se grouiller


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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Kristin-What's the French equivalent of "fuss-budget"?


"Ça fait peur, non?"*THAT'S SCARY ISN'T IT??
une casquette* - BASEBALL CAP
l'angoisse* - ANGUISH
un sanglier* - WILD BOAR


J'aurais été effrayée aussi, moi !

Ça fait peur, non ? That's frightening, isn't it?

la casquette - baseball cap

l'angoisse (f) - anxiety

le sanglier - wild boar

le perdreau- young partridge

le pastis - licorice-flavored alcoholic drink you mix with water to make a cloudy-looking aperitif

la grappe - bunch of fruit


le perdreau* - young partridge
la perdrix - partridge
la grappe* (de raisin) - bunch of grapes
Ouf!* - Phew!
le pastis* - aniseed flavored alcoholic drink
vachement rassurant* - damned reassuring!


Jean-Marc is saying, "I'm going to turn on the revolving light."

Diane Heinecke

Fuss-budget = Scaredy-cat = [langage enfantin]"une poule mouillée

Cerelle Bolon

I thought you and your readers might be interested in this reference to fussbudget (one word) I found on this blog

A blog about the English language.
Thursday, July 10, 2008

A listener asked about the word fussbudget. She speculated that it might refer to a person fussing over a budget, endlessly trying to balance a checkbook, for instance.

Fuss refers to bustling and needless concern about something essentially trivial. The Oxford English Dictionary thinks that the origin was the imitation of the sound of sputtering.

Budget in the sense of a systematic financial plan is one of the latest in a string of meanings that derive from the French bougette, a little leather bag. I wrote about this in my January 24, 2007, blog titled Balancing the Budget.

But an even earlier meaning assigned to the word budget was “a collection of things.” It referred to the varied contents that might be found in a purse or a travel pouch. So if you picture someone fussing around in a purse or leather bag and pawing among keys, coins, antacid rolls, lipstick, and whatever else, you see the probable origin of fussbudget.


la garrigue
French name for scrubland in the South of France.

Ça fait peur, non?
Its's frightening, isn't it?

l'angoisse (feminine)
anxiety, fear

une casquette
a cap

un sanglier
a wild boar

un perdreau,(plural, perdreaux)
a young partridge


le pastis
Pastis is an anise-flavored liqueur from France containing 40-45% alcohol. It must be diluted with water before drinking. The drink is a refreshment for hot days.
Pastis is consumed throughout France, especially in the summer, but it is generally associated with South-eastern France, specially with the city of Marseille.

une grappe (de raisins)= a bunch (of grapes)
une grappe (de groseilles) = a bunch of redcurrants

un girophare
rotating roof beacon used as a warning device

C'est vachement rassurant!
It's really (quite) reassuring!


This looks like hard, exhausting and time consuming labor! However, I am sure the benefits are worth it!
I have been very inspired by your "stories from the vine". Each season my fashion and style are encouraged by something that excites me in nature... this fall I will be looking to the vineyard. Gorgeous colors, textures, play on light and beautiful fresh touches. Merci pour votre inspiration!


"Well isn't that friggin' reassuring!"


Thank you so much for your wonderful stories of your daily life. I seem to feel the mistral and the scratch of the vines, and the smell of soil and grapes as I follow your adventures online, returning me back to France for a few moments. I love your humor and joy in sharing your trials and triumphs in your new French country home.


Je vais allumer le girophare.

Perfectly clear.


I would have said, "I see the beacon shining (or illuminating)". That's with out using a dictionary, just going off my Spanish gut (as opposed to my American gut).


So, though I'm fairly fluent, what exactly is Pastis?


Hello Alysa,

The answer to your question on Le Pastis (pronounce ..."tiss")is given a few posts above yours.
All the very best!

Chris  and George Christian

French drivers license : driver's license
garrigue: limestone soil scrubland
chasseurs: hunters
ça fait peur, non? : scary, "ain't" it?
angoisse: distress
perdreaux: young partridge
ouf!: whew
perdreux: --misspelling
pastis: anise flavored alcoholic beverage,
usually a preprandial drink ["apéro"]
grappe: bunch

Chris  and George Christian

Lsft out of previous comment:
Eh ben: oh, well
vachement rassurant: how comforting, reassuring
girophare: flashing light

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