pagayer
huile de coude

sein

Valerian
Near the town of Roaix (Vaucluse) poppies mix-n-mingle with valerian (a French cat fave).

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sein (sehn [silent (nasal)] "n") noun, masculine

  : breast, bosom; (figurative meaning: midst, center, heart, gulf)

Quote and Pronunciation (hear my daughter, Jackie, read these French words): Download sein.mp3. Download sein.wav

Garde au sein du malheur l'espérance et la foi : Tout pauvre peut trouver un plus pauvre que soi. Keep, in the midst of misfortune, hope and faith: one can always find another who is less fortunate than oneself.
--Juan Manuel

~

A_day_in_a_french_life
On a Saturday morning drive, the kids and I speed past fields of poppies, canals choked with irises, and little roadside perennials, including hollyhocks (the French, I've just discovered, call them "rose trémières"). Now if only I could name the other flowers carpeting the colorful countryside at this time of year....


For this reason, I am on my way to the botanical exposition in the town of Malaucène.* If my children are with me, that's because I have bribed them with cash and not because they are fascinated by the common name for "valériane"* ("lily of Spain" a.k.a "herbe aux chats"*-- something I just found out
myself last week).

When we arrive at Vaison-la-Romaine, and still haven't seen a sign for Malaucène, I grow concerned. "But where is Malaucène?" I question. "Why haven't we seen a sign yet?"

From the back of the car I hear snickering.
"Hey guys. Keep it down!... and keep your eyes peeled for a sign that reads Malaucène!"

(More snickering from the back seat...).

I recognize these snickers: "pronunciation snickers" they are. The sound of Malaucène--as pronounced by a lazy learner of French--has my Francophone children in stitches again.

"Mal-oh-seNNNNN" Max says, correcting my pronunciation. "And not 'mal-oh-SEH(N)'!"

"Sen" and "seh(n)": the one might be suitable pronunciation for a river running through Paris, but the other one, uttered, utterly means "bosom"!

Come-to-think of it, the name "Malaucène" did seem a bit odd... especially when breaking the word down into individual components: mal au cène (sehn?). Then again, that a town might be called "Ache-In-The-Breast" didn't surprise me too much. After all, the French aren't prudes when it comes to naming places (case in point: the French town of "Condom"*... and never mind that Condom doesn't mean condom* in English, the town's name still causes tourists to blush and/or snicker, like those kids in the back of my car...).

A kilometer later, when I still haven't seen any signs to Malaucène, I see a flickering green cross: a pharmacy. "I'm going to pull over and ask for directions to "Malaucène," I explain to the kids.

My son and my daughter exchange amused looks. That's when Max finally offers some direction: "Mom," he suggests. "Just don't ask the pharmacist where 'Boob Ache' is located."



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~References~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Malaucène = town in the Vaucluse; la valériane (f) = valerian (valeriana officinalis, Valerianaceae) a.k.a. "St. George's herb"; l'herbe (f) aux chats = cat mint herb (for its effect, similar to catnip, on cats); Condom = town in the Gers region of France; condom = the French word for condom is "un préservatif"; boob ache = (the French term "mal au sein"--here, the faulty pronunciation for the village "Malaucène"--translates to "pain in the breast"
.
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Terms & Expressions:
  donner le sein à un enfant = to breast-feed a baby
  le cancer du sein = breast cancer
  aller seins nus = to go topless
  au sein de = in the middle of
  au sein du Père = in the bosom of the Father
  au sein du luxe = in the lap of luxury
  le sein de la terre = the bowels of the earth

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