le mot juste

sauve qui peut

Charming Couple (c) Kristin Espinasse
"Giggly & Pensive" in the town of Ovada, Italy. After a "game" of charades, this couple understood my request and graciously offered to pose for this photo. Don't miss another dozen photos of Italy, coming up in a future edition of my photo blog, "Cinéma Vérité.

sauve qui peut (sohv kee peuh) expression

    :  a general panic; stampede; chaotic disorder
    : "Every man for himself" : to bail out of a place or run for one's life

Audio File & Example sentence:

Listen to my eleven-year-old (who struggled with the long and complicated excerpt) pronounce these French words: Download MP3 file

Le sauve-qui-peut des investisseurs mettait fin à une longue période de hausse des cours boursiers qui avait notamment porté le Cac40 de 2.500 à 6.000... -Boursorama.

Help translate the above quote... or share any additional notes for today's expression "sauve qui peut" (literally "save who can"). Click here to access the comments box.


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

On our way to Croatia, we stopped in the town of Ovada, Italy, to rest for the night.  The kids were exhausted from our latest amusing halt (the water park near Antibes), and opted to stay in and watch T.V. while Jean-Marc and I had a quick tour of the city at night.

On our way out of the hotel, the young man behind the desk tried to alert us to some sort of event going on in town... but Jean-Marc and I could not understand what he was saying. So we shrugged our shoulders, smiled politely, and headed towards the centre ville.*

The town of Ovada was a lucky choice. Though we had randomly chosen the site (for its convenience along our route to Croatia), Ovada clearly was a tourist destination. The ancient cobbled streets were packed, as were the bars. Jean-Marc found a seat at a terrace café and ordered a glass of the local wine. Quant à moi*... I didn't want to miss any photo opportunities... so I left my husband at the watering hole and set out to discover the stamp-size inner city.

I soon began to notice all the barricades, beginning at the café and strategically set up at the various wide-open places*. Though most of the people stood behind the protective barriers, I noticed the barricades didn't stop others from continuing on their way. And so I followed suit, so as to continue on my photo journey.

Peek-a-boo (c) Kristin Espinasse

Busy snapping shots of the ancient façades, occasionally I would see the locals peering out from behind shuttered windows. Having secured their permission (via a begging--if not charming--smile... and a jiggling of my camera), the locals or "Ovadesi" were gracious, letting me snap a few close-ups). I couldn't believe my luck.

As I made my way down an increasingly dark and desolate street, paved by cobblestones and flanked by tall private dwellings, I heard the sound of a motor approaching along this pedestrian path... Turning, I saw the first vehicle. A Vespa! Unfortunately, it passed by too quickly for me to snap a photo -- though I did have time to notice the rider, who seemed to be waving his arm....

Soon enough, another Vespa passed and I realized it was the police who were speeding by. This policeman was also waving, just like the first one.... only, on closer look I realized it wasn't a friendly wave of the hand... It seemed more of a cautionary wave of the arm.

Back Away!? Was that what the policeman was trying to say? When a third policeman whizzed past, his face stone serious, there was no mistaking the warning signals. His waving arm seemed to shout and the message was universal: MOVE IT!

But where to move it? The road before me was long and its sides (centuries-old walls behind which residents were safely tucked in for the night) rose up to the sky....

Suddenly I remembered all those barriers that I had ventured past... and the increasingly empty streets... and the people watching from the.... safety... of their second-story windows.

OhMonDieuOhMonDieuOhMonDieu!!!*..... In a split second I guessed that this was the "special event" that the hotel clerk had been trying to tell us about: The running of the bulls!

WHaaaaah SAUVE QUI PEUT! In a panic, I realized there was no place to go. Looking up to the windows high above, not one Italian offered to throw me a rope--not even a knotted sheet--and so I had no other option but to fling myself into the closest recess -- a shallow door-well.  Next, I watched, heart beating like a hummingbird's, as a giant golden beast barreled towards me.

Without my glasses on, I could just make out the crowd that was running alongside the golden giant. Incredibly, the non-sauveteurs* in the windows above were cheering as the beast approached.

Though the scene was blurry, IMPENDING DOOM was clear to see. I raised my camera for the last time, and snapped a photo. In doing so, I was able to use the camera's lens for a closer look--after  my own eyes had failed me. This is when I heard the laughter of the approaching stampede and, seeing the "bull" up close, my own laughter soon mixed with that of the Italians. Turns out the golden beast was no other than a giant, rounded, botte de foin.*


Post note: back at the café Jean-Marc reported that he'd just witnessed an exciting local tradition: something about transporting the hay bales through town, as locals did in ancient times.

"Oh, the hay run? Yeah, I saw it too..." I remarked, still shivering from the false alarm, and all those imaginary golden bulls.

Comments, corrections--or stories of your own--are always welcome and enjoyed in the comments box. Thank you for your responses to these words and stories.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
le centre ville (m) =
town center; quant à moi = as for me; la place (f) = (esplanade) square; OhMonDieuOhMonDieuOhMonDieu = OhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGod; le sauveteur (m) = savior, rescuer; la botte (f) de foin = bale of hay


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The hay run in Ovada, Italy:

Max-biento14 054

 Sorry about the blurry photo, but I was a little shakey behind the lens...

Max-biento14 055

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