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Entries from May 2011

Bonne fete des meres

Smokey says: Bonne Fête des Mères - Happy Mother's Day, a little in advance! And please excuse my floppy collar, which serves to balance my floppy tongue! P.S. Check out Pronounce it Perfectly in French - now with more pronunciation exercises!

Bonne Fête des Mères (bun* feht day mair) 

    : Happy Mother's Day

*do I hear giggling out there for the "bun" pronunciation (in parenthesis, above)? Well, bonne sure sounded that way when when I recorded my husband voicing bun feht day mair); better rely on his accent, just below, and not my half-baked parenthetical sound guide!

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's wish:
Download MP3 or Wav file

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

An Unusual Friendship

Yesterday I watched an emotionally-moving témoignage, or testimony, on video. In it, two mothers stand before a stone-faced audience. Hand in hand, fueled by courage, the women tell the story of a remarkable friendship born of tragedy.

Phyllis speaks first. Her son was killed in the September 11th attacks...
Aicha listens. Her son is accused in the World Trade Center killings.

And yet...

Where they would be enemies, hearts filled with vengeance—
Where they would be in opposition, minds filled with distrust—
Peace has overcome. 

Tears rolling down her cheeks, Aicha (pictured, right) understands her dear friend's words only with the help of  a French translator, who is standing beside the women.

Capture plein écran 06052011 095438 Phyllis says: "When people heard that my son was a victim, I got immediate sympathy. But when people learned what her son was accused of... she didn't get that sympathy. But her suffering is equal to mine.

When it is Aicha's turn to speak, the mother of the accused tells of how she approached the victim's mother:
Dans son regard j'ai compris que c'était une mère comme moi...
I saw in her eyes that she was a mother like me...

Aicha's story pours out over the audience, as stone faces dissolve into cathartic tears. Instead of hate, we learn about how these mothers found another way....

Capture plein écran 06052011 093909
Aicha's story ends with these thoughts on humanity: "We must be hand in hand and do something together..."

Il faut essayer de connaitre "l'autre"...
Il faut être genereux, genereux de coeur, et d'esprit...
Et de la tolerance...
Il faut lutter contre la violence!
Et j'espère qu'un jour on va vivre ensemble dans la paix et dans le respect des uns et des autres

We have to try to know people who are different from us...
We have to be generous in our hearts and minds...
We have to be tolerant....
We have to fight against violence!
And I hope one day we will live together in peace and in respect of one another. 


Take a moment to watch the short video (click here, if reading this edition by email) in English and in French and please come back to share your thoughts, in the comments box.


Le Coin Commentaires

Capture plein écran 06052011 093735 In one of her many compassionate reactions, Phyllis embraces Aicha, empathising, "I had never met someone with such a hard life, from such a totally different culture and environment than my own...

Thank you for sharing your response to this video. Click here to leave a comment

 *photos taken from the video at



We are bound only by our own bigotry. Put aside intolerance and prejudice. Quit assuming. Take a stand to step out and get to know the seemingly exotic humans all around you. Photo taken in Madrid.



A Feast at the BeachA Feast at the Beach. Travel back in time and immerse yourself in the Provence of the late 60s. Sensitively told, filled with humor, tenderness and a beautifully descriptive narrative regaling the reader with the tastes and smells of Southern France, A Feast at the Beach deftly blends the foods of Provence with stories that will touch your heart - and just may inspire you to rediscover your own joie de vivre. See the reviews, here.


Check out the latest prices for Kindle, click here and consider ordering today! Your purchase helps support this free language journal. Merci beaucoup!

P.S. To my wonderful Mom: Happy Mother's Day! See, I didn't forget that photo you asked me for, of one of the flowers in my garden. (Picture taken with this handy pocket camera.)

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
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la goutte

Abandoned Beauty (c) Kristin Espinasse

Beauty in abandoned places. Beside the bricked-in, condemned windows, a random poppy bouquet, born in the cracks of concrete. Photo taken in Bollène (Vaucluse) (with a handy pocket camera I'm using a lot these days (click here for more info)

la goutte (goot)

    : gout

Note: our family is about to begin bottling wine now (see story, below)... no time to go on... but there are other meanings for today's word, goutte. See some related terms and expressions here!

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the following words (Download MP3 or Wav file)

Cette fois-ci, j'avais une crise de goutte dans la main.  This time, I had a gout attack in my hand.


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

A Farmer is Never Hors Service (Even When His Limbs are!)

Today we will bottle 12,000 units of our Domaine Rouge-Bleu wine! Adding to the excitement and chaos is a surprise visit from my husband's pire enemi: la GOUTTE! 

Yes, gout! Jean-Marc has suffered from the "kind of arthritis" for the last 15 years. (It runs in his family.) The attacks, which are usually concentrated on the foot area, always strike at the most inopportune moments--just before a road trip (so that driving is out of the question) or just before an important mise en bouteilles--such as today's!

And so it is that Chief Grape is partly hors service (given that his hand has doubled in size, painfully so, after this latest attack). Thankfully, Uncle Jacques stopped by to help prepare the area for the bottling. And now that Max is a buff (time to embarrass our teens again, la honte!) almost-16-year-old, he is able to be an even more dependable main droite for his father.

Meantime, The Chief is doing what he can to speed up the healing process: he's asked me to help apply an argile, or clay, emplâtre to diminish the swelling in his hand. To cover the wet clay, we made a cutout from a bag of Harry's American Bread (those of you living in France will recognize the colorful packaging!). 

The homemade cast was tied together with some elastic string normally used in training our baby vines. And, speaking of entrainment, Chief Grape's hand, trussed this way, has a certain "punch" to it... wouldn't you say?


P.S. What, you may be wondering, sets off one of these gout attacks? Though wine is most often cited, for Jean-Marc les asperges is another pire ennemi! And, this time of year, they are everywhere, those menacing green spears! (Hidden in soups, unrevealed in risotto...) 

Le Coin Commentaires
Comments are welcome here, in the comments box. Thanks in advance! 

                                      Chief Grape, multitasking.

 French Vocabulary

hors service = out of service

pire ennemi = worst enemy

la mise en bouteille = wine bottling

la main droite = right-hand man, woman

l'argile (f) = clay (click here for story)

emplâtre (m) = plaster (medical)

l'entrainement (m) = training

les asperges (f,pl) = asparagus

also: les pointes d'asperges  = asparagus tips



Smokey (standing next to me as I photograph his mama, Braise), says:

"Her eyes were closed. Could you please take another?"

Me: "Of course Smokey-Dear. And good of you to look out for your beautiful mom!"

Smokey: N'est-ce pas qu'elle est belle, ma maman? (Ain't she purdy, my mama?)

Exercises in French Phonics Exercises in French Phonics bestseller on French pronunciation and how to pronouce French words correctly! (click here)


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice

la honte!


Photo: Nothing to do with today's word... just a slice of country life as it looked here at the farm one week ago.

la honte! (lah ohnt)

    = how embarrassing!

Exercises in French Phonics Exercises in French Phonics bestseller on French pronunciation and how to pronouce French words correctly! (click here)



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

"Why is it We Do The Very Thing We Set Out Not To Do?"

(In a parking lot, somewhere in a busy industrial zone...) My daughter and I are walking arm in arm, following the shade that our bodies make. We swerve to the left, to the right, let our heads fall together, and then to the side. The dark figure on the sidewalk contorts, following our every move and it is our delight to throw out another command or two. What a thrill it is to be in control, finally, to watch our image do what we tell it to!

Earlier, when we arrived at the shopping center for a beauty consultation, Jackie repeated her request:"S'il te plaît, Maman... Please, Mom, do not tell the saleswoman, 'My daughter does not need to wear le maquillage'!"

I quickly translated her plea: by informing the saleswoman that my daughter did not need makeup, I would be announcing: "She's too pretty for the stuff!" And such a remark would be "la honte" to my daughter.

Compte sur moi! I promised. Even though I feel my daughter does not need makeup, I knew it would be a surprise and a treat to offer her a cosmetics lesson. (After her essay on maquillage, we received many thoughtful responses and tips, one of which was the suggestion to have a makeup consultation.)

Fastoche! I thought. I'd worked in a department store and I'd witnessed the girls at the makeup counter offer customers free lessons. I figured that after Jackie's lesson, we would purchase the fond de teint that she had been asking for (to camouflage les boutons, she explained).

With this plan, I led my daughter into the makeup boutique. After I inquired about a makeup lesson, the woman behind the counter consulted her cahier.
"Voyons... la leçon de maquillage... çela coute 25 euros." 

"Vingt-cinq euros? Does this include a gift with purchase?" (I was hoping it might cover the cost of the fond de teint that we were in the market for...)
The woman shook her carefully coiffed head, Non.

Wondering what to do, I translated the figure into US dollars: $36! What if we purchased something?...

The saleswoman confirmed: "With a purchase of three items, we can offer you the makeup lesson." With that Jackie and I hurried over to the makeup display case, but the first item my daughter saw (lip gloss) was 32 euros ($40)! With this "three item" scheme, the lesson would end up costing nearly $100!

I tried to negotiate with the saleswoman. "You see... she's only thirteen..." I pointed out, looking over at my daughter, who was showing the first signs of la honte

There, I'd done it! I might as well have said "she doesn't need to wear makeup!"

Strangely, instead of taking the clue that I'd gone and done the very thing I'd promised not to--I chose this moment to give my daughter a lesson in consumer relations... 

"Don't be embarrassed, Sweetie. It's normal to talk about the price for something!" I said to my daughter, looking over at the saleswoman for confirmation. Only, the saleswoman stared blankly back at me.

I ignored the whispering beside me, "Maman.... Maman!

The saleswoman's reaction only fueled my determination for a winning outcome (couldn't, after all, this be a gagnant-gagnant, or win-win situation? As it was, the boutique had no other clients. Was it too much to ask for a makeup demonstration? The two saleswomen were standing around and it might also be the chance for them to practice the métier....)  

I tried reasoning: "It's just that... instead of buying grocery-store makeup I had the idea that I would treat my daughter to..."

But any fanciful ideas were immediately cut short when my daughter began poking me, determinedly.

"Jackie!" I admonished the arm-poker. After a few more bumbling lines, the irony of it all occurred to me: this great effort at economy was, in the end, at my daughter's expense!

Like that, we sklunked out of the makeup boutique, one of us feeling like a has-been, the other feeling like Honte personified.


Half an hour later I study the thick shadow ahead of me, watching as it glides forward, at ease. We turn our heads right, then left... Arm in arm my daughter and I march forward, laughing now and again at the funny contorted figure on the pavement. 

"I'm so sorry for embarrassing you!" I repeat to my daughter, who shakes the sack in her hand in response. "It's okay. This is just fine!" I had wanted to buy her a step-up from the grocery-store makeup....

With that we head to the car, swerving from side to side, our shadow following along, in real time. I shook my head at my "step up" makeup plan. All that really matters, in the end, is that we are in step with each other.

Le Coin Commentaires
To respond to this story click here.  


French Vocabulary

s'il te plaît, Maman = please, Mom

le maquillage = makeup

compte sur moi! = count on me!

fastoche! = nothin' to it!

le fond de teint = makeup base, foundation

les boutons (m) = pimples

la leçon de maquillage... çela coute 25 euros = the makeup leçon... that costs 25 euros

Maman! Maman! = Mom! Mom!

la honte = shame

Forget about the weeds. Rest easy. Smokey and I. (Photo by Chief Grape)

51Qckm1DSfL._SL500_AA280_ I Heart Paris Shopper: made of recycled material

French Demystified...simple enough for a beginner but challenging enough for a more advanced student.


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice