épingle à cheveux (ay pehngl ah sheuh veuh) n.f.
hairpin bend (road, path); switchback
Audio: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: Download MP3 file
Le chemin de terre qui mène vers la mer descend en épingle à cheveux.
The dirt path that leads to the sea descends (in a series of) hairpin turns.
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
(Continued from part one: "Peur Bleue: A Morbid Fear".)
The miles-long footpath on which Jean-Marc and I were treading, from a Sicilian city down to the shores of its sea, changed from urban, to industrial, to earthy. I was anxious about crossing through the dark, graffitifed tunnel, when a sudden spell of terror, born of an overactive imagination coupled with every macabre news headline that I had ever read, had me freezing in my foot-tracks!
The idea of turning back was quickly factored out: just look at Jean-Marc, l'homme de la nature! He was so completely in his element, taken up with the salty breeze—pulled forth by the foamy claws of the sea! (I just knew he was looking forward to swimming in the winter waters below. A New Year's Day "bath" is a tradition for a true Marseillais.)
But just when I let my spirit lift, we came out of the tunnel and face to face with a group of idle youths.... (Idle Youths = Tourist Abuse! in my news-headline-hazy head.)
I watched my husband, who nodded an international greeting to the group, but my own neck was so stiff with suspicion that it couldn't manage the same salutation.
The group was seated on a rock wall, the other side of which plunged to the shoreline below. As we drew near I listened to their voices, which were foreign to me: not Italian, not French, not Spanish were they speaking. The headlines roared once again in my mind as we approached the strangers, who jostled one another, smiling and having a good time.
Tout va bien, I thought, reassuringly, there are women in the group, and they are all just having fun and acting carefree. But then so were Charles Manson and his "family"...!
The grassy path we were now sharing was a switchback, hairpin turns from here to the sea. I studied the modern-day hippies. The only way to access the sea was via the switchback where the group sat, threateningly, according to my mind's graphic cinema, which reeled, helter skelter, with headline horror stories.
(Read the next and final installment here...)
l'homme de la nature = refers to an out-doorsy, Mister Nature type
tout va bien = everything's all right
Trivia: Today's word "épingle" appeared briefly, in only one of the 1100 French Word-A-Day word editions. Discover it here.
Meantime... "The Continuing Education of Smokey-Doodle" (pictured here at 8 months):
Today's lesson: French Fashion!
No, Smokey dear, these are not to be worn in your mouth. These boots, that have trod upon thousands of Gallic grapes (I can understand your attraction to their sweetness...), yes, these cleat-covered caoutchoucs are to be worn as head ornaments. Voilà, Smokey-Doll. Now, your turn.... hold your head up high and don't let those fashion victims in the capitol intimidate you! It's all about creativity! And the best-dressed dog wins le prix!
Feel like learning a few more words... or seeing a few more pictures of France? Check out the French Word Archives, here!
Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!