Municiple flowers, blue shutters, Valréas, Vaucluse, hanging flower pot, France (c) Kristin Espinasse www.french-word-a-day.com
Municipal flower pot in Valréas.

jojo (zho zho) adjective

    : short for "joli(e)", pretty

 Audio file (not available today... désolée!)


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

I followed Madame's directions and ended up at the medieval church, looking up at those "magnifiques fronts", the faces of which were almost as long as my own. Staring up at the church's eaves, where sculpted eyes stared back at me, I searched for God knows what: familiarity? unity?

My eyes scoured the stone faces but, try as I might, I could not "connect" or feel the warmth that had left me back at the little placette, where I had said mes au revoirs. Madame with the soft white curls and sentimental scarf  had surely returned to the room behind the window of white hearts. Why had she sent me here? Why were these sour faces so sweet to her?

I hurried back to the farmers' market to pick up a few bricoles before leaving the town of Valréas. Walking along I was awed by the municipal flower pots which lined the polished streets, punctuating every corner. The bright red blooms tumbled over, flowing almost to the cobbled ground. A little girl, no more that three, tousled her mother's hair as the latter knelt down to tie the toddler's shoes. The girl's fingers were light as feathers, little birds in her mother's silky hair. "Ça suffit, chérie," the mother said, standing up in time to fix her disheveled locks. I smiled at mère et fille as the two turned down the street, the sound of church bells behind them. It was eleven a.m.

"Quel joli sourire!" exclaimed the butcher, as I strode past his stand. I stopped, feeling both embarrassed and obliged... I wondered whether we needed some bacon, after all? I took my place in line.

"Yes! A very pretty smile!" repeated the butcher. There was no way I would leave now, and so I stood, awkwardly so. Relief came when the butcher turned his attention to the frail lady in the front of me. "And you, too! What a lovely smile you have!"

"Oh, no. I do not have good teeth," the woman said, apologetically. "Non, je ne suis plus jojo!" She turned, focusing her pale blue eyes on me. "But it is good to smile! Life is hard enough..." she said, gently. With that, everybody in line nodded and clucked their tongues in commiseration. I wondered about the various hardships beneath all those clucking tongues. Was it lost love? Bad health? A job loss?

Next, a man in a wheelchair arrived and took his place in line behind me. Collective hardships were forgotten as tongues abruptly quit clucking. All eyes focused on the butcher, who broke the silence.

"Debout!" "Stand up!" he roared, pointing his knife at the man in the chaise roulante.  

For one surreal moment I stood frozen. If I'd had a pair of earmuffs I would have thrown them over the man's oreilles, sparing him the butcher's words, which seemed to amount to one big and very bad joke.

I turned to greet the man in the wheelchair. His face was handsome or, to borrow a new word I'd just learned from Madame, "jojo". Yes, he was a joli homme or, rather, un bel homme with caramel brown hair and eyes the color of marrons

"Je vous dis, DEBOUT!" the butcher thundered, becoming even more animated.

The moments that followed were awkward, made almost unbearable by the bel homme's silence. Suddenly, his face lit up. "Cher ami," he said to his friend, "I haven't walked in 25 years... and it isn't your half-witted hollering that's going to make a difference now!"

The two men exchanged friendly bonjours and soon it was back to business. "What can I get you today, mon grand?" he said to his friend in the wheelchair. With that, the butcher winked at me as I stood marveling at the locals and their camaraderie.

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French Vocabulary

magnifique = magnificent

le front = face (of statue, building)

la placette = small "place" or (village) square 

mes au revoirs = my goodbyes

une bricole = a thing

ça suffit, chérie = that's enough, dear one

mère et fille = mother and daughter

quel joli sourire = what a pretty smile

non, je ne suis plus jojo = no, I am no longer pretty

debout! = stand up!

une chaise roulante = wheelchair

une oreille = ear

le marron = chestnut

je vous dis debout! = I tell you, stand!

cher ami = dear friend

mon grand = big boy, dear

golden retrievers, girl, chrysanthemum, bamboo, roseaux, canne de provence (c) Kristin Espinasse www.french-word-a-day.com

Our Jackie, with Braise (left) and Braise's son Smokey

pumpkin, climbing vine, Virginia Creeper, vigne vièrge, chrysanthemum, golden retriever, dog, wooden chair, deck (c) Kristin Espinasse www.french-word-a-day.com
Smokey "R" Dokey

pumpkin, chrysanthemum, golden retriever, dog, old grape vine, deck, France, Vaucluse, vineyard (c) Kristin Espinasse www.french-word-a-day.com
                           Thank you, Kathy and Ron, for the mum and for the pumpkin!

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety