Adieu to a beloved Poet + favorite French words, in honor of Herman Meyer
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
This photo was taken on February 16th, at 3:21 p.m. in Sospel, France. Marveling at the heavenly ceiling and the mysteries beyond, I was unaware of a friend's passing on the very day.
I have been carefully collecting a list of interesting French words since the beginning of this month, in hopes of sharing them with you someday. I never imagined I would use them in a eulogy. Let's learn some vocabulary now while remembering an honored war veteran--and fellow desert rat (from Phoenix) whom many of you know from the comments section of this blog.
That's "hobby" in French. One of Herman Meyers's passions was la poésie. More than une lubie, poetry was a gift this 90-year-old outdoorsman and electrical engineer shared with the world. Right up to the end, Herm posted his poems on his blog Poems, Photos and Stuff and sent them privately to cheer up friends. He eventually collected his rhythmic verses into an anthology "that may leave you smiling, pull at your heartstrings and/or leave you in tears..."
"Brand new"—Herm, who would have turned 91 on May 23, wasn’t flambant neuf. He would have had fun using the brand new term in a stanza. Most of his works were inspired by photos. His book is aptly named "Pic Poems and Stuff". Don't you just love the "and stuff" which hints at the author's way of not taking himself too seriously?
"Le Système D"
"Plan D"--I learned this term in the comments section of this blog (thanks Sheryl!). Jean-Marc tells me the D is for débrouiller which means to deal with it. How would Herm want us to deal with his departure? What is Plan D?!
Plan D rhymes with zinguerie, a word I saw painted over a (plumbing?) shop while passing through Monaco last week. The term has something to do with zinc... which, come to think of it, is sort of the color of Ham Radio (OK, that was a stretch, but I'm determined to share the words, in the order in which I've learned them, into today's tribute. Hang on, it'll get more chanllenging soon!). Just to say Ham radio was an early passion of Herm's that eventually led to extensive radio school training with NATO in Fontainebleu, France!
Now there's a fun phrase meaning "guilty pleasure" and I have a hunch Herm would have incorporated this phrase in his picture poetry, where he shared his love of hiking, the Southwest, cowboy culture, friendship, family, service to others, and all creatures great and small to name a few. Perhaps one of Herm's guilty pleasures was repetition (mais bien sûr, he was un poète!); his favorite expression, shared now and again in the comments on my blog, was this gem:
C'est la vie, c'est la guere, c'est la pomme de terre!
(Literally: That's life, that's war, that's the potato!)
(Herm's translation: "Stuff happens!” Of course he’d say “stuff”! This poet wasn’t stuffy or smug!)
"Herm on his daily ride around the park" (title of an email he sent)
"It’s convenient"--In one of Herm's last emails of 2020, this passionate outdoorsman announced his hiking days were finito! From then on he rode, et c'était commode! Of course he "poemed" the news:
As time passes by for this aging man
I'll keep doing the exercises that I can
But, instead of the cross-country hiking
I'll stay active with my in-the-park triking
"To take a turn for the worse"--I learned this reflexive verb while out on a walk with Jean-Marc. "Le temps se gâtent" he said, as the bright sky darkened. Returning home, I found an email from my friend Karen in Phoenix, who shared the news of Herm's passing.
"No kidding" (Just a cool Southern French phrase you hear--even in Paris! It doesn't really fit in this section. But we're going to make it fit, just as Herm did with his rhyme gift.)
I received a courriel from Herm's wife, Sharron, who shared about Herm's joy reading my blog. Sharron left me with a compliment as she signed off:
"I always fondly called you his "other girlfriend." Please share this with your mom, he was also a fan of hers too.”
"To show off"--Because Herm didn't talk a lot about his service to the United States, let's show off for him here. In 2018, he was honored as a war veteran, and selected to go on the Honor Flight--an all-expenses-paid trip to see the Korean War Memorial in Washington D.C.
"Shortage"--Now Herm has passed to the other side, the mysterious Ever After. Let us all make sure there are no shortage of words for our word wrangler to work with, as he writes his poetry from the hereafter, l'Au-delà.
Help honor Herm by sharing a favorite French word in the comments section just below. And share what town you are writing in from. Merci beaucoup (I have a feeling Herm would say Merci buckets. He was comfortable enough with words to have fun with them :-)
Swell--That's "swell" as in "ocean waves" but it may as well mean swelled or swollen hearts. To Herm's wife, Sharron, his 3 adult boys, Brien, Craig, and Neal, and to all who love him, our collective hearts go out to you. May the favorite French words that follow in the comments, send waves of comfort your way.
Tu vas me manquer. I am going to miss you, Herman Meyer! Sans déconner!
"Your Other Girlfriend"
Read more about Herm on his blog and his book of "pic poetry" Photo: Herm leads a group of Francophiles at a meetup in Phoenix, in 2011. That story here.
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I'm so sorry about the loss of your friend and long-time fan. Condolences to his family. Love all the new French words. Most I hadn't heard before except for C'est commode. Very useful expression.
Posted by: Sharon Marchisello | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 01:43 PM
Two words I really enjoy in French but always, always have to be very careful in pronunciation. ...le dessert; le désert ....one really does not want the desert on the table while trying to eat the dessert!
Posted by: Muriel | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 01:56 PM
Mercy buckup for this man!!! We, too, love playing with language as did your lovely friend. But when we taught the grandkis some of our favorites we were not sure the mamma was that tickled. An Italian friend says grachush for gracias and we use that now, too. All fun....
Posted by: Suzanne Dunaway | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 01:58 PM
God rest his soul!
I find the expression "Avoir Beau" peculiar. "J'ai beau expliquer, le monde ne m'a pas entendu." "I tried my best (or in vain) to explain, but the world didn't hear to me." I've found it used in both negative and positive sentences, so it's quite tricky and interesting. ;-)
Posted by: Renée de Mards | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 02:00 PM
Pamplemousse, parapluie and aubergine...three of my favorite words to find opportunities to say when I'm in France. (Even though I don't care for aubergine)
So sorry for your loss. May your fond memories of him be a blessing to you.
Posted by: An Scott | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 02:25 PM
I am sorry for your loss. Herm sounds like a real mensch, not a french word, but he does. (I am not Jewish but have Jewish affiliations.)
I love his poems and his way of living, Rest in peace, Herm. Your family and friends are keeping your spirit alive. We never die, if we have friends to always do so.
I am from Southern Louisiana where French is found everywhere. Mercy Buckets was what we used to say as kids because we found it so funny.
Merci beaucoup-Mercy Buckets for sharing about his life and all the French. It is aiding me in my own French studies.
Posted by: Claudine MGV | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 02:30 PM
My newest remembered fun word, and one I think Herm would have enjoyed inserting into a poem (although maybe hard to rhythm) is this one:
Rinquinquin is a peach apéritif produced in the south of France. It is made by infusing sweet peaches and delicate peach in a 100 proof neutral spirit. The results are mixed with white wine, essential oils of citrus and sugar.
Posted by: Brenda Pfeil | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 02:39 PM
In Cajun French we use “coullion” a lot. Esp. to describe someone doing something extremely foolish, like speeding on the elevated highway between Baton Rouge and Lafayette over the Atchafalaya basin swamp, as in “Mais, look at that coullion!”
Posted by: Cyril Vetter | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 03:06 PM
I'm sorry for the loss of your friend, Herm. May he know peace.
"Laissez les bon temps rouler" is a favorite in our family; it seems to have many applications (some sarcastic) and always lightens the mood!
Posted by: Phoebe | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 03:29 PM
These are my 3 favorites, too! I was just going to write them...And I don’t like eggplant either...except for the color. Sherry Johnson, Cleveland, TN
Posted by: Sherry Johnson | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 03:29 PM
Kristin, you will surely miss your poet friend, but who knows ~ perhaps you will meet again. That would be heavenly!!
One of my favorite French words is pantoufle. Some of us have worn through the soles of a pair of pantoufles since the beginning of the Covid lockdown! And if I remember correctly, the little girl in "Chocolat," the film, had an imaginary friend she called Pantoufle, although it could have been spelled differently and had a another meaning. I should read the book!
May you smile when you remember "Herm."
Posted by: Susie | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 03:38 PM
Pamplemousse is one of my favorites to say. It makes me laugh. Herm sounds like a wonderful human being - and a good friend to those who knew him. Very sorry for his passing.
Posted by: Lynn | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 03:43 PM
Like you and Scott, these are my three favorite sounding words, too! How blessed we all were to read, along with Kristi, the wonderful comments that Herm shared! He will be missed. Heartfelt thoughts to his wife and all his beautiful family - he lived a good life!
Posted by: Judi Miller | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 03:50 PM
And remember l'aubergine is also a lovely, strong color. Not only a nighthshade vegetable.
Posted by: Roseann | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 04:06 PM
I try to use “tres jolie” whenever I can - not only for appearance but to describe the internal beauty of someone or something. Now you can help your special friend by remaining close to his “other girl-friend”. Be happy and celebrate the amazing life your friend had.
New Orleans LA
Posted by: [email protected] | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 04:13 PM
l'heure des brave !
Posted by: sarah | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 04:42 PM
L'heure de Braves !
Posted by: sarahh | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 04:46 PM
I agree with Lynn, pamplemousse is a fun word. I just ate a giant sweet pamplemousse from a tree in a nearby neighborhood. The owner was giving them to any passers by who wanted one. Your story today was a wonderful celebration of Herm!
Posted by: Judy Feldman | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 05:12 PM
What a beautiful tribute to a belle ame (beautiful soul).
I had the pleasure of spending time with Herm and Sharron over the years. Will miss him greatly.
Posted by: Karen Cafarella | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 05:25 PM
I love the French word for poppy...coquelicot!
Keeping Herm and his family in my prayers!
Posted by: Eileen | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 05:50 PM
That was a lovely tribute, one can see your talent for writing in this entry. I'm sure Herm would have been tickled to read this! As far as French words, hippopotame and ananas come immediately to mind as fun to say. On the flip side, I find words such as aquarium a struggle for my English mouth!
Absecon, New Jersey
Posted by: Laura Barry | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 05:51 PM
Oh no! I especially remember Herm from the earlier days of your blog, Kristi: his comments were always witty, uplifting and informative. He was such a charming man and clearly one of enormous accomplishment. My deepest condolences to his wife Sharron, his three adult sons, and all of his family and friends.
One of my favorite words is "étincelant": sparkling, gleaming, shimmering- just like Herm.
Posted by: NYC Trish | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 05:59 PM
Ditto! My favorite French word too!
Posted by: Nancy Reynolds | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 06:10 PM
I’m sorry to hear of the loss of your friend. Thank you for sharing his blog. I find the phrase ‘Tu me manques’ ( I miss you) so interesting. I luv how the subject is Tu. Perhaps it’s the French way to honor the main subject who is the dear person who is much loved. RIP
Posted by: Rochelle A'Hearn | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 06:11 PM
ONE OF MY FAVORITE WRITERS. I HAVE MISSED HIS FREQUENT ENTRIES. HE WROTE A POEM FOR PAULETTE AND I AFTER WE WON THE "KEY" YEARS AGO. TIME HAS A WAY OF ELIMINATING THE OLD AND BRING NEW FRESH PEOPLE INTO THE PITURE. AT 96 I HOPE TO ENJOY FRENCH WORD A DAY FOR YEARS TO COME. THANKS FOR POSTING HIS ENTRY. GIVE MOM MY BEST REGARDS.
Posted by: GUS ELISON | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 06:15 PM
Thank you, Gus. Your note about Herm , and life, is so touching. I am honoured that you read my blog and support it. Say hello to beautiful Paulette, and I will give Mom your message, too.
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 06:43 PM
Happy to follow Gus! Another of my favorite of your readers, along with Herm.
The poet/publisher/bookstore owner/North Beach resident Lawrence Ferlinghetti just died Monday at 101. I saw him in a café 5 years ago, sitting undisturbed among some regulars. He had great posture. It was great to see him reading the paper, undisturbed.
I am rambling, but it is sad to lose wonderful, open-hearted people like Herm. I always looked for his comments. Merci, Herm!
My word is quincaillerie.
Posted by: Leslie NYC | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 06:54 PM
My favorite, perhaps, is really a phrase. 'Sans Souci' and the way Herb thought about things, perhaps he would like that one. He took things as they came and seemed to find the best in life. That is what we need to do when we arrive at our 80s (or in his case, 90s).' This reminds me of something my mother, who lived to almost 102, would say. "Mind over Matter...if you don't mine, it doesn't matter." Bless him on his journey. I am sure he is discovering delights he couldn't have imagined.
Posted by: Cerelle Bolon | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 06:59 PM
Il y a beaucoup de mots jolis en français! Comment puis-je choisir seulement un mot? Alors, je choisis « feu folllet » les mots français pour will-o’-wisp. Je ne voit pas ce fleur très souvent, mais j’ai toujours pensé qu’il est un mot poétique à cause de l’image qu’il me suggère.
Aujourd’hui tu as bien célébré la vie et l’esprit de ton copain, Herm, qui sans doute, est souriant.
Posted by: Joanne | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 07:09 PM
What a great tribute to your great friend. Your words and his picture an encouragement to this reader and a reminder to keep moving and engage with life. Thank you.
Posted by: Briony Jones | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 07:27 PM
Favorite French word is L"amour because it encompasses so much. Thank you for your excellent tribute.
Posted by: SusanIreneB | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 07:49 PM
Hi Kristi. - I like coccinelle, because ladybugs are cute, and écureuil (squirrel) because it is a challenge to pronounce. May your dear friend, Herm, continue to enjoy life on the other side. Sounds like he lived a fulfilling one here and left a sweet legacy. - Janet
Posted by: Janet | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 08:14 PM
J'aime le mot "pagaille" parce que souvent je dis "Quelle pagaille", what a mess!
Posted by: Lauren Golden | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 08:45 PM
I always hated eggplant but when I was served aubergine by Madame, while studying in Paris, I loved it.
Posted by: Georgia Howe | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 08:48 PM
He was such a staple in the comments. All my best to his friends and family. My favorite French word is "doucement," softly, slowly, or gently. I've heard it directed at dogs, at children, and even at me. I've always thought it embodied the perfect way of life.
Posted by: Julie Farrar | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 08:55 PM
Adieu, Herm. It sounds like he lived life in such a meaningful and fun way. So great!
Champignon ~ because I love to cook and les champignons are fun to gather, work with, and eat!;-) I hope to gather them in France one day!
Posted by: Beth | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 10:05 PM
Mais l'aubergine, c'est passionnante!
San Juan Capistrano, CA
Posted by: Phoebe Wise | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 11:02 PM
Lovely entry in honor of your friend. One of my favorite words is "hurluberlu," which I learned was a kooky guy (hope it's not pejorative!).
Posted by: Nancy | Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 12:45 AM
Quel dommage. -julie-
Posted by: julie camp | Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 01:31 AM
Very sorry to hear of the loss of your friend, and fellow artist of painting with words. Words matter, and his that you shared with us here sure brightened my day (I can't wait to add une pomme de terre the next time I hear c'est la vie!)
Though my favorite French phrase has to be: "On va a la plage?" which was the first sentence I memorized in early high-school French. I had no idea it would lead a worlds of such joy for me (and who doesn't like the beach??)
Best wishes from Phoenix, AZ :)
Posted by: Inger Dickson | Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 02:50 AM
I’m so sorry to read of Herm’s passing. He was a lovely man! I remember that day and the conversations we all shared. Was it really 10 years ago? Wow. Thank you for honoring him here. What a wonderful way to celebrate him. ❤️
Posted by: Gail | Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 03:12 AM
Epoustouflant! A great word that also sounds like it is! Miranda (Kiama, NSW)
Posted by: Miranda | Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 04:00 AM
Moi, j’aime les mots douce et tendre. Je t’envoie mes sentiments les plus doux et tendres💗
Posted by: Suzanne | Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 06:33 AM
Herb sounds like a dear, clever & fun man! Thank you for telling us more about him. Because France, to me, means (among many other things) wonderful foods, perhaps my favorite words are MOUSSE AU CHOCOLAT. Sending condolences to you on the loss of a friend, from New York's Mid-Hudson Valley.
Posted by: Janet | Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 01:10 PM
I'm so sorry to hear about Herm's passing, Kristi. My condolences and deepest sympathy to you and his family and friends. I remember reading his comments for years.
Pamplemousse is a word I'll be sharing with wee ones now bc I bet they'll get a kick out of it. Today's comments were a good reminder of that word.
L'aubergine was mentioned a lot, too, and I love eggplant and that delightful sounding French word. But, the French words I probably say most often are c'est la vie. My mom often used que será, será. Or as a former boyfriend of mine in my 20s used to laugh and say (being funny) Kay Sarah Kay Sarah.
And, after the reminder, I do remember Herm writing about the key after that 'contest.' He was a constant in your comments.
Posted by: Trina in St. Petersburg, FL, USA | Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 02:14 PM
My word for Herm is Fontainebleau. I was inspired to read his blog several years go after you posted about him and was very excited to learn that he had lived in Fontainebleau. I met George there a few years after Herm had been there while our dads were also on NATO assignments. It is still home in our hearts. I can well imagine what life was like for Herm there, based on our shared experience. A light did not go out when Herm left this world but moved to the night sky, where it must be twinkling brightly. 💖
Posted by: Chris Allin | Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 02:38 PM
Thank you, Chris, for mentioning your Fontainebleau connection. It is such a beautiful word for this tribute to Herm!
I had a lovely note from Herm’s wife this morning. Sharron is deeply touched by everyone words here. Merci beaucoup 💕
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 02:45 PM
Such vast energy doesn’t disappear... He will be your unseen guide in writing when you have a need. New inspirations are yet to be, Kristi! The bonds of Love and Friendship never die.
Posted by: K. J. Laramie | Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 04:30 PM
Thank you for this heartfelt tribute to Herm. He died on Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday, so even though we are sad that Herm is gone from us, he lived life by this phrase, "laissez les bon temps rouler".
Posted by: Mary Hilberg | Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 04:40 PM
La boite, la boite, la boite, la boite...say these two words as fast as you can! When I was living in La Ciotat I heard an ad for 'la boîte', either on the radio or tv, I think it was radio. I could say it faster than any of my French friends! It was my little joke every time someone said la boîte or mentioned une boîte. La boîte, la boîte, la boîte, la boîte, la boîte, la boîte, pour toi, Herm:)
Posted by: [email protected] | Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 04:50 PM
I hardly know a word of French
But Herm's the guy I'd want in the trenches
If I had to go to la guere
I know he'd watch out for my derriere!
Love you Herm and Sharron,
John & Pat Buckley
Posted by: John Buckley | Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 06:23 PM
Pamplemousse. Once I took a memory class that had us visualize images to remember words. The instructor had us imagine a moose with pimples made of grapefruits. I will never forget that French word. Thanks for your lovely tribute to your friend. I want to be like him when I grow up. Holualoa, Hawaii
Posted by: Gail L | Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 06:51 PM
So hard to lose someone with such joie de vivre. A word that looks French when you read it but sounds funny when you say it: les cacahouettes. Not sure how did the French came up with that word for "peanuts".
Posted by: Carla | Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 08:08 PM
What a truly beautiful eulogy for Herm. He was well loved and meant so much to so many people. I send my heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.
My word is: à l'aube ... that quiet magical time just as the sun begins to rise when we are apt to reflect upon friends such as Herm.
Posted by: Cynthia Lewis | Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 09:59 PM
My favorite French word is 'doucement' which translates as gently, easily, tenderly, slowly, carefully. I'm hoping that his passing happened doucement and that the healing for his family happens doucement.
Thank you for sharing hime with us today.
Take care, Diane Covington-Carter, currently in Golden Bay, New Zealand, where we are covid-free and experiencing the joy of normal life. There is hope!
Posted by: Diane Covington-Carter | Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 11:03 PM
Chouette.. owl... for the cool (and wise) poet.
Posted by: chris kelly | Friday, February 26, 2021 at 02:05 AM
Non, allons chez Suzanne... Chez qui? Chez Suzanne, l'amie d'Annette.
It was the first dialogue in Son et Sens, the French One book used by so many. I taught from it for years.
Posted by: Joan L. | Friday, February 26, 2021 at 04:59 PM
Ahh, j'adore le mot doucement- vous mentionnez ce mot dans un de tes livres, n'est pas Diane? J'espere aussi que le fin de la vie de Herme est passé doucement. Il me semble qu'il etait un person de qualité- merci Kristi pour le partage.
Posted by: Jeanine Woods | Saturday, February 27, 2021 at 07:43 PM
Mon mot favori est "débordé," car j'ai l'image du lait bouillant sur les côtés de la casserole. Je suis désolé pour la mort de votre ami, qui aimait les mots.
Tara, Boxborough, Massachusetts
Posted by: Tara L Zantow | Saturday, February 27, 2021 at 11:11 PM
Herman Meyer's play on words reminded me of an acquaintance who would say, "VIOLA," instead of "Voila!" I think of that whenever I hear someone say, "Voila," and even use the "VIOLA" version myself at times.
Karin, Tucson, AZ
Posted by: Karin | Friday, March 12, 2021 at 02:34 PM