le scrutin


My husband "King Bee" looking for a Queen. Thanks to our neighbor, Jean-Marie, he found a swarm (see it in the photo? just above the word "bee". Now to pry the buzzing mass from the underarm of that branch...

un essaim (eh-sehn [silent "n," nasal sound]) noun, masculine
  : swarm (of bees)
  : crowd, swarm (of people); bevy (of girls)

Ce qui n'est point utile à l'essaim, n'est point utile à l'abeille.
That which is not good for the swarm, neither is it good for the bee.

My husband isn't one to flirt with ideas. He homes in on a fancy... then sees that it doesn't pass! He's done this with wine, women, and now...worker bees. For the wine, he left audit, or accounting; for the woman, he left Owch,* and for the worker bee he's leaving allergies--my allergies--in the dust.

That dust! How it pours out from behind his giant tractor wheels... From the tractor cab, Jean-Marc points to the flowers and wild herbs which crowd in along the rows of grapevines. "I'm going to make honey!" he announces. "It will cure you!" He theorizes that the abeilles* will collect the local pollen (from all those sneeze-inducing blossoms) and that if I eat enough honey I'll be immunized! He really just wants to wear one of those bee space suits, if you ask me. It's the closest thrill to walking on the moon.

Speaking of space, I can tell you from experience that a Vauclusian vineyard in wintertime looks just like Mars: flat terre* all around, nothing but gnarly alien claws jutting out of the barren ground.

Those bare "claws" grew green heads over the past month and when I visited our wine farm last week the organic fields had returned to their earthy selves. Next to the leafy vines, just down by the creek, I saw where Jean-Marc had placed the ruche.* The glass-sided beehive was chosen a few weeks ago after we spent an hour in a bee shop in Bollène. A very patient saleswoman, "Véro," helped us assemble the most basic beekeeper start-up kit which basically stopped our credit card in its tracks. But, when Véro explained we could make more than 20 kilos of honey, I got to calculating... Things were looking lucrative until Véro asked if we had a "sehn"... We'd need one to begin the honey process. A sehn, a sehn, a sehn...I mumbled. There'd be no honey without it.

The first week I told anyone who would listen that we needed a sehn, which in my mind was a fancy queen bee and entourage, but in the mind of the French--and judging from the intrigue written across their twisted faces, it must've been something entirely different. Turns out I had been telling everyone that we needed a boob.*

Do you think I was embarrassed? Sure, but there have been worse language gaffes and I've said things, unintentionally, that only a French obstetrician can say without flinching. Such are the hazards of hijacking a foreign tongue (which to me is less risky than flirting with 50,000 worker bees and a few hundred doomed drones). I'll leave that to King Bee.

References: "owch" = my husband's ex-girlfriend, so-named for the stinging effect she had on me -- read about that here; une abeille = bee; la terre = ground, earth; la ruche = beehive; boob = the French word for "breast" is "le sein" (sehn) which sounds like the French word for swarm (essaim) (eh-sehn)
:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's French word, then the quote: Download Essaim.wav
Ce qui n'est point utile à l'essaim, n'est point utile à l'abeille.

Terms & Expressions
un essaim de jeunes filles = a gaggle of girls
essaimer = to quit the hive and form a new colony, to hive off
faire l'essaim = to swarm; to spread out, expand
un essaimage = swarming

The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden
Thousand Flower Le Grand miel honey in decorative metal pail - 26 oz from Bernard Michaud, France

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