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Entries from December 2009

les bagues

Rue des Penitents
Happy holiday's to all! Photo, "Rue des Pénitants," taken yesterday, in Bollène.

les bagues (bag) noun, feminine

    : braces

Example Sentence: (I'm afraid I just don't have the vocal stamina to offer a sound file, today, for the following quote...)

L'orthodontiste colle sur les dents des bagues reliées entre elles par un fil dont on ajuste l'écartement chaque mois... De plus en plus, les bagues posées sont transparentes afin d'éviter la gêne sociale provoquée par un "sourire d'acier". The orthodontist glues the braces onto the teeth (the braces are linked together by a wire, the length of which is adjusted each month)... More and more, braces are transparent in order to avoid the social stigma associated with a "steel smile". --MagazineAvantages

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

On the way home from the orthodontist's, my daughter mumbles, "J'ai leufesonsayefdanlaboosh!"

"What's that, Sweetie?"

It must be me, but how is it that adolescent French is harder to decipher than advanced French— something I supposedly tackled years ago?

"I don't understand what you are saying, Chou.* Can you please repeat that?"
le "S" "N" "C" "F" dans la bouche!" says my daughter, exaspérée.

"Oh! Train tracks! I get it! You've got train tracks in your mouth! You are so funny, Chou!"

After a couple of knee-smacking heehaws and guffaws, I look over to the passenger seat, and notice my daughter isn't laughing: I've giggled at my poor girl's expense--and oh, what an expense! Given the price of braces these days, and given the fact that I had the bright idea to have both our kids fitted for them, at once, I'd say this is no frugal French train...

THIS is the Orient Express!

Comment your heart out, and heart-felt thanks for every word you share!

French Vocabulary

chou (short for choucou, chouchoute) = darling, sweetheart; j'ai le SNCF dans la bouche = I have the SNCF in my mouth!; la SNCF (f) = Société nationale des chemins de fer; exaspérée (exaspérer) = to exasperate

A Day in a Dog's Life...
by Braise and Smokey

Smokey and Braise, heehawing and guffawing...
"Thank goodness WE don't need braces!" Smokey says.
"Otherwise how could we eat these rubber balls!" Braise agrees.
Both dogs feel sympathy, for auntie Jackie...
She'll have the bottom teeth "braced" in the new year. Meantime, our billfolds are bracing themselves, in time to refuel the train.


Caudalie Beauty Elixir :
J'aime this refreshing moisture mist - the scent is lovely!

Staub Oval Cocotte: The French oven is a timeless standby for stews, roasts, soups, casseroles and other one-pot classics.

Eiffel Tower Paris Tea Light Candle Holder

The Ultimate French Review and Practice (Book+ CD-ROM)

Bonsoir Lune / Goodnight Moon (French Edition)

Navigation Paquet, Art Poster

The Chorus (A family film favorite!)
When he takes a job teaching music at a school for troubled boys, Clément Mathieu is unprepared for its harsh discipline and depressing atmosphere. But with passion and unconventional teaching methods, he's able to spark his students' interest in music and bring them a newfound joy! It also puts him at odds with the school's overbearing headmaster, however, locking Mathieu in a battle between politics and the determination to change his pupils' lives!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
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To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

mal a l'aise

WinoTeca (c) Kristin Espinasse



mal à l'aise (mal ah lez) locution

    : être mal à l'aise = to be or to feel ill at ease

Audio File & Example Sentence: Download WAV or Download MP3

Si elle est bavarde—si elle papote tout le temps—c'est qu'elle se sent mal à l'aise. If she's chatty—if she talks all the time—it's because she's ill at ease.


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

Driving our young visitor home, I chatted non-stop as the two of us advanced under the starlit night, direction Saint Cécile, le centre-ville. Being talkative while chauffeuring my children's friends home puts us both, I figure, into the comfort zone. Heaven forbid that the silence between us would win out, giving the mismatched travelers something to feel self-conscious about. 

"Would you look at that? It's so dark out at 5:30..." I begin, checking my passenger's seat-belt.
"Mmm hmmm..." my daughter's friend agrees, quietly.

"So, do you have any homework left to do this weekend?" I inquire, stirring up the sound barrier.

I am used to such barely audible answers and notice that my passenger's responses—when I can hear them—range from one-syllabled to mumbled. But that doesn't stop me from shooting the speech-stifling brise.

"Ah, that's good!..." I agree, if only with myself. The direction of our conversation is like a handmade sign held by an auto-stoppeur; it reads One-Way, or bust!

Regarding such one-way conversation, one must feel mal à l'aise while being driven home by a motor-mouth mama. I don't want my passenger to suffer the silence, and so I continue my running commentary.

"Oh, my headlights!" I declare as we pass another car with blinking phares. "Yipes! My blinding high-beams were on! Je roulais pleins phares!"

(Not a squeak from the passenger seat... the silence is so loud you can slice it).

"I have a hard time seeing at night, and you?"

Realizing that my latest comment was overly casual—it might have inspired doubt about one's driver—I happily add "Thank goodness for glasses!" and pat the bridge of my nose, where my lunettes rest, there above my motor mouth.

The twelve-year-old to my right keeps her eyes glued to the window and her vocal chords stitched shut. I am running out of things to say when, suddenly, the fuel in my verbal spout runs out.  From this point on there'll be no more self-conscious conversation, just an awkward, audible drought.

Once an awkward adolescent always an awkward adolescent. When I stop imagining how others are feeling—uncomfortable, afraid, upset or, conversely, satisfied, secure...—and take the time to examine my own current mood, I realize just how often I project my humeur....

And you? Your response is welcome in the comments box!

French Word-A-Day: Summer 2009 Stories Before long you will be racing to the mall to buy your aunt, your sister-in-law, your nephew... a gift. Why not make things simple and buy a few copies of the French Word-A-Day book? You can then check off a few items on your list—all the while helping a self-published author (we need all the help we can get!) Click here to order my new book. I appreciate your support!

French Vocabulary

le centre-ville = town center; la brise (f) = breeze; un auto-stoppeur, une autostoppeuse = hitchhiker; être mal a l'aise = to feel uncomfortable; les phares (m) = headlights; je roulais pleins phares = I was driving with my full headlights on; oui = yes; les lunettes (nfpl) = eyeglasses; l'humeur (f) = mood

Thank you for visiting our sponsor!

Provence Dreamin? Maison des Pelerins, Sablet. A Vacation Rental Dream in the heart of the Cote du Rhone.

A Day in a Dog's Life...
by Braise & "Smokey-doo"!

"Mother Love". Oh to be rocked to sleep with the help of another's heartbeat. 

Pizza herbes

Herbes de Provence (Special for Pizza) in Crock:
Herbes picked in Provence with a blend of oregano, thyme, basil & marjoram

Pre de Provence Lavender Soap. Imported from France: Pré de Provence, literally translated, means "Meadow of Provence." Transport yourself there with this triple milled savon.

Un, Deux, Trois: First French Rhymes:
...a collection of 25 traditional nursery rhymes for children

French Exambusters Study Cards:
Over 1,500 questions and answers written by certified teachers and professional translators with a focus on exam preparation.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.


Vines (c) Kristin Espinasse
What do French vines do to keep warm in wintertime? DANCE! They shake their hips to the left, shake 'em to the right... hipsway hipsway all through the night and day. Watch out, Moulin Rouge! You've got competition here at Domaine Rouge-Bleu!

English Grammar for Students of French: The Study Guide for Those Learning French

pipelette (peep uh let) noun, feminine

     : one who "papottes" (papoter = to chat, to be chatty), a chatterbox

...from the Comments Box

Bonjour Kristin!

Your readers may be interested in the origins of the word pipelette, and its masculine form, pipelet. The word comes from a character in the 19th century novel, Mystères de Paris, by Eugène Sue. Pipelet was a Parisian concierge. Over time, the character became so well-known that his name became synonymous with any concierge, and thus by extension with anyone who is known to chat or gossip. I first learned this word back in French 3 in high school in a short story about a concierge named Madame Pipelet. Others who learned high school French in the 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond might remember it as part of a charming collection of short stories entitled Ces gens qui passent. I loved the story and nearly 25 years later, I still share it with my own students. Bon courage à tous les lecteurs!                                                                                                   —Michael Wrenn

Audio File & Example Sentence: Download Wav or   Download MP3

"J’aime beaucoup papoter avec toi!" disait mon ami, la pipelette.
I love to chat with you, said my friend, the chatterbox.

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

Hell's bells, je viens de me casser le ventre! That's right. I've just broken my stomach—something one can do only in the French language, with the help of a French restaurant, and with the arm-pulling of a Canadian expat who invites you to wine-fueled ladies' lunches... (Thanks a lot, Marg!)

Le Tourne au Verre is a colorful bistro in Cairanne that caters to wine makers in the wintertime, but tourists—and teetotalers—are welcome all the same. I shared a table with five other pipelettes, as we were called, by the waitress serving up those savory assiettes.

Wine got the women off to a good chatty start, as they tried to guess the mysterious cuvée in the glass carafe, center table. While the ladies tried to divine the wine, I watched and listened, thrilled to find myself in the cozy company of bon vivants.

The next two hours were spent en papotant, chatting about food (I mental-noted several recipes to share with you, including gratin de courge and gratin d'épeautre...), about politics (mostly about the French President's penchant for high heels), health (apparently oregano capsules help to soothe un rhume...), and language (I hadn't realized Provençale is taught in my village. The local prof de Provençale was just awarded a golden cicada.)
"La cigale d'or!" the woman seated across from me giggled. "It's the Provençal equivalent of winning the Oscar!"

When the waitress returned and dared ask whether we wanted dessert, the women at my table shouted back "DIABLE!"

Go to hell? I guessed my tablemates' aggressiveness had to do with the wine... "Mais, non," one of the pipelettes assured me, ça veut dire QU'ON VEUT DU DESSERT!

Diable? Dessert.... That must be French for The Devil Made Me Do It!

Comments are most welcome! Merci d'avance.If you have a Facebook or Twitter account, why not enter your address in the comments box (at the "url" prompt)? In addition to FB friends, you might enjoy your French Word-A-Day ami(e) aussi!

French Vocabulary

French Word-A-Day: Summer 2009 Stories

je viens de me casser le ventre = I've just stuffed myself; une pipelette (f) = chatterbox; une assiette (f) = plate (i.e. assiette composée = mixed salad); la cuvée (f) = vintage; le bon vivant (m) (bon viveur) = who like the good things in life (wine, food...); en papotant = while chatting; le gratin de courge (m) = pumpkin gratin; le gratin d'épeautre (m) = Gallic cereal gratin (oh, what a translation! "épeautre" is also known as "blé des Gaulois" or wheat of the Gauls); l'épeautre = spelt; un rhume (m) = cold; la cigale d'or (f) = the golden cicada; diable! (devil) = bien sûr (of course!); mais, non = not at all; ça veut dire qu'on veut du dessert! = it means that we want dessert!


A Day in a Dog's Life...
by Braise and Smokey

Smokey says: Hey, Grandma K, it's time to update my photo—this one was taken two weeks ago! And, just like Uncle Max (age 14), I do not appreciate being surrounded by foofy, frilly flowers, in your photos. Finally, I am NOT wearing clay on my face anymore. I'm a big boy now and I'm almost healed!

PS: To Grandma K's readers: those are my 5 sisters, below. One became a truffle hunter, one went to live on a chicken farm, two went to the la-di-dah big city (Marseilles), to shop! And the other sister lives close enough to bug me if she so pleases. (I wish she'd come over and bug me, juste un petit peu. I might even share my bone with her. Nah, on second thought...)


French impressions-1
French Impressions: The Adventures of an American Family
In 1950, John S. Littell dreamed of turning his life into a Hemingwayesque adventure. His wife Mary was an optimist who shared her husband's sense of fun. So what happens when they set off for the South of France with their two young sons? The result is French Impressions, a riveting, whimsical, and uproarious account of the Littells' time abroad, based on Mary's journals and diaries-with a marvelous collection of family photos.

Clean Provence. Eau De Parfum Spray

Sweatshirt "Provence-Alpes-Cote D'azur"

Sea Salt by La Baleine -- a classic on every French table


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

une remise

The chaotic scene above reminds me of the things we do for love, whether cycle up walls or publish books.

une remise (reuh meez) noun, feminine

    : discount

Audio File and Example sentence: Download Wav or Download MP3

Je suis désolée, mais la remise que j'ai mentionnée hier, n'était pas valable.
I am sorry, but the discount that I mentioned yesterday was not valid.

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

French Word-A-Day: Summer 2009 Stories Yesterday I published a book. Thanks to modern technology, I was able to launch un livre amidst a bustling, barking home life: the kids, the dogs, the dust, the dishes, the traveling husband (away, in Montpellier) and the ever-hopeful housewife. I decided to consider the chaos as the proverbial "glass half full"—of champagne—with bubbles that, when liberated, push their lodged captive forward and upward—in high-flying jubilee. Weeeeee!

But a tickling jolt of liberation has its end, for physics dictates: ce qui monte doit descendre.

While that chaos was busy adding to the adrenaline push that I needed in order to get things done, I made a few mistakes—et c'est le cas de le dire! For one, I had not planned on making my book available so soon... but when I surfed over to the book-making site—and saw that a discount was available through Dec 1st!—I raced into rédaction, finishing up edits and launching the book immediately so that all might take advantage of the discount, right along with me—as I went about ordering copies for my family.

Only, I did not realize that the page I was viewing was designed for my eyes only. Never mind that I had typed in the book-publisher's homepage address (because I had not logged off after my last visit, my personal "dashboard," where the special offer was mentioned, automatically popped up and I mistook it for the site's homepage, a page I thought that all customers were seeing along with the "specials" notice).

Soon, the emails began to flood in ("trying to buy your book, but not receiving the discount..." "want to order, but the coupon isn't working...").

I quickly contacted the book company, which only confirmed what my readers were reporting back to me: that the discount is for authors only.

I spent the rest of yesterday responding to customers, all of whom were very understanding. To all of you who visited my book page and tried to buy a copy: I am sincerely désolée for my mistake. Thanks to those who wrote in, with cheers, telling me you'd ordered the book anyway.

Thank you for believing in me, trusting me, and allowing me keep on truckin' even when the champagne cork hits the floor, the newly propelled publisher landing beside it, the bubble-boost having fizzled out.

French Word-A-Day book For those of you who would like to order my latest book, même sans remise (makes a great holiday gift!), click here.

And to those who ordered a book on Dec. 1st, mille mercis! Please send along your order number (if you haven't already) and I will send you your Cinéma Verité bonus. It might take a few days... but I will eventually get back to you!

Comments and corrections are always welcome, helpful, and appreciated. Thank you!

French Vocabulary

le livre (m) = book; ce qui monte doit descendre = what goes up must come down; et c'est le cas de le dire = and that's the least one can say; la rédaction (f) = composition (editing); désolée = sorry; même sans remise = even without the discount

A Day in a Dog's Life...
by Braise and Smokey

We may look bored... but when the lights go out and the house goes to sleep...
We jump and jump like giddy sheep!


French Demystified: A Self - Teaching Guide

I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany

Learn French In A Hurry: Grasp the Basics of Français Tout de Suite

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

New book! Collected Summer Stories

Some call writing an "art". I call writing "close to my heart". (Photo of previous books; the one—top, center—is my most recent. Another, fictional book—about a French pear—does not appear here....)

Chers Amis et Amies,

After three years of sitting on the French fence, I have finally fallen off... and published a book!

It did take prayer—and a push—after beaucoup de "bambivalence" (bambivalence—so as to go with "beaucoup"... beaucoup bambivalence, to accomplish this. See how complicated I can make things when "a lot of ambivalence" might've done the trick?).

Speaking of tricks, the next hurdle (after that French fence hurdle) will be to sell my book. Without the assurance and the support of une grande maison d'édition, I am on my own this time. And that can be both an exciting and a frightening thing, with oodles and French poodles of self-doubt involved. 

This is where gumption must come in, in great Gallic gallons. So I'm putting her out there today, this latest book baby of mine—and I am counting on you to help me! You will help me, won't you? If I have been any help to you, if you have learned a French word... or two... then this is the time to come to my rescue (I guess that sounded a bit manipulative and pushy, non? Mea culpa, I'm so sorry, but I do not have a pricey promotions rep to sell this book for me!).

In a French nutshell, or en un mot—make that in 5 points, here are reasons why you will want to my book, illico presto!:

French Word-A-Day: Summer 2009 Stories....

  1. Makes an educational and fun gift! Perfect for a Francophile, an Armchair Traveler, a Parent, a Dog lover... or a Publishing house looking for a new book series (the second book is almost done... and the third has just begun...)!
  2. Talk about a vocabulary resource! There are hundreds of French words, in context, to help you lock on to the language...
  3. Full page photos almost every time you turn a page!
  4. Bonus (good through Dec. 1st): with your book purchase, you will get one membership to Cinéma Vérité: good for yourself... or for a friend (another great gift idea!). Forward me your sales receipt and let me know which email address to sign up for the CV site.)
  5. Recipes from French family and friends.

Note: In keeping with the subject (memoir) of my previously published books, these are the collected story archives from posts that appeared in the newsletter/web editions of French Word-A-Day. The format is similar to the Simon & Schuster edition, wherein:

Each short chapter (some are just one page) is inspired by a French word [and] shares a brief anecdote about French life (incorporating French words into the text).  With its innovative and entertaining way of teaching the finer points of French, Espinasse's memoir will be popular with travelers and expats alike.
—Publishers Weekly

French Word-A-Day: Summer 2009 Stories Today, right now, is the time to order. Purchase a copy of French Word-A-Day: Summer 2009 Stories for yourself or for a friend or family member. And thank you so much for your fidélité, for pushing me off the French fence, and for helping me to find my way back to book publishing. I could not have written these stories without you!

Click here to preview the first 15 pages of my book and to order!


Questions or comments about this latest book? Go ahead and fire 'em off here (in the comments box only, merci beaucoup). I look forward to answering!

Thank you all for your support, which I am holding on to at this moment... just like the little "feet" and the last leaves on this vine climber.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.