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Entries from March 2012

comment faire

Jalopy (c) Kristin Espinasse

 "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous." Les coincidences sont une manière pour Dieu de rester anonyme. Thanks to Ardi, for sharing this quote in Monday's comments box.  Does anyone know who wrote it?)

Photo: "The Dawn of Spring"...  near Orange, France. It was worth jumping over a muddy ditch--and parting a curtain of prickly feuilles--to get close up to this floral scene! For a side view of the classic car--and more of these glorious blossoms--click here.

comment faire (koh mahn fehr)

: how to

Audio File: The Francophones have been driven off (see today's story), which means you are stuck with me! Listen to the following sentence at your own péril (especially perilous were the words écrire and jouer)Download MP3 or Wav file

On ne peut à la fois écrire une nouvelle... et jouer chauffeur.* Alors comment faire? One cannot at the same time write a short story and play driver!


* ... in case you are wondering, no! "chauffeuse" is not the feminine of chauffeur.  Chauffeuse is the French word for "low armless chair"...

Grammar note: Wondering where the pas went (after ne peut...)? See Millie's grammar tip at the end of this edition...

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

Note: This column will be back illico presto... just as soon as the slap-happy storyteller either:

1. gets some sleep.... or 

2. quits being solicited for rides:

    a. to the aéroport at (3:58 a.m.)

    b. to school at (8:15 a.m.)

    c. to driver's ed at (9:50 a.m.)

    d. to friends' homes (the rest of the afternoon)

Sheesh! How can anyone pursue the writing life... when the riding life takes over? Off to drive Max to town...


Comments Corner
Just in case today's slapdash baclée offering might have inspired any response whatsoever, you can leave a message here, in the comments box. Thanks!


 Meantime, if you feel like reading a vocab-rich story, try one of these (in theme with today's word!) from the archives:

  1. How to Eat Chocolate Mousse for Breakfast on Monday
  2. How to Mourn a Cat
  3. How to Prune Lavender
  4. How to Know Whose is Whose (Coffee)


 French Vocabulary

une feuille = leaf

illico presto = (see all meanings here -- and some lovely Smokey The Dog photos, too!)

un aéroport = airport

la chapellerie = hat shop

 Another Grammar Tip (...gleaned from the comments box!)

Millie writes:

I remember my French professeur once telling us, in some cases, it is possible to omit the "PAS". Just think of COPS pour Cesser. Oser, Pouvoir et Savoir comme par exemple, il ne cesse de pleuvoir; nerveuse, je n'ose parler en public; elle ne peut venir avec moi; je ne sais qui a raison?

Thanks, Millie. As you can tell, I've been practicing (see today's example sentence!). I hope others will be helped by your tip too!

Have a good grammar tip? Share it here. I will try to post another of your tips very soon, that is illico presto!



Is it any wonder which hat Mom would choose? And you, have you chosen your hat yet? (and don't give us any of that: but I didn't see the black hat!!! How come she gets to choose the black hat? Here are a few more choices, if you like... though it may be du pareil au même--or "more of the same"--from the previous photo.



Another chapellerie... this time in Orange, France.

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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Chapellerie (c) Kristin Espinasse

Hats off to readers! Each chapeau represents the original character of those who read this blog-newsletter. Which hat are you? (I think I'm that gray one, upper right. Although, lately, I appreciate the two-tone blue one--needed sun protection!!--over there on the upper left). In today's story--meet a few of these unique personnages... and enjoy the unlikely story of their "retrouvailles"! 

Meet with Jean-Marc this month--in Brooklyn or Manhattan-- during his 2012 USA wine tour: click here to see all the cities Chief Grape will be visiting

retrouvailles nfpl

    : reunion, reunification

la retrouvaille = finding again, meeting again, getting back together

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

Aujourd'hui, lisons "Les Retrouvailles" une belle histoire de deux amies d'enfance qui se retrouvent en ligne, sur ce blog.... Today, let's read "Les Retrouvailles"--a beautiful story about two childhood friends who reunite online, on this blog...



This is the story of Julianna Palazzolo and Sandy Zeoli, the two friends who reconnected through "French Word-A-Day"....


Time: mid to late 1950's

Place: Northern New Jersey, not far from New York City

Dramatis personae: Sandy Y and Julie P

Things to keep in mind: both girls had unusual last names

Julie and Sandy were friends and classmates at the Thomas A. Edison school. Both liked to write short stories. Julie's were much better (Sandy thought that then and still thinks it now). We went to each other's houses all the time, went to each other's birthday parties, and were good friends.

Julie Palazzolo

Julie (pictured, left) moved away to Michigan. She and Sandy lost contact, although Sandy thought about her on and off and wondered where she was. Occasionally if she were traveling, she would check phone books for Julie's last name. Sometimes there was a name that was close, but not the same. Or, right last name, but father's first name didn't match.

Sandy Zeoli

Sandy (pictured, right) grew up and continued living in the same town. Got married, had a child, divorced, remarried, but lived in the same town.

From Michigan, Julie moved throughout the country, married and divorced twice but never had children, settling finally in the American Southwest.

One day in the summer of 2010, Sandy went to the local library and found a book called Words in a French Life. Having studied French in high school and college, she picked up the book and loved it. She saw the author had an email newsletter and signed up for it in July 2010 (Sandy checked her email file, as she has saved all the emails Kristin has sent since she signed up for it). As a bonus, she also searched and found other Foreign Language "Word-A-Day" emails, as Sandy loves learning new languages. Hoping someday to go to Greece and read and understand a little, she has taught herself some Greek and now receives a Greek Word A Day email.

But, back to our story. In late 2011 Kristin Espinasse, the American woman who fell in love with French, France, and stayed there to marry a French man and raise her children there, and who writes of her life in the "French Word A Day" email decided to take up the challenge to self-publish another collection of her letters on life in France.

Book is published. Sandy buys a copy. Reads through the various stories and then glances at the "thank you's" at the beginning of the book. One name immediately jumps off the page. There can't be 2 people called Julie P. The last name is just too unusual.

Sandy Zeoli 2


So, Sandy writes to Kristin, tells her that she thinks it might be her long lost friend, specifically mentions her (Sandy's) maiden name, and other info only Julie would know and asks if Kristin could pass on the info to Julie. A day passes and an email comes from Julie P entitled "C'est moi!"

We are now catching up on our separate lives and maybe one day soon we will be able to get together in person and share some stories.

Julie Palazzolo


Our thanks to Kristin for being the matchmaker. And, in a very modest way, to the Internet, which allows old friends to connect once again, but without the shared interest in French, etc. and Kristin, in particular, would never have happened.


Comments Corner
I would love to read your reaction to this wonderful "retrouvaille"--or maybe you have a story to share? You can leave a note in the comments box

A note about the previous two photos: I had some technical difficulties uploading these images, which were also a bit small. (By the way, that's Sandy, upper right, and Julie, right). Perhaps we'll have the lucky chance to update this post... when Sandy and Julie finally meet up again in person! Fingers crossed.


French Vocabulary

le chapeau = hat

    le chapeau de soleil = sunhat

le personnage = character (in play)

les retrouvailles = reunion

c'est moi = it's me!



"Les Retrouvailles" (homecoming). Click to enlarge this jubilant image! This photo is two years old. It was taken when Smokey returned, supercharged and satisfied, from "Camp Sully" in Vaison-La-Romaine. Witness here Smokey and Chief Grape... and their joyful reunion! Mille mercis to Mark and Ellen for taking such good care of Smokey and Braise!

 Reader Grammar Tips (gleaned from the comments box!)

I was grateful to learn a helpful French pronunciation tip... after reading the recent reader comments (about, of all things, How Not To Do Laundry like the French). Thanks, Jim, for the educational pause... during the heated debate about whether to include socks with bras. (Come to think of it, while some of us don't wash socks with bras, we might have worn them together at one point... Sorry for getting off topic again!)

"French: An Open-Syllable Language"

Jim writes:

I'd like to comment on the pronunciation given for "bâcler." You wrote it as "bak-lay." Please forgive me for my narrow focus, but the correct form is "ba-klay." Unlike English, French is an open-syllable language, where a syllable ends in a vowel whenever possible. Most Americans fail to pronounce "he is" correctly in French. A native speaker always says "ee-lay" but most Anglophones say "eel-ay" which is incorrect. I know I sound like a cranky retired French prof, but I do think the basic linguistic distinction is important.

Thanks, Jim Herlan

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



Thanks, Tessa, for the fleurs! I'm beginning to see color all over the house! Oh, and there's Jean-Marc. By the way... 

Meet with Jean-Marc in Orange County, California this coming March 20th or during his 2012 USA wine tour: click here to see all the cities Chief Grape will be visiting


bâcler (bak-lay)

    : to botch up, to do something quickly and badly, or without care

French definition for bâcler:
faire à la va-vite (to do quickly) or finir à la hâte (to finish hastily)

bâclé(e) = sloppily
bâcler sa toilette = to have a quick wash
la fin du livre est bâclée = the end of the book is tied up sloppily
du travail bâclé = a slapdash work

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wav file

Quant au ménage, il vaut mieux une partie faite correctement, que le tout bâclé. As for the housekeeping, better to do a part of it well, than all of it sloppily.


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

A Growing Pile of Procrastination

Ever since encountering the French word "bâcler", I have been looking for an opportunity to use it... and then I stumbled over that pile of socks while doing laundry yesterday....

Ce tas de chaussettes! That growing, menacing heap of socks! However was such a monstre created? Ah... oui, it began in the early days, when I first came to France...

As a young mother I would stand outside the école maternelle, waiting for my 3- and 5-year-olds to be let out of class. During the lazy attente I listened to the other mothers who chatted about tout et rien. I will never forget hearing one of the mamans talk about socks:

Mais non! Je ne mélange jamais les chaussettes avec le reste! Et surtout pas avec les sous-vêtements! On ne lave pas les chaussettes avec les slips!

Gosh... I had never thought about that before: not washing socks with the other clothes... especially not with underwear!

That afternoon I looked at my dirty laundry with fresh eyes. Every sock literally stood out, and why shouldn't they? They were caked with dirt! (My family has a bad habit of wearing their socks outside (on the front patio or in the garden). And to think, all this time I had chucked the dirty chaussettes in with the rest, including les culottes. Quelle honte!

Since that time, it never occurred to me to question or disprove the "no-socks-to-be-mixed-with-other-laundry-theory"; besides, the French seemed to excel and to take pride in the business (or "art"?) of laundry--why else would they expertly drape wet clothing outside their windows, tempting tourists to snap photos such as this one:



                 ...and notice: no socks mixed in with these things!

I might have stood by my own laundry ethics, but for bad timing: I had just received a scathing email from a reader who was scandalized to have read my "no-ironing" post (the offensive essay has since been deleted from the blog, but you can read it here). There followed a page-long rant about how the reader cared enough for her own family to iron their sheets AND their underwear... only a mère indigne would do otherwise!

That was that. Plus jamais! That, yes, that must have been the day that my laundry chore got carried away...

...Away to a neatly categorized box called "socks". The problem then was this: there were never enough socks to make up a full load! It eventually dawned on me that I might add other items to the sock pile, so as to grow it faster: Cleaning rags and floor dusters might be added to the mix. I wondered, what would that French mom who never mixed socks with laundry think of this? Was it okay to mix rags with socks? And which were dirtier: the rags or the socks?  Would one not compromise the other? Maybe a new pile should be formed? Would the laundry ever get done? (It was taking long enough to do the chore without a clothes dryer all these years; especially not fun is the chore of hanging up socks one by one by one... dozens of them!)

And on it went, this laundry dilemma, eventually snowballing into that pile of socks for which I could now find a purpose!: if only to employ a humble new French word: bâcler. Yes, it had somehow been bacléed or botched... this job of washing socks!


 Today's question: do you mix your socks in with the rest of your laundry? Or have you other "enlightening" laundry habits to share with us--stuff we've never thought of before, hints or astuces that might turn even the least inspired among us into "laundry artists"? Please share your tips with us here, in the comments corner. (Make my dad, Kip, happy, by including your city next to your name!)

Do you know a laundry-challenged person like myself? Why not forward this edition on to them? There's hope yet!

French Vocabulary

bâcler = to do something quickly and sloppily

le tas = heap, pile

ce tas de chaussettes = this pile of socks

quelle honte! = what a disgrace!

le monstre = monster

l'école (f) maternelle = kindergarten or nursery school

une attente = a wait, waiting

tout et rien = everything and nothing

la maman = mom

Mais non! Je ne mélange jamais les chaussettes avec le reste! Et surtout pas avec les sous-vêtements! On ne lave pas les chaussettes avec les slips! = But, no! I don't ever mix socks with the rest. And certainly never with underclothes! One doesn't wash socks along with underwear!

une mère indigne = an unfit mother

plus jamais = never again


DSC_0019Maybe this post should have been called "Loves chairs and flowers" instead of "sloppy, or to do something quickly and badly". Or I might call it "Caroline's Hat"--which I swiped she gave me, after the harvest.



A Day in a Dog's Life... by Smokey R. Dokey

Mama Braise says: Smokey! Don't take it so badly. Just because you can't say narcissus five times fast doesn't mean anything, it especially doesn't mean you are one of them.

Smokey: One of them?

Mama Braise: A narcissus, Son

Smokey: A narcissusson?

Mama Braise: You know: someone who is plein de soi.

Smokey: Someone who's full of "silk"?

Mama Braise: Oh, never mind! Let's just enjoy the flowers.

Smokey: What are they called?...

Mama Braise: Narciss...--- Oh, forget about it!

*soi = self; plein de soi = full of self
*soie = silk 

Grammar Corner

Thanks, Glenn, for leaving this comment following the previous post:

Question for the French speakers out there: I'm confused regarding Jean-Marc's phrase «Kristin ne pourra venir avec moi...» I would have expected a «pas» after «pourra» to complete the negation. Is this simply a typo or is there yet another rule governing «ne» usage that I'm clueless about (explétif omitted) ?

And thanks to Sarah, Millie, and Nadine (and to anyone I may have missed!) who tried to help answer Glenn's question in the comments box. The answer is as Nadine explained:

NE...PAS : There was NO typo, friends! And it's not a new rule, just an old one... But in literary French it is not only accepted but suggested to delete the "pas" for elegance. When talking about France and the French, you all may have forgotten about their elegance !!!
Be well tout le monde !
nadine, Napa, Californie

By the way, you can contact Nadine if you are looking for French lessons. Just type her email address into your mailbox and send her an inquiry. Here's Nadine's message:

FRANCOPHILES! Française donne cours de Conversation Française par tel - Skype -


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