Mois & May in France: two things to know
Delightful words and company: ravigoter

S'esclaffer: Never do this alone in France

 Smokey gets his stitches out today (test results back next week). Here he is taking a break from that uncomfortable cone, the protective collerette he has worn for two weeks. 

Tomorrow is le premier Mai.  Click here to learn what the French are up to.


    : to guffaw, to burst out laughing

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S'esclaffer, çela veut dire de éclater de rire bruyamment. Exemple: Je me suis esclaffé d'un gros rire devant les dames dans la magasin. To guffaw means to burst out laughing. Example: I burst out laughing before the ladies in the store.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

By my 5th visit to the friperie, or thrift store, I was beginning to relax and even feel at home in what once seemed a secret private members only place for les démunis of our village.

"Mais non!" one of the volunteers insisted. "This shop is open to all!  Sales proceeds go toward helping those in need."

To think I could have been shopping here for years, instead of stopping in only to drop off sacks of clothes and bricoles! Once again, awkwardness and ripe imagination were to blame for robbing another of life's pleasures: getting out and rubbing elbows with the French.

And rub elbows I did as I squeezed through the rows, piles, and racks of second-hand clothing. Here is where I first spotted the bright green tunic (pictured here, at the end of this post). It seemed perfect--too good to be true. Why would anybody give up this pretty blouse? There must be a pépin.... Was the blouse secretly privately moche

"Do you like this top?" I asked one of the clerks, setting the matter straight.

"La couleur vous va à merveille, " the woman said, peering over her reading glasses for a better look. "The color really suits you."

"Merci!" I chirped, handing over one euro to the cashier before someone else discovered la chemise. After all, the place was buzzing with treasure-hunters. Looking around, the shop had everything: toasters, flower pots, wine racks, bed frames... and math teachers. Ah, there was Jackie's algebra tutor! So this is where she gets all those cool retro skirts....

"Bonjour, Valérie! " I said, kissing the institutrice on both cheeks. 

"How is Jackie?" 

"Fine! And you will never believe it: she is now sewing up a storm. (I knew Valérie would appreciate the news, as she herself is a talented seamstress. )

Valérie pointed out the piles of thrift clothing, "Tell Jackie to come here! She can pick out pants and tops and alter and recreate them as she likes!"

With that tip, Valérie blew me a kiss and hurried off to pay for  a few summer shirts. Still smiling in her direction, I watched as she picked up an old backpack. "Perfect for tomorrow's field trip!" She told the cashier. "How much?"

"I don't know," the clerk said. "Claudie, is this one for sale?"

The woman with the reading glasses looked up, "Je ne sais pas..."

"Elvire, do you know if this is ours... or someone else's?" 

"Antoinette..." is this our sac-à-dos... or a client's?"

Antoinette, in her endearing, whiskey-voiced French waved her hand and said: Qui sait! Vends-le! Who knows! Sell it!

As my eyes bobbed from one volunteer to the next, an amusing thought struck: What if Valérie was about to walk off with another client's bag!

That is when I heard the loudest, snorting laugh... The ridiculousness of the situation was just too funny. I laughed so hard my stomach hurt, and how good it felt to let go completely and share in the camaraderie!

Suddenly all activity in the shop stopped and you could hear a pin drop. Catching my breath I looked around. All eyes were trained on me. You'd think I had had une crise d'épilepsie the way the women were staring! The look on their faces was one of  sincere perplexion, even concern (not judgement or disdain).

What I had thought was chance moment of camaraderie, was just another awkward painful instant of being mal compris

Do you, dear reader, know the feeling?


To leave a comment, click here. Have you ever commited a cultural gaffe? What was it? And what else not to do when in France?




French Vocabulary

la friperie = secondhand clothes, thrift store
le démuni (la démunie) = destitute, helpless, down and out
une bricole = knickknack
le pépin = snag, hitch
moche = ugly
la chemise = shirt, blouse
instituteur, institutrice = school teacher
mal compris = misunderstood


Isn't friperie a fun French word? Here are some of your all time favorite French words. Click here--and add to this list!


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