faire passer le temps

avoir les chocottes

P1010433Smokey takes a thoughtful pause (from blowing bubbles in the brook...) to contemplate nature and the history of the fleur de lys *** read more at the end of this edition.

Update on Jean-Marc: We are still waiting for the kidney biopsy results. Meantime, read about how we are passing the time, in the following story...  We have very good news: all is OK! The nurse called to say that the test results show nothing to worry about. That is all the info we have for now. Thank you very much for your caring notes and positive thoughts!

avoir les chochottes (ahv whar lay sho koht)

    : to have the jitters

Tip: Read beyond the word of the day. Discover stories from a French life, just below. You will learn many more French words in context as well as everyday expressions not found in a textbook.


Les chocottes is a synonym for "teeth". In the expression "avoir les chocottes" we can imagine chattering teeth in response to fear.

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce this example sentence (Download MP3 or Wav file)

Quand il m'a demandé de tenir la barrique pendant que la tronçonneuse allait la scier, j'ai eu les chocottes! When he asked me to hold onto the wine barrel while the power saw cut through it, I had the jitters!

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

"Taking Trust to the Next Level"

Jean-Marc wants to play "Magician and Assistant" only I'm not game. 

Never mind. My husband is not one to wait for an answer. Instead, he points to the 220-liters wine barrel and says: Mets-toi là! Stand there!

I drag my legs over to the old wooden barrique
"Je ne peux pas faire ça!"

My protests are met by slight annoyance on the part of The Magician, who turns his attention to the power saw and begins yanking at the cord.

The tronçonneuse gives a roar only to die down again... and just when I think I will be dismissed from this macabre chore... back to life that power saw roars!

The edge of the saw wavers to and fro as The Magician motions to the side of the barrel. I take my cue to step into place. I have no stileto heels, no sequined gown. I am dressed in tatters and terror.

Standing to the side of the huge barrique, I reach out to put the tip of my finger on its hard metal edge.

"Ne bouge pas! Don't move!" The Magician orders. 

Don't move? Je suis paralysée. Only, when the saw hits the barrel and the wood dust begins to fly I jump back. "I can't! I can't!!!"

Jean-Marc fires up the tronçonneuse once again and moves in toward the wine barrel. He is going to saw it in half with or without me!

Seeing the barrel rock, I inch over to it and grab onto the end. My eyes are pressed so tightly together that my upper lip rises in time to bare my teeth, which receive a thin screen of saw dust when wood particles hurl forth from the saw's blade.

When the power saw is fired up for the next round, I remember to hold my mouth closed. I feel the barrel roll forwards and backwards as the Magician rotates the cutting surface.

"C'est presque fini!" he informs me. 

I pry open my right eye to see whether Mr. Magician is telling the truth. En effet, the barrel is about to split in half!

"Voilà, Chérie," the husband-houdini announces. Two new flower pots for you!

I study the halved barrel. My other eye pops open when the critic in me can't help but point out the wavy, uneven coupe:

"Perhaps a straight line should have been traced first?"

"Mais c'est ça qui fait son charme!" Jean-Marc argues.

I follow the French accent to the uneven smile from which the argument pours forth. 

"T'as raison!" "You are right!", I admit to the disarming Magician, "C'est ça qui fait son charme!" Only, my eyes are no longer lingering on the crooked barrel.


Le Coin Commentaires

Corrections, Comments, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box



French Vocabulary

P1010371 mets-toi là = stand there

la barrique = large barrel 

Je ne peux pas faire ça! = I can't do that

la tronçonneuse = power saw

ne bouge pas! = don't move

je suis paralysé = I am paralyzed

c'est presque fini! = it's almost done!

en effet = as a matter of fact, indeed

Voilà, Chérie = There you are, Dear

la coupe = the cut

Mais, c'est ça qui fait son charme! = But that's what gives it its charm!

(pictured, left, another charming twist in home decoration: a whimsically painted wooden shutter. Photo taken in the town of Jonquières, and featured in Saturday's Cinéma Vérité edition)

Newforest's Notes : Chocotte & Chochotte
In a follow up to her comment in today's Coin Commentaires, Newforest sent in these helpful and interesting expressions:

When you are afraid, your teeth may chatter (choc-choc-choc)... "les chocottes" are a very old term for "les dents" (teeth) and is no longer used these days, except in a childish language and in the familiar expression used when you are frightened: "avoir les chocottes". In 'ordinary' language, you would say: "claquer des dents", which can be caused either by "avoir froid" ('being cold') or, "avoir peur" ('being afraid, scared') 

Here are other very 'familiar' expressions in French, to translate the idea of being afraid, being scared, being frightened

-> "avoir la frousse" = to be scared
BTW, if you are always afraid of something, you are "un froussard" (= "un peureux") 
- "froussard(e)" and "peureux (peureuse)" are also used as adjectives.

-> "avoir la trouille" = to be frightened/scared to death
You measure temperature with "un thermomètre"... atmospheric pressure with "un baromètre" and, by analogy, you measure your fear (your "trouille") with an imaginary.... "trouillomètre"! 
so, "avoir le trouillomètre à zéro" = to be VERY frightened indeed... to be petrified/paralyzed with terror

-> "avoir la pétoche"
= to be scared stiff, to be scared out of one's wits
Synonyms for "la pétoche" ->  "la crainte", "la frayeur", "la peur" 

The word "chochotte" (pejorative) means something totally different! 
"une chochotte" is either
--> a girl we can describe as affectedly pretty, very fussy and rather snobbish - a girl "qui fait des chichis"
- "faire des chichis" / "des manières" / "des simagrées" = to put on 'airs' 
- Familiar words for such a girl: 
"une pimbêche", "une chichiteuse", "une bêcheuse" (the word "bêcheuse" has also got other meanings).

--> a boy we can describe as excessively trendy, stylish (but lacking virility...), having extremely refined manners, effeminate.  
- pejorative for homosexual-



 What kind of flowers shall be put in our recouped barrel (which is just like this one, only sans fleurs)? Share your suggestions here, in the comments box -- and thanks in advance!



Mama Braise (BREZ) is pictured here... As Smokey dries off somewhere outside the edge of this photo.

**fleur de lys, continued ... one theory has it that the famous flower came into recognition in the early wars, when a certain king waded through the narrow, iris-flanked waterways to escape the enemy. After a safe journey (thanks to the camouflaging flowers...) the humble iris des marais, or "iris of the marais", was honored. It is this "fleur de Louis" that inspired the French coat of arms (and not the fleur de lys). But don't take my word for it... there are other theories (I heard this one from Uncle Jean-Claude and the facts might have gotten mixed up in translation!)

Exercises in French PhonicsExercises in French Phonics is... 
" a great book for learning French pronunciation" Order your copy here.

French shopping bagI Heart Paris Shopper: made of recycled material

Tune Up Your French: Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Spoken French 


A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Oh, I can just see the two of you now! I vote for big bushels of lovely lavender!

Jackie Sand

We've got a halved wine barrel of lavender beginning to bloom here in a suburb of Boston!
I hope Jean-Marc gets wonderful news today.
My best to you both-

Bill in St. Paul

I think we're all waiting anxiously along with all of you to get the results of Jean_Marc's biopsy. The photo of Braise in the stream reminds me of our old Golden who would swim out to a tossed tennis ball in the lake and bring it back, but you always had to have two tennis balls in case he swam past the first, never sure how far he'd swim before realizing he'd missed the ball.

Jules Greer

Hi Honey,

Definitely lavender, or maybe a nice tree in each one, are you going to put them beside your front door?

Can you keep JM sawing - more would be great. You could transplant one of your BIG
lavender plants for a bigger POP in the pots.




...blue petunias!! The real blue ones not the purple run-o`-the-mill ones....they are heavenly!

Paul Heffron

Hi Kristin, I think that the doctors taking their time is a hopeful sign. If the problem was clear and serious they would have acted quickly. Hoping that I'm right.
My best, Paul


..and yes, uneven smiles are soooooo sexy!!

Suzanne in Monroe TWP, NJ

I vote for nasturtiums which look lovely when the tumble down from a barrel. But if they don't do well in Provence, then of course, lavender.

I loved the photo of Braise swimming crocdile-like! And of course the very charming story. I could see JM's disarming smile as I read it.

BTW our lillies-of-the-valley are about to bloom just in time for me to take a bouquet to our friends David and Linda when we go to their home on May 1 for dinner. I learned from you that bouquets of these flowers are traditionally exchanged on May Day!

Kristin Espinasse

GOOD NEWS! The doctor's secretary called with a "no worries" message. That is all the info that we have. JM will go in in one month's time for another check up. I have rarely seen a smile that big on his face.

Bill, your note about Théo always brings a chuckle.

I think both lavender and blue petunias will be a lovely way to remember this day! Now to find some soil (aha! didn't say dirt this time :-)

Thank you all so much for your caring note and colorful ideas.

P.S.: Mom, not sure where we'll put it (the other one suffered a break down, literally... so now there'll be no door flanking for those barrel-pots.

Hi Suzanne, just saw your note. I think nasturtiums would fit perfectly into our melange! Great idea!!! (Lucky you to be near so many lilys of the valley.

Jan R.

Hi Kristin,

I just checked in today after being off for a while and discovered the news about Jean Marc. I'm sending you all a big hug and best wishes for good results on the biopsy. I'm sure all will be fine.

As to the wine barrels - how amazing - we just did the same thing yesterday! and now we have brand new planters for the vegetable garden! Ours will be hosting strawberries, cucumbers, and spices near the kitchen. We're lucky our good friends Sue and Peter who have a winery are great sports and give us all the barrels we can handle - which has proven to be a lot! Good luck with the lavender and post a picture of the results.



Cheryl Anderson

Good morning,

I sent pictures of the plant for your container. Calibrachoa, "Million Bells Crackling Fire".
Really love this plant and it survives in a container on my very hot and sunny deck each summer. Needs watering often, but well worth the trouble. Takes over all the space it is in. Mounds up nicely as is shown in the picture.
Hope you get Jean Marc's tests back soon. I will say a prayer to Notre Dame de Laghet. I frequent this church when staying in Cap Martin.
All the best,
Cheryl Anderson


Yes, I too think nasturtiums would be wonderful. What about a small rosemary plant too?
Braise is so.....sweet swimming there! What very special doggies.....!

Cheryl Anderson

Just a follow-up.
Great "no worries" call.
Suggestions posted by others are good too.
I like the "Million Bells" because they are beautiful ALL SUMMER!!

Bill in St. Paul

That's great news, Kristin. I can imagine how much relief JM (and the rest of you) feel.

Cheryl in STL

I loved your story about the houdini husband----but the wonderful news about JM has taken top billing today! I'm so happy for all of you--what a relief!! Do something fun to celebrate!

Julie Schorr

I love the wine barrel planters! What a wonderful idea! The flowers look lovely too. Great news about Jean-Marc. You must all be so relieved. The pictures of Braise swimming and enjoying the outdoors are precious. What a happy posting today!!

Sandy Maberly

So pleased and relieved to hear the "all clear" announcement. It's always amazing how a couple of words make the difference between joy and distress. Now, everything will take on a new meaning as you continue with your daily routine!

I vote for herbs to be planted in your new barrel. Of course I do tend to lean more toward things for cooking :-) There are lots of nice aromatic herbs available which would do double duty for their scents as well as for their medicinal or edible properties. But whatever, anything looks good in a barrel when it's placed in a French vineyard! Enjoy your wonderful news as well as the rest of your day!

Denise Givens

Hi Kristin, loved the story today and last week! I just saw the 'good news' announcement - we're all relieved for you. I have to say, reading your Mom's posts here are just terrific and bring tears to my eyes frequently. You are a terrific family!


Frank Levin

I think calla lilys massed in the center and something droopy all around the rim. Perhaps some verbena. Find a nice shady spot for it. There is already enough lavender in France to heavily scent the planet many times over.

Marianne Rankin

Great news about Jean-Marc!

A correction: the English-sound equivalent in the e-mail version of FWAD should be "sho-kott" and not "sho-showtz."

I hope (thought it doesn't seem so) that you and Jean-Marc were wearing goggles while he did the sawing. Sawdust on your teeth could just as easily have gone into your eyes. When I do hedge-trimming, sanding, or anything which yields "fly-off," I wear eye protection.

I thought the French word for "barrel" was "barile." Or is a "barrique" specifically a wine barrel, whereas a "barile" could be for anything?

For the planters, I suggest something that fills them well - large and colorful. Maybe geraniums along with other plants somewhat showy. Geraniums tolerate heat well, too.

Diane W. Young

Wonderful news about Chief Grape. So often the waiting is a time to do crazy things like cruising the stream a la Smokey. Our prayers were answered in His time.

Michael Wrenn

Bonjour de la Napa Valley, Kristin! Quelle bonne nouvelle concernant Jean-Marc, vous devez en être soulagés. Merci pour cette histoire charmante du magicien et de sa belle assistante...J'ai hâte de me retrouver parmi vous cet été.

Sharon - Montague, Michigan

Great to hear the "no worries" phrase for Jean-Marc, you and your family. Waiting to hear news is always difficult.

Nasturtiums would be wonderful in the wine barrel along with something taller in the middle. They are beautiful in a salad along with their peppery tasting leaves.


Geraniums (pelargoniums to be correct)! Tres Mediterranean, tough and colorfully lovely. They are just drought-tolerant enough to do well in a barrel or a clay pot. Ask the Italians! For me, lavender does better in the ground than in pots.

Suzanne de Cornelia

Was holding my breathe with the power saw. Laughing at Braise and Smokey in the water. And SO HAPPY for all of you that Jean-Marc heard 'No Worries'!! The wine barrel with flowers is charming.

Karen from Phoenix, AZ

WHOO HOO! so glad to hear all clear for Jean-Marc. Now you can relax and plant away. Love, love the photos of the dogs. xoxo

Johanna DeMay

Bonjour Kristin!

So glad to hear Chief Grape's good news today! All your friends around the world share in your relief and send you much love.

About the uneven cut on the barrel, of course Jean Marc is right: a perfect, mechanical edge is aesthetically boring! I deliberately cut back the perfect rims of my pots with a slightly wavering hand, to give them a lyrical, natural line. It is so much more appealing!

I loved the photo of Smokey blissfully swimming in the ditch, surrounded by those lovely irises! Here in New Mexico, our irrigation ditches are also lined with the same golden blooms. I saw the very first flowers of the season during a bike ride last Sunday. Your countryside has much in common with ours. Perhaps that is part of the reason we felt so much at home in Provence. But mostly it was the wonderful people we were privileged to meet!

Je vous embrasse,

Johanna & Will
Albuquerque, NM

Gwyn Ganjeau

yyyyyeeeeeehhhhhaaaawwwww! Great news about J-M!! I'm sure you find that uneven smile even more irresistable today. What a joyful day.

I'm here to second the nasturtiums--the bonus being they are edible! the leaves are nice and peppery and the blossoms really tart up a simple salad. perhaps some pansies as well? they are edible too!



Wonderful news about the Chief Grape. Smiles all around.

Hmmm, after reading the suggestions presented, I find there are so many possibilities.

Maybe you want something that will bloom all spring and summer and have color contrast. Being edible would be nice also.

Loved your story. I could really imagine your fears.


Perhaps both should have some herbs grouped in the middle, maybe even in a pot in the middle since some of them seem to take over. Then all around perhaps morning glory, petunias in pinks and whites to go with the morning glory. Or any number of plants that like to cascade....you will post photos in a couple of months I hope.
How long does Chief Grape use the wine barrels before he "repurposes" them? I know they are not good forever and I think remember reading that it depends on where the wood is from.
Sunny skies your way,


that's a very beautiful picture!


I vote for Johnny jump ups, delphiniums and phlox!

Lisa A., CA

Great News about Jean-Marc!!! I'm so happy for you all!

I love the wine barrel idea. Very pretty. I agree with the email above that lavender does better in the ground. Have you tried jasmine before. I have some by my front door, it really fills the space and it will hang over the sides of the barrel. And, and extra bonus...it also smells so wonderful to come home to!

Also, at my parents house in France their roses do very well throughout the entire year. I hope this helps.

Christine Dashper

So pleased to hear about Jean-Marc, Kristin. Excellent news!!


Best. Blog. Evah.
Makes me NEED to move to France, like, NOW.

Stacy, Applegate, Oregon

Sigh of relief! Happy to share in your family’s good news.

Now when I look at the half barrels placed around this farm I will not only enjoy the beauty of the blossoms flowering there, but also smile to think of what you endured as Magician’s Assistant to have one of your own. Having a partner who is a “repair anything and do everything himself” sort of guy myself, I can relate.

Love all the ideas for your barrel, wonder which one(s) you will choose? As always, a delight to sit down with your story and great photos - love Braise in the brook.


So glad to hear JM's good news. Love the dog pix every single time they're included. As for the planting of the new wine barrels--lavender is lovely but sooo prevalent in the south of France. The nasturtiums would be good too, but what about a nice olive tree/topiary/shrub with fleurs around the base? I love olive trees and they're hard to find and tres cher in nurseries here. If you don't want to mess with the olives, the fruitless ones look just as good.


Very nice blog ....
I will appreciate if you come to my blog also: http://pourapprendrelefrancais.blogspot.com/

merci et à bientôt

Amy Kortuem

Such good news about your husband - glad to hear it!

For the barrel - something tall in the middle, like a splendid grass with delicate tops that will wave in the wind. Then fill in with constant bloomers and don't forget a few vines to trail over the edges.


Great news about Jean-Marc. While waiting the stress level is incredible, but now you can relax and plant in your planters. I suggest nasturtiums, rosemary, lavender and violets of some sort (all edible) and of course something yellow - very Provencal colors. The barrels would be big enough to hold thyme and chives - then you could have an herb garden right near you door for instant picking for your fabulous meals.
Was swimming in the stream Braise's bath or does she tend to roll in the dirt afterwards or seem to find something smelly to roll in for a natural essence?

Cindy L.

I'm sooo glad to hear the good news of Jean-Marc's test results! Quel soulagement!
As for the plant barrel, how about a spike plant in the middle surrounded by purple Lobelia, pink hanging Geraniums, some cascading Petunias, and white Alyssum or white Bacopa
What tranquil photos of the pups enjoying the brook!

Mme. DuFrance

Chere Kristen,

Malheursement le son 'CH' (anglais= channel, chocolate) n'existe pas en francais. Ansi le son CH est comme l'anglais 'SH,' ship.

Peut-etre j'ai malcompris quel que chose?

Mme. DuFrance


Hi Kristen:

I am very happy to know the Jean_Marc's test are good. May God bless with your family.
Thank you again for sharing your knowledge and wisdom as well as your personal life with us. You brigten my day, every other day.


A Lebanese_ Canadian


Congratulations on your good news. Here in the northwest we have been having the coldest spring on record. All of my starts have died from being water-logged or frozen. You are so lucky to be able to plant now! I would just go to the nursery and do some wonderful annual color. A hangy one, a bunchy one and a sticky-uppy one always looks good in the barrel. That way you cover tall, fall and middle. Lucy you!

Bob and Anne

Good news love to you both!


I am in the middle of catching up... As I have a lot to read, "je lis en diagonale".
Saying that, I read every single word of the good news you added in blue, and read the next newsletter ("tonnerre") twice, from A to Z!
SOooo pleased to hear there is "rien d'alarmant" and sharing (though a bit late) the feeling of relief and joy for all of you.

I am a bit puzzled because you used 2 words: "chocottes" and .. "chochottes". In this context, it is definitely "chocottes".
I'll send you an e-mail.

Oh! I love the half barrels. Actually, I think only one can be properly used (but the bottomless one could 'camouflage' and shelter some pots I suppose.
Very bright red geraniums would be perfect and go on and on flowering through the Summer (keep pinching the dead flowers). Add whatever give a good contrast with shape, height and colour.


and I forgot to tell you I am ever so happy to see a few more photos of your "ruisseau"!
♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥
Mille mercis!

Pat Cargill

Great news - so happy for J-M et famille.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)