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Entries from April 2008


Quenottes and mots (Words book-signing) at Crawford Doyle Booksellers. Photo by Nancy Caswell, here with Fred.

quenotte (kuh-nowt) noun, feminine
  tooth, toothy-peg

The French word quenotte is used in "le langage enfantin" or kiddy talk. Kid-at-heart adults seem to use it too... Read on:

Sa figure était une pomme rouge, un bouton de pivoine prêt à fleurir, et là-dedans s'ouvraient, en haut, deux yeux noirs magnifiques, ombragés de grands cils épais qui mettaient une ombre dedans; en bas, une bouche charmante, étroite, humide pour le baiser, meublée de quenottes luisantes et microscopiques.

Her face was a red apple, a peony bud ready to bloom; and in it there opened, high up, two magnificent dark eyes, shaded by great thick lashes that cast a shadow on them; lower down, a charming mouth, small, moist for kissing, furnished with lustrous, little microscopic teeth.

From the book Best Short Stories (Dual-Language): Included are "La Parure," "Mademoiselle Fifi," "La Maison Tellier," "La Ficelle," "Miss Harriet," "Boule de Suif" and "Le Horla," all reflecting Maupassant's intimate familiarity with Paris and the universality of his creations.

Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French word "quenotte" and the text, above:

Download quenotte.mp3.Download quenotte.wav

After our daughter talked us into adopting "une plante carnivore,"* or flesh-eating flora, it was our son's turn to beg for a petrifying plant. For Max, that meant a quartet of cacti.

At the pépinière,* we settled on four pokey, piquant, prickly, and pin-topped plants. Next, I informed Max that it was my turn to shop (seeing the nursery had a homey section at the back of the store....).

While admiring the vintage clocks and embroidered blankets, I remembered that I was in the market for a gift not for myself, but for someone else. A little someone else, or soon-to-be someone else, that is.

I was surprised to see "newborn" items on display but, then again, we *were* in a "nursery"... of sorts. Noticing a small hand-painted box with the words "Boîte à Quenottes"* etched across the top, I thought I'd stumbled onto the most original present. A tooth box! But just when my enthusiasm had reached its peak, doubt set in.

As I examined the inside of the wooden box, marveling at all the "little caves" in which one could set fallen teeth for display, a thought struck me: What if the tooth-box idea was more than original... what if it was downright ODD? Next, a line of self-questioning began along with the realization that what I would be offering, in effect, was a box for lost body parts!

Perhaps, I questioned, a lost tooth is best left that way: LOST, and not laid down in a wooden box for viewing? What might the gift recipient think, on opening the box only to find a multi-cavitied cemetery for incisors?

Returning the baby tooth box to the shelf, I had to ask myself: What WERE you thinking? But before I could think too much further, I ran out of the store, a toothy grin following me (my son, delighted with his prickly purchase), to the comfort and "normalcy" of home: save a flesh-eating plant, and a kooky quartet of cacti.

une plante (f) carnivore = carnivorous plant (in our home that'd be a "Venus Fly Trap"!); une pépinière (f) = nursery; une boîte (f) à quenottes = tooth box

Get your own Venus Fly Trap or "Carnivorous - Dionaea"


Eau De Botot - The worlds first mouthwash invented in 1755 by Dr. Julien Botot for Louis XV of France. Recognized by the Royal Society of Medicine as a Superior Natural Product. Made in France. Directions: add a few drops to small glass of warm water. gargle and Rinse Mouth.

Hotel de Paris coir doormat

French posters: "Pate Dentrifice du Docteur Pierre" & "Eau de Botot"
Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France

Read books, newspapers (Le Monde), magazines, blogs and more - on a Kindle!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
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You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


Not sure which flowers are vivace and which aren't, but the little boy is awfully cute.

vivace (vee-vas) adjective
  1. long-lived, undying, inveterate, vivid
  2. hearty, robust

le pois vivace = everlasting pea
la plante vivace = perennial
  les souvenirs vivaces = vivid memories

:: Quote / Audio File ::

L'absence n'est-elle pas, pour qui aime, la plus certaine, la plus efficace, la plus vivace, la plus indestructible, la plus fidèle des présences ? For to one who loves, is not absence the most effective, the most tenacious, the most indestructible, the most faithful of presences?
--Marcel Proust

Listen to my daughter's marraine (godmother), Rachel, pronounce today's word and quote: Download vivace.mp3 . Download vivace.wav


Today we're going to talk about flowers and asparagus and even asparagus flowers if we so fancy and, by the way, does asparagus flower?  I wouldn't know, being a "newbie gardener". At least I've quit saying, "I don't have a green thumb", for as Mom always said: what you say is what you get! And while I don't want my thumb to turn literally green, I do want what the French figuratively call "la main verte".*

I've a hunch that Aunt Marie-Françoise has "la main verte" even though I've never seen chickpeas or chard or even a scarecrow chez elle.* To be fair, none of those exists in my own garden either, though I did plant onions, radishes, and betteraves* last week! During my first guided tour of the newly plowed grounds, Jean-Marc's aunt offered nods of encouragement.

I showed off the flower beds as well: sunflowers, morning glories, shasta daisies, and those pink-faced "farewell-to-springs," or godetia. As I pointed to the dusty, barren plots (not a sprouting plant in sight) my mind's eye saw towering tournesols,* aromatic herbs a go-go, radishes galore, and more!  I wondered, did Marie-Françoise see the same?

Look! she said, turning from the muddy garden patch. I followed her over to the grassy outskirts of the potager* only to examine an ugly, stubbled weed. "This one is no longer good," she mumbled. "Ah, here's one!" I watched Marie-Françoise pinch off the tips of the "asperge sauvage",* motioning for me to do the same.
"Not much... but enough for an omelet!" she explained, handing me the spear-shaped tips.

Making our way along the banks of the stream, our asparagus stash growing, we stopped to study the wild flowers: indigo blue muscari* (Marie Françoise tells me she used to dye her doll's clothes with the boiled flowers), mustard yellow "genêt"* (also good for dye and used in edible flower salads), and "fumeterre".* I learned that Uncle Jean-Claude collected fumitory as a kid, selling it for centimes to the pharmacist, who, in turn, made up potions that cured everything from conjunctivitis to evil spirits. And although pharmacists like fumeterre, so do the local turtle doves--which the flowers cure not of love but of hunger.

By the time we returned home from our walk, we definitely had "la main verte." And our hands were literally green with edible weeds. There were curitive flowers, too, and even dye (for our hair?) albeit blue. Why, that ought to scare the crows out of my new garden (once I get the American corn planted...) and send the snails and slugs "running" from the green-thumbed giant with blue locks trailing down her back.

la main (f) verte = the green hand (French term; the English equivalent is "green thumb"); chez elle = at her place; la betterave (f) = beet; le tournesol (m) = sunflower; le muscari (m) = grape hyacinth; la fumeterre (f) = "fumée de la terre" or "smoke of the earth" (fumitory flower); une asperge (f) sauvage = wild asparagus; le genêt (m) = broom flower
Selected mail in response to today's post:
Hello Kristin:
Your piece on your garden adventures makes me have to come clean about my unstoppable pangs of jealousy of the gardens of France when I am there each summer. (We are the couple you met in Portland who are "commissaires" at the LeMans 24 hour race each year) Not only is central France several climate zones ahead of us in Oregon, but the plots have been tended for 600 years in many cases. I so desperately want my place to look that nice that I go into a frenzy of garden augmentation each year upon my return. I feel empathy for you starting from scratch in your new home, but as the attached picture will attest it is possible to make progress. I feel good about my progress and will continue to feel good until my rental car exits the denseness of Paris and finds the verdant countryside of your adopted land. The first "Ville Fleurie" sign will make my heart both sing and ache at the same time. Here, a few petunias scratched into the curb by a Chevron station passes for municipal beautification. In France everything drips and drools with flowers and the climbing roses are up to the chimney tops. Your new home will soon look that way. Keep digging.

Frank Levin / Barbara Blizzard

(Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Q. Levin)

Michel Thomas Speak French For Beginners: 10-CD Beginner's Program

In French music: French Playground, a musical rendez-vous of fun French and French Creole songs that will delight children of all ages.

Lego Make & Create Eiffel Tower kit lets builders re-create an impressive replica of this famous Parisian structure -- based on original blue prints!

Goldilocks in French (with accompanying CD) presents an engaging reading of Goldilocks and the Three Bears in both English and French that will entertain kids while they hear correct French pronunciation. You can read along with the narration or learn along with your kids!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

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A "leeky" vegetable potager in the Queyras Valley of the French Hautes-Alpes

Featured Product:  Eiffel Tower Confetti! (As if a Francophile needed any more joie de vivre...)

la betterave (beht-rav) noun, feminine
   : beet

[from the words "bette" (beet) and "rave" (turnip, radish)]

  => la betterave sucrière = sugar beet
  => la betterave rouge = beetroot
  => la betteravier (ière) =beet grower
  => la betterave fourragère = mangel-wurzel, fodder beet
  => la betterave potagère = edible beet (a.k.a. "red carrot" or "red root"). An example of a "bettrave potagère" is the "crapaudine". Sure you want to eat one now? (le crapaud = toad)

:: Audio File & Quote ::

On est gouvernés par des lascars qui fixent le prix de la betterave et qui ne sauraient pas faire pousser des radis. We are governed by rogues who fix the price of beets and who wouldn't know how to grow a radish. -Michel Audiard (French Film director, 1920-1985)

Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and quote:
Download betterave.mp3 . Download betterave.wav


(Note: as promised, we return now to the calm, slice-of-life stories from this wind-blown wine farm. Meantime, I'm working on Chapter One of the "other" story (so as not to say "anti-story"): a behind-the-scenes script of this fluffy French existence: who knows if, or when, such a book will ever see the light of day or whether some stories aren't best left to bask in the cool shade of an incognito garden. Back now to the regular postings from Provence... and to today's sketch):

           GOLD, or Green, in One's Own Back Yard...

Returning home via a rosemary- and olivier*-flanked driveway, I noticed the Citroënette* parked across from our wine cellar, just next to a few piles of woody sarments* destined to become compost. (Cuttings, I might add, that I am forever backing into by car, only to track a "chorus" of the branches out of our driveway each day, arriving to my destination, pre-announced, and no thanks to the honky-tonk racket of vagabond vines voicing their complaints from behind me. Must be hell to be dragged into town by the tips of your woody toes).

Aunt Marie-Françoise, the driver of the Citroënette, was seated at the kitchen table, sharing hibiscus tea with Jean-Marc. "What have you got in that sack?" they wanted to know. I tried hiding a few of the seed packets (after the sunflower seed incident a few posts back), as a housewife might hide a few of
the sundresses she's just bought after one too many lunchtime martinis), but with four eyes fixed on the shopping bag, I was unable to shove the merchandise into a closet, behind any camouflaging coats.

One by one, I pulled the seed packets from the plastic sack. There were future crunchy radishes, melt-in-your-mouth betteraves,* cocktail onions, "Reminiscent of My American Roots" Corn, Charentais* Frenchy melon, sweet peas or "pois de senteur," Not-So-Loopy Lupine, Trailer Park Petunias, and the sunny marigolds that my mom once planted alongside them.

I studied my family's faces as they set down their cups of hibiscus and I could just swear they were thinking that French pigs would surely fly before the desert rat standing before them would succeed at poh-tow-zhay* gardening. Now that's paranoia for you.

(In the next installment, or maybe the one after that, Marie-Françoise shows me the edible plants and flowers that are already growing in my garden. Stay tuned.)

un olivier (m) = olive tree; la citroënette (f) = made up word for "really small Citroën); le sarment (m) = twining (vine shoot); la betterave (f) = beet; Charentais = "a type of true cantaloupe from Europe (what Americans call cantaloupes are actually muskmelons.); poh-tow-zhay = pronunciation for "potager" or (kitchen garden)

Read The Edible French Garden (only 19 copies left, minus the one I just bought...) and Kitchen Gardens of France


Vedrantais Charentais Melon (the real cantaloupe) 10 Seeds - Heirloom. Charentais-type melons are the real cantaloupes, born in Italy and refined in France. The skin is uniquely colored, and ripe melons don't slip from the vine. The fruit inside is rich orange, sweet and deliciously fragrant.

French Market Garden: Seeds from ten different plants, thoughtfully selected to adorn your dinner plate with Provencal gourmet vegetables.  

Exercises in French Phonics

Painless French: grammar, pronunciation, idioms, idiocies (culture) and more!

Provence Waffleweave Dishcloth Set

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


The building reads: "Printers Binders"... now we're talking (read on in today's story)! Photo taken near Union Square, New York City

A million mercis for your responses to my last post. It's going to take me a while to send proper thanks. I may have to "speed-mail" those remerciements? Thanks for your understanding.
la laque (lak) noun, feminine
  hair spray

Example (and tip?) from the book "Des petits tuyaux pour votre jardin" by Marymée Murch & Rosa Lempert-Andreyev.
La laque à cheveux fait fuir les insectes volants. C'est plus sain qu'un insecticide chimique.... Hair spray makes flying insects flee. It's healthier than a chemical insecticide...

Listen to today's word and quote: Download laque.mp3 . Download laque.wav


I am eager to get back to the writing of light, quirky, slice-of-French life stories that represent this "vie en rose," pink and bubbling like champagne, sweet with nary a bitter aftertaste. Meantime, I find myself at a fork in the writing road.

Last week I was in New York City to peddle prose "penned" over the past year. In funky coffee shops, elite show-your-ID-in-order-to-enter buildings, and offices that look like a backdrop to avant-garde film, I courted publishing house divas and literary agents with a long line of literary darlings under their belts.

As a tongue-tied toad might court a princess, I proceeded to woo, or would-be woo, the movers-and-shakers of manuscripts. Sweating at the brow, beneath the sleeve, and even at the tip of my nose (a very odd and embarrassing stress reflex which has me perpetually holding a wad of toilet paper to my beak), I was at once bashful and bold, meek and megalomaniac, modest... but mostly blubbering.

Over all, I talked too much when a trusty "ribet" might have won 'em over. Thankfully my sister, Heidi, stood beside me for moral support, ever ready to sharp-elbow me into needed composure. I wished she'd have pried that wad of paper from my wet nose and stuffed it into my dry mouth. To her credit, she tried (to speak for me, that is, and avoid the gag). But even she, having spent her childhood trying to, couldn't save me from myself.

At Prime Burger on 51st, I studied my editor's* face as I pitched the story of my life: a "Glass Castle* meets A Year in Provence" blockbuster, never mind that the only thing I have in common with Jeannette Walls is an eccentric nonconformist artist mom with too much IQ and a trailer park childhood: OK,
maybe a few more similarities (childhood cooking accidents: my mom almost lost her foot-warmer (our oven) when I set fire to a cheese crisp) and differences: our single-wide trailer (spared in that fire) was parked just a few lanes and "spaces" over from the freeway.

The contrast between those aluminum walls of childhood and these polished stone murs* of middle life speaks volumes. But bendable, metal walls and massive French stone only book-end my life: it is what happened between the American aluminum and the French façades that matters. There, a quiet desert wash, a quixotic single mom, and plenty of books formed a future Francophile. Between Tele-evangelism and Tolstoy (Mom welcomed all sorts of inspiration, whatever it took to get out of bed and face another day), I made it to France... only to be de-programmed by a Frenchman. It wasn't religion or literature that needed breaking down, but all that trailer park hairspray: for what I lacked in culture I made up for in form: that is, in the form of a concrete aerosol "cap" (and not one hair out of place!).

I haven't heard back from those publishers and agents. More than a toad, I fear I came off as Howdy Doody on Draino (if only I could slide quietly back down the sink pipe, now, to the base of my pond and into obscurity). Chalk it off to cowboy roots or trailer trash ties. I dunno. I did my transparent best. In any case, and while it may be against my best interests (nothing new there, but I've come a long way...), would you like to read the first chapter of my story?

And, what the heck, here's a P.S. teaser: By the time you have finished my book, if I should have what it takes to write this one, I think you'll agree that my decision to move to a charming French farm was, more than easy, absolutely absurd. But that doesn't mean it wasn't the best decision. After all, somebody had to be looking out for me. God knows I couldn't.

my editor = Amanda Patten (Simon and Schuster) for "Words"
The Glass Castle = Jeannette Walls rocks! Read her book now!;
A Year in Provence ; le mur (w) = wall

"La Femme Chocolat" by the award winning Olivia Ruiz
Maison Francaise -- decorating tips (and great pics) in this *French language* magazine
French Before You Know It Deluxe--quickly learn to understand and speak French

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


Union Square in New York City

French Word-A-Day will return to its usual format--quotes, sound file, advertising--on Wednesday. For today, just a French word "honteux" (ont-euh) and its English meaning, "ashamed."


      (The would-be Fine Art of Speed Greeting)

At Union Square Wine and Spirits* in New York City, Tom took good care of us, ensuring our "Wine & Words" event got off to a good start. The tables were dressed with crisp linen, premium wine glasses, felt tip pens, Rouge-Bleu* order forms, and a central "stage" for the Franco-American speakers (that'd be Jean-Marc and me).

"You can stack your books there," Tom explained, pointing to an empty section on the pretty table. How thoughtful... only, I didn't have any books to sell... after bungling my own book delivery. At Tom's suggestion, I walked across the square, to Barnes and Noble, to purchase the one remaining copy of "Words in a French Life."

When I returned, a few guests had begun filtering into the wine store. I took up my post, there behind the well-dressed table, separated from my "audience" via a starched white cloth, spotless wine glasses, and one lonely book-on-display. The set up seemed a bit formal and, now that there were no books to sign, what was the point? Wouldn't it be friendlier, plus chaleureuse* I wondered, to be on the other side of the starched barrier? Quickly, I made my way around the display table, to begin greeting guests. This way, I reasoned, everyone would feel cozy and "at home". To boot, I would enjoy the warmth of mixing with the crowd instead of being separated from it.

I soon realized my mistake. With a room full of people, it would be difficult to speak with each and every guest... unless ... unless conversation was cut superficially short. I failed at each attempt to "mix" as my eyes abruptly disengaged from my guest's, to pre-greet the person standing nearby before the guest's wait got too long and leaving became an option. The gesture was sloppy, impersonal, and left me feeling more like an inexperienced politician than an inexperienced author.

Nervously, I asked guests: "have we corresponded before?" and "what is your email address?" in a desperate attempt to recognize a long-time, virtual friend. But the warmth and invitingness that had been permitted by a focused email was lost on a growing crowd. Frustration grew as I could not concentrate, let alone carry on a meaningful conversation. If I felt the let-down, what must the others have felt?

One of the guests offered a solution. "You'll need to learn the art of the two minute conversation," he said, sympathetically. If only there were time for a mini-course in mingling!

"It's kind of like speed-dating" another attendee mused, before his voice trailed off (in disappointment?). "I won't keep you any longer," he added, "it looks like you have others who are waiting to speak to you."

And while the reality of having a room full of people waiting to speak to oneself ought to have been a good feeling, oozing with validation and "you've-finally-come-homeness," instead performance anxiety set in. As if performance had any place in personal human relations. Only, how to be natural when inside a voice is urging, "Next!" "Move-on!" "People have fought traffic, arranged to leave work early, arrived bearing gifts... to speak to SOCIALLY-INEPT you!"?

It is the impersonal part of an "author event" that leaves me uncertain about the future (or at least future book-signings!). More than speed-dating, I would have loved to wine and dine each and every person who took time out of their day and money out of their pocket in order to come out and see a newbie author.

I left the event feeling something like ashamed. There was a palpable build-up on my skin: the grime of "letting others down". A sentiment Jean-Marc could relate to, after his own hometown wine-tasting event last month, in Marseilles. Agonizing after having "small talked" with long lost friends from his childhood, friends who had come to support him only to receive a frenzied "salut" when a crowd began to circle round and devour the new winemaker... Jean-Marc found it impossible to reunite--let alone reminisce with his guests in Marseilles. Feeling awful, he spent the next day calling friends and apologizing for not being able to "catch up" with each and every one.

...That's it!, I thought, I'll contact everyone too! But the next morning, while firing up the computer, an email took the wind out of my redeeming sails:

Dear Kristin,
I came back home last night and my children asked me how the book signing event was. I told them that unfortunately it was disappointed as I didn't get a chance to talk to the author.

"As a professional writer for last 30 years, mom has been always nice to my readers. I shouldn't have a babysitter and miss your homework to go to this event."

                                     *     *    *

Realizing one's dream of finding an enthusiastic audience is turning out to be a mixed blessing. Maybe it is time for a new dream? I'd better rule out speed-dating, though. How about speed-forgetting? That way, one person's disappointment might cease to torment an already tortured newbie author's soul.

Better yet: speed-reading. (I'm thinking of one of the gifts that I received at the event (thanks, Marina!) about not taking things personally. The book* talks about agreements and so, I wonder, can we make one now? That's right, you and me. Here goes: I won't take things personally if you don't. Now can we get back to our warm and cozy (necessarily online) relationship?

Finally, and in case I haven't told you lately, thank you for your support, understanding, and encouragement during one writer's growing pains. Without you, I could not continue to "pen" these bite-sized pieces of Provence, slices of French life, or grits from the Gaul.

Union Square Wines & Spirits; Rouge-Bleu Wine ; chaleureux (chaleureuse) = warm; book: The Four Agreements

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


A babbling brook... and babbling villagers in today's story.

Note: French Word-A-Day will be on break, sort of, through April 18th. Meanwhile, I will try to send an update on our "Wine/Words" trip. Wish us luck... and speedy recovery... and thanks for your support! Check our schedule, here.

cane (kan) noun, feminine
  : female duck

...a male duck, or "drake", is "un canard".

Ma tête est comme une basse-cour. Quand j'appelle les idées poules pour leur donner du grain, ce sont les idées canes, oies ou dindes, qui accourent.

My head is like a farmyard. When I call the hen ideas to give them seeds, it's the duck, geese, or turkey ideas that rush up. --Jules Renard

:: Audio File :: Listen to my son, Max, pronounce today's word & quote:
Download cane.wav
.Download cane.mp3


When a cigogne* flew past his second-story office window, Jean-Marc reported the exciting event to me. I raced toward the fenêtre* in time to witness a streak of red, white, and blue smoke. The Patrouille de France* had just jetted past. I hadn't realized they went by any other name....

"Cigogne?" I questioned my husband.
"You know. It's the bird that carries babies in its bec.*"
"Oh, a STORK!" I blurted. But, which way did it go? Which way did it go!

Did it follow the tri-colored cloud of smoke of those French Acrobatic airplanes? More importantly, to whom was that heavy-jowled stork delivering? Just which amorous villager was to be the lucky recipient of the baby?!

Finding out the answer took a bit longer than maternity-ward labor, but we eventually heard the scoop (not so difficult in small town, where "tout le monde sait tout sur tout").*

It was David, another local winemaker,* who blabbed the blushing truth--and in a roundabout way:

"Monsieur Greenneck* has a missus!"
"You don't say? I didn't even know he was married!"
"Si, si!"* David insisted. "They call her 'Can'."

Well, Can can all right, or could, I supposed... Turns out that the stork had been carrying EIGHT of Can's babies inside its beak! No wonder I never saw it fly by... By the time I'd arrived at the window, the heavy-jowled bird had done a tailspin -- and landed "pile poil"* in the middle of the brook!

There, beyond a trio of platane* trees, we watched rippling water hit the banks of the stream where showy yellow irises "of the marais"* cluster this time of year.

"We call them canetons,* since the female duck is a 'cane'." David explained, correcting my "Can". I studied Mr. Greenneck (and was that a cigar in his smiling beak?) as he and the missus swam, heads held high, quietly down the brook, eight little quacking fluff balls trailing behind. Proud parents.

                                                                     *     *     **
Thanks, Kathy T., for this excellent video: La Cane de Jeanne by Georges Brassens 

une cigogne (f) = stork; une fenêtre (f) = window; La Patrouille (f) de France = French Acrobatic Patrol; le bec (m) = beak; tout le monde sait tout sur tout = everyone knows everything about everthing; winemaker(s) David (and Isabelle) Blanc = (their wine, "l'Insoumis" ("The Rebellious One") is bottled in Rochegude (Drôme); "green neck" = "col vert" (mallard duck); si, si = yes, yes; pile poil = smack (in the middle); le platane (m) = plane tree; le marais (m) = marsh; le caneton (m) = duckling

The Ultimate French Review and Practice: Mastering French Grammar for Confident Communication

Cartes Postales: A Delightful Album for Postcards

Tune Up Your French: Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Spoken French

In salons across France: Kerastase Volumactive Shampoo

In French Music: Jeanne Moreau

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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"Wild Orchids" and fresh, just-in-off-the-line laundry. Still can't name flowers (tulips) and I'm late folding clothes. My point and shoot camera broke, too: no longer focuses and everything's a blur!

gazouillis (gah-zoo-wee) noun, masculine
  1. twittering, chirping, warbling (birds), gurgling (baby) ;
  2. babbling, murmuring (of running water)

Listen to Max's friend, Bastien, pronounce the French word "gazouillis" and the example phrase: Les gazouillis de printemps. (The twittering of Spring.) Download gazouillis.mp3. Download gazouillis.wav

The following fortified, edible (and edited) tweets, babblings, or "gazouillis" answer the popular Twitter* question "What am I doing now?" and serve as a mini chronicle of "A WEEK in the life of a wife, mother, hostess, writer, chauffeur, wine-salesman..." You get the picture--and you'll even get the times and the dates! Follow along, now, to see what I've been up to, minute by minutious minute, for the past seven days:

7:26 AM: Waiting for the show to begin : the sunrise over Mont Ventoux. Soulagée* now that Coco's back from a nocturnal hunt.

9:43 AM: Flipping through the dictionary... when on my way to "persil" (parsley) I found this gem : péricliter = to be going downhill.

10:54 AM: Just back from a laundry "break": "un-pocketed" 1 cork, 11 ipomées* and 1 sunflower seed, scraps of plastic from which JM tore the fertilizer bag.

3:55 PM: Putting two tomato tarts into the oven and melting chocolate in a casserole. The Americans arrive in two hours. What to wear?

11:05 PM: The tomato tart was soggy-bottomed but the guests were gracious and convincing; time now to sleep and be a chef in my dreams.

7:22 AM: Getting a morning kawa* fix while watching a rumble of red-bellied clouds fade into the eastern horizon. The mountains are still sleeping.

9:34 AM: Jean-Marc is racing to finalize the pruning before the wannabee grape leaves beat him to the finish. Le Stress!

12:24 PM: Pulling a paper fish off friend Rachel's back. "C'est un poisson d'avril,"* she explains. Her two-year-old put it there.

4:53 PM: Discovering a bouquet of wild orchids, in a plastic Vittel bottle, on the kitchen table. Wonder whom they're for?

6:13 PM: Watching L'homme qui plantait des arbres / The man who planted trees. Beautiful. Mille mercis, Rebecca!

9:02 PM: Witnessing the village of Gigondas glitter in the dark to the tune of kids brushing teeth. Time to turn out the office lights. Bonsoir.*

7:35 AM: Listening to the French birds wake up. Outside, the river reeds are waving back at the breeze.

10:14 AM: Recalling the fancy word for "water rat" (nutria) thanks to Casa Bruno Chris. But do you know the French equivalent,* & do river rodents bite?

11:02 AM: About to photograph our rock-star potager which, at the moment, resembles a fifth-grade marching band minus pomp and circumstance.

1:30 PM: Hearing Jean-Marc's good news: Domaine Rouge-Bleu will make the wine list at Les Trois Forts (Sofitel). Chin chin!

3:38 PM: Forgiving grumpy Gauls and boys.

5:47 PM: Clean sheets: check. Scrubbed toilet: check. Dog hair off the floor: almost check. Guest towels... forgot the guest towels!!!

7:58 PM: Winning the daily thermostat battle. In the push of a button, we've gone from 15 degrees Celsius to 19.5. Jean-Marc hasn't noticed yet...

7:16 AM: Quietly sipping coffee -- so as not to slurp and wake my guest... or attract the attention of two dancing poodles in the next room.

9:49 AM: Listening to the scrape & grind of cement mixing : the hum & drum of patio construction. "Waves lapping against sandy shore" = overrated.

2:08 PM: "Merde! Putain!"* - beau-frère* Jacques' words wafting up to this second-story window. Did someone throw a sabot in the cement mixer or what?

5:42 PM: Back from kid-getting. Son Max *flew* into the car: "Je me suis fait emporter par le vent, fada!"* Me: "Fada? Fada! Can I say fada?" Max: "Non, maman."

6:58 PM: Losing the daily thermostat battle.

8:07 PM: Preparing birds' tongues ("langues d'oiseaux"*) for dinner, according to the French package. It's a change from "angel hair".

7:03 AM: 1st cup of kawa. Happy the coffee machine finally "worked" after 1 week. Had forgotten about daylight savings & resetting timer thingies.

8:54 AM: Wondering: are Peter Pan jupes* the fad? A lady in the school parking lot had on one, only, the skirt was flying & she wasn't. Sacré Mistral!*

11:23 AM: Keys, glasses, porte-monnaie*... Heading to Marseilles to sell wine and to celebrate Florence's 40th.

2:33 PM: Blending brewed coffee leftovers: yesterday's & the day before's. No longer a coffee snob. Now to work on beverage-temperature flexibility.

7:30 PM: Tracking dirt into the house. Hope the kids didn't see.

8:03 PM: Tossing "quatre fromages"* pizza into the oven. Happy not to have to cook tonight, though grocery store queuing took as long as making dough.

11:18 AM: "Rock-climbing": searching high & low for pretty rocks to: 1. soften hard patio edges and 2. separate the wild from the soon-to-be contained.

3:38 PM: Impromptu photo session with Tiffany. Wish I'd washed my hair today. Can't speak for Jean-Marc.

5:42 PM: Thanking Kim for lunch at La Farigoule. The goat cheese ice cream is delicious. Waiter says the smooth dessert "goes down like a letter at the post."

6:15 PM: Drinking rosemary tea & honey for a sore throat. Chilled & soaked after watering against the wind. (Future sunflowers.) Better be worth it.

7:58 PM: Drooling over lavender wisteria in an illustrated dictionary is the next best thing to having one and beats envying the neighbors' glycines.

8:48 PM: Taking a to-do list to bed. The sun has set. Village lights twinkling on yonder mountains.

Twitter; soulagé(e) = relieved; une ipomée (f) = morning glory (flower); un kawa (m) (also "caoua")= a coffee; un poisson d'avril = a French April Fool's joke in which one sticks a paper fish on the unsuspecting one's back; bonsoir = good night; equivalent = (the French equivalent for "nutria" is "le ragondin";  merde! putain! = @#$!; le beau-frère (m) = brother-in-law; Je me suis fait emporté par le vent, fada! = The wind blew me forward. Crazy thing!; langues d'oiseaux = a type of pasta that is rice-shaped (or shaped like a bird's tongue) and is used in Tunisian cuisine, especially Tunisian pasta soup; une jupe (f) = skirt; Sacré Mistral (wind) = Cursed Mistral; le porte-monnaie (m) = wallet; quatre fromages = four cheese (pizza)

In French Film: Jean-Luc Godard Box Set
"La France" Big Magnetic Puzzle
featuring Map of France, great learning tool includes the French regions and French departments with their specialties
Dinner in Paris: Authentic music from France

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


Different kinds of beaks and bécots, from Le Petit Larousse Illustré.

After Monday's French "tweet", today we have a peck or...

bécot (bay-kow) noun, masculine
  : a little kiss

un gros bécot = a big smooch
bécoter = to give a kiss, to give a peck.
les amoreux qui se bécotent = lovers kissing

:: Audio file ::


Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French word "bécote" and read the quote:
Download becote.mp3. Download becote.wav

  Viens là que je te bécote!
  Come here so I can kiss you!

  --from Les Princes de Combrailles by Michel Geny-Gros

Tucking in my son for the night, I hear:
"Mom, I am going to be thirteen next month. Can I have une boum?"*
"Of course," I answer. "Will there be girls at your birthday party?"
"Yes and there will be a couple."
"A couple?"
Max points to a girl's name and a boy's name on his birthday list.
"Ils sont ensemble." They're together, he explains.
"Oh... and do YOU have a girlfriend?"
Max: (Silence and a growing grin...)
Me: (Silence and a growing chagrin...)

"Mom.... I'm in love!"
"You are in LOVE?"
Max: (grinning from ear to freckled ear)
"Love? as in 'amour'?"
Max: (nodding enthusiastically)
"Love, like l-o-v-e?"
Max: (closing his eyes, shaking his head, non-stop grin across his freckled face)

"I am in love!" my 12-year-old declares to the universe, and to one disconcerted earthling sitting beside him.

"Max, just so you know: if you so much as KISS a girl you will grow great big warts all over your freckled face, beginning with one right there on the very tip of your freckled nose!"

"But, Mom..." Max says with a devilish grin. "I don't have any warts."

                                        *    *     *
For kissing the girls, Max was tickled until the freckles fell off his face. Catching his breath, he addressed the tickler, in mock astonishment.

"Mom, he said, you have zits!* Right there - on the very tip of your nose!"

Never has a kissing convict been so quickly released from tickle jail, as the worried wardress ran from the room in search of a mirror of truth.


une boum (f) = (surprise) party; zit (pimple, spot) = un bouton

In Film: French Kiss starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline:

French-themed cards, notebooks, magnets, stickers, stamps, and more
Top 100 French magazines for sale at Amazon.
French music : Piaf, Tiersen, Paradis, Hardy, et encore!
Gourmandises : Frechy food

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

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tournesol (c) Kristin Espinasse
With the seeds in today's story... this eventually grew! Read on...

graine (grehn) noun, feminine

  : seed

Audio File: Listen to my daughter, Jackie, pronounce the French word "graine" and read today's quote:

Le plus grand arbre est né d'une graine menue.
The tallest tree is born of one small seed. --Lao-Tseu
Download graine.mp3. Download graine.wav

It began in the flower-seed aisle at Carrefour, after tossing an extra packet of sunflower graines* into the shopping cart. I looked up at my husband's face to assess his disapproval. "You know you'll need to water them?" said he.

Jean-Marc's comment was more of concern than insulting. Still, I could sense a flood of indignation coursing through my veins, which, admittedly, do not lead to a green thumb; witness an abandoned flower/vegetable-seed collection that never made it to pot, nor garden lot. The seed packets of courgettes,* carrots, and sweet peas no longer collect dust on a kitchen shelf. They were packed with the "fine china" and the good intentions last summer. I still haven't unpacked the dishes.

Turning to address Monsieur Waste-Not-Want-Not, I reminded him that a Rhone-destined ruisseau* flowed alongside our future rock star potager.* Never mind that you have to pitch a broken ladder from the river bank, climb down to the narrow stream, scream (on seeing the furry water rodents,* real or imagined) and, bucket by bucket, haul up the flower refreshments.

"Won't the garden hose reach that far?" I asked. Jean-Marc answered that it would, but that the garden wouldn't miraculously water itself. Someone would actually have to turn on the hose.

"Tournesols* are under two euros a pack!" I affirmed. "Why, for that price, I could have the very CHEAP thrill of adding them to my seed collection and watching them GROW DUST," I cried, reinstating my rights, forgetting about the unpacked dishes. As for those seeds... they quit growing even dust when I sealed them into that sturdy malle* along with those weak intentions so many months ago.

If Scarlett O'Hara were French, she would know how to answer back to my husband. Meantime, I did as she would do and tossed another packet of seeds (for the cute French name: "Ipomée"* and the pretty blue flower on the cover) into the caddy. Harrumph! Triumph! After all, even if seeds in a packet don't grow, people do. Besides, demain est un autre jour*....

la graine (f) = seed; la courgette (f) = zucchini; le ruisseau (m) = stream; le potager (m) = kitchen vegetable garden; water rodent = nutria (le ragondin); le tournesol (m) = sunflower; la malle (f) = trunk; une ipomée (f) = morning glory; demain est un autre jour = tomorrow is another day

Read "Kitchen Gardens of France" by Louisa Jones & French Dirt by Richard Goodman.

Terms & Expressions :
  la graine de lin = linseed
  la graine de moutarde = mustard seed
  la graine d'anis = aniseed
  en prendre de la graine = to profit from someone's example
  c'est une mauvaise graine = s/he's a bad example
  les graines pour oiseaux = birdseed
  la petite graine = the male reproductive cell, gamete

Michel Thomas Speak French For Beginners: 10-CD Beginner's Program
In French music: French Playground, a musical rendez-vous of fun French and French Creole songs that will delight children of all ages.
Art Poster Print - Au Potager D'emile
A sugar splurge : La Perruche Rough Cut Brown Sugar Cubes


Son Max's cabane dans l'arbre... or a tree house's foundation.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.