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Entries from January 2008

cachette

Santa
The halls are still decked in many French towns... including Orange.

cachette (kah-shet) noun, feminine
  : hiding-place, hideout

La poésie est à la fois une cachette et un haut-parleur.
Poetry is at once a hiding-place and a loudspeaker.

                                          --Nadine Gordimer
In books:
The Ultimate French Review and Practice: Mastering French Grammar for Confident Communication
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Column
When my husband's aunt came to visit from Paris she brought homemade quenelles and her contagious curiosity.

"Alors, fais voir ta jolie maison!" Setting the warm dumplings on the picnic table, Aunt Michou followed me into the farmhouse, still in the middle of renovation: cords, wires, and scaffolding made it difficult to navigate, but Tante Michou ignored the obstacles, so happy was she to see our new place.

Many "OH LA LAs" ensued as Aunt Michou, through the eyes of a Parisian apartment dweller, viewed our new nest....

StairsAt the top of the staircase we stepped into my son's room.

Michou caught her breath and looked up at the wooden beams.
"Oh là là!" she exclaimed. Shaking out her hand, as if to dry it. She was definitely impressed!


"This is our bedroom and that is our closet," I said, entering the west wing.
"... and that will be the laundry room...."

Aunt Michou paused to mentally group together the last few rooms. "In Paris," she explained with a widening of her arms, "this area alone equals an apartment!"

"This, here, will be the TV room..." I continued.
"Oh là là!
"And that, over there, is Jean-Marc's office... and this is my own...." I said, arriving at the end of the hall bureau.
"Là là là!" Michou continued.

When the tour was complete, Aunt Michou turned to me.
"Oh là là," she concluded. "There's enough room here to hide 50 lovers!"

In the time it took for me to worry about whether or not that was an accusation, Aunt Michou added: "...and 50 for Jean-Marc!"

As I swapped one worry for another, I turned to find that Aunt Michou had vanished. Off she'd gone to put those homemade quenelles into the oven, the hottest hideout in the house.

                                           *     *     *
Psst (or, as the French say, "psitt"): If I ever get the quenelle recipe from Aunt Michou, I'll post it here http://french-word-a-day.typepad.com/recipe

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References: la quenelle = meat or vegetable dumpling; Michou = Marie-Claire

       New French Country: A Style and Source Book
       In French music:  Oh Là Là, Sing Your Way to French
.

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:: Audio File ::
Listen to my son, Max, pronounce the French word "cachette" and read today's quote: La poésie est à la fois une cachette et un haut-parleur.
Download cachette.wav
Download cachette.mp3
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Featured book: "Seven Ages of Paris" by Alistair Horne
When Paris was a small island in the middle of the Seine, its gentle climate, natural vineyards and overhanging fig trees made it the favorite retreat of Roman emperors and de facto capital of western Europe. Over two millennia the muddy Lutetia, as the Romans called Paris, pushed its borders far beyond the Right and Left Banks and continued to stretch into the imagination and affection
of visitors and locals. Now the spirit of Paris is captured by the celebrated historian Alistair Horne, who has devoted twenty-five years to a labor of love. Buy the book.

Terms & Expressions:
  en cachette = secretly, on the sly
  en cachette de quelqu'un = behind somebody's back

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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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subodorer

Potter
Can't you just smell the clay?

You've heard the expression "to smell a rat" but did you know the French equivalent: "subodorer quelque chose"? With that in mind, today's word, "subodorer" makes perfect scents, or rather, "sense"! Imagine that "rat" below you (sub) and stinking (odor) of just stolen cheese: subodorer.

Another way to remember today's word (subodorer = suspect/scent) is this: when we suspect something, we look down (sub) and begin "sniffing" (odor) for clues. Well, those mnemonic devices are helpful to me... maybe you'll come up with something else!

subodorer (sew-boh-doray) verb
  : to smell from afar, to scent, to suspect

...le nez, fin et délicat, un peu arrondi, aux narines palpitantes, semblait subodorer de vagues parfums... the nose, fine and delicate, a little rounded, nostrils quivering, seemed to smell faraway perfumes. --from The Fleshly School of Poetry, and Other Phenomena of the Day by Robert Williams Buchanan
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Column
On Saturday morning at around 11, I shut the oven door, checked the thermostat, lifted the lid on the stove-top pot, and stirred the potimarron* soup. Next, I replaced the couvercle,* picked up the dishcloth and ran it across the comptoir's* faux marble surface--reaching down to put an extra polish on the oven door (so as to double check the poulets rôtis* inside...). Next, I heaved a sigh of relief and hurried upstairs to shower before the guests arrived.

Yogurt_cakeWhen I returned to the kitchen, no more than 30 minutes later, I ran smack into a cake! Even if a concrete collision wasn't involved, my mind remained reeling as if struck. How did a just-baked cake end up on my counter and whose hand was behind this stroke of luck?

The golden gâteau* was neatly tucked inside a red-checkered dishcloth. You've got to hand it to those French, who always manage to make simple look so chic! So, who was the stylish sender behind this treat?

My first soupçon or "inkling" was "Marie-Françoise". On second thought, it isn't like Jean-Marc's aunt to stop by, unannounced, just before the lunch hour.

"It must be our neighbor, Danielle," I thought. She had just inquired about my being tired (and I could've clobbered Jean-Marc for using me as an excuse for having declined our neighbor's Friday night invite). Maybe this was some sort of high-energy cake?

Then again, it might be from someone else! Maybe the cake was brought by a repentant robber? I imagined for a moment a cake-covered countryside in which every home had on its comptoir a moist mea culpa from a penitent burglar.

As I leaned over to smell the sweet crust I heard footsteps.... heavier than a woman's and louder than a thief's!

The man who left the sweet snack looked just like a lumberjack (the cake's red-checkered cloth cover might have been a clue...). I kissed my brother-in-law on each cheek, thanking him for the imprévu.* To assume that only women and repentant thieves can bake, that is where I had made my mistake!

                                             *     *     *
Here, once again, is the recipe for my brother-in-law's yogurt cake:
http://french-word-a-day.typepad.com/recipe/2007/12/gteau-au-yaourt.html

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References: le potimarron (m) = small pumpkin; le couvercle (m) = top; le comptoir (m) = counter; le poulet (m) rôti = roast chicken; le gâteau (m) = cake; l'imprévu (m) = unexpected

English Grammar for Students of French: The Study Guide for Those Learning French
Did you like today's idiom "to smell a rat"? Here are 101 more French Idioms
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:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounced today's French word and recite the quote:
Subodorer...le nez, fin et délicat, un peu arrondi, aux narines palpitantes, semblait subodorer de vagues parfums...
Download subodorer.mp3
Download subodorer.wav

Shopping:
In music: C'est L'amour: Romantic French Classics
Street French 1: The Best of French Slang
In DVD: The French Revolution (History Channel Documentary)
On July 14, 1789, a mob of angry Parisians stormed the Bastille and seized the King's military stores. A decade of idealism, war, murder, and carnage followed, bringing about the end of feudalism and the rise of equality and a new world order.

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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puéril

Train_station_gare

But puéril(e) is an English word! I hear you say, as you discover today's "mot". Well, good for you (!) ...as for me, I didn't know the word. Does that mean I have a "childish" vocabulary? To be fair, I know an even more difficult word: la puériculture (infant care; nursing)! Having spent time in two French maternity clinics, I picked up the term -- along with two little Francophones that the French stork left there for me... For a little comic relief, please read the chapter "Naître" in my book "Words in a French Life".

puéril(e) (pooay-reel) adjective
  : childish

Mieux connaître Dieu, ce n'est que mieux comprendre combien il nous est impossible de le jamais connaître. Je ne saurais dire lequel des deux est le plus puéril, de le nier ou d'essayer de le définir. To know God better is only to realize how impossible it is that we should ever know him at all. I know not which is more childish to deny him, or define him. --Samuel Butler
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Column
I guess this "role reversal" thing began sometime around the age of two-and-a-half, when my son, Max, buckled into a child-safety seat in the back of the car, offered me some comforting reassurance.

At the time, and in the town of St. Maximin, I was trying to back out of a narrow parking space when uncertainty struck: were any cars approaching? As I voiced my doubts, another voice, "littler" and with angel wings, floated over from the back seat. "Ne t'inquiète pas, maman!" Don't worry, mommy.

Ten years later, my son continues to offer counsel. At the train station in Orange, while waiting for Max's friend, Alex, to arrive from our former hometown of Les Arcs-sur-Argens, I snap a few photos of the gare* when a not-so-little-anymore voice interrupts:

"Mom! Mets-toi derrière la ligne jaune!" Stand behind the yellow line! Max cautions, concerned that I have overstepped the safety boundary. I am familiar with that overprotective voice. Usually it is my own.

Driving home from the station, I overhear the boys discuss the cost of living and wonder why they aren't talking about sports or Tecktonik instead? Le coût de la vie* seems a serious topic for 12-year-olds.

Alex informs Max that a baguette now costs 90 cents in Les Arcs. Max brags that here, on the outskirts of Orange, 80 cents will buy a loaf of French bread. Alex counters that a Malabar* costs only ten cents in Les Arcs. Max admits that, here in the Vaucluse, the same gum costs 15 cents.

As I listen to the kids discuss inflation, and after the admonition that I received back at the train station, I begin to sense myself shrinking behind the steering wheel...

Later that night, as I prepared for bed--a good hour before the kids--I stood brushing my teeth at the sink. As usual, I reached over to feel the bristles of my husband's toothbrush, to verify that he had indeed cleaned his teeth. When the bristles were dry to the touch, a red flag went up and my mouth dropped open:

"Jean-Marc!" I called over to the bed. "Did you brush your teeth?"
"Oui," said he, a little guiltily, admitting only to having eaten a piece of candy afterwards.
                                     ~ ::: ~
While the children stayed up late, possibly to talk politics, a couple of puérils* parents nodded off to sleep. In the absence of a pacifier, one of them nursed a square of chocolate; as for the other, her hand remained wrapped around a book* in place of a stuffed bear. As the book slipped from her side, to
eventually fall to the floor, so did worry, concern, and the nagging grip of consciousness.


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References: la gare (f) = rail, train station; le coût (m) de la vie = cost of living; Malabar = French bubble gum produced by Cadbury Schweppes; puéril = childish; book (that I re-read each year): "Becoming a Writer" by Dorothea Brande

Recommended: Immerse yourself in French while driving, doing chores, or relaxing at home: listen to French music and, in books, Quiet Corners of Paris: a Francophile bestseller
.

:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's French word and quote:
Puérile. Mieux connaître Dieu, ce n'est que mieux comprendre combien il nous est impossible de le jamais connaître. Je ne saurais dire lequel des deux est le plus puéril, de le nier ou d'essayer de le définir.
Download puerile.mp3
Download puerile.wav

Shopping:
1. In French film: Blame It on Fidel : A 9-year-old girl weathers big changes in her household as her parents become radical political activists in 1970-71 Paris.
2. Learn French in Your Car (Audio CD)
3. Brainy Baby French (Video): Studies show that children exposed to a second language during the first few years of life can more easily master the sounds of that language.

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    
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but

Lavender_field
My goal or but in the new year is to photograph more lavender fields!

but (bewht) noun, masculine

  : aim, goal, objective; end

Être ce que nous sommes et devenir ce que nous sommes capables de devenir, tel est le seul but de la vie. To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life. Robert Louis Stevenson

                                 *     *     *
Shopping: 365 Days in France Calendar (A Picture-a-Day): sunflowers, lavender, postcard-pretty farmer's markets, bicycles, baguettes...
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Column
Three of "us four" dined alone last night. My daughter was at her friend Chloe's house for the second time this week, after the latter received karaoke for Christmas. While the girls were busy stretching their French vocal chords, aspiring to become the next Edith Piafs and more, Jean-Marc, Max and I were giving our voices a rest.

"Jackie nous manque." We miss Jackie, I said, trying to explain the silence. When Max giggled that no, we didn't miss her, the room came alive again. I reminded my son of the last time he and his sister fought over a chocolate tartine, how it was he who finally said "Go on, Jackie. You can have it." He even poured her a second glass of milk with which to wash down the sweet toast. Finally, he cleared the table around her, eliminating part of her chores.

Such altruism brings me to our New Year's goals which we, seated beside a quiet lake on the outskirts of Valréas, had shared with each other earlier in the day. While the canards klaxoned and convoyed, treading Vs and double V's across the glassy surface, we looked into the lake's "mirror" and contemplated our future and how to make it better.

As for goals, Jean-Marc mentioned patience. Jackie said she would try not to leave on the lights and Max chimed in about how he would make an effort not to lean back in his chair in the New Year. While my own goals included all three of these things, I hoped for flexibility, for a willingness to go with the flow of this French life.

That's when Jean-Marc conveniently brought up plans for our summer vacation and his desire to camp out for TWO weeks this summer.

The destination (Biarritz) did little to tempt me. As my mind conjured up the image of so many wind-strewn tents, lines at the port-a-potty, toilet paper in tow, and evenings of camp karaoke, I fought back the inflexible intruder inside my soul. Sweating from the brow, I saw that great Gallic gavel of mine barreling towards Earth, about to come crashing down on my new convictions. I watched as my mouth tensed, preparing to deliver a predictable three-lettered joy-kill: NON!"

Struggling, I tried to see my husband's request in a new "karaokean" light. That is, I tried to "hear the music" of my future "more flexible" calling. Keeping with the tempo and in chorus with conviction, I followed the word cues on the mysterious musical canvas that appeared out of nowhere and I sang out the words that filed across that screen, there, beside the lake, still and serene.

The song/response to my husband went something like this:

          Bien sûr, mon amour, je t'adore...
          Tout pour toi, pourquoi pas, et encore...


As I sang out a new response to Life's offerings, I saw that flexibility is easy when you let a power "greater than thee" write the words to your very own script de vie. Just sing along to Life's song:

          Bien sûr, mon amour, je t'adore...
          (But of course, my love, I adore you...)

         Tout pour toi, pourquoi pas, et encore...
        (Anything for you, why not, and then some...)

                                         *     *    *
                                           E N D



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References: la tartine (f) = piece of bread; Valréas = a town in the Vaucluse department of France; le script (m) de vie = life script

Get yourself an Oxford-Hachette French Dictionary and a French phrase book today!

:: Audio File ::
Listen to my son, Max, pronounce the French word "but" and read the quote:
Être ce que nous sommes et devenir ce que nous sommes capables de devenir, tel est le seul but de la vie.
Download but-goal.mp3
Download but-goal.wav
.
Shopping:

French Country Diary 2008 -- elegant datebook with dozens of photographs that capture the romance & sun-soaked beauty of the French countryside
Rick Steves' Paris 2008
In French music for kids: French Playground
In French film: The Visitors

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