...to get words to SCREAM some prefer to use all caps. Photo: an artists' quarter in Marseilles; the sign reads "No to the demolition of my workshop".

l'ouïe (wee) noun, feminine
   1. hearing
   2. ouch! ooh! (spelled "ouïe" or "ouille")

A homonym of ouïe (and its plural) is the multi-meaninged "ouïes". Use it when you want to talk about fish gills and other popular topics of conversation--such as those "sound holes" on a violin and the "ears" or "ventilation slots" behind your computer, in the home, on the car, etc....

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Si tout le corps était oeil, où serait l'ouïe? s'il était tout ouïe, ou serait l'odorat? If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? --Saint Paul

Beneath a deep gray sky I saw a white-haired woman in a raincoat blue as the heavens in summertime. The woman and I were heading in the same direction, one of us on foot, the other on foot pedal. I slowed my car to a stop and rolled down the passenger seat window.

"Can I give you a lift?" I offered.
"Bonjour, Madame," my neighbor began, remembering politesse.* "Yes," she said, "I am going to the coiffeur."* I noticed her hair, which looked pretty to me. For a moment I thought about how a certain hair phenomenon is not lost on Europeans, that is: salon bound women are never having a better hair day as when they are due to have their locks cut off. I wondered if Madame was beginning to regret her decision?

"Alors, on déménage?" So, we're moving? Madame asked, more as an affirmation than a question. I waited for my passenger to fasten her seatbelt before I replied.
"Yes...end of JUNE," I clarified.
"C'est bien," she said after one too many beats of silence.
"You are moving far from here?"
"Near ORANGE. Two-and-a-half hours NORTH..."
"Pour le travail?"*
"Yes, for WORK--my husband's WORK."

I caught myself speaking loudly and repeating my words. Why is it that when I hear a foreign tongue struggling with a second language I act as if the speaker's ears are weak? My Italian neighbor isn't hard of hearing she just speaks French with a very thick accent. And so do I--only my neighbor doesn't shout at me. But then, we've already learned that she has better manners.

As for being hard of hearing and speaking French like fondue--or, with an accent as thick as cheese--an orthophoniste* friend of mine, Isild, would argue that the two are related: that people like me and my neighbor, with accents thick as emmental, are not hearing French words exactly as they are spoken. We need to listen more carefully. Rather, *I* should listen more carefully. As for my neighbor, she hears just fine and, as we've mentioned, has pretty hair to boot.

References: la politesse (f) = politeness, courtesy; le coiffeur (la coiffeuse) = hairdresser; pour le travail? = for work?; l'orthophoniste (mf) = speech therapist

::Audio Clip::
Listen to Jean-Marc recite today's quote: Download Ouie.wav

   Si tout le corps était oeil, où serait l'ouïe? s'il était tout ouïe, ou serait l'odorat?

Related Terms & Expressions:
  le ouïe-dire = hearsay, rumor
  avoir l'ouïe fine = to have sharp hearing
  avoir l'ouïe un peu dure = to be hard of hearing
  être tout ouïe = to be all ears
  affecter l'ouïe = to affect hearing
  à portée de l'ouïe = within hearing
  les ouïes des poissons = fish gills

In Books and Gifts:
Speaking of hearing, check out one of my favorite books:

For listening to great French tunes (while improving your français...)

A household name in France.... for peace and quiet.

"Voila"-- Belinda Carlisle has a new album out -- all in French :

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety