ourlet
US Tour: February 2008

puer

Clothespin
The best anti-odor remedy yet! Read on, in today's story.

Well, here's one for you: "puer"! In English it means "the dung of dogs". Is it me, or is there a whisper of poetry in that last entry?

We can forget about the stinky English definition for the moment (aren't you glad this is a French word list?) and rejoice, instead, in knowing that the word "puer" suddenly makes sense:

puer (pooay) verb
  to stink, to reek, to have a very bad smell

                                    *     *     *
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Column
"Mom, do you have a sac poubelle* and a pince?* my 12-year-old wants to know.

"What's that, honey?" I ask, setting down my hair brush and rummaging through my make-up trousse.* Jean-Marc and I have been invited over to Isabelle and David's, fellow wine makers, for dinner. I am looking for the red lipstick that my husband bought me for our last night out, one month ago. On second thought maybe this red is too bright?

"I need a sac poubelle and a pince!" my son repeats, from behind the bathroom door.
"A sac poubelle...." I mumble, reaching for the red lipstick.
"And a pince!" Max adds, impatiently.

I push the make-up trousse aside, put the tube of lipstick into my pocket, and join my son in the kitchen. Right, a sac poubelle....
"What do you need a sac poubelle for anyway?" I ask, rifling through the recycled bag bin. There is a variety of bag shapes and sizes, both in paper and in plastic; crumbs have been carefully shaken out (in the case of bread bags) and all sacks have been knotted or rolled or flattened for stacking.

"How about this one? Will this work?" I ask, unknotting a plastic bag. Max offers an approving nod before reminding me of the clothes-pin, too, that he will be needing.

"I really need a pince!" he insists.
"Max, what on earth do you need a clothes-pin for? Won't a twisty do the trick?" I reach for a plastic-coated aluminum tie.

"Non, maman!"*
"Well then, what do you need a pince for?"
"Mon nez!"
"Your nose?"
"Oui! Mon nez!"

I watch as my son reaches up and clamps a thumb and forefinger over the end of his nose. Next, his face contorts into a look of supreme offense.

"Oh, I get it now. Your dad asked you to empty the kitty litter box? C'est ça?"*
Max answers with an affirmative nod, fingers still clamped onto his nose.
"Trust me, you don't need a clothes-pin to plug your nose!"
"Mais, ça pue!" It stinks!

"Max, arrête de faire ton cinéma!"* I say, handing him a recycled bag that reads "Top Budget 10 Pains au Lait."* I pause to marvel at the English words that have crept into the French language. Then again--looking over at my son--nothing is so marvelous as a 12-year-old practicing theatrics....

I watch as Max takes the plastic bag, projects it away from his person, emphatically re-clips his fingers around his nose, and seals it shut.

"Careful not to break it!" I say, pinching my own nose for effect.
"Mom! It reeks!" Max argues, walking toward the litière* as if approaching the end of a wooden plank.

"The odor won't kill you!" I insist. "Wait!" I say, reaching into my pocket and handing him the tube of red lipstick. "On second thought, you need this more than I do. You'd make a great dramatic actor, you know! Just a little white powder and..."

Max responds by raising the left corner of his mouth, ha-ha.
"Off you go, Cosette.* Time to clean out that litter box!"


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References: le sac (m) poubelle = garbage bag; la pince (f) (à linge) = clothes pin, peg; la trousse (f) = case, kit; non, maman = no, Mom; c'est ça = is that it?; arrête de faire ton cinéma = stop being so dramatic; le pain (m) au lait = type of (sweet) bun; la litière = kitty litter box; Cosette = mistreated child/orphan in the play Les Misérables, adapted from Victor Hugo's famous novel.

     Larousse Concise Dictionary: French-English/English-French

     French for Cats: All the French Your Cat Will Ever Need
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Terms & Expressions:
  puer de la gueule = to have bad breath
  puer des pieds = to have stinky feet
  ça pue! = it stinks!

Shopping:
If a French native told you that the new movie is a "turnip" (un navet), should you go see it? Or if a passerby calls you a "sausage" (une andouille), should you respond by saying thank you? Find out more in Street French Slang Dictionary & Thesaurus

Learn in Your Car French Complete:

Bernard Michaud honey -- read the rave reviews!

French Verb conjugation: puer
je pue, tu pues, il/elle pue, nous puons, vous puez, ils puent => past participle: pué

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