plein d'entrain
Video for Aunt Liddy!

pourboire: How to say tip in French

Susan Boehnstedt aka Rouge-Bleu (c) Kristin Espinasse
Today, in the US, it's Le Jour de Merci Donnant and I'm busy giving thanks for the people in my life, including YOU and Rouge-Bleu. Read more about my high-school chum in today's story. Note: you haven't heard much about Susan, over the years--that's because I haven't had the chance to see her much. I do have a funny photo, near the end of this post, taken on one of those rare visits, in 2007...


pourboire (por-bwar)

    : tip

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following example sentence in French (note: enjoy the uncut version, in which you'll hear Jean-Marc's reaction to the mile-long example sentence I've selected. Listen closely as he teases, "oh, they're gonna like this one!... Oh, ça va leur plair celui-là! I did leave out my laughter, at the beginning of the recording, and had to beg my husband to please quit the tickling, it's time to get to work!): Download MP3 or Wav file

Le pourboire. En France, cette pratique s'est développée plus tard, au 19ème siècle, pour récompenser les cafetiers et restaurateurs d'un service de qualité. Le pourboire signifiait comme son nom l'indique un verre qu'on offrait en remerciement d'un service rendu... The tipIn France this practice was developed later, in the 19th-century, to compensate café-owners and restaurateurs for quality service. Le pourboire signifies, as its name indicates ("pour boire", or "for drink") a glass (drink) offered in thanks for a service rendered... (from, Les origines du pourboire)

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

...Continued from the previous post "Plein d'Entrain")...

When the tour bus rolled up to the dock, where our AMA cruise boat waited, I noticed my best friend and travelling companion reach for her porte-monnaie. Quickly, I mimicked Susan's gestures, as I would throughout the voyage, to ensure my behavior was in line with the other tourists', none of whom appeared nervous, awkward, or conspicuous.

Only, as I reached for my own portefeuille, I ran into an embarrassing pépin. Among all the loose change there was only one large coin. The rest were those itty-bitty yellow ones—les pièces jaunes my husband gives the gitans who instantly appear at city stop lights, brandishing water bottles and squeegees.  After they've doused our windshield with sudsy water, one feels obliged to thank them for it. But when my husband hands over the loose change from our cendrier —mostly pennies, twenty French cents worth—I want to hide inside the glove compartment. Manque d'espace! 

Back in the tourist bus, staring into my change-purse, I was tormented by visions of a tour guide throwing pennies back at me, just as some of the gitans had done, so offended were they by what was judged une insulte.

As I fingered the change, counting and recounting the coins, my best friend became aware of my fixation. "Everything alright, Rouge-Bleu*?" she inquired.

Completely absorbed by the contents of my change-purse, I was barely aware of answering. "I only have yellow coins for the second tour guide, "I murmured. "I've got a 2-euro coin for the first guide... but I can't find another two-euro coin to offer the second guide."

Like a broken record, I couldn't seem to change tracts. My thoughts were repeating and repeating, 2-euro coins... what will I do?... no two euro coins... what will I do?

"But you have enough," Susan assured me, pointing out that all the yellow coins added up to two euros.

"Yes, I know, but I can't hand over so much loose change!" The broken record in my mind continued 2-euro coins... what will I do?... no two euro coins... what will I do?

"Why not?" Susan was intrigued.

Was it fierté? I didn't want to be the tourist handing over the pennies, never mind the pennies added up to two euros! I'd be seen as one of those oursins-dans-la-poche types. A real cheapskate!

"And besides," I explained, trying to downplay the pride—by highlighting my thoughtful side—"if everyone gave the lady twenty coins (of ten centimes), that tour guide would be painfully weighed down. Just how would she and her heavy poches climb onto the metro for the ride home?"

Susan shook her head and smiled. "Rouge-Bleu, don't be silly. You have enough money—denomination doesn't matter!"

I nodded my head. Susan was right. Still, I couldn't help but stare into my purse willing a two-euro coin to appear. No matter how many times I ran my fingers through the centimes, turning them, I couldn't uncover a might-be-hidden-somewhere 2-euro coin.

Noticing the obsessive behavior, Susan put a stop to it in her usual discreet manner. "Look here, Rouge-Bleu," she said, holding up a prized 2-euro coin of her own.

I unglued my eyes from my change-purse, with it's bottomless pit of pennies, to discover my pal's proposition.

"I'll trade ya!" she said, "One of these for all of those."

It only took a thoughtful instant to be released from so much torture. Merci ma chère Rouge-Bleu.


Post note, as we walked off the bus and it came time to tip the tour guide, I did so with assurance. I was so relieved to have a big coin to give her, and not a handful of embarrassing pennies. ...Until it occured to me that Susan was about to pay for my freedom!

As she approached the tour guide, I studied my dear friend, as I would throughout the trip, mimicking her every gesture. I still had so much to learn.

How graceful she was as she thanked the guide, pausing to drop those pennies into her palm in one sincere shower of thanks.

French Vocabulary

la porte-monnaie = coin-purse
le portefeuille = wallet
pépin = snag, hitch (pépin has another meaning. Read the story here)
les pièces jaunes = pennies
le gitan = gypsy 
le cendrier = ashtray
manque d'espace! = but for the lack of room!
la fierté = pride
avoir les oursins dans la poche = to have sea urchins in one's pockets (making it hard to reach for one's money...), ie, to be a cheapskate, skinflint, pinchpenny
une poche = pocket
merci ma chère Rouge-Bleu = thank you my dear Rouge-Bleu 

*Rouge-Bleu is the name my best friend and I call each other, after coming up with the moniker back in highschool. Susan had an after-school job in cosmetics (Lancome) and we enjoyed trying on all the make-up! When we discovered a lipstick called Rouge-Bleu, we couldn't pronounce the French word without dissolving into laughter. I still have trouble pronouncing it.

You may also recognize the name from our wine labels... Jean-Marc liked it so much he borrowed it! But the original Rouge-Bleu is my dear friend of 30 years. 


Rouge-bleu kristi susan

Susan, aka Rouge-Bleu, came to visit after our first harvest, in 2007. Though the harvest was over, Jean-Marc managed to find another field to glean. I'm wearing red--trying to stand out like a beacon lest the hunters (with whom we shared the field) mistake the harvesters, or vendengers, for venison! To comment on any item in this post, click here.

Now to tempt you to come to France... if you need assistance with airline tickets or hotel reservations, please contact Susan. She is the most devoted travel agent. 

You can email her at or call her at 480-831-9076.

Fall in Avignong (c) Kristin Espinasse
Meantime, keep thinking of your next visit... and you will be here soon! (photo taken in Avignon)


A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.

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