mauvaise herbe
Aviner: a French verb having to do with winetasting


"Pain and Hope" as personified by Mama Braise (left) and Smokey Doo. Read about a wine farmer's struggle, in today's missive. 

la gnac (nee ack) noun, familiar

    pugnacity, the will to win

avoir la gnac (also spelled "gnaque", "niaque") : to be driven, "to have a fire in the belly" (thanks, "Newforest", for this updated definition).

This term "avoir la gnac" is used by a certain generation: French friends our age (Forty Somethings) will be familiar with it. But when asking my son and my daughter whether they knew the expression "avoir la niaque" they shook their teenage heads "non". Have you ever heard the term used (comments welcome, here)? It was spoken to me yesterday, over the telephone, during a chat with Aunt Marie-Françoise (who was referring to my daughter's passion for horseback riding). I had thought she meant "knack" as in "she has a knack for riding". But the term seems to have little in common with the Anglophone expression... or does it?

Audio File: listen to our son, Max, pronounce the following words: Download Gnac

la gnac: Comment expliquer son succès? Il a de la niaque! 

How to explain his success? He is driven!


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

Le filet mignon de porc turned out fine -- if my brother-in-law's behavior was any indication: I watched as Jacques "sauced", or mopped up, the juices from the rectangular glass casserole: there's no better sign of a recipe's réussite.. and watching my beau-frère (who was reared by the best cook in France) finish every last bite is la meilleure récompense for any cook's troubles. 

Seven of us were sitting beneath the mulberry tree, leaning over the picnic table there below, enjoying the late winter sun. If you looked to the ground below us, you'd spy springtime in the dirt: the green tips of bulbs could be seen pushing up, as well as several wheelbarrowfuls of weeds, or what would amount to several wheelbarrows... just as soon as we got to them. For now, it is the vineyard's weeds that are exhausting everyone: just one small parcel in question, but what a great big headache!

More than a headache, Jean-Marc bears white nights and cold sweats, or the emotional and physical torture inherent in organic, or biologique, farming. When he woke up Friday night with what he called "les palpitations", I asked him what was the matter: je crois que c'est une crise de panique.... he guessed, as he sat frozen, legs over the edge of the bed. He'd been to see the doctor for this, and was not too concerned (heart problems having been factored out). Nevertheless, this, along with the cold sweats, left him all the more discouraged.

But the next day, with the help of his jovial crew, one which grew and grew (Jacques and Michel arrived from Avignon), they caught up with work in the vines: whereas they were only one-sixth of the way through Friday's weed-o-thon, by the end of Saturday they had pulled weeds from half of the parcel!

I watched my husband closely, and noticed his spirits were lifting: more than the advance they had won that morning in the vines, he was cheered by the non-stop "blaguing"* coming from his buddies (oh, the French words I learned this weekend... nothing I could share here!). I leave you with photos of the bubbly crew, who made up for the raunchy jokes (mostly told out of the hostesses' ear range) by being perfectly polite and helpful in the kitchen (and they even brought the finest Belgian chocolates to sweeten our mouths -- lest I wash theirs out with Savon de Marseilles!!!).


Capture plein écran 21022011 095238Update!!!  Jean-Marc just learned that he won a gold medal for his Mistral 2009 wine in the Paris Wine Agricultural Fair. Go Chief Grape! You deserve it! May this award help soothe all those emotional aches and pains. And many more thanks go to all who helped pick those grapes, bottle these wines, and pull so many mauvaises herbes. Thank you so very much for such needed support! 

Le Coin Commentaires: Corrections, comments, and stories of your own are most welcome: click here to leave a comment or a note to Jean-Marc. Merci d'avance! 


To see all of the photos and to meet our jovial weed-o-thon crew, click here.

 Meet Jean-Marc in Milwaukee this coming March 10th for a tasting of his wines or later in many other US cities

French Vocabulary

le filet mignon de porc = pork tenderloin

la réussite = success

le beau-frère = brother-in-law

la meilleure récompense = the best reward

je crois que c'est une crise de panique = I think it is a panic attack

blaguer = to joke around, to tell jokes

merci d'avance = thanks in advance

le Savon de Marseille = a famous local soap, good for washing hands -- and even laundry! Buy a bar here, and help to support this French word journal :-)


Murder in passy Cara Black has a new book out! MURDER IN PASSY:

The village-like neighborhood of Passy, home to many of Paris’s wealthiest residents, is the last place one would expect a murder. But when Aimée Leduc’s godfather, Morbier, a policecommissaire, asks her to check on his girlfriend at her home there, that’s exactly what Aimée finds. Xavierre, a haut bourgeois matron of Basque origin, is strangled in her garden while Aimée waits inside. Circumstantial evidence makes Morbier the prime suspect, and to vindicate him, Aimée must identify the real killer. Her investigation leads her to police corruption; the radical Basque terrorist group, ETA; and a kidnapped Spanish princess.

Pick up a copy, here.

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