Buyer's remorse in French: le syndrome du remords de l'acheteur
Blog hiatus + special story... and see you in December

Say "six pack abs" and the French gutbuster!

Lorgues, France, farmers market, chalkboard, tomatoes, (c) Kristin Espinasse
Stripey awnings, ardoises, or chalkboards, curly handwriting, mysterious woman.... What's so French about this? Photo taken in Lorgues, France, where today's story begins....


le bidou (bee-doo)

    : tummy, stomach

Le bidou is slang and is also used in kid speak. (It is another entry in our Petit Lexique de Langage Enfantin /Glossary of Baby Talk.)

Audio File: MP3 or Wav file

Si tu veux muscler ton bidou fais des abdos... ou bien tu peux essayer la ceinture abdo! If you want to tone your tummy do sit-ups... or you could try the belt toner!

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

After a fun-loving picnic at my dear friends Tessa and David's--in which guests brought a savory or sweet dish and you couldn't help but sample every single thing from spare ribs to lemon pie--Jean-Marc and I waddled to our car for the long drive home from Lorgues.

As I reached over to buckle my seat-belt, the most curious scene unfolded before me. There, beyond the driver's seat, Jean-Marc stood adjusting another kind of belt—his latest inspiration: the French gut-buster.

Ah for the love of machin-trucs! Man and his gizmos! To his credit, many of thingamajigs that collect in our cramped cellier are of Jean-Marc's very own making. Take, for example, the fabulous mop-spear (half mop, half fork—used for hunting spiny sea oursins...) or the toilet paper distributor... born of a reclaimed wine-barrel handle. Wait! That last creation was my own.... Necessity truly is the mother of invention! 

("Necessity" also explains the crowded state of our utility closet. Jean-Marc's philosophy when it comes to hardware bits and bobs is: ne rien jeter and always keep a supply of silver tape! One of Jean-Marc's most trusted accessories, he uses the duct tape for everything from curtain alterations to mop-spear repair.)

But the gut-buster is something else. All the duct tape in France couldn't buzz and beep like this doodad. This is one device my thrifty and industrious husband could not whip up or rig together on his own. He had to order it on-line.

Jean-Marc tells me the battery-operated belt is a muscle toner and that--without any effort on the wearer's part--one can build one of those impressive tablettes de chocolat, or what we call in English "six pack abs."

Either translation works for Jean-Marc and so, apparently, does the chocolate and the beer!  For when he is not wearing his tummy-trimmer while driving long distances, he's sporting it while dining in front of the TV. (Only, in place of the chocolate and the beer--it is wine and cheese he's eating.)

As you can imagine, this spectacular contraption makes my husband an open-target. After the daily teasing I suffer (following the quirks in my own character), I can't help but retaliate!

"Ça va Miss France?" I chuckle, when he fastens his high-tech waist-slimmer, and settles on the couch with a glass of Prosecco and a dish of nuts. "Do you really think that thing works?" I question, as I sit down beside my husband with my own dinner tray (we've settled in to watch the one o'clock news, a cozy tradition, especially since our dining room disappeared).  

But Miss France is quick to poke back when challenged: "Look at your bidou," he says, patting my stomach. "You ought to try it for yourself. Ça te ferait pas de mal!"

My feathers are ruffled now and I turn the injustice into one last grande critique:

"Beurer?" I say, eyeing the manufacturer's name, stamped across the front of the belt. One more "r" and it would be too good to be true! Meantime, I can still have fun with the name....

"Beurrer! What a name for a waist-slimming contraption: to butter! Oh well, don't let me keep you. Butter up, Miss France. Butter those abs!  

                                     *    *    * 
Post note: I'm not laughing anymore. Earlier I spied my husband as he returned to his beloved utilities closet--this time for a scrap of rope to use to belt his pants! I guess the gut-buster is working, and so is Jean-Marc's ever-resourceful mind.

"Which stomach-toning contraption is Jean-Marc using?" you may be asking. It is similar to this one. And he gives the machin-truc a thumbs up! 

(And you can read about Jean-Marc's fabulous mop-spear in one or both of these books: Blossoming in Provence or Words in a French Life. One mop-spear, two different stories. It must be special--or he must be special!)

 French Vocabulary

le machin-truc = thingamajig
le cellier = storeroom or pantry
un oursin = sea urchin
ne rien jeter = don't throw anything away
la tablette de chocolat = chocolate bar (also used to refer to shapely abs) 
ça va? = how's it goin'?
ça te fera pas du mal = it couldn't hurt you
grand(e) = big, great
la critique = criticism 

Caromb, France, truck renault, windshield, (c) Kristin EspinasseMore examples of DIY repair and creation by those ever clever French.... photo taken in Caromb, in 2010

Who needs to hire an ironworker when you can build your own cat balcony? Photo taken in Brignoles, in 2006. 

Here's how things are looking outside our dining room. Nothing a little paint--and a grand stretch of bougainvillea over the top--can't soften! Do you think it will soften?

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
Funny post today! Tell "Ms France" to try Spanx for men.

Heather in Arles

Oooh! Steel-mullion windows? I love that. Don't worry, it will come together. :)

And I read this post patting my rather large bidou wondering, "Wow, could that truly work??"...hmmm...

Bruce in northwest Connecticut

So if "bidou" is baby-talk, or at least kidspeak, would it be like "tummy"?

Is Jean-Marc going to wear his machin-truc on the cruise?

Lauren Kirk

Hi, love your stories! Am I crazy to think it should be "Ça te ferait pas DE mal" instead of "DU mal", since it's negative? I've always been weak on those rules, but it just sounded weird to me. Gotta go work on my (non-existent!) tablette de chocolat now! Thanks for all your fun and useful posts!
Lauren in Alexandria (once upon a time, of Avignon!)


We'll all look forward to the before and after pictures of Jean-Marc's abs! And I think you meant that you waddled (not wobbled) to the car.

Kristin Espinasse

Eileen, had never heard of those! 

Heather, thanks for defining these windows. Wish I knew the term beforehand, I could have looked up more examples for our builder! I appreciate your *no worries* note. Those bands, between the panes, were a lot thicker than we had in mind... The glass is going in now, and things are looking good! 

Bruce, just found your comment in my blog's spam folder (where all mine end up, too!). Haha--I would not be surprised if JM packs his tummy-toner! Also, thanks for the tummy suggestion for the kidspeak reference--off to correct that one, soon.

Lauren, thanks for the correction. I will fix that one, too.

Passante, Waddled--great word! Thank you! 

Mary in MN

"Tablette de chocolat," gotta love it! Though I suppose it isn't any sillier a term than "six-pack."


Eating chocolate or nuts while wearing this thing is a bit like eating chips but drinking diet coke!! And also sounds a bit like something we girls would do, rather than a strapping manly Frenchman. But always nice when stereotypes are challenged and I am looking forward to seeing if it works - how lovely if it did!! xoxoxo
ps waddled or wobbled to the car - either make a great image in my head!!

julie camp

Seeing your photo taken in Lorgues refreshes memories of Mike's and my one-week stay there 3+ years ago. Even with GPS we were challenged to find it. Once situated we attended its abundant market day where I bought a gadget. Now, I've owned, tried and ultimately donated a few mandolines, each for fear of slicing or dicing myself. But, the one from Lorgues lingers, being used frequently and reminding me of the cute sales-demonstrator from St-Tropez. -julienne-


Hi dear Kristi,
What a wonderful laugh you gifted us with!Harkened me back to the contraption I tried,a thing with wooden rollers that was literally supposed to beat the fat off of you!
No need to elaborate on the success rate!(as in rien,only a sore bidou!)(sigh)
But it is this silly stuff that makes life fun,and even bettrr,to realize it!
Love, Natalia xo

Nancy, San Antonio, Texas

I think your window will be wonderful. Plants, lots of light inside, colorful cushion - think you will love it. Men are so lucky - they eat nuts and drink Proseco and lose weight? How can that be? Please share the secret. The machine? i am a doubter - let us know if it works. Thanks for your writing/stories. Always love them, Nancy

Dawn Johnson

I've actually seen something like that on an infomercial here in the US. I wondered if they worked, well doubted really. I guess we will see with Miss France.
I love all the stories about Jean-Marc, I can so relate. Husbands, gotta love em.
One small correction, in the last paragraph, it's "too good to be true" not "to good to be true."
I look forward to all your posts for my little window of ma belle France

Richard Saylor

Frank Lloyd Wright: «Un médecin peut enterrer ses erreurs, mais un architecte ne peut que conseiller à son client de planter de la vigne."

Kathleen from Connecticut

I often wondered if things like the Slendertone really work. There is a machine on which one stands and it juggles you and the body gets toned.
Are all of these just too easy and do or do not work or are we just too lazy and want the easy way out?
Even though I have lost weight, the excess skin and some fat are still present. Wouldn't it be great if we could just go under the scalpel and have it all just cut away and we could all have sculpted bodies.
Oh well, I guess that we can try and try and try and if we can't get exactly what we want, we might have to accept what we end up with.
Good luck JM.


Christine Dashper

Hi Kristin,
This is hilarious - tell Jean-Marc - Bon chance!

all the best



What a great story about our precious JM - I do think he is so funny and has no idea how entertaining he is for our family.

Your writing just seems to get better and better with each post. Each story is always so fresh and full of humor and love.



Sarah LaBelle, near Chicago

It sounds way better to have la tablette de chocolat
than to have six pack abs.

But I cannot believe thoe devices work. Sit ups do work, hundreds and hundreds of sit ups from every angle. And a couple of other fun exercises I did in my long ago youth.

Fun story, men and their toys.

Cynthia Lewis (Eastern Shore of Maryland)

This has to be the most amusing and comical story I have ever read of yours. Somehow it got right to my "funny bone"! The fact that Jean-Marc ordered a "gut-buster" on line has made me chuckle all day long. I have always thought: "Vanity thy name is MAN!" Please don't tell J-M what I just wrote because I think that he is the quintessential Frenchman and I mean that as a compliment.

Wishing the two of you " bon voyage" next week. Best, Cynthia


:-) not sure about JM "vanity" here, mentioned above..:-)
Rather "practicality" I would think:-)..

The tummy sucked in and or trimmed creates less pressure on the back. Pure ergonomics and body mechanics. Plus, esthetically pleasing!! :-)

Smaart husband, Kristy! :-) Wish every man would be like that!! Thinking of health, longevity and beauty, instead of beer.. and the belly that of course comes with it!! :-)

!!YES for belly menswear!! :-) Thumbs Up JM!! :-)

Diane Young

Anybody who can do the triathalon or whatever that JM did recently can't possibly be flabby. I think he's just fascinated with gadgets, which is a man's nature. I think I'd quit eating before I'd wear one of those things - or spanks. I threw away my girdle about 40 years ago and life is more enjoyable. So you ate a lot at your friends' home, you don't do that every day and you certainly don't need the ceinture. Enjoy the cruise.

Ron Cann

Sorry, it won't work. Only active exercise strengthens muscles. Have JM get into a pull-up position and then raise his feet in a scissor fashion to touch the bar. 10-20 repetitions once a day will do more than applying DC voltage to his bidou. But you can't "spot reduce." You have to lose weight if you want to actually see those abs.
Sadly, we're only 20 once.

Pat Cargill

In the 60's my Mother had a "weight-reducing" machine. You stood on a platform, positioned a wide belt around your bum, then turned it on. The machine vibrated and your bum jiggled like jelly--her attempt to lose or firm up the historically ample Yoder Family behind! Needless to say, my Ma did not develop buns of steel. Calories in -calories out, accompanied by muscle toning/strengthening exercise is, alas, the more reliable way, but I think we are always hoping for a little help along the way. Perhaps the pressure against the belly prevents eating as much as one would without it?!

Enjoy the cruise!

Kathy Shearer

Kristi -- What, no photo of JM wearing his contraption?? Come on...!


You're so funny, Kristin. Were you that way before moving to France?
"Miss France" wants easy, lazy way to get the "tablette de chocolat". :-)
Btw, I've only heard of "BIDON" referring to the tummy. My husband was gifted a Gaston Lagaffe T-shirt that says "50 ans et pas de bidon" under the image of the super thin Gaston Lagaffe.
Have a fun croisière!


Really fantastic article and story on Say "six pack abs" and the French gut buster! and the French Vocabulary Lessons, Enjoy your time off. Thanks.

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