A Saint in a "Niche"


Une bribe, or fragment of an scene; taken during summer break in Brittany.

As for today's word, "une bribe," (pronounced ewn breeb) how about beginning with a French definition?* Bribes, then, are "phrases prises ça et là" (sentences taken here and there) and "passages décousus d'un text, d'une conversation" (disconnected passages cut from a text, from a conversation). That's right, "snippets". Bribes are bits, scraps, fragments, odds and ends, if you like. They are also the "restes d'un repas" or leftovers.

Did you know that the English word "bribe" can be traced back to the French verb "briber" (to beg)? A bribe was once known as "piece of bread given to beggars" (today, a bribe is simply known as a "piece of bread" or "une bribe de pain"--so don't get your feathers ruffled the next time your host passes the bread  basket).

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Back for a moment to the English meaning. Bribing judges is considered unethical, so I will sit here with my fingers firmly croisés.... My book Words in a French Life has been short-listed for the Blooker Prize! (That's right bLooker: the world's first literary prize devoted to 'blooks': books based on blogs.) Many thanks to the writer and artist Eve Robillard who told me about the Lulu Blooker prize and encouraged me to sign up. Congratulations to Tertia Albertyn, Jerome Armstrong, Markos Moulitsas, Frank Warren, Colby Buzzell, and Seth Godin, whose books made the nonfiction category. Check out all the books here.

Oh, yes, life is perfect in Provence. Perfect! Never a bad hair day, so to speak. Everything is rosy, always! Over here nylons don't run (heck, they aren't even worn) and the car always starts....when the battery isn't dead. Here for you today, snippets or "bribes" from a journal I kept last summer, including one or two not-so-rosy moments.

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"Just picked up Max from summer camp. Max was very happy to see us, though he wouldn't let me kiss him in front of the kids."
"Jean-Marc told the shop keeper to keep the two centimes in change, that maybe it would improve her bad mood. I was horrified (even if he was right)."
"I spent the afternoon at the beach, fully clothed, hiding my head under a T-shirt while the kids and Jean-Marc swam and built sand castles."
"We sat on a bench at Port Tudy eating nougat glace* and watching the rocking boats. One of them caught my eye: a little green pointu* called 'Vadrouiller'.*"
"After a good nap, we headed to Les Grands Sables plage* to be whipped around by a sandstorm until I suggested we leave."
"The French woman was refreshingly chatty. Every so often, she'd reach over to tap me on the arm to underline her point...we talked about fashion..."I am conservative," I apologized. "You mean classic," she offered."
"The room had a two-burner stove where I stood swatting at flies so dumb even instinct couldn't save them."
"De toute façon, I said to Jean-Marc, women handle pain better than men...Jean-Marc responded by complaining to Max (who was still holding a throbbing toe): "Arrête de hurler comme une gonzesse!" Quit screaming like a broad!"
"I am now inside the little rental kitchen, having left Jean-Marc out on the veranda. Here, I can enjoy my ice cream in peace, the little of it that there is, stuffed as it were into a container no bigger than a French pill box."
"Je ne suis qu'une pauvre vieille chaussette," I am just a poor old sock, Jackie sniffed, with extra drama, complaining about how I was two minutes late picking her up from school.
"BUNET--the name of the Italian dessert I ate while fuming mad at Jean-Marc...what a buzzkill to eat cake when you're angry."
(This last "bribe" or snippet, comes from a journal entry dated August 19th, 2006): "...and I hate reading these diaries ten years later and finding only scribbly, whiney pages. Best to scribble about the balsamic scent of the eucalyptus...and leave the howling to the wind."

References: French definition of "bribe" from "12 Dictionnaires indispensables"; la glace (f) = ice cream; un pointu (m) = small fishing boat; vadrouilleur (vadrouilleuse) = wanderer; la plage (f) = beach
:: Audio Clip ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French word "bribe," in today's quote: Download Bribe.wav

Une bribe de pain, rompue entre les doigts, avait suffi pour chaque convive
A piece of bread, broken between the hands, had been sufficient for each guest. --from "Histoire des Arabes et des Mores d'Espagne" by Louis Viardot

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