Tout rikiki, fastoche, and the unexpected French word for "good luck" + my would-be 15 seconds of fame
Recipe for Disaster & "To return the kindness" in French

Sans plomb, essence, caoutchouc, and a gas station story on French nonchalance

The sign on the back of the old truck says "(ride) in complete security...with Michelin tires". And in today's column, an oldie but goody from the archives--beefed up with extra vocabulary. Please share this post with someone who would like to learn French.

Today's word: "caoutchouc"

    : rubber

Audio File: Listen to french word for rubber, via the following sentence

L’essence sans plomb 98 est plus détergente que l’essence sans plomb 95 et se révèle plus corrosive, en particulier pour les pièces en élastomères (caoutchoucs). Ces deux carburants contiennent de fortes quantités de composants aromatiques qui sont très toxiques. Il faut donc éviter d’en respirer les vapeurs et ne pas s’en servir comme agent de nettoyage ou de dégraissage. (from Wikipedia)

Unleaded gasoline 98 is more detergent than unleaded gasoline 95 and is more corrosive, especially for elastomeric parts (rubber). Both of these fuels contain high amounts of aromatic components that are very toxic. Therefore, avoid breathing vapors and do not use as a cleaning agent or degreaser.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE...back in 2007

"La Station d'Essence" by Kristi Espinasse

At the gas station in Camaret-sur-Aigues I study the menu. I wonder whether to "fill 'er up" (faire le plein) with Sans Plomb 98 (better for the engine?) or Sans Plomb 95 (a few centimes less and just as suitable for my bagnole).

Opening the little door that leads to the réservoir à essence, I pause to re-read the sticker notice which cautions me to use fuel sans plomb. I have yet to make the mistake of filling the tank with another type of essence (having learned from my husband's mistake); perhaps all my neurotic double-checking has served its purpose?

I look up to verify which pump I am at: "No 2," the sign says. Right, number two. I will remember "pump number two" in time to answer the clerk at the pay booth. (And I will remember, this time, to check that the price matches the total on the screen. OK. Check, check.)

I pull out the nozzle only to return it to its carriage as I always do. "78 euros" are registered on the pump's screen. I am concerned that if I begin pumping, the truck ahead of me will have a surprise tab at the pay booth. I wait until the camion rolls past the booth before I pull out the gun once again, heaving a sigh of relief when the screen registers zero.

Next I try, as always, to set the nozzle to automatic. I want to pump as the pros do. I think it has something to do with hitching the nozzle's lever to some mysterious hook inside the handle. As always, the lever snaps back and I quickly give up. I'll never learn the trick, never mind that the other blond (at pump number three) seems to know it. Well, GOOD FOR HER.

When the lever snaps again, this time signaling a full tank, I resist the temptation to force in a few more liters. Don't take chances. Remember from experience that it's not worth the mess. I put the cap on the tank, turn the key and shut the little door. The screen reads 56 euros. (80 percent of that represents tax, as those who think about tax are wont to say. I should think more about tax.)

Pulling up to the pay booth I notice the attendant on the other side of the window. She doesn't strike me as someone who checks manufacturer's notices for fuel requirements or recalls the risks of tank overflow--though she does have on a tank top and you might say it overflows. And she doesn't seem to take her job too seriously. (Presently, she's filing her toenails.)

I marvel at her "filing-toe-nails-in-public" attitude which matches her unorthodox approach at manning the gas station pay booth. In the time that she makes me wait (she's finishing her pinkie toe), I think about how I could learn a thing or two from her: she with the hang-loose curls on her head and liberated legs (she's wearing cut-offs). The closest she has ever come to neurotic, I imagine, is in showing up for work every day.

la station d'essence = gas station
faire le plein =
to fill up (gas)
sans plomb
(m) = unleaded
un centime = cent, penny
la bagnole = (slang) car
réservoir à essence = gas tank
le camion = truck
l'essence (f) = petrol, gasoline

A French must: Embryolisse cream. I am down to the last drop (or squeeze) of this handy cream! My daughter and I both use Embryolisse (my twisted tube, left, hers, right) and it was extra utile for our recent trip--as one tube serves many purposes: makeup remover, face lotion (hydrating lotion seems misleading as it will not put moisture in your skin, but will help keep it there), and primer. Men, it makes a good aftershave! Order a tube here.

Also, I found this little wonder gadget "tube wringer" to help squeeze the last bits of cream (or toothpaste or you-name-it) from your favorite product. Check it out, or buy it here--it may well be the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for one on your list! 

Snapshot from Vaison la Romaine 

This next picture (Jean-Marc, his elbow broken, surveys the land where he would plant his grapes) was taken a year before we decided to sell our 2nd vineyard near Bandol...

Jean-marc broken elbow

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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


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Ray Stoddard


The tube wringer is indeed a handy gadget...however, this particular one is the first thing I’ve seen you recommend that’s so expensive (200€...yikes!) .

Kristin Espinasse

Hello Ray, I would not recommend an overpriced item like that. It looks like the link re-routed to an Amazon store *outside* the US. Yikes indeed for the price (which is around $21 in the States).

Ian Pitt

Hi Kristi,

As a Brit I was temporarily bemused by your vocabulary translating "essence" as petrol or gasoline - you are quite correct of course, but having just returned from France to UK this weekend I am accustomed to filling my car with "Gazole" which of course is diesel fuel, whereas I had forgotten that gasoline in US speak is petrol ... confusing isn't it!

Thanks for your always interesting blog.


Linda Darsie

Hi, Kristi! Please don't stop your "French Word A Day" blog. I am an active senior (70 this coming February 2019) who is learning/re-learning French and loving it!!! Your books are so helpful and entertaining. I have my very own FWAD dictionary. Keep up the good "work," for as long as you enjoy it as we all enjoy it with you!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Linda! Your message truly brightened my day. 

Frank Chappell

And here I am . . . the prodigal reader . But the word "caoutchouc" sucked me in . I even listened to Jean-Marc say it . However , I am sorry to say that I am one of many interests , more interests than time to pursue them all . And today we have a cornucopia of interests . I chugalug my roughly 64 ounces of water for my 71-year-old kidneys , I go to the Y to push and pull some weights , I read a couple of pages on ancient Greece , I proofread one of several pages of a letter to one of several friends , shower , shave , strop one side of the little razor blade on the leg of an old pair of levis , review an item I wrote for Facebook about the Polish resistance assassinating a Nazi , a result of a recent trip to Germany, Austria , Czech Republic , Slovakia , and Poland , then remember . . . I have to keep moving and can't sit around all day doing this and that , letting cholesterol settle in my arteries . Thank you for being there , consistently :)


Frank-I’m drinking my “kidney water” too for my almost 74 yr old kidneys! Maybe we need a trip to France together to keep us busy and out of trouble!! :)

Kristen -I loved your article today. Made me smile. I have learned the nozzle hold-in-place technique and feel quite accomplished!!

Deborah Z

I second the tube wringer! Perhaps Jules has one you can borrow. I picked mine up from an artist supply store for under $15.00 US. It's wonderful! I use it to squeeze out almost every last drop of my sunblock, toothpaste, and make up tubes, and of course paints.

I'm down to the last drops in my tube of Embroylisse Lait Creme Concentre and need to order more.

Lest you doubt how great the tube wringer is I'll post pic of my current tube of Embroylisse Creme and tag you on IG hopefully you see how flat and little creme is left in my tube. :)

Catherine Berry (But you are in France, Madame)

Wherever I am in the world I struggle to remember what I should be putting in the tank. It would seem that everything to do with cars bypasses me, even the retention of a simple number, malheureusement...

Marianne Rankin

I am surprised that a gadget to squeeze out the last bit of something from a tube would cost as much as even $15. I've seen them in catalogs for just a few dollars. To get the last of the toothpaste from the tube, I use the handle of the toothbrush: I turn in sideways, lay the tube on the flat surface of the sink, and run the brush from the bottom of the tube toward the top where the paste comes out. A few swipes with the brush gets out enough for 2-3 more brushings.


J'aime vos histories et je voudrais supporter your blog.

jan iPad does not accept my French spelling...

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