Racines: My father's "cousins germains" or "first cousins"
Bilingual post: Le Coton-tige + a French doctor's thoughts on cleaning your ears

Oh, pétard! The things you hear (and see) when eavesdropping

Scottish brush and wooden fence
On Sunday, we took the long way to the beach, enjoying one of the many sentiers, or walking paths--this one fragrant with sweet-scented Scotch Broom! What with the perfumed air and feel of the sea's breeze, it was a sensual Father's Day morning--especially when my ears began to be tickled by a funny Southern French exclamation soon after we arrived at the beach. With that I introduce today's southern expression:

"Oh pétard!"

    : Oh my gosh!, wow!, #$@!&

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the following expression

Oh pétard! T'as vu ce qu'il a ramassé le pêcheur?
Oh my gosh! Did you see what the fisherman brought in?

Note: OK, it might be a stretch to translate "Oh, pétard" (a word that likely comes from the more profain "putain") as "oh my gosh," but it seems right to me -- and it would fit with the example in the following story. If you have another translation, feel free to share it via the comments link at the end of this post.

by Kristin Espinasse

On Father's Day morning Jean-Marc and I woke up to a kid-less house. As we sat there in bed drinking our coffee, I sensed a lull in our normally racy morning (no, not that kind of racy!). I realized that if we did not come up with a plan for La Fête des Pères, we might wallow in our empty nest.

"Want to go for a walk?" I said, looking over to a crest-fallen Papa Poule.

"Oui. Et si on se gare vers..." Jean-Marc said yes and suggested parking in a new location which would give us a brand new itinerary (last month, when Jean-Marc and I began a walking program, we had come up with various routes to mix things up--and we timed them so that a 15-minute walk" or a "30 minute walk" could be chosen, depending on the mood.

We parked our car alongside a vineyard and took up the marked path beside it...and 20 minutes later we were dipping our toes into the shimmering Mediterranean. This was the best circuit yet--a forty-minute walk with a refreshing dip in between!

Typical house at La Madrague port

A typical house at Le Port de La Madrague. It is my dream home (second only to the one we are currently selling--but it is not sold yet....)

Beach along le sentier littoral

Arriving at the first beach along the Sentier Littoral (no, those are not naked people. Naked beaches are farther west!)

Typical house at La Madrague port

Aw! Can you see the father and child to the left? To the right, you can see the area near Parc du Mugel in La Ciotat (worth a visit!)

Typical house at La Madrague port

Claiming our 6ft by 4 foot digs with the help of these colorful, handy towels that you see all over our area--and, we discovered, in Sicily too! As for the pebbly bed beneath us, I reminded myself that rocks are used in therapy (reflexology? I don't know, but it seems that those smooth cailloux pressing into various points along the back could be a good thing just as a thumb pressing in and massaging those same muscles would release tension). And now that Jean-Marc has joined me in the fear of recurring skin cancer (he had a spot removed on his temple) our chapeaux, or sunhats go with us wherever we go (I think he needs a wider brim on his hat, but this is a good start).

Typical house at La Madrague port
Cool clear water enticing everyone in for a swim! And a nice view of La Ciotat way across the bay.

Now, back to our story...

After Jean-Marc and I staked our place and waded out to sea over a slippery floor of giant rocks, we turned to look back at the shore and saw the beach beginning to fill up. It was now 10 a.m.

Still, the tiny creek was clear so we luxuriated in the cool water. Joyeuse Fête, Happy Father's Day! I kept repeating, rewarded each time with a salty kiss before my husband disappeared under the water (he would later pay for this by a plugged up ear and temporary loss of hearing).

Looking around I was suddenly filled with joy. Seeing life from the sea's perspective helped change my own outlook. Peering down into the crystal water to glimpse the depths of the Mediterranean, cares faded into the sea-grass far below. As I glided backwards like an otter to the shore, little schools of fish appeared, proof that shallow waters hold their own delights.

Sitting down on my towel, I was a few feet away from a family who had secured a spot on the plage--now full with beach-goers. The woman and man were about our age, with teenagers. The mom wore a chic two-piece (black with a strapless top). She looked elegant and well-postured which made it all the more surprising when she began to talk....

"Oh, pétard! Oh pétard!" she kept saying, looking out to sea.

My face beneath my hat (like a giant blindfold), I wondered if one of her three teenage sons was roughhousing out on the sea. Finally, after a few more Oh, pétards, curiosity got to me and I sat up and searched the pebbled horizon.

Next, I heard her gasp, "poissons!...poissons!" and I narrowed my search - to finally spot the fisherman who had come in with his catch. What a sight he was with fish dangling from his belt!

Typical house at La Madrague port
The fisherman with his fish: la seiche (cuttlefish), le mulet, and various poissons de roche

Two morals of this story:


L'habit ne fait pas le moine (Don't judge a book by its cover): the French woman was elegantly composed, but she was not stuffy--as witnessed by her vernacular: street French. I will definitely add Oh, pétard to my vocabulary and think of her each time I enjoy the pleasure of saying it!

And two...

Ne fait pas la gueule - "don't make a face" when people invade your space. You just might learn something from them, see something you wouldn't otherwise have seen, or learn a few new French words thanks to such cozy proximity :-)


oh, pétard = oh my gosh!
La Fête des Pères = Father's Day
le papa poule = father hen
et si on... = and what if we...
se garer = to park
le sentier = path
littoral = coastal
la plage = beach
le caillou = pebble, stone

Typical house at La Madrague port

A Few Notes

I am excited to be quoted in Ann Mah's Food52 article about French salads. Please check out "Don't Cut Lettuce With a Table Knife, and Other Salad-Eating Rules"

The Sicily post Racines: My Father's Cousins Germains, or First Cousins, has been updated in case you missed it. Thanks for reading!

On Sunday, I reposted a favorite story about my Father - and his no-nonsense approach to swimming in France.

Kristi swimming

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Jeanne Asakura

Have you ever heard the expression "hoisted by his own petard"? I think it goes along with the definition in your story. As always, thanks for taking us along on your adventures. Praying for a soon-to-be resolution to your housing situation. 🙏🏻


Although in English, petard means a small bomb, my father would always say "hoist by my own petard" when he passed gas. Thus I always think "fart" when I see the word petard.

Liz Konold

I learned, in research for my book about the Resistance in the Vaucluse ("The Bitterest Wine"), that a 'petard' can be either firecrackers OR a grenade. A young man in Carpentras was arrested and shot by the Milice/Nazis the evening before liberation because he threw a 'petard' into a group of German soldiers. Yet--when taking a class about Shakespeare, 'petard' was described as a short knife. And now there is one more interesting twist to the word! As always, thanks for your delightful commentary....


Thank you for the visual! Love it

Jackie Clark Mancuso

Sounds like a wonderful day. We also went to the beach for the first swim of the summer and the relaxing effect is still with me.


I still don't think that particular expression is you!!


I have heard of someone "getting high on their own petard". It means thinking one is much better than they are in reality, or who thinks he is God's gift to humanity. In the Deep South, I remember hearing "he must think his s**& doesn't stink" to refer to people who were high on their own petard.


Your story today just made me want to be in, alongside, or in view of the Mediterranean. Oh, Kristin, do you know how lucky you are? I long to have another trip to Provence!! Your writing certainly evokes emotion ~ sometimes a laugh, sometimes a tear, sometimes a longing. This one, along with the pictures, was definitely the latter.


Ah - swimming in the Mediterranean - that's wonderful - brings back great memories! Sounds like a lovely way to honor Jean-Marc in the absence of his children. ♥


Shakespeare's phrase, "hoist with his own petard," is an idiom that means "to be harmed by one's own plan to harm someone else" or "to fall into one's own trap", implying that one could be lifted (blown) upward by one's own bomb, or in other words, be foiled by one's own plan.

Romeo Danais


My mom, who was a first born of French-Canadian parents here in Berlin, NH (it doesn't get much closer to Quebec than Berlin!) always said a pétard was either a fart or a firecracker.

Romeo Danais


Your father must have studied Latin. I believe petard is derived from a Latin word meaning to "break wind."

Suzanne Codi

Petard has always meant firecracker to me...and love that expression! Good way to get away with almost swearing when around your parents! I would translate it more as " Rats!" or " Dang!" , but your translation definitely works too!
So jealous of that clear water!! Enjoy the rest of the summer!

GwenEllyn Anderson

Beautiful pictures. They look like paintings!
Check all the uses of pétard at WordReference.com. It'll keep you busy. :)


❤️Love your story & the comments !

pierre maisonneuve

pétard = derrière (buns )...

Ronald Holden

Hmm. A pétard is also a little firecracker. And I've always called the bush "Scotch broom," not Scottish.


I want to be there not here in this horrible heat. Thank you for the post and taking me to your beach with you. Beautiful


I agree: these photos are among your most strikingly beautiful, Kristi! Thank you for them, and for another delightful glimpse into your storied life!


Our dear Kristi,
Today's post is not only delightful but wonderfully refreshing as well!(116 here today!Yikes!)
What a happy day in such a beautiful place!
So proud of you both for wearing hats in the sun;
the only other suggestion I can add is wearing sun screen,too.A lot of conjecture these days over which one(chemicals and such),just choose a trusted brand.
So worth doing!
Natalia. Xo

Deborah Zajac

The walks sound lovely, and your beach spot for Father's Day was lovely! The water is gorgeously clear. I imagine it's warm too unlike the ocean here in No. California! BRRR!!

BTW- All my nagging finally got He-Man to pick up a hat, but he's yet to wear it! It's been a month and yet the tags are still on it, and it's within eyesight of Diva Dog's leash so he has no excuse of not seeing it when preparing to take Diva Dog for walk. Sigh... At least Jean Marc is wearing his! :)

Mary G.

According to Wikipedia: Shakespeare's phrase, "hoist with his own petard," is an idiom that means "to be harmed by one's own plan to harm someone else" or "to fall into one's own trap", implying that one could be lifted (blown) upward by one's own bomb, or in other words, be foiled by one's own plan.

And the origin is apparently mid 16th century: from French pétard, from péter ‘break wind.’

I knew it had something to do with having plans backfire, or something like that.

I enjoy your blog so much, have been reading it for years.


Love the idea you can actually swim where you are! Where I live we are surrounded by BEAUTIFUL sea with magnificent views, but it is UTTERLY unswimmable ;-(
Having discovered you have Seattle roots, you probably know--it's the Puget Sound.
I DREAM of one day being able to live close by the Mediterranean in France!Yes, definitely something to appreciate!

Gordon Lyman

Kristi - You're an artist with words... and photos too.

Rosalie Hill ISOM



Merci Kristi. What gorgeous photos and lovely post. Bravo a vous deux. Seizing the day, carpe diem, despite empty nest sentiments on Father's Day! We too hope to soon reside full time near the sea. Perhaps with luck not too far from you. Looking for a long term rental near the Med, yet with good cycling routes for Terry, is our challenge. We happily accept.
We wish you all of the best with closing on the sale of your home soon and moving to your new abode. Many new, wonderful and fulfilling adventures await. Courage.


Is Terry Avenue in Seattle named after you father's cousin?


Yes, Shakespeare may have popularized the word as the English for: "small bomb used to blow in doors and breach walls," but it comes from the French 'pétard,' from Middle French 'péter' "break wind," from Old French 'pet,' "a fart," from Latin 'peditum.' This is the noun use of neuter past participle, 'pedere' "to break wind."

Ruth Hicks

Why do we in California have French broom and you,in France, have Scottish broom?

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Gordon!

Laura C

Actually what we have in California is French Broom but it is commonly referred to as Scotch Broom. We have small amounts of the real Scotch Broom. But the big problem is that it's an invasive weed. We've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars having it pulled. It's very resilient and unless it's pulled before it flowers, you'll have hundreds of small plants. I've been fighting it for over 20 years. It's called La Ginestra in Italy, and we saw miles after miles of it along the roads south of Rome and especially south of Naples. The Michelin said that villagers in remote areas make wedding dresses of it as the fiber is like flax/ linen. We've been successful at last in having it removed from gardening shops as it's such a pervasive, invasive pest. Check out Mount Tamalpais.

Kitty Wilson-Pote

The story and all the pictures give me such a lift today, Kristi! Thanks a tonne. And the semi-final photo, featuring a view through shade past a slanting tree toward a sunlit grove and the sea beyond... well, it takes my breath away! AND then restores it to me with the freshest vitality imaginable. Yum.

Connie V.

My mom is a first-generation American born of French-Canadian parents. When she wanted to tell someone that they were"full of baloney" or to just "get out of here" , she would use the expression, "Va péter une prune!" And I was told it meant , "Go fart a plum!" Always thought that was funny!


I just love your stories of your daily doings and the photos are just beautiful! You make me smile!

Leslie in Oregon

I don't think I'd ever get out of that beautiful water shown in your photographs! I'm so glad that you and Jean-Marc were able to enjoy it on Father's Day. The photograph of the happy dog in the water reminded me of Smokey...did he get to swim with you?

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,

Oh, pétard! I am definitely going to use that one! I love the photos and the one where the wooden slats on the railing are in the right place, right over the bottoms of the beach goers. I thought they were naked! haha

Diane Young

I've always thought "petard" was the "break wind" word. Your photographs are so gorgeous you need to make a book of photos while you are waiting for word on the house. Maybe you could sell it on email, which would cost so much less than getting it published. You are living in an earthly paradise so share it if you can with many. Perhaps your readers like me could send you a donation towards producing it or something. It just seems too good not to share. Maybe "France" magazine would be interested. Anyhow, bonne chance with the home situation.


A great story, with good reminders. I love the beautiful photos of your dream home and the lovely, quiet little beach. That spot on the stone-covered beach looks so welcoming!

Catherine Berry (But you are in France, Madame)

Yes, I loved to cozy, too, when living in France. Always with language-learning intent!


I was taken by the mysterious beast at the head of your beach towels. Is that a lizard, a lion ?

Kristin Espinasse

That is interesting! I did not even notice we were resting beneath a formidable creature! I had to study the image to finally see the various formations in the rock wall! 


I watched a little old French lady demonstrate how to make miniature cream puffs. As she squeezed the dainty little bits of pastry onto the baking sheet, she said they were called "petes des nonnes"!


I believe the expression is from Shakespeare's Henry IV part 1 and comes from the mouth of Falstaff. If I rightly remember the footnotes from my schooldays a Petard was a small landmine and Falstaff was imagining a military engineer who accidentally set off his own landmine to the amusement of the rest of the soldiery (who detested landmines)

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