haut les coeurs!

"Heart in Burgundy" (c) Kristin Espinasse
Current events have us wearing our hearts on our former façades... and it's a good thing, n'est-ce pas?

haut les coeurs (oh lay ker)

    : lift up your spirit, take heart, be brave! have courage!

Thank you, Carolyn Foote Edelmann, for today's French expression: Carolyn writes, in response to Monday's seisme post:

Small thought - watching their dignity and fortitude, I think [the Japanese] may not want to be called 'victims'.

My Provencal neighbors had a phrase which sounded to me like "o, liqueurs!" - but was, in fact, HAUT LES COEURS! - [High the hearts]... I love it that this word, in France, implies "to infuse with courage".

Thank you for linking those of us who love France with a country I am taught to love (having lived through Pearl Harbor) as I never thought I would, watching their fortitude in the face of the impossible.


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

Universal Love

I am rooting through the medicine chest, looking for the small blue box that contains my mouth guard. I haven't worn the protective shield in over a month, but I need it now. Teeth grinding is up, along with that ticky tremblement just beneath my eyelid. Twitching and grinding - it is the body's way of responding to those things that are out of its control: like our dog's destructive behavior, like Japan, like Mother Nature.

I grab the small blue box and pry it open... when something flies past me... landing with a TING!  I bend over, narrowing my eyes, ignoring the annoying tremblement de la paupière. 

I see a heart lying there, on the floor... t'was a heart that had fallen out of that toothbox...

Suddenly it all comes rushing back to me...

I see myself back in Mexico, packing my bags. I see my mom reaching to hug me. I hear her voice: "I've put a little surprise in your toothbox... open it up when you are on the plane."

I'm on the airplane now... reaching into my backpack for the blue box. I open it up and there, beside the plastic tooth guard, is the tarnished locket-heart.

I hear Mom's explanation when I call her that evening to thank her.

"It was a gift," she says.  And she tells me the story of the bus ride, when the Mexican "street man" stepped on board. 

Listening to the poor passenger who had taken the seat behind her, Mom sympathized, pointing to her own losses: she took off her hat and pointed out her thinning white hair. Then she pounded on her chest, pointing out her missing breasts!

When she put her hand on her hip, the man could not possibly know about the once broken bone. Mom didn't have the Spanish words to tell him.

And so, without translation, the odd couple on the bus shared their rotten luck, without drama, without fuss. And when Mom stood to get off the bus, so, too, the Mexican man stood up.

Humblement, the street man reached into his frayed pocket and pulled out the little tarnished heart-locket. He closed Mom's hand over the gift, before sending her off with a mutual heart-lift. 


Standing there in the bathroom looking down at the treasure in the palm of my hand... I feel the quiet peace that has swept in all around me. The world outside the bathroom door might be in a state of chaos. But I no longer feel swept up in it, shaken or tossed. 


 Le Coin Commentaires
To comment on today's word or photo--or to ask our cozy community a question--click here to access the comments box. Corrections to French/English text most welcome.


  July2005 039

Mum's the word! Jackie (pictured sans maquillage, age 7) thanks you for your feedback on her story! She's written three more articles... one of which is très "edgy". (She doesn't seem to have a problem with self-censorship, as her mother does!) I warn her that posting the story might get her kicked out of school. Her roll-of-the-eyes response? "Et alors, la liberté d'expression? What about freedom of speech?" 

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Lovely post, Kristin. Thank you!


That was a very touching story to share about the heart - thank you.

Audrey Wilson

What an inspiration your Mom is to us all !! All that adversity & she looks so wonderful, so beautiful . And what a lovely story .

Christine Dashper

A beautiful story Kristin thank you. So comforting and Jules is a gem. Like mother like daughter :)

Bill in St. Paul

Beautiful story about kindness between strangers. I'd like to read another of Jackie's stories - even if it is a bit edgy. Does the school read your blog??

Jens, Copenhagen, Denmark

I'd also like to read Jackie's edgy stories...:-)

Karen W  (Towson, Maryland)

A beautiful story and how sweet of your mom to pass on that trinket. There is something to be said for having to search around for it, too.

I've had a twitch in my eye for a few weeks now. I walk around with my finger pressing on it most of the day. My intention is to try meditation. That reminds me of one of your stories. Now I'm smiling. So, thanks to you and to your mom for the wonderful stories.

Eileen deCamp

Beautiful post today Kristin!


Thank you for this post. My heart has been breaking for Japan and this story of the oneness of humanity and all of creation reaffirms me.

Ophelia in Nashville

Your mom's beautiful open-heartedness is inspiring. Thank you, Kristin. What a wonderful expression with which to begin the day.

The photo is fabulous, too.

Suzanne, Monroe Twp., NJ

A charming and touching story, Kristin. it not only lifted my heart but warmed it too. I have been thinking about the people of Japan and when viewing some of the photos that have been posted the word "misery" comes to mind. How often do we use words like "miserable" without really thinking about what we are saying. I may have said that I feel miserable but I know that I have never experienced the misery that is being endured by the people in Japan. It is at times like these when a small act of kindness can haut les coeurs.

I recall how kind people were on the subways and in the streets of NYC after 9/11. Mothers with children thanked exhausted looking rescue workers in hard hats, a man calmed a woman who started screaming, "There's going to be a war!" One evening on the A train, the man seated next to me rested his head on my shoulder and fell asleep. When he awakened with a start, I said "long days." He told me he couldn't sleep for fear of retaliations in his Arab neighborhood. We just never know what other people are going through on a given day.

On the Today Show this morning, Dr. Nancy Schneiderman was being interviewed about people on the West Coast of the US buying up iodine tablets to ward off radiation disease. Since it is unlikely that any dangerous radiation will drift that far her advice was to send the tablets to the people of Japan instead of hoarding them. Good advice I think.

Augusta Elmwood

Kristin, what a beautiful post. It brought tears to my eyes (but I'm a sentimental slob & tear up at emotional things like that).

IKWYM about the mouth guard - I have one too, for times of stress!

As for expressions of courage - along the Chemin de Saint-Jacques (Camino de Santiago) they shout out to you "BON COURAGE!". But I love your expression too. It evokes the image of one lifting a tall banner with a heart on it!

Thanks, Augusta

Lisa Simon

I love today's touching story and actually felt it pulling at my heart strings! This post really summed it all up. We have to reach inside ourselves more than ever before to find the peace and love that we all know is a buried treasure waiting to be discovered.

Pat Cargill

Je pense il est temps pour J-M retourner a toi et les chers enfants. Je te pense avec tous ma coeur. xox


Merci Kristin. Merci Jules. Je vous embrasse tous deux.

Cheryl in STL

Merci de ma part, aussi. C'est une histoire bien émouvante. J'ai une très chère amie à Tokyo et la vie est devenue difficile. Haut les coeurs!


Thought I would share with you what we are doing here in Dubai. On Monday 21st arch we will gatehr as a whole school 2000 students, the japenese community form all over Dubai. we are all wearing red or white and will form the Flag of Japan on the school field. The Japenes national anthem will be played followed by 2 mins silence. we are then all going to make for 10 dirhams a origami crane in red or white representing peace throughout the school over the next few weeks.Our children will all learn a few japenese phrase on Monday too.
i will try and post a few photos- a very emotional time for everyone involved.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for your heart-felt responses to "haut les coeurs" ("High the hearts" and merci encore to Carolyn for sharing this touching French phrase with us.

Bill, I don't know the answer (whether or not anyone is reading), but, as a village member told me when we moved here "tout se sait" (everything is known eventually!)

Karen, I should explain why the little heart was forgotten in the back of the cabinet: indeed, no sooner did I experience the surprise of finding the little metal heart-locket in my toothbox... than I became aware of the passengers on the plane seated beside me. I closed the little heart with a click and tucked it back into its "authentic" plastic case (beside what looked to be dentures...) - aware that the scene must have seemed surreal to onlookers.

Returning home to France, I unpacked my bags... putting the toothbrush and other items away in their place. I am certain that this is exactly how my Mom intended things to happen... and the heart did indeed "arrive" in the nick of time:in time to comfort. Now it is time to find a little string on which to hang it. And to listen to Mom who tells me to find two little photos: one of her and one of me -- and to stick them inside the little locket.

Suzanne, I love your story about the Arab man on the bus who fell asleep, his head resting on your shoulder!

Pat, your words brought tears. Yes, we are ready for Chief Grape to come back home so we can take care of each other!

To Newforest, Cheryl, and all of you who have friends and relatives in Japan - courage!

Mel, thank you for sharing your school's very special tribute. What a wonderful idea.


"Haut les coeurs!"
Lift up your spirit! Come on, have courage! Chin up! Be brave!
I love the strength of this wonderful invitation to all of us, when facing danger, suffering and distress. To me, although its meaning is a bit different, it seems to have the same sort of strength as the Arab word "Yalla!" (first heard about "Yalla!" in 2008, via FWAD, following the death of the charismatic Belgian nun, Soeur Emmanuelle)

"Haut les coeurs!" / Ayons du courage face à l'adversité! 'Heart' and 'courage' are strongly linked together. The etymological approach throws light on that link. The word 'heart' has an Anglo-saxon origin. As for the words "coeur" and "courage", they share the same latin origin, so, this is where we've got the link!
- "Coeur" has its origins in the Latin "cor," meaning "heart".
- From the same latin "cor" came the old French word "corage" which became "courage". The word got used in England, after 1066, via the context of fights, danger, battles and French aristocracy!
On battlefields, Richard, known as "Cœur de lion" -> 'Richard the Lionheart' (XIIth century) had the 'courage' of a lion!

When your "coeur" opens, it brings "courage".
Whatever your 'battle' is all about -> 'courage', which is the spirit of your heart, is what you badly need when fighting. "L'homme de la rue" instinctively understood the link between the two words. How extraordinary that the man had that 'little tarnished heart-locket' in his pocket! He surely gave it to the right person... who instinctively passed it on to you, Kristin!
Your talent with words, prompted by "Haut les coeurs" and by the little heart-locket that fell on your bathroom floor, gave us today this touching story. Thank you ever so much!


Carolyn said: My Provencal neighbors had a phrase which sounded to me like "o, liqueurs!" - but was, in fact, HAUT LES COEURS! -
I found "o, liqueurs!" funny and interesting. This shows how much the proper French sound "é" (when you pronounced "les" -> "lé") is closed to the short "i" in English (the 'i' in 'little'), so,for Carolyn, "les" sounded like "li", of course. As "coeur" is indeed pronounced like "queur", I can understand how "liqueur" got through Carolyn's mind, via her ears!

If between "haut" and "coeur", you pronounce "le" instead of "les" ("lé"), you are now dealing with something rather unpleasant!
- "un haut-le-coeur" = retching
- avoir des haut-le-coeur" / "avoir la nausée" = to feel nauseous
Kristin, I seem to remember one of your newsletters dealing with that very unpleasant feeling when you were in Morocco, on holiday with the whole family...

Just realised the French vocab list was missing, so, this might help:
- la paupière = eyelid
- trembloter, cligner (nerveusement) = to twitch
- avoir un tic à l'oeil = to have a twitch in your eye
- un tremblement / un clignotement de la paupière / un tic nerveux à la paupière = eyelid twitch
- humblement = humbly

Anne Brixner

Merci, Kristin, for lifting up so many of our hearts with your beautiful story. Although my beloved Mother died when I was a child, I still
find little "hearts" from her at the most surprising times. Great reminder that love is always surrounding us, even in the saddest times, when we open our eyes and our hearts to see! ooxx Anne

judith dunn

Kristin, I , like your mother, am a survivor of BC.... and this story brought tears to my eyes, as it has to many others. that heart locket has special magic, and so keep it forever and pass to Jackie.... et bon courage... you do have 'true grit' and a beautiful soul. Sincerely, Judi Dunn


If your eyelid blinking is truly bothersome an opthomologist can give you botox shots which will solve the problem for several months. I finally did this and am sorry I didnt do what he suggested sooner -- its quite a relief! My treatment lasts almost 6 months though am sure it differs. Bon chance, Kristin!


Oh, Kristin, like your mother, you give your heart away--to us in your stories. Telle mère, telle fille

Jules Greer

lost my last comment $&#!

Fred Caswell

A grounding picture, a moving/touching story well written, and a photo of a very beautiful 7 year old! Merci encore. Peace

Joie Blair

Jules makes my heart soar! How truly her to leave with you the token of her love. A tarnished heart from your mother is better than a 5 karat diamond any day. And her "lost my last comment $&#!" in the blog made me laugh out loud.
And Newforest....thank you for all your comments. You always make me understand the nuances of the French language much more.
And while I am at it....Kristi...I bought the book "Palmento" and am loving it.


And in Japanese "haut les coeurs" would be "gam-ba-te!" - which means struggle on and never give up. They need it now, dignified, brave people who bear their tragic misfortune with admirable self-discipline.


Marianne Rankin

Thank you, Kristin and readers, for your stories.

I'll be glad to read more of what Jackie has written. How could a story get her thrown out of school?

Carolyn  in Vermont

Thank you for the past 2 stories and giving us the opportunity to express our sorrow and sympathy for the Japanese community around the world. What a beautiful story about Jules and the Mexican man. I always find that when I reach out to strangers, magical things can happen and make us feel like we're never truly alone.

I look forward to Jackie's future stories and I hope JM has a safe trip home. I'm sure you all miss him very much. Don't forget to post a picture of the dogs greeting him!


Kristin, a great story that made me cry! I've been feeling much more stress than normal from both world and personal events and your vivid telling of the story of the locket and your mother's story makes me feel better!

Karen W  (Towson, Maryland)

Thanks, Newforest!

Ann Simons

I really enjoyed your "Ma Routine" post and hope we will not have to wait long for your next post. Some days being a teen is excruciating but your parents are giving you very good guidance.


What a very sweet and touching story about the locket heart!

Haut les coeurs to all! And I'll be careful not to confuse that expression with the other, less pleasant one Newforest warned us about (thank you!). Though when you think about it, both expressions are certainly very descriptive...


I teach French to American Middle School kids and have used Jackie's story as a reading comprehension/discussion topic.

I'm looking forward to reading her next story. the edgier the better from my students' point of view.

Martha Sutherland

Kristen, some time ago there was a video of you cooking something in your kitchen. I can't find it now and I want to see it again. How can I locate it?


Newforest you are a wealth of information.
Kristin you have a tarnished heart locket, but also a heart of gold and it seems as if Jules does also.
Thanks for the touching story.


More than usual, I was moved by this. What you say is always heartfelt and wise, but this went to a level deeper again.
Thank you

Alberta Boileau

French is a language of the heart. Just reading the comments' column brings out the French in me. I can feel that swell of love and emotion that is being expressed by all.
"Haut les coeurs".
Hopefully some paarticipants are emailing those messages to friends in Japan so that they can feel the love also.
I'll sign simply "BERT"
Thanks for your acknowledgement of my previous email.


Hi Kristin

I am delighted that you passed by "This is Belgium", your comment on the flower truck is super sweet.
thank you and haut les coeurs,
à bientôt !

Sandy Maberly

I'm a bit late getting to your latest post but I had to comment on how moving your story was. Jules has such a gift for drawing closer those who need her. Her ability to communicate with others on such complicated levels without understanding the language never ceases to amaze me. Even though I've never met her, I can see alot of her within you. Continue to cultivate those skills and insights and one day Jackie will be writing her own blog with comments about her own extraordinary mom!


"Le coeur et l'estomac" (following latest post and remarks)
In "avoir des haut-le-coeur", (with "le" and hyphens), the word "coeur" is ... the stomach! Why?
I had a vague idea but needed to check first, so, this is the result of my search: in Greek medicine, 'kardia' = the entry (upper orifice) of the stomach. It also corresponds in Latin to “cor”, ("cor", which gave the French word "coeur") - this throws some light on one of the meaning of "coeur", in connection with the word 'stomach'.
- "avoir mal au coeur" = to feel sick
If the smell of cabbage turns your 'stomach':
- "l'odeur des choux me soulève le coeur"!

Verb "écoeurer" = to make (somebody) feel sick
- "Des choux? non, je n'en mange pas. Leur odeur m'écoeure"

Funnyly enough, we have the word "heartburns" in the English language... and what are they in French?
-> "des brûlures d'estomac" / "des aigreurs d'estomac"....

There is no shortage of meanings and metaphorical expressions around "le coeur"!
I will retain the connection between "coeur" and "courage" symbolised by the little tarnished heart locket from the Mexican "homme de la rue" who may have found it on the street, not even knowing its previous owner (?) Mystery...
Kristin, this heart locket is so much more than a charming little gift passed on to you... It's an inspiration! Hope you keep it, just as it is.

Chris Miasnik

From a friend and ex-pat in France after I sent her 'Haut les coeurs': "Another one: il ne faut pas baisser les bras —don't stop trying, don't stop reaching. (I heard this a great deal during class councils in the French school system.)"

I loved "Haut les coeurs!" It reminds me of the spirit and energy of La Marseillaise: "Aux armes citoyens, formez vos bataillons!"

Marcia J. Yanshak

In the year 2000 I was having my last meal in Paris in a small non-descript restaurant across from my hotel. Seated nearby was an elderly Japanese man who spoke virtually no English or French. Somehow we communicated. I still have the little orIgami frog he made for me right there on the spot and the invitation "Kyoto - once in a lifetime". I wonder here he is today?

Jill in Sydney

Hi Kristin
Following your post about 'haut les coeurs',I was struck by a blog post from an American teacher in Sendai Japan, reprinted in our of our daily newspapers here. The thoughts she expresses seem to reflect some of the things you and your correspondents post sometimes and I thought you might like to hear the words of Anne Thomas. I have just picked out some of her poignant comments about life in Sendai Japan at the moment.

She writes "I am now staying at a friend's home. We share supplies like water, food and a kerosene heater. We sleep lined up in one room, eat by candlelight, share stories. It is warm, friendly and beautiful...There has been no looting. People keep saying, 'Oh this is how it used to be in the old days when everyone helped one another.'

Quakes come. Last night they struck every 15 minutes.

No one has washed for several days.We feel grubby, but there are so much more important concerns than that for us now. I love this peeling away of non-essentials. Living fully on the level of instinct, of intuition.

And the Japanese themselves are so wonderful. I come back to my shack every day now to send this email, and I find food and water left in my entranceway. Old men go from door to door checking to see if everyone is OK. I see no signs of fear.

Somehow I can feel my heart opening very wide. My brother asked me if I felt so small because of all that is happening.I don't. Rather I feel part of something happening that is much larger than myself. ...

In evacuation centres there are puppet shows for children. 'It's to ease their minds', my friend explained to me. 'That is very important.'

We comfort one another as best we can. We still say, 'Gambarimashou' ( We must keep up our fighting spirit).

If you want to read more of Anne's blog, here is the link

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