In Gigondas (Vaucluse): sidling up to the bar for a cool summer drink.

arrosoir (ah-ro-zwar) noun, masculine
    : watering can

Example sentence: Hear it in French:  Download arrosoir.mp3 .Download arrosoir.wav
Un arrosoir n'est pas un tuyau.
A watering can is not a hose.
(More, in today's story....)

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Michel Thomas Speak French For Beginners: 10-CD Program

Wheezing, gasping, and sawing were three horrific sounds playing at our neighborhood block party after one of the revelers swallowed a garden hose.

...or so it seemed. Information regarding the accident was sketchy... that is, sketchy to this English speaker who pieced together the French worded details of the drama.

Wheeze! Gasp! Saw!... Wheeze! Gasp! Saw!... the rescue team (three local grape farmers) worked diligently to save the victim from suffocation.

"What happened?" I asked, lost (linguistically) amid the commotion.
"He was playing with the arrosoir...." my next-door neighbor explained.

On hearing the French word "arrosoir," my mind presented a picture of a garden hose. Just then, I heard the victim (a child?) gasp again.... When the rescuers asked us to stand back, my knees grew weak and I felt the need to hang on to something. So I threw my arm around my neighbor.
"It'll be okay..." I explained.
"Yes," she assured me, he would.

As I could not bear to watch the resuscitation, my mind's eye proceeded to paint the unfortunate scene -- based on an iffy translation of a few key words: I saw the victim. I saw the "arrosoir". In my French-processing Anglophone brain, one plus one equalled "victim choking on garden hose". Unfathomable was how that chilling, sawing sound figured into the equation. Why on earth were the rescuers using a sharp-toothed scie* to free the victim's blocked respiratory? Near faint at the thought, a certain slew of words had the effect of smelling salts and I perked right up.

"That dog is always getting into mischief!" one of the women remarked.

Mischief? Dog? Turning now to the drama, I saw three men encircling the furry victim. I noticed the animal's tail wagging slowly, like the pendulum of a clock. How much longer could it survive without air? And where was that "hose" it had supposedly swallowed? With the men kneeling in a circle around the animal, all I could see was the dog's hopeful tail....

Suddenly, the sawing sound stopped...

Next, the huddle of men opened up. And, slowly, like the first few drops of rain hitting the roof of a tin shed only to gain momentum ... the hush of silence was replaced by storm of laughter. There in the spotlight stood the mutt, tail wagging vigorously now....

And what a sight! From the looks of things it was clear that it was not the dog that had swallowed the arrosoir, but the arrosoir had swallowed the dog!

Watering can The mischievous mutt had stuck its nose inside the slim-necked watering can (arrosoir!) and, once all the way in, couldn't pull its head out! Now that the rescuers had safely removed the base of the watering can (all that sawing), the dog could breathe freely, never mind the unusual "collar" around its neck, which
resembled one of those cones that veterinarians attach to prevent a dog from scratching its wounds. This "cone", being French, was rather avant-garde -- what with a handle on one side and an upside down spout on the other.

Newly adorned myself (wearing the latest French word on my tongue), I stood there, much like the dog, having broken through another baffling (language) barrier. Only, this time, the laughter was directed at the other guy.

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Share your story: What is the last French word that you misunderstood or misinterpreted? What were the circumstances? Write your answer in the comments box.

PS: the photo of the watering can is from one of Jules's (my mom) still life compositions - and not the actual watering can from today's story!

une scie (f) = saw


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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety