brosse à dents

A view in Villedieu (c) Kristin Espinasse

Brise-bise is not the word of the day... but it is the name for these kinds of "half curtains", the ones you see every so often while strolling through a village in France.

brosse à dents (bros a don) noun, feminine

    : toothbrush

brosse à dents jetables = disposable toothbrush
brosse à dents électrique = electric toothbrush

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file

Tu as à ta disposition des brosses à dents jetables, ainsi que du dentifrice, pour te laver les dents. You have disposable toothbrushes at your disposition, as well as toothpaste, to brush your teeth.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
Bumming toothbrushes at the orthodontist's

As always, there is a long line at the orthodontist's. I take my place at the end of the queue and prepare to wait a while. Max and Jackie stand beside me, their mouths glimmering metallic.

"Ça fait plus que deux ans!" Jackie begins.
"I thought we'd get them off today!" Max seconds.

I begin to feel a little annoyed that the kids are complaining about their braces, given how much les bagues have cost their parents! I have an urge to point this out; instead I hold my tongue. If I remember correctly, my own mom never complained or pointed out to me just how much my dental work cost her; instead, she made the necessary sacrifices, including juggling her work schedule in order to get me to my monthly appointments on time. If it weren't for her care and diligence, I'd be walking around today with a mouthful of teeth that only a woolly mammoth—and not a dashing Frenchman—could appreciate (thanks, Mom, for the braces—and for helping me to attract a husband!).

With renewed humility, my annoyance disappears. I turn my attention over to the goings-on around me, watching anxious parents scribble out checks while their teenagers look off in boredom.

On the comptoir, beside the secretary, I notice a jar full of toothbrushes. Every so often, I see the secretary hand one of the brosse à dents to a patient. I wonder, why haven't my kids ever brought home a free toothbrush?

My humility is short-lived and, once again, I am back to calculating and sweating about the cost of putting two kids, simultaneously, through orthodontics!  I study the other teenagers and parents in line, and I wonder how anyone can afford braces these days? How can anyone balance a budget when braces factor into the monthly debit? I am immediately filled with appreciation for my husband, who manages our compte bancaire. The least I can do, on my part, is to try to save when and where I can.

Suddenly I remember the jar full of toothbrushes! Last I checked, a good toothbrush cost almost 3 euros... It occurs to me that a couple of those brosse à dents could slightly offset the coût faramineux of this current visit...  At 6 euros (one 3 euro toothbrush per kid) we might begin, ever so slightly, to diminish our liste de dépenses.

I study the secretary, who is overworked and distracted. This might be the perfect time to request our toothbrushes, the ones she has once again forgotten to offer us! Surely it was an oversight on her part and I shouldn't be embarrassed to ask for what is rightly mine.

When my turn comes to pay I hand over my carte de crédit and casually mention the free toothbrushes.

The secretary looks confused. 

If the parents waiting behind me are staring now, and I suspect they are, it is only because they have never thought, as I have, for the first time, to outwit the pricey French dental system by asking for the freebies! Perhaps these parents will take my example and we can all begin to reclaim what is rightly our own, namely, complimentary toothbrushes! As grandiloquent as my thoughts are, in reality I am shaking in my boots after having asked for the paradental perks. 

Noticing the lingering look of confusion on the secretary's face, it occurs to me that I may have made some sort of mistake. But it's too late to back down now. I point out the jar with the brosses à dents gratuites

"Oh, those," she says. "Well, if you like..."

"Go ahead!" I say. "Pick out your toothbrushes!" Only, when I turn to look for the kids, they have disappeared. This time I am the one wearing the look of confusion.

The secretary hands me the jar to pick out the toothbrushes.
"They are only good for one use," she explains. "Normally we give them to kids who have not had the chance to brush their teeth before an appointment. Ce sont les brosses à dents jetables...."

As the saying goes "pride goeth..." or rather "La fierté précède la chute" and with that, I select two colorful brosses à dents before my confidence quickly falls to the wayside—along with all of those flimsy, disposable toothbrushes!

French Vocabulary

le brise-bise = little curtain covering the bottom half of window

la queue
= line

ça fait plus que deux ans! = it's been over two years!

les bagues (f) = braces

le comptoir = counter

le compte bancaire = bank account 

la brosse à dents = toothbruth

le coût faramineux = astronomical price

la liste de dépenses = expenditures list

la carte de crédit = credit card

gratuit = free

Ce sont les brosses à dents jetables = they are disposable toothbrushes

Brise bise
In the upper-right, see some typical French "half curtains" les brise-bise and discover an ancient key in this next story, featuring reader Gus Elison.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
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