Find out what city we're moving to! La promesse d'achat
Why visit La Ciotat? Let these photos endear you to this lively Mediterranean seaport

Rebelote! Argile verte & How to remove a splinter or thorn - Comment enlever une écharde ou une épine

Sea urchins oursins from the mediterranean
Today's folk remedy may also work for sea urchin spines. Ouch! Aïe aïe aïe!

TODAY'S WORD: une écharde

        : splinter

"un petit fragment qui pénètre dans la peau" (
"a small fragment that penetrates into the skin"

Try Mastering French Vocabulary with Audio MP3


Listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence. Click here

Savez-vous les remèdes de grand-mère pour enlever une écharde ou une épine?

Do you know some home remedies for removing a splinter or a thorn?

The French S. Sometimes it sounds like an S and sometimes it sounds like a Z. Click here for a short lesson from David at



    by Kristi Espinasse

Yesterday, while collecting de la ciboulette I managed to plunge my thumb into a spiny ronce. When my arm flew back out of the patch I looked down to see what had just stabbed me. A very fine épine was now nestled beneath my skin. Bon, ça va s'arranger, I thought, shaking out my hand as I walked back to the kitchen to make lunch.

But just as a mosquito will not "work itself out" of a room, that hair-thin thorn was going nowhere. Et la douleur! It was worse that the two full days of courbatures I experienced after our dog-supervised Hatha yoga class. (I finally took 1000 milligrams of Doliprane for that. If only paracetamol worked for splinters!)

My thumb grew big, sore and red. So when the laisser faire approach didn't work, I went and got a jar of green clay from our cupboard. Jean-Marc's aunt, practical and wise, had once mentioned the ability of argile verte or medicinal clay to draw out impurities. I should have first used it to draw out my patience, because after quickly mixing up water and clay to make a paste, I had no desire to wait for the cataplasme to dry.

Grrr! Rinsing my thumb beneath the kitchen robinet, I next went to work with tweezers and alcohol but the sliver only retreated! So I started all over again - this time plunging my thumb right into the jar of powdered clay. Voilà!

The day had only just begun and I needed to shower, eat, and begin this blog post--do it all while letting my right thumb dry undisturbed.

I managed to shower, dress, and even put my hair in a ponytail (twisting the elastic with only my fingers!) while keeping ce pouce high and dry. And I managed to write half of this post, at which point I paused, held my thumb up to the light and saw a nub of splinter poking out! I think this remède de grand-mère is working!

Or was working. While hammering out the rest of this story on my keyboard, I managed, with the help of the space bar key hitting back against my thumb, to hammer that splinter right back in!

Rebelotte! Back to the drawing board now (et c'est le cas de le dire!)

Share your splinter stories and tips in the comments at the end of this post. Corrections to this edition are welcome and most helpful.


Sugar snap beans fava blossoms lemon tree
Our garden in 2014. It is not looking this good anymore! But the fava beans (see the white and black flowers?) are growing again this year.

Increase your vocabulary with this list. More tools here.

aïe! = ouch!
la ciboulette
= chive
la ronce = bramble
le potager = kitchen garden, vegetable
une épine = thorn
ça va s'arranger = it will be fine, it'll work itself out
la courbature = ache, stiffness
la douleur = pain
laisser faire = leave it alone, let it be
l' argile verte = green clay
le cataplasme = poultice
le robinet = tap, faucet
le pouce = thumb
le remède de grand-mère = home remedy
rebelote! = here we go again!
c'est le cas de le dire = you can say that again

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Dawn Johnson

Have you tried a little piece of duct tape, you know that silver colored tape we country folks use to repair everything on the place.
Sometimes the stickiness is just enough to pull tiny thin slivers and thorns out


I had a splinter in my foot that broke off while trying to get it out. Eventually it became a callus and about a year later came to the surface so I was able to use a needle to finally get it out. It was always a tender spot until the splinter was totally removed. Good luck with your splinter removal. Guard against infection.


Splinters are the worst...Glad yours is working its way out....


Our dear Kristi,
Aie is right!
Maybe try soaking in warm water and then gently squeeze to make it pop out(?)The one time I tried this(had a pyracantha horn in my toe) it worked like gangbusters.Just please be careful about infection,especially if you are doing stuff in the dirt.
Good luck!Feel better!
Natalia. Xo

joie in Carmel

They say never to squeeze out....try a couple of these. If you have icththommal in Europe(this is a very old remedy) put small amt. on finger, bandaid 24 hr...should come right out. after trying these the thorn/splinter should rise to the surface. Vinegar for 30 min. Banana peel overnight. Baking soda and water overnight.. Thin slice of potato 24 hrs.. of course one could always wear gloves...but no fun in that.


Dr. T. Berry Brazelton used to say, when children had splinters, soak in water and wrap with plastic and the moisture will draw it out. Or washing dishes by hand might work too.


Hi Kristi, So glad for the green clay!! I looked on Amazon and found french green clay, but how to tell it is the real clay???
Would love to find out. God bless, C-Marie

Carol McFarland, Arcata, CA

I appreciate your "ordinary day" narrations, and the French translation of sayings or phrases that we didn't learn in our French classes (or in textbooks). Very useful! Thanks.


I have found that activated charcoal works as the green clay does. As well, leaves from the weed Plantago or Plantain. Chew them a bit and put them on your thumb. The juices will pull the splinter up and heal the wound. I use them for stings as well. Towards the end of the summer I dry some and preserve them in Olive oil. You can then use that oil in the same way throughout the year. Good luck!

Suzanne Codi

Soaking in very salty hot water usually works for me!! Et aussi c'est "ce pouce" , pas cet , probably a typo...
Wonder if we can find green clay here?
I love the expression rebelotte, a new one for me! And I REALLY love those black and white Fava bean flowers!
Bises, hope that epine is long gone!!

Cynthia Lewis

Thanks very much for the new format: J-M's sound file with the sentences just below which enable us to read and listen at the same time!! With your beautiful photos and writing, you teach us so much in such an enjoyable way. I hope your thumb is feeling better.

Best wishes and bon weekend!


Way back when, my family practioner dad would take a fine sewing needle & gently pick away at the skin to "peel away" enough layer of skin to expose the sliver. It never hurt. It worked, & I have on many occasions done it on myself to get to a splinter- Would use a tweezer or sharp fingernails to grab the sliver. I am not as gentle as dad was, but it doesn't really hurt when you are superficial . Try it!!


Oh & do wash hands thoroughly after!!

Nancy Stilwagen

Ah, the tiny ones are the worst! Clay was a good move, as it creates a drawing action. My favorite technique is to allow a drop of white glue to dry over the site (hopefully before you push it all the way in!), then peel it off in the opposite direction it entered.

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,

Norma just described the way my mom taught me to remove a splinter, as taught to her by her family practioner dad! We always sterilized the needle with boiling water or the flame of a match and then wiped the needle with rubbing alcohol. It works...still remove splinters this way! My grandfather also used honey as an antiseptic. Oh the medical secrets from yesteryear! Hope one of these many suggestions helps you to remove that little splinter.


Strong packing or duct tape works for me. If not, then I dig it out which causes less pain in the long run.

Carole Fitzgerald

Hi Kristin , we find a banana peel under a band aid put on overnight usually does the trick or Magnoplasam from the pharmacy will draw it out ,good luck Carole Fitzgerald


While in Florida for school a few years ago my son decided to climb a palm tree. On the way back down he ended up with splinters in his hands and feet. By the next morning he had an infection at the sites. He was able to remove most of the of the splinters, but had to go to the emergency room to have the others removed as well as get an antibiotic. Apparently palm tree splinters are poisonous. He won't ever climb one again.


Unguentine salve does a great job drawing out small plant thorns or splinters. It is multipurpose; the one I buy is recommended for burns. The product has a petroleum base, with phenol for antiseptic properties and camphor gives it a unique smell that I remember from my childhood. I finally found it on Amazon.


Try a sea urchin spine in the bottom of Don's foot, threatening to ruin a vacation if not removed.
Olive oil, Vaseline, a Swiss Army knife (sterilized) and tweezers saved the day. Olive oil works wonders or anything slippery.
Often the splinter works its own magic by swelling up and ejecting itself.


Yeaaa, someone else used the technique- we didn't "sterilize" needle & no infections ever!


Many years ago I took my friend's 3 young children to the beach near Nice. I was mortified when one managed to get the spines of a sea urchin embedded in his little foot. But my friend (who lived in St. Jeannet) said cheerfully when I handed them over and pointed out the spines, "Oh I just wait until they're infected and then they pop out". I was horrified but she proved right. However, I think everyone should always take care about infections and seek immediate help if there is increased pain and/or the person feels hot or poorly. Or you just feel worried.

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