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Entries from September 2008


The book fair in Roussillon. All photos taken by mom (a.k.a. "Jules"). See her, and her gallery of photos, in today's edition.

attrape-tout (ah-trap-too) adjective
    : catch-all

The French word "attrape-tout" refers to a vague political plan destined to seduce the greatest number of voters. In today's story, it refers to a bookseller's plan to seduce the greatest number of potential buyers... Read on.

Audio File
: listen to today's word Download attrape-tout.wav - Download attrape-tout.mp3

At the book fair in Roussillon, it took me almost half the day to figure out how to get the French to notice my author's stand. Some sort of "attrape-tout," or prop, would be needed...

My current plan was bombing and, though the French allowed themselves to be lured over by an American-voiced command ("Pardon me! What is Your Favorite French Word?"), it was painful to watch as the Francophones struggled with their own language.

"Difficult, isn't it?" I sympathized, slyly handing over my card, which read "French Word-A-Day".

"There are just so many wonderful words in the French language to choose from, n'est-ce pas?!" With that, I talked a little about my "mot du jour" blog and, when lucky, sold a book, based on the former.

By noon, I tired of pitching the unpopular "Favorite French Word" question out to the book-fair traffic as it flowed past my stand. Then, just as enthusiasm began to wane, I had a stroke of good luck... one that coincided with lunchtime. As I sat at my display table, eating three-cheese quiche, I began to notice something unusual: traffic began to slow--and sometimes stop--right before my very eyes!

"Bon appétit!" a French couple said.
"Oh... merci," I thanked them, covering my mouth, embarrassed.

Seconds later... it happened again:
"Bon appétit!" offered the man with a salt-n-pepper ponytail.
"Merci beaucoup!" I answered, in a muffled voice.

On and on the gastronomic wishes continued...
"Bon appétit!" chirped a woman in motorcycle jacket, and I quit chewing in time to give an enthusiastic nod of thanks...

"GOOD APPETITE!" a distinguished-looking Frenchman said, with cheer.

No matter the age or the outward appearance, the French were now noticing me! For as long as that plate of food remained intact, each and every Francophone that passed my table paused in time to wish me a "Happy Meal!"

So, that's that: at the next book fair I am ditching the "Favorite French Words" ploy... and getting smart--by bringing plenty of tarts!

P.S.: Is it any wonder that the most popular "Favorite French Words" included "vin", "soleil", "amour", and "pastis"? What are your favorite French words?

PSS: don't miss over a dozen photos of the book fair.... at the blog.


Coming soon: French Milk, by Lucy Knisley
Through delightful drawings, photographs, and musings, twenty-three-year-old Lucy Knisley documents a six-week trip she and her mother took to Paris when each was facing a milestone birthday. With a quirky flat in the fifth arrondissement as their home base, they set out to explore all the city has to
offer, watching fireworks over the Eiffel Tower on New Year's Eve, visiting Oscar Wilde's grave, loafing at cafés, and, of course, drinking delicious French milk. What results is not only a sweet and savory journey through the City of Light but a moving, personal look at a mother-daughter relationship.

Why not order the book above... along with "Words in a French Life"?
"Plage Beau Soleil" Rustic Look French Clock

Un, deux, trois... French numbered dice - an original and inexpensive gift.

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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Field of poppies in Provence by Warren Plauche.

A surprise for you today: a veritable "vernissage" by artist Warren Plauche! See all twelve "oeuvres," and don't forget to vote for your favorite watercolor.

vernissage (ver-nee-sazh) noun, masculine
    : varnishing; glazing
    : private viewing (art), preview, opening (art exhibition)

Audio File
Listen to the French word vernissage and the example sentence, below: Download vernissage.wav .Download vernissage.mp3

Elle saisit une enveloppe contenant une invitation pour un vernissage rue Saint-Denis, à la galerie Aurore... She seized an envelope containing an invitation for a private view in the Rue Saint-Denis, at the Aurore Gallery... --from Short Stories in French: New Penguin Parallel Text

More books: Colors of France: A Painting Pilgrimage


Vernissage-poppy-2 Last December, I received this letter from a reader:

Madame Espinasse - I am Dr. Warren Plauche, a New Orleans obstetrician/med school teacher - retired and turned full time artist.  My brother Louis Plauche turned me onto your webpage a year ago and I am now a faithful fan.  Several of your photos have caught my artist eye - today the Le Cigalou picture prompted this e-mail.  I have pretty eclectic taste in painting subjects and paint many French cafe scenes, landscapes, houses and restaurants....

I wonder if you would be so kind as to allow me permission to render some of your photos in watercolor?...

Nine months after receiving the Ob-Gyn's letter (neuf mois* being funny coincidence, wouldn't you say?), I am happy to unveil one dozen watercolors from Dr. Plauche's collection (... make that 10, for I am the proud owner of two of these "babies"... on display here in my office in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes).

I hope you will enjoy the side-by-side painting/photo vernissage. Be sure to vote on your favorite painting (see "Poll" below), but first click here to access the cyber art gallery.

Artist Bio:
Dr. Plauche' was born in Houma, Louisiana in 1933, and was educated in medicine at LSU.  A self-trained fine arts painter for over 45 years, he began painting  in the 1960's while in Ob-Gyn specialty training at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, MS.  Early works were landscapes and seascapes in oil on canvas. (...Continue reading, here)

To inquire about one of these paintings, you may contact the artist directly.

Vote: The Painting Poll (see the twelve images in the gallery):

neuf mois = 9 months; le vernissage (m) = art exhibition

Watercolor notebook, by Moleskin
French Style Sketch Box Easel
Monet 2009 Wall Calendar
Learn French with Rosetta Stone: French Level 1, 2 & 3 Set with Audio Companion

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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***Book Fair near Bonnieux***
Please come and see me and my mom, Jules (pictured). We'll be in Roussillon (Luberon) this Sunday: she, in her colorful poncho, a just-swiped flower in her fedora... and I'll be the one who needs to loosen up a bit.

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

beau-fils (boh-feece) noun, masculine
    : son-in-law

synonym: "gendre" (more synonyms, a great soundfile... and a dictionary of terms, after the story column)

It is 7:48 a.m. on Tuesday morning, and my mom and my husband are dancing the tango. Mom's silver hair is swept back; she's laughing though she hasn't yet put her teeth in.

Tango "I'm sixty-two! I'm sixty two!" she sings as she looks into Jean-Marc's eyes.

"You know why I married your daughter, don't you?" he asks, with that melts-your-heart French accent.

"Because when she is sixty-two... she will be as beautiful as you!"

* * *
PS: I forgot to add that yesterday was Mom's birthday. We'll be celebrating all week.

"Family" dictionary:
la belle-famille = in-laws
le beau-fils (son-in-law, stepson) = gendre
la belle-fille (daughter-in-law, stepdaughter) = bru
la belle-soeur = sister-in-law
le beau-frère (brother-in-law) = beauf
la belle-mère (mother-in-law, stepmother) = marâtre
le beau-père (father-in-law, stepfather) = parâtre
les beaux-parents = step-parents
Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the lexicon, above: Download beau-fils.wav . Download beau-fils.mp3


SmartFrench Audio CDs: astep by step approach for understanding French
Wooden ABC blocks: Versatile and timeless - ABC blocks from French company, Vilac
Stone (Granite) Mortar and Pestle -- a must for French pistou!
This is a great time to discuss all those "beautiful" members of the French "belle-famille". Why do the French call their in-laws "beau" and "belle" and isn't it a lovely idea, as well?

...Belle-mère, belle-fille, beau-père, beau-fils, beau-frère, beaux-parents...

A mother-in-law is a "belle-mère"... and so is a stepmother. Do you have other examples of how these words are borrowed for other family members? Does Cinderella call her evil stepsisters "belles-soeurs" ("beautiful sisters")?

Finally, if one can refer to her beau-frère as "beauf"... just what can she call her "belle-soeur"? 

Your thoughts, anecdotes, questions, and answers are welcome here:

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!
♥ Give $10    
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Tomette tiles and old French keys at an antiques store in the town of Piolenc.

clef or clé*
(klay) noun, feminine
    : key

(from the Latin, "clavis")

*the two spellings are correct

Can you guess what the following terms & expressions mean and do you know of others to add to this list? Answer here, in the comments box.

mettre la clef sous la porte
clefs en main
clé à bougie
la clef des champs
livre à clef*
clef de fa
une clé de sol

mis sous clé
clé RIB
clef USB


* livre à clef (also: roman à clef or roman à clé)

Audio File:  listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and hear the words in the list above: Download clef.wav . Download clef.mp3

Motoring home from the brocante,* tires now crunching over our dirt driveway, I turned to my mom, who was jammed into the passenger seat. It was difficult to see her, as the "antique" that we had just brought home took up the space between us.

"I think we need a Plan B!" said me.

I was hoping Jean-Marc would be out in the vine fields, scanning for remaining grapes, post harvest. Instead, he was fixing the tractor, right there at the front gate! How, now, to tiptoe past my husband with this not-so-petit purchase?: one which amounted to no more than a few old planks of rotting wood studded with a hundred crooked clous.* Surely the Frenchman would think me mad for dragging home a board of rusty nails... even madder for having paid for it!

It was those fallen French keys that were cramping my style. Up until the last hour, that old "board" had been a unique exposition. On display (and currently off...) were over a hundred fat-toothed keys that made the wooden structure a veritable "objet d'art".

...that is, until I turned the board on its side, wrestled it into my car, and proceeded to jingle and jangle all the way home, losing, with each bend and bump in the country road, another coppery clef*. Like that, a pile of rusty keys began to collect on the floorboard below.

Keyboard The first few keys fell off in Piolenc, then another couple outside the town of Orange. In Sérignan, I swerved and, like that, two more slipped off as I avoided a curb... More keys collided and fell, there on the outskirts of Sainte Cécile... and a final bunch bounced off as we pulled into our lot.

What remained was that old "board"... and several shadows where the keys' images were burned into the wood, thanks to the sun. As I pulled the board out of the car, my hands were quickly plastered by cobwebs. I hadn't seen those... It was time now to face my practical-minded husband, time to come up with an explanation for this pathetic-looking, plastered "plank" -- and there would not be time to collect all of the fallen keys from the floorboard: Jean-Marc was approaching the car, like one of those husbands who can sniff a spousal "spenditure" from two farm fields away.

Quick, like any clever countrywoman, where tall tales are as common as wedding bells, I came up with a solution: "speed on by with a cry"...

I picked up that "plank" and peeled past my husband... pedaling my feet as fast as my mouth which pronounced: "No worries about what to get me for our quatorzième* anniversary------------------"

PS: As for what Jean-Marc's getting ... I'm working on it. Here's a hint: I'm turning one of those "tall tales" into a short story... about an old door, some rusty keys, and the secret to life-long liberty.

PSS: for the record, Jean-Marc very much likes the "keyboard".

Freedom keys
une brocante (f) = flea market
un clou (m) = nail
une clef (f) = key
quatorzième = fourteenth

When you click on the blue banner, above, and share here in this comments box, what appealed to you about FluentU's natural and fun approach to French learning, you are automatically entered in our May 2015 key drawing. Bonne chance!

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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

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Heart-shaped leaves (lower left), old vine trunks, and white flowers mingle with our grapes.

Quiet Corners of Paris

courbature (kor-bah-toor) noun, feminine
    : ache, muscular pain

You can help with this edition by adding any related terms and expressions for today's word, "courbature". Do you know another translation for "courbature"? Does one talk about "courbature" when one is ill, rundown with the flu ("J'ai des courbatures")? Ever known a Do you know the verb "courbaturer" and would someone like to define just who that is it? Answers welcome here.

Audio File
: hear Jean-Marc pronounce today's word (Download courbature.wav . Download courbature.mp3)and listen to the example sentence. Can you understand what Jean-Marc is saying? Guesses welcome in the comments box.

Vignettes from our Vendangeurs

Today's essay was written by Ansley, who joined us for the first week of the grape harvest. We missed her the second week, but she will be back this weekend, helping us gather all thirteen varieties of grapes that go into the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine at Domaine du Banneret (as you might've guessed: we'll be picking grapes at Uncle Jean-Claude & Aunt Marie-Françoise's vineyard, now that we're finished harvesting our own, here at Domaine Rouge-Bleu).

*     *     *

"Picking Grapes Along the Way" by Ansley Evans

Ansley-table At 8 am we arrive in the vines, and I pick up my bucket and clippers and get to work. I have never picked grapes before, so I ask Jean-Marc what to look for, if there is anything I should avoid.  The process through which the grapes I pick will turn to wine remains a mystery to me, and I cannot yet look at a bunch of grapes and understand its wine-making potential.  Soon enough, the good bunches become clear to me, and I clip their stems and throw them in my bucket with confidence. I pick up a rhythm, clipping two, three bunches at a time. But every now and again, I come across a thick bunch riddled with mold, and the uncertainty sets in.  I put the bunch to my nose, sniffing for vinegar, the sign, I've been told, that the grapes have gone bad. I think I smell vinegar, so I cut the bad grapes away, sometimes tossing an entire bunch, hoping I have made the right call. I continue down the row, my nose in the vines.

In the morning, the dew wets my sleeves, chills my hands. I observe this dampness, this chill, and continue filling my bucket. I float in and out of conversation, getting to know my fellow pickers gradually, our lives outside of the vines. I think how different this is from my usual job, teaching, where my mind is constantly alert and engaged in the present moment, responding to the relative unpredictability of interactions with others. As I pick, I must remain physically alert, I wouldn't want to cut off a finger, but my mind can wander. Perhaps due to the repetitive nature of the clipping, my thoughts flow in a cyclical pattern, repeating themselves without being willed to do so. This is a
moment of transition in my life, and my next step is uncertain; my mind traces many potential paths, over and over again, coming to no clear conclusion. Meanwhile, my eyes are like scanners, honing in on grapes.  I discover more efficient ways to clip and, before I know it, my bucket is filled again. I avoid looking down the row of vines, an endurance trick, the end always looks so far away. I focus on one vine at a time, knowing in the back of my mind that there is an end in sight.

Ansley-clipping By afternoon, the dew is gone, and the sun heats my skin. I begin to sweat and notice the fatigue of repetitive actions, squatting and standing, bending and straightening, grabbing and clipping. The filled bucket feels heavier and heavier as the afternoon wears on.  Nonetheless, I pick more confidently, with less doubt, less hesitation. By late afternoon, as quitting time nears, the conversation turns to beer, and my mouth waters. We will stop for the day once we reach the end of our rows, a concrete goal achieved, and will begin where we left off the following morning.

Eventually, the grapes I picked will become wine, and some of them, already pressed and in tanks, have begun to ferment. My labor was one part of this cycle, a deliberate action to begin this natural process that has been appreciated by humans for centuries. I, a student of literature, am tempted to
see all of this work as series of metaphors: to set distant goals, to not be overwhelmed by ambitious projects, to focus on one step at a time. But my aching knees, nicked fingers and sunburned neck remind me that even such metaphors do not make life simple and easy. There is often hard work to be done along the way.

 Ansley-cecile Ansley Evans, from Portland, OR, just finished a two-year stint teaching English at the University of Avignon, in the heart of the Cotes du Rhone region. During this time, she had the chance to explore a number of villages and cellars in this wine-making region, which inspired her to get her hands dirty in the vines.

Comment on today's post, or contact Ansley directly, via email: ansleyevans AT (replace AT with @)

Joining Ansley in this last photo: my sister-in-law, Cécile (left) and Ross.

My French Coach by Nintendo.
Fleur De Sel De Camargue French Sea Salt
Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language

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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.


Braise and John, harvesting the grenache. Read John's letter to his grandson, Vincent, in today's story column, below.

~~~Cara Black will be at the Red Wheelbarrow Bookstore in Paris!~~~
If you are in Paris on September 25th, don't miss this author. Cara will be reading from her latest book, "Murder on Rue Paradis". Further details at the RW Books blog (

la gamme (gam) noun, feminine
    : range; variety, gamut

And this note from Dan: "Gamme" can also be used in music for "scale". (For example: "Travaillons la gamme de Sol", "Let's practice the G scale").

Audio File:
Hear my daughter, Jackie, read this example sentence. La gamme... Le paysage provençal... ses raisins, ses tournesols, ses champignons, ses cerises... toute la gamme de couleur couleurs. Download gamme.wav. Download gamme.mp3

Would someone like to translate the sentence? Thank you for adding your interpretation to the comments box!

Journal, sketch and keep notes in Francophile style with Moleskine: check out the Paris Notebook

Terms & Expressions:

  toute la gamme = the whole range
  haut de gamme = high end, luxury (product)
  bas de gamme = lower end (of product line)

Vignettes from our Vendangeurs*...

John-writing The following is a letter from one of our voluntary harvesters, John Boruff. He wrote it to Vincent, his two-year-old grandson back in South Bend, Indiana. I hope you will enjoy it and will share it with a "little someone" that you know. John writes:

Dear Vincent,

There are many colors to see here in the Côtes du Rhone while picking grapes during the wine harvest.

The leaves on the grape vines range from pastel to deep 
vert.* Hiding among the leaves on the vines are clusters of violet* grapes waiting to be picked. With black gloved hands, using rouge* and jaune* clippers, I snip the grapes from the vine. The harvested grapes are then put into a black bucket to be carried and emptied into a red and gris* tub or a big orange trailer. The full tubs of grapes are carried to a little white truck with a yellow top. The tubs are lined up on the flat bed of the truck to be returned to the farm. If the v-shaped trailer is used, the trailer is pulled by an orange tractor with a black cab with a gray cap enclosed in glass. The v-shaped trailer has an auger in the bottom used to empty the grapes from the trailer.

Once the grapes arrive at the farm, it is time to crush the purple fruit to make the juice that goes into the white vats used to make the red, blanc,* or rosé* wine. Vincent, you would have fun checking out the chrome knobs on the front of these vats.

Tuyau The grapes from the field are pumped from the big orange wagon through a long red hose into a chrome drum which rotates within an orange frame. The wine juice drips from the rotating drum into a long orange metal pan. Another red hose is used to pump the juice into the vat to begin the wine fermentation.

Vincent, there is another process to de-stem the grapes before pressing. I will tell you about that when I return home in just a few days. By the way, the rainbow-colored wine harvest is being watched over by a golden retriever dog named "Braise".*


Comments welcome here and mille mercis to John for sharing his letter to Vincent!

In children's books & music:
  The Grapes Grow Sweet: A Child's First Family Grape Harvest
 In music: Songs in French for Children

le vendangeur
(la vendangeuse) = grape harvester; le vert (m) = green; le violet (m) = purple; le rouge (m) = red; le jaune (m) = yellow; le gris (m) = gray (grey); le blanc (m) = white; le rosé (m) = rosé wine; la braise (f) = embers

SmartFrench Audio CDs: a step by step approach for understanding French

The Roads to Santiago: The Medieval Pilgrim Routes Through France and Spain to Santiago de Compostela. According to legend, St. James the Apostle preached throughout the Iberian peninsula. His bones found their way to the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela and today many pilgrims make trips to the shrine. This fully illustrated book covers all the routes to this holy place from Paris and
Spain. Providing readers with historical context for the routes, it showcases all the stunning monuments and magnificent landscapes along the way.

Words in a French Life: Lesson in Love and Language

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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.


Our tractor's girophare (upper left) and Braise-the-Dog (lower right, hidden). Click on image.

Today's word is "girophare", though "friggin' girophare" would be more correct, or simply "frigging" (which fits the mood of our story better and which is, you all might agree, a much more common and useful word (never mind the English) than "girophare"). Hélas, as this Gallic gazette is used in classrooms, we'd best stick to "girophare" as our French Word of the Day. So here goes:

girophare (zhee-roh-far) noun, masculine
    : revolving light

Audio File
Listen to today's word (here Download girophare.mp3  or here Download girophare.wav ) and hear an example sentence. Can you understand what Jean-Marc is saying? Add your interpretation to the comments box.

... and lest you still think "girophare" is a useless word, my sister-in-law, Cécile, who is seated beside me wearing a T-shirt that reads "No Brain No Pain" argues--having passed her French driver's license three times: one for her car, one for her motorcycle and one for her poids lourds*--that girophare is a
useful term--if only to know for which emergency vehicle to yield to (the ones with the blue girophares, is it)?

* le poids lourd = tractor-trailer

Yesterday, day seven of the wine harvest, we trucked out to the garrigue to pick the grenache and carignan grapes. The Mistral was out and whipping through the vines which, in turn, would whack us with their dry, leafy arms as we advanced through the muddy vine rows. But today, the "harvest hazards" were far beyond that of a few scratchy, face-slapping vines, far greater than a few scraped and swelling shins and a bad back....

As we approached the vine rows, we saw them: les chasseurs! We stood frozen, exaggerating the fear on our faces, in hopes of communicating our message to the "meat harvesters". One of them, a rifle slung over his shoulder, approached.

"We are harvesting today," my brother-in-law, Jacques, pointed out. The hunter simply nodded, and I didn't see his convincing eyes as my own were glued to that gun.

"Ça fait peur, non?" I questioned, not knowing how else to communicate my angoisse to the hunter. The latter walked on and, like that, buckets slung over our own shoulders, we took our posts: one petrified picker per vine row.

Soon, we blended so well into the leafy vines that, except for a bright yellow casquette here, and a red hood there, you hardly noticed us but for the trembling vine leaves that gave us away: as harvesters... or as javelinas?

My sister-in-law and her friends, Jack and Aurélie, quickly advanced to The Front Lines, closest to the shots which ricocheted through the valley. As for me, I was lagging, the last of the pickers... until I realized that the man with the rifle was behind even me.... I have never picked grapes so fast and,
lickety-split, I'd emptied five vines of their fruit in time to find myself back "in the safety of numbers".

POP-POP-POP! Bang, bang, bang! The shooting recommenced, never mind the assurances of the voiceless hunter.

"What are they hunting?" Erin asked, and I noticed her calm demeanor.
"Sanglier?" I offered, remembering the apple enticements that my neighbor had distributed throughout his own parcel of vines... just one field over!

"Perdreaux," Jean-Marc guessed. Ouf! Perdreux seemed like a safer bet to me, for you had to shoot toward the sky for birds, didn't you? ... and not into a field of camouflaged pickers!

Stepping over the shell of an expended cartouche, I felt a chill rush up my
spine and I could no longer contain Anxiety. "I HATE THIS!"  I shouted.

"Will you stop!" Jean-Marc's slapping remark felt like a bucket of cold water to the face.
"I can't help it!" I replied, still smarting from his remark, and remembering one too many stories about a women being mistaken for a wild boar. This, coupled with those poachers... and their penchant for pastis.... did little to reassure.

"The hunters are out in the forest," Jean-Marc explained, changing his tone and trying to be reassuring. "It just SOUNDS like they are closer," he said, tossing another grappe into a bucket.

It was no time to argue about there not being a forest in the environs... just fields and fields of grapes... and so I let the other harvesters comfort me.

"You are more likely to get cut with pruning shears than shot by a hunter," Aurélie assured, and I looked down at my hands to the various cuts collected over the course of the harvesting week, unsure about Aurélie's statistics and just where we stood with them now. Wasn't it about time to get shot?

Bang, Bang, Bang! POP-POP-POP!

On this latest round of gunfire I noticed how Jean-Marc casually climbed into the tractor and switched on the flashing girophare located on the roof of the tractor cab.

"A little concerned, are you now?!" I barked at my husband.
"I just turned on the girophare to reassure you!" he protested.
"And to signal to THEM that there's more than feathers behind these friggin' vines -- n'est-ce pas? Eh ben--c'est VACHEMENT RASSURANT!"*

*** END***

Jacques-kristi (photo, with Jacques. I'm the one wearing a pained-petrified look).

A note to Martha and Judy (wives of Charles and John) and to Erin and Ross's parents: No worries! The hunters are gone today (and for the rest of the harvest); only the mean Mistral to contend with from here on out.

Post note: we finished harvesting that parcel of grapes in record time -- so fast that Jean-Marc announced that the harvest would end two days sooner than expected. Calculate for yourself just how those meat harvesters figured into THAT equation.

(It's late now, and I've got to go and get the kids from school... then catch up on the housework. Would you all like to pitch in and help put together a Reference section for today's column? Please add the asterisked terms & expressions to the comments section* and merci beaucoup/much obliged!)
*Please do not email the translations, but use this link (to the comments box) to submit a translation. Corrections always welcome!

Fascinating France Trivia Card Game boxed set
Don't Pardon My French ~ French Language Trivia Card Game boxed set
Atlas Pocket Classics: France: (Travels with a Donkey, Gleanings in France, A Motor-flight through France)

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se grouiller

Laundry, motorcycle, burrs... read on in today's column!

se grouiller (seuh-grooyay) verb
    : to get a move on

[the verb "grouiller" means "to mill about")

New, in books: "The Black Tower" by Louis Bayard :

  grouille-toi = buck up!

Yesterday, after dropping off the kids at school, I headed out to the field of Grenache grapes: to those torturous low-lying vines "en gobelet"*--as opposed to the easier-to-pick trellised type.

"Bonjour tout le monde." Hello, I sang, snatching a pair of sécateurs* out of my mom's hand and stealing her bucket. I was letting Jules off the hook, after she'd made her ceremonial appearance in the field. Not two mock-complaints later, and Mom quickly disappeared to the comfort of the house, to prepare the mid-morning snack.

Looking around the field, I saw the bright faces of our voluntary crew... and noticed how they didn't appear too pained. That's when it dawned on me: as the vigneron's* wife, it was my job to look at least as enthusiastic as they--never mind the inconveniences...

Hunched Early morning and the grape fields were wet with dew--right up to one's armpits! Where there's wet, there's crawly and, like that, the insects pecked at and pestered us as we worked, hunched over those goblet vines, parting the maze of sticky branches in search of grapes.

"Are those gnats?"... I ask, swatting at my forehead where the bugs are trekking across the sweaty surface on their way up... and into!... my casquette.*
"I don't know..." Ansley answers. "...but they don't bite," she adds, encouragingly, and I notice how she doesn't complain....

In between the rows of vines, the weeds are so high that they poke you in the eyes when they're not scratching every square inch of skin. Itchy, scraped, and swelling skin... I realize that I am the only one with bare legs. Everyone else, no matter how new to harvesting, was smart enough to wear long pants!

"Weeds!" I mumble, scratching at my calves. That's when I notice how my socks are STUDDED with stickers.
"I prefer weeds to chemicals any day," Erin states, managing a cheer for organic farming.

Harrumph. She's not complaining either.

Aha! Just then, I catch Ross holding his aching back. Perhaps he'll join in my pity party after all? Then again, chances are he'll blame the pain on Mount Ventoux--a cycling feat he managed in between the Syrah and Grenache parcels (during off hours, between harvesting days).

Grape-truck  By four p.m. those horseweeds--and all the cotton-like fibers they let off each time you knock into them--are causing a ripple of sneezing throughout the grape fields. Running noses and scratchy eyes add to the list I am mentally writing titled "Harvest hazards".  I notice John-From-Indiana is as allergic as I am, but I don't dare ask him to commiserate with me.... or else he's likely to start singing that chorus again, ever one to see the bright side:

Over hill, over dale
As we hit the dusty trail,
And the caissons go rolling along.

... and then... there's Charles! Charles who underwent quadruple bypass surgery before arriving to last year's Hell On Earth Harvest. He is back this year, a chirping and a cracking--cracking jokes, that is, and not his back, for even if the latter were true he certainly wouldn't complain.

Lunch Grape harvesting, for a bénévole,* would normally be an "all pain no gain" undertaking. Then again, depends on how you see things... and those "positive pickers" have a vision of their own. As for me, I'm just a feeble farmer's wife who'd best quit bawling... and buck up!



en gobelet = goblet shaped; le sécateur (m) = pruning shears; le vigneron (m) = wine farmer; la casquette (f) = (baseball) cap, hat; le (la) bénévole = volunteer

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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Fall is around the corner and the grapes are landing in the baskets. Day three of la vendange.

Grape harvest update:
eight more helping hands have arrived, two of which belong to my mom... stay tuned.

(koov) noun, feminine
    : vat
    : tank, mash tun; cistern

Hear today's word and this example sentence: une cuve. On met les raisins dans la cuve.
Download cuve.wav. Download cuve.mp3

Cuve  Photo (click to enlarge): Well Wishers leave their signature on the cement cuves in our cellar.

*     *     *

This is as good a time as any to begin a "Questions" section. Dorénavant,* I, or my family, will try to answer the occasional question. This week, a few of these types of inquiries arrived via the comments and inbox:

"Kristin, forgive the ignorance of this question. Is it normal to bottle last year's harvest just in time to clear the space for the current year's grapes?"

Thanks, Mike, for your question, which is in response to the chiffon post:

"Yesterday, beneath a pouring Provencal sky, we bottled our 2007 Mistral: all 10,300 examples of it (and just in time to clear the cellar for next week's incoming grapes!). "

5405  Here is Jean-Marc's answer in French (and English):

"C'est pas que c'est normal, c'est que le vin était prêt à être mis en bouteille et qu'il fallait libérer quelques cuves pour recevoir la nouvelle vendange."

It isn't that it's not normal, it's just that the wine was ready to be bottled and it was necessary to free up a few of the tanks in order to receive the new harvest.

Pile ou Face
One question down and one to go... this one, from Diane, and it is your turn, dear reader, to answer:

I heard this French phrase, "pile ou face," recently in a movie (A Good Year with Russel Crowe).  I looked up each individual word and was a bit confused.  Am I wrong or is "face" the word "heads" in English and is "pile" the reverse side or "tails" ?  So are the French literally saying " to play tails or heads"?  Or, am I wrong and pile does mean heads?  Just a semantic question nevertheless, but I would like to know the answer if possible. 

Answers to the above question, and comments on today's post, are welcome. Please use the comments box and thanks in advance.

dorénavant = from now on

Erinp  Partial harvester profile (photo, left): this is Erin (Australia). She studies wine science and knows how to measure the sugar content in a grape. She's funny, wears cool t-shirts, and got over it quickly when her computer was stolen (not two weeks ago, out of her hotel room). Rolling up her sleeves--and using Jean-Marc's PC--she re-typed her entire term paper--from memory!!!--and turned it in on time to begin the harvest with us. She'll turn 24 tomorrow. Please wish her a joyeux anniversaire! PS: I know, she's beautiful. But she's also taken. More about him in a future harvester profile.

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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Fruit & cheese garde-mangers for sale on a sidewalk in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. I wonder if they make a mini version for the furry hero in today's story... read on in today's column.

Harvest update: two more harvesters arrived over the weekend: John (retired, from Indiana) and Ansley (living in Avignon; from Portland). They are staying with Erin (Australia), Ross (California via Washington State), and Charles (Rouge-Bleu investor from Florida) in a local gîte that Jean-Marc reserved for them. Ansley ended up with the couch and John will bunk with Charles (who snores worse than I do). Erin and Ross are sharing the second room. 

Harvesters  I knew I liked John when, asked about Charles's snoring, he replied, "It was no problem. Once I identified the source, I adjusted to it."
"I hear it sounds like a train," I said, of Charles's snoring.
"No," John replied, thoughtfully.  "Kind of like a cicada."

(Click on photo: left to right: Ansley, John (visiting), Marcy (visiting), Charles, Kristin, Jean-Marc, John, Ross, Erin)

Today's word:

garde-manger  (gard-mahn-zhay) noun, masculine

    : cooler; pantry, larder

In books:
The Professional Garde Manger: A Guide to the Art of the Buffet by David Paul Larousse
Garde Manger
, The Art and Craft of the Cold Kitchen by The Culinary Institute of America

Audio File:

Listen to the French word garde-manger and this example sentence: "Remets-le dans le garde-manger." (Put it back in the pantry) Download garde-manger.wav.Download garde-manger.mp3


I was chatting on the phone with my mother-in-law, thanking her for another three mustard jars full of homemade tapenade (enough to feed an army the harvesters) when I noticed the sketchy aller-retours of a kitchen mouse.

A perfect fur ball with legs that spun like an electric fan in summertime, the petite souris made several back-n-forth sprints from an opening near the baseboard... all the way over to the cat food bowl—three failed attempts before, BINGO!, the little mouse landed in the bowl, plucked up a cat croquette and, with a blur of revolving legs and a panic-stricken face, peeled out of that pit so fast the remaining croquettes hardly had time to settle before the mouse-voleur had disappeared behind the fridge.

"Good thing Coco (the cat) is passed out on the couch," I exclaimed, rooting for the cute rodent.
"What's that?" my mother-in-law asked, lost at the other end of the telephone line.

I might've further shared my thoughts, musing "When the cat's away the mice do play!" Instead, I thanked my mother-in-law for the tapenade.

Comment on today's post or share your own vignette, here:

Ross  aller-retour = comings and goings; la souris (f) = mouse; voleur (voleuse) = thief

(photo, left: the volonteer-harvesters brought roses... how nice is that?)

Rosetta Stone V3: French, Level 1
Zip around in this Miniature Euro Electric Scooter
Doudou la Souris : soft toy for baby
In French magazines: Art & Decoration: Printed in French, Art et Decoration, is filled with ideas and how-to information for decorating all areas of the home and garden, including dinner table displays, flower arrangements, arts and crafts, and French interior design tips for all rooms of the house.

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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♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.