey, they're looking for cement TANKS, not cement.

I rushed right home to Jean-Marc and said, "Have you ever thought of having the tanks MADE?" This thought alone shed a completely different light on my husband's cement cuve* conundrum. Over the past few months Jean-Marc has been pricing tanks, traveling as far as Italy to find the best deal. In between calculating tank width and transport costs, Jean-Marc has tried to imagine how the many-tonned tanks would be moved from the delivery truck to the cellar without collapsing part of the cellar's foundation in the process. This "make your own tank" or tanks "sur mesure"* (and "sur place"*) idea might just be the solution Jean-Marc has been searching for.

"Not a bad idea. Pas mal du tout!"* Jean-Marc decided after warming to the idea.

"Ask ten people how to obtain a cement tank," I said to my husband, "and nine will give you the address to a tank distributor. But one senora will tell you where to buy the cement!" I want to think like that sora in the New Year, to think outside the boîte (or, in our case, outside the cement tank).

                                          *     *     *
One hundred more French words and stories in the book "Words in a French Life".

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References: la nouvelle année (f) = New Year; la cuve (f) = vat, tank; sur mesure = made to measure, custom made; sur place = on the spot, on site; pas mal du tout = not bad at all; la boîte (f) = box

Listen to French: hear Jean-Marc pronounce today's quote: Download boite.wav
La vie est comme une boîte de sardines ; nous cherchons tous la clé.

Selected Terms & Expressions:
une boîte d'allumettes = box of matches
une boîte à bijoux = jewellery box
la boîte à malice = bag of tricks
la boîte à musique = musical box
la boîte à ordures = garbage / trash can
la boîte à gants = glove compartment
mettre quelqu'un en boîte = to pull someone's leg
aller/sortir en boîte = to go to a nightclub
quelle boîte! = what a dump!
se faire renvoyer de la boîte = to get fired from a company
la boîte à/aux lettres = post box or mailbox

In Gifts:
French salt box dispenser.

Printed in French, Cuisine Et Vins De France features dozens of recipes in each issue along with articles on wine, cheese, appetizers, table decorations, and more. (More French magazineshere).

Moleskine 2007 Desk Diary - The Legendary Notebook of Hemingway, Picasso, and Chatwin.

And those famous French Limoges boîtes.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
 
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice