saperlipopette!
epargner

de guingois

Clothes-line
The scene was so classic that I wondered, as I snuck up to snap the photo, if it wasn't staged! Notice the underwear: one per "hook"... Photo taken in Nyons (just next to a chichi restaurant. Well, that oughta show 'em!).

de guingois (deuh-gehn-gwah) adverbial and adjectival phrase
   
    : askew, lop-sided

marcher de guingois = to walk lop-sidedly
tout va de guingois = everything's going haywire

Audio File & Example Sentence: listen to the French word "de guingois" and to this expression: "marcher de guingois":Download Wav or MP3

"The Marais, says Jacob Berger, a film director who lives and works in the neighborhood, is de guingois--that is to say, slightly askew."

--from the National Geographic article:
"Bohemian rhapsody: on the right bank of Paris history and hip embrace..."


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


Another odd Christmas tree this year. I should have taken Mom's advice: get an artificial one! Apart from being good for the environment, those faux firs come in perfect shapes: full bodied and symmetrical; especially, they're kilter—and not helter-skelter!

If I weren't such a procrastinator, I'd have gotten the tree I wanted: Super Sapin! (Not a bird, not a plane.... ) Though our tree may not fly or save lives (it certainly won't save the earth), it does look as if it is set for take off, what with its long and HORIZONTAL arc... like a Boeing 747.

"It's lopsided!" I point out to Jean-Marc, after he has placed the tree. "Wait a minute..." I remark, suspiciously. "Didn't it come with a stand?"
"No. It didn't."
"You mean the nursery didn't have stands for sale?"
"They did, but the stands weren't any good."

They never are! He was just trying to get out of buying a stand! Next, I discover his solution: our umbrella stand. He's swiped our umbrella stand to use for a tree brace. Pas vrai!

If it weren't so amusing, to see that tree stuffed, de guingois, into the umbrella stand like a wet parapluie, I'd scream! But I am learning to laugh at these peculiarities. Take, for example, our bathroom light fixture, the one just above the mirror. When the screw fell out, we might have replaced it. Instead, a box of aspirin was set between the light and the mirror (now, when the box of asprin pops out, all we have to do is pick it up off the floor (easier to see than a small screw) and stick it back in its place). Ta-da!

Chez nous, it's always a balancing act... a regular circus we are! From time to time, I find myself lamenting, "Why... why can't we just be normal?" Why do I have to lean to the side in order to see our tree as it "should" be? Why can't we have a tree stand like other normal French families? Why do we have to treat our pine as a parasol? Still grumbling about my husband's eccentricities, I gather the fresh laundry which I have strewn around the house on every free hook, chair back, or table (any freestanding structure will do). Other housewives may have hung out their clothes on the line to dry today, but I don't trust the northern wind: sacré Mistral!

Collecting some dry underwear from the fire stoker rack beside the cheminée,* and reaching for some chaussettes sèches*—slung over the candelabra, I notice the look on my husband's face... but I am quick to put him back in his place; after all, HE is the oddball!

However different, there we stand, united in silence, our heads leaning to the same side as we study our Christmas tree.
"It's lop-sided, you know."
"Yes dear," my husband replies. "Il a pris un sacré coup de Mistral!"

French Vocabulary
le sapin (m) = fir (tree); pas vrai = it can't be true!; de guingois = lop-sided; le parapluie (m) = umbrella; sacré Mistral = blasted Mistral (wind); la cheminée (f) = fireplace; chaussettes (f) sèches = dry socks; il a pris un sacré coup de Mistral = it was hit by a mighty gust of wind



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