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Entries from September 2008


The mobile-bottling machine and one man with a lot on his mind... and the day hasn't even begun yet. Read on, in today's story. 

chiffon (she-fown) noun, masculine
    : rag, duster, dust cloth

Check out the French Country Diary 2009 (desk diary & calendar)

Listen to my daughter, Jackie, pronounce today's word and this expression "donner un coup de chiffon": Download chiffon.wav .Download chiffon.mp3

Terms & Expressions:

  vieux chiffons = old rags
  parler chiffons = to talk about fashion
  un chiffon de papier = a scrap of paper

... and this expression (and example, in today's story): donner un coup de chiffon = to give something a polish / touch up with a cloth

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!). If the bottling process took only seven hours, this was thanks to an international influx of helping hands. From the east and west
coasts of the States, and as far away as Australia, aid arrived, strong, smiling and a bit sopping wet...

Flanked by a row of flowering rosemary and a field of rapidly ripening rasins*--a thundering sky on the horizon--we worked the day away. Some of us were stationed inside the mobile bottling truck, where the bottles made their way down the conveyor belt and into the cartons--others were posted outside,
offering up empty cartons or "catching" the full ones as they slid down the chain-bottomed slide.

"Eh merde!" Jean-Marc complained, when the truck lost power after yet another celestial grumble from above. We stared at the bottles, now frozen in place, inside the machine. Well, at least it isn't raining!, I thought, at which point the sky responded with a cantankerous CLAP and, like that, down poured the pluie.*

Michelle When the lights returned, the bottles followed suit--spitting out from the truck's entrails in time for us to collect and pack them. I worked side-by-side with Michelle, who had flown in from Paris, via San Francisco. Erin, from Australia, was our supplier: it was her job to build the boxes, insert the
intercalaire,* and hand us the prepared boxes in time to fill them.

As the rain poured down, droplets began hitting the bottles on the conveyor belt, the rain having made its way into the truck with the help of the wind. I watched as Michelle flew into action: drying each and every bottle with the tail-end of her T-shirt! Taking her example, I cradled the newly-labeled bottles into my own T-shirt, in time to give them a good patting dry and, like that, after a quick coup de chiffon* the bottles were laid to bed in cozy, dry cartons... having been tended to like well-fed babies, caressed, and even blessed, by the baptismal pluie de Provence. Braise-bottling

Photos of our équipe*:  Charles (Florida) photo to the right, Ross (Washington State) ... whoops, can't find the photo of Ross..., Erin (Australia) above photo (on left), Michelle (California) above photo (on right).... More pictures as the grape harvest gets underway.... And, yep, that's Braise-the-Dog in the photo to the right... ever hard at work on her siesta, as the world whirls round her.

Talk about today's word or story or share a vignette of your own, here:

le mistral (m) = a) violent northern wind b) Mistral 2007 = one of our Domaine Rouge-Bleu wines--find them here.
le raisin (m) = grape; la pluie (f) = rain; un intercalaire (m) = divider; le chiffon = une équipe (f) = team

In French music: Accoustic France:
Experience the romance and charm of Paris and the French countryside with Acoustic France, a CD collection featuring contemporary chanson and acoustic pop by established stars and up-and-coming artists from today's thriving French music scene.

(Art Poster) L'Art de la Mode: Chic French Frocks in Satin Cloth and Chiffon Taffeta


Travel accessories: Adaptor Plug Kit - Handy kit helps you plug U.S. electrical appliances into most foreign outlets. 4 coded adaptor plugs with easy reference chart correspond to most countries worldwide: Europe, U.K., Australia, N.& S. America.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
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The writing on the wall reads "à la cholle". Don't ask me what that means as I have no idea. Perhaps someone from Brittany (where the photo was taken) will know?

Ahhh. Looks like such a calm, placid scene (above), but just behind it, there is a flurry-blurry of activity. And while it looks as if we are in Brittany, we are not! Today, we bottle more of the wine! Here follows a shortened edition where I leave you to do the work (via your stories. Read on...)

banc (bahnk) noun, masculine
    : bench

Do you--or does the person sitting next to you...know the word for banc in another language? Thanks for sharing the translation, here.

Hear my daughter, Jackie, pronounce today's word and this example:
"Banc. Assieds-toi sur ce banc."
Download banc.mp3 . Download banc.wav

L'amour est une botte de radis achetée à Tarascon et croquée sur un banc avec du gros sel. Love is a bunch of radishes, bought in Tarascon, and munched with salt while sitting on a bench.
-- Frédéric Beigbeder

Getting to know each other...
Like I said, the comments box is a new feature and a great way to share and, you know, se connaître. So here's today's question:

Where is your favorite place to sit? In a park, in front of a fireplace, on a bench in the city while watching the world file by? In an airport? Under a tree? In a train?

Do you slouch when you sit? ... or do you remind yourself to sit up straight? Have you got one of those good, ergonomic ($$$) chairs? ... or can you sit on any ol' thing as long as your kid brother hasn't scattered tacks across the surface? Thanks for your partage in the comments box, below.

Vogue (French Edition) magazine subscription
L'Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream
Mille Bornes: the classic French auto race game.
French music: Georges Brassen's Les Amoureux des Bancs Publics

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
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The Plant Whisperer. Read on in today's story.

amour-en-cage (uh-moor-ahn-kazh) noun, masculine

    : ornamental plant*, of American origin

[literal translation: "love in a cage"]

*a.k.a.: physalis or "cape gooseberry Chinese Lantern"

Listen to today's word: amour-en-cage: Download amour-en-cage.wav. Download amour-en-cage.mp3

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

I told you about the Ban des Vendanges: that official proclamation issued by a modern-day "lord" inciting the town to "Let the harvest begin!" But, you may ask, just who, exactly, determines the grape's ripeness? Whose job is it to say whether a grape is ripe-ready for picking?

This year that honor went to none other than Monsieur Farjon, one of the oldest winegrowers in our town, according to our local paper. You may remember him as the "Herbal Don Juan" or "Plant Whisperer," who has taken to spending Tuesday mornings chez moi, sharing with me his passion for the plants of Provence.

Yesterday, while Monsieur and I studied sumac,* physalis,* and "l'olivier du bohème"* at the picnic table, Jean-Marc passed by, on his way to the cave.* As usual, Farjon felt the need to explain his presence:

"Ah... Bonjour Monsieur Espinasse..." he began. "Well, it is me again. Nothing to worry about," he assured my husband, who chuckled in response:
"Salut Monsieur Farjon. Je ne m'inquiète pas! I'm not worried."

I hope Jean-Marc's response didn't cramp Monsieur's style. Apparently, my husband doesn't sense any threat. Then again, my guest, seated there beside me, may have just been gracefully let off the hook... After all, what would you do if a man brought your wife a bouquet of "amour-en-cage"? I'd say my husband handled the situation with délicatesse*.

After my botanical lesson, we shared a tray of vine peaches, Basque cheese, and a hearty slice of homemade chocolate cake--this, washed down by a glass of Innocent Absinthe (anise-flavored iced tea). Finally, I escorted Monsieur to the front gate. Arriving at the stairs, I discreetly offered my arm (never certain whether Monsieur might need assistance).

As I thanked him for the decorative bouquet, including a generous amount of that lovely variety called "amour-en-cage," Monsieur interrupted me.

"He is not jealous, your husband?"
"Oh... uh. No. Not to worry."

As soon as I'd said it, I regretted my words. Was that "disappointment" written across Monsieur's face? Without missing a beat, I added, "I mean... you know....just a little bit jealous...."

Monsieur's face lit up and I noticed the grayish tone to his skin turning a pale pink, like those vine-ripe peaches he'd brought me.

Well, I reasoned, helping Monsieur down the rest of the stairs, he may be forty years older than I, but why shouldn't my husband be jealous? After all, there I stood: amour-en-cage in one arm, my herbal Don Juan on the other.

Note: click on photos to enlarge.

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Tell us about something beautiful to your beholding eyes: an authentic friendship? Pre-war penmanship? A second-hand scarf? Silence? Share your story in the comments box.

Not up to talking about beauty? How about helping to translate today's word into another language? What's the word for "love-in-a-cage" in Spanish? Russian? Swedish? German?

More "Lessons in Love and Language" in the book: "Words in a French Life"

le sumac (m) = tree that grows in warm regions; le physalis = "love in a cage" a.k.a.: cape gooseberry Chinese Lantern (plant); l'olivier du bohème = bohemian olive tree; la cave (f) = wine cellar; la délicatesse (f) = tact (sensitiveness)

Pronounce It Perfectly in French: with exercises in sound discrimination and accurate sound creation
Chocolat: Music from the Miramax Motion Picture
Chinese lantern Plant some Love in a Cage, or Physalis, in your garden. Order a packet of seeds here and help support this free language journal. Click here.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice


...antique coffee grinder, lampshade, cross, tennis ball, ruler, picture frame, chain thingy... hmmm... what to choose for today's word? Sometimes the answer is staring you right in the face, in big, bold BLUE:

pichet (pee-shay) noun, masculine
    : pitcher, jug

(From old French "pichier")

un pichet de vin = a carafe of win

Audio File:
Listen to today's word and expression: Download pichet.wav . Download pichet.mp3

Getting To Know Each Other

Though French Word-A-Day began in October of 2002, comments weren't "enabled" until last month. Since, I have  been kicking myself in the side for not enabling sooner! In addition to the translations that are coming in from all four corners of the world, it is a pleasure to read your stories, via the comments box, and to share them, finally, with other readers.

Because I find it difficult (daunting?) to comment on other people's blogs (my inner critique tells me: You never have anything cool or witty to say and, besides, the words just don't come out right, or Just what is your motivation for commenting, anyway?)... Like I said, because I get all weird about cold feet commenting--and because maybe I'm not the only one--I have taken to adding questions to the end of these word-a-day posts. This way, if you don't feel like commenting on the post itself... then you might be inspired to answer one of the questions or to translate the word of the day... or to add your own language savoir-faire.

So here are some questions for you today (in theme, and not, with today's word): What do you put in your pichet? Wine, water, lemonade... flowers, spare change... les poissons rouges? Is your jug made of glass, porcelain, plastic, earthenware, copper, silver... stainless steel? Modern or antique? Is it dishwasher safe or do you carefully handwash it after each use?  Have you ever had to glue it back together? Who gave it to you and/or where does it come from?

Bon. Not up to talking about your jugs, er, pitchers? How about this: Do you know the word for pichet in another language? Do you know any expressions that go along with today's word?

Comments (and corrections...) welcome in English, French, or Franglais.


Stoneware pitcher Stoneware pitcher by Creuset
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Read books, newspapers (Le Monde), magazines, blogs and more - on a Kindle!
Michel Thomas Speak French For Beginners: 10-CD Beginner's Program
In French music: French Playground, a musical rendez-vous & songs that will delight children of all ages.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice


Provençale parade in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes. More in today's story, below.

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ban (bohn bahn*) noun, masculine
    1. official notice, proclamation
    2. (round of) applause

*Hear today's word and this expression "ban de vendanges" (defined in today's story): Download ban.wav .Download ban.mp3

PS: another word goes out tomorrow. Don't miss it: sign up for a word widget or get the RSS feed!

(Note: click on any of the photos in this post to enlarge the image)

Can you believe it has already been one year since our first grape harvest? Last week we began gearing up for the coming vendange* by rinsing out buckets, fixing the remorque,* and making way for the soon-to-be-arriving grapes....

Picking season is in the air and, just yesterday, our town received the official "ban," or proclamation to "Go Ahead and Get Your Grapes!" Not that any of the farmers will begin harvesting this week (you might say the grapes aren't quite "there yet").

But back to the "ban" as in "Ban des Vendanges" which dates back to the Middle Ages, when seigneurs, or lords, ruled the land. One of the seigneur's duties was to decide when the harvesting would begin, before issuing a public proclamation known as the "Ban des Vendanges". The "ban" itself was a notice
posted in the town's center for all to see and adhere to.

While any official rules regarding when to begin harvesting have since disappeared (along with those seigneurs...), the tradition recently returned to our area and, judging by yesterday's festivities, I wonder if it all isn't just an excuse... TO PARTY HARDY!

Grappe  For this year's Ban, the streets of Sainte-Cécile-Les-Vignes came alive with music and dancing as those dressed in traditional Provençal attire marched through the village. The women, in jewel-toned quilted skirts and lace-trimmed bonnets, and the men, in their satin-trimmed vests and straw hats, led the way to the Great Grape: a representative selection of local raisins*. "La grappe" was then ceremonially carried to the Town Hall by four local vignerons* who followed in the steps of the carillonneur.* Carillon

Once the Provençal procession arrived at the town center, a modern day "Lord" (our mayor, Max Ivan) and company spoke--in French, and in Provençale. My favorite part was the reading of the famous proclamation. Normally, the task of announcing the Ban des Vendanges is given to the youngest vigneron. This year, the locals gave that honor to the newest winemaker....

I found myself climbing up (and into...) a local planter. Next, I tip-toed over the begonias for a better view of my husband, who stood center stage. I noticed how the sun shone right into Jean-Marc's face, blinding him from the crowd. He looked so handsome in just a T-shirt and slacks.

Ban  On closer look, I noticed how his right leg trembled. True, he had made it through one shaky year: his first as a farmer and winemaker. Any remaining jitters could be chalked up to aftershock and, like those ceremonial grapes, one great bunch of emotion.

So shake, baby, shake. To an outsider, those unsteady legs are the tremblings of fear; the rest of us recognize gratitude behind the tremor's veneer.

Watch Jean-Marc read the famous Ban des Vendanges (see video at the end of this post):
Comment on this post or answer this question: When is the last time your positive emotions got the best of you? Thanks for sharing, here.

Hands-held  PS: That's Jean-Marc, who got carried off with the medieval maidens sometime after his speech. Click on this, or any of the images in this post, to enlarge the photo.

la vendange
(f) = grape harvest; la remorque (f) = (tractor) trailer; le raisin
(m) = grape; le vigneron (la vigneronne) = wine grower; le carillonneur (m) = bell ringer
Seeking Provence: Old Myths, New Paths
Refreshing mosterizing mist: French vine therapy by Caudalie
12 French Alsace & Guignol Costumed Lollipops
Rick Steves Convertible Carry-On: Easily converts from a smart-looking suitcase to a handy backpack

Jean-Marc, speaking in our town's center (the text follows, in French ... translations welcome in the comments box. Thanks in advance!):

Ce jourd'hui trenteunieme d'Août 2008 Nous proclamons sur la place publique de Sainte Cécile les Vignes pour que nul le l'ignore, la décision du Comité des Vignerons au sujet des prochaines vendanges. Les Maîtres Vignerons de Cairanne, Lagarde Paréol et Sainte Cécile les Vignes désignés par le Comité, ayant constaté l'état de maturité du raisin dans les diverses parcelles de leurs communes, ont fait part de leurs observations, estimant que le début de la récolte peut avoir lieu le 1 Septembre 2008. Le Grand Maître de la Commanderie et les instances de la profession ayant été avisés, les Maîtres de chai de nos caves ayant donné leur accord, nous sollicitons de Messire Max Ivan, Premier Magistrat de notre commune qu'il lui plaise de prendre une arrêté fixant au 1 Septembre 2008 le premier jour de la récolte du raisin destiné à la production de nos vins. Par ailleurs, nous demandons solennellement à tous ceux qui ont pouvoir ainsi qu'aux Vignerons ici présents de respecter et de faire respecter les usages établis par nos Pères afin que la qualité de nos vins soit bonne et meilleure si possible que celle des années antérieures. Enfin, nous souhaitons de tout coeur à tous les Vignerons de généreuses vendanges.

Mille mercis, Shane, for this translation.

See the dancers and singers in this video thanks, Jean-Marc, for the video!):

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice