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

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"The day after the (grape) harvest we have sore muscles." I for one would not be surprised!

Bonne vendange!

amities de Nouvelle Zelande


This feminine noun is usually used in the plural --> des courbatures.

It is a muscular pain related to “stiffness” after a repetition of physical efforts, so, you would feel “des courbatures” dans les jambes, les bras, le dos (in your legs, your arms your back)

to be stiff
With “avoir”--> avoir des courbatures
With “être” --> use the past participle, “courbaturé” --> être courbaturé

There is an adjectif: courbatu --> les bras courbatus
avoir les bras courbatus = avoir des courbatures dans les bras.

to be stiff all over
avoir des courbatures partout = être plein de courbatures = être tout courbatu

Courbature is also related with “aching”, when run down with flu
--> avoir des courbatures, être tout courbaturé.

By the way, if you have a “stiff neck”, you don't use the word “courbatures”.
to have a stiff neck = avoir un torticoli



I think it is a great idea that you are asking us, the readers, to do some work. (Not that I have done any yet!). But I will....



Dear grape harvesters,

When typing my post about "COURBATURES", no doubt I thought about you. Ansley described so well all the "hard work to be done along the way". Hope you are coping all right with your "courbatures".
Bon courage to all of you!

Hello Kristin,
completely unknown to me. It nearly sounds like the distortion of the word "courbaturé" (if pronounced with an English accent)...
On the other hand, if it is an English word, I don't know what it means either.


Have not heard of the word, but is the proper pronunciation [kor] or [kur]? My name is LaCour and it is [kur]. Please advise

Nancy LoBalbo

This is a wonderful "twist" to your Blog. I love reading the thoughts of your "helpers".
Keep up the good work
Regards to All


Christine and Nancy: thanks for your feedback. We'll try this again next time -- so keep those dictionaries handy!

Newforest: mille mercis for the helpful examples and more. As for "corbaturer"--whoops (my mistake)!--it is a verb. Anyone like to guess what it means? I'll post the answer, unless someone beats me to it.... (hint, hint: I see the answer in the Petit Larousse dictionary)

Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener

I am not familiar with that word at all. I can't even find it in my dictionnary!

But something to do with heart (cor = heart in Latin) and with bature (an obsolete spelling of batture = breakers (the rocks in the sea). So something to do with breaking hearts?

Kristin, you really got me curious now? is that old French or very modern French (like the last 20 years?) If the latter, I would feel slightly better not knowing it as I left France 20 years ago...




I wish I had my big "Petit Larousse", but, believe me or not, it went to the wrong piles of books and ended up a few weeks ago in a charity shop. I went back there the following day ... to buy it back!... but it had already gone. Never mind, someone else is using it now.

Back to "coUrbaturer"...
As Kristin said it's a verb, everything is clearer and easier now.

donner, causer (être la cause de), provoquer des courbatures.

very much used as a "past participle".

Is it right?

Bernard Dolivet

I have never heard that word before...I try to find in the "Petit Robert", then in a dictionnary on line...This are the results:
Sorry, the word corbaturer was not found.
Le mot corbaturer n'a pas été trouvé.
May be it is an adaptation of the french Courbature by somebody speaking english...A friend of mine from England after many years living in France cannot say that word properly...He still says " korbatchure"...The sound "ou" does not exist in English words and is hard to prononce ...The other problem words for this individual were: Chirurgien et ecureuil .


Hi Bernard,
You must have missed Kristin's post telling us it was a mistake. The word is a VERB... so, must be "courbaturer" (donner, causer, provoquer des courbatures). Waiting for confirmation...

Hi Kristin,
The white flower and heart-shaped leaves among the grapes are "bindweed" (le liseron). I hope they're not doing too much harm to your wine. Les liserons have got a nasty habit, but have such charming flowers... I wonder what Monsieur Farjon would say about them.


Yep, the word is courbature. Petit Robert give us: ...lassitude extreme dans tout le corps...sensation de fatigue douloureuse (due to prolonged effort causing a weakened state. The French is self-explanatory. In English, we say we have aches and pains to generally express the same thing.

Lizzie Betts-Gosling

Hi Ansley

What a perfect description of a day's grape-picking. Thank you. Unfortunately a freak hailstorm and tornado lost us this year's harvest here in the Languedoc, so it was great to share yours via your writing.

Je vous souhaite bon continuation et bon courage.



The Concise Oxford French Dictionary has:
courbature [kurbatyr] s.f. extreme tiredness, aching in joints; (of a horse) foundering.
So that is a singular feminine noun with 2 meanings. I also find:
courbaturer [kurbatyre] v.t. to tire out
courbatu,-e [kurbaty] adj. tired out, exhausted, aching all over; (of a horse)
and also another adjective:
courbature',-e, [kurbatyre] adj. worn out
(sorry I cannot put a correct accent mark over the e', as I am back in AZ using an American keyboard)
Hope this helps with the pronounciation as well>

Visitor Info

It just mew a few seconds to realize that 'courbature; fit so well with your grape picking story. Maybe my head is experiencing a courbature too.

Cerelle Bolon

Bonjour Ansley,
Salut to you for that excellent and thoughtful article you wrote! Your descriptions and your thoughts were equally enjoyed by me vicariously..and I didn't end up with a sore back.
Perhaps in your future plans will be some ways to continue your writing.
Best wishes,

Jennifer in OR

Ansley, excellent essay, I enjoyed this so much! I can just imagine not wanting to look down that long row for fear of becoming faint of heart. What a great experience. Kristin, lovely picture of the old vine trunks and heart shaped leaves.


Ansley, beautiful writing! and good luck with your next adventures!

Kathryn Davis

After the harvest, we are stiff (or have aches & pains)

Fred Caswell

That white flower and heart-shaped leaves look much like the white morning glories that are not "...climbing round my door...) but pop up in many places and do a great job of strangling any growth nearby. They are next to uncontrollable and are never..."whispering stories I long to hear".

Since "courbaturer" is a verb ending in -er,
I quess the adjective "courbatu" is a shortened form of "courbature"; but how did it slip by those guardians of the purity of "le francais", with their uniforms and swords, let that happen? Affectueusement...

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