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Entries from September 2021

Une Escroquerie: our daughter got scammed and is returning to France

Un Escroc, Escroquer, Une Escroquerie

: a con (scammer), to cheat, a fraud

L'ECOUTE: Practice your French Listening Skills. To hear the French in today's story, click below. Next, check your comprehension by viewing the vocabulary list (farther down).

Listen to today's vocabulary in the following story. Click here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

Last Friday the 24th, after a day of celebration, I asked my husband if he'd talked to our daughter lately. "I tried calling earlier, but she didn't answer. Je vais réessayer," he said. Jackie still wasn't answering her mobile phone a moment later when, suddenly, she texted her dad back, and there began a series of cryptic messages....

...something about her being on the phone right now with social security
...something about a drug trafficker who'd gotten hold of her ss number
...something about identity theft
...something about the call being transferred, now, to the police
....something about her being implicated in a scheme if she didn't comply by staying on the phone

SOMETHING was clear amidst all the cryptic messaging: she was being warned not by a government official or the police, she was being manipulated and threatened by un escroc!

"Jackie, hang up. It's a scam! Raccroche! C'est un escroquerie!" Her dad texted back, en vain. The next text message came from me: JACKIE. THIS IS YOUR MOM! PICK UP THE PHONE!!!! When she didn't respond, I began texting Jackie's roommates. I called her boyfriend. Nobody knew a thing, everyone said they had not heard from her in a while.

When Jackie still would not answer the phone a chill ran down my spine. What if someone was with her? What if she'd been kidnapped? Le temps presse!! Jean-Marc get her on that phone!!!!" Lord help us! Lord help us! Lord help us! LORD! LORD! LORD!"

Suddenly, Jean-Marc broke through when our daughter picked up the phone and we learned what had transpired in the last 2 hours:

A LONG-DISTANCE HOLD-UP
Glued to her phone, in a state of panic and under specific directions of a scammer--our daughter left her apartment, took an Uber to the bank, withdrew her savings, got into another Uber, drove to a gas station, riffled through the cash to put part of it, with the help of a QR code the "police" gave her over the phone, in an ATM (it turned out to be a bitcoin ATM and it turns out that scammers use to extort money). Our daughter would have lost all her savings if it weren't for her phone battery running low on the long walk to the second dropoff point. That is when Jackie pleaded with the "police" to let her go and charge her phone. The "police" agreed, even suggesting she grab a snack before they called back... And just like that, the whole nightmare was over when she hung up. 


HOW COULD THIS HAVE HAPPENED?
To understand how our daughter could have fallen for this scam, I should mention that last month, while returning to Miami from France, her social security card went missing. She had packed it in France, in her carry-on, and three days after arriving in Miami she realized the folder was nowhere to be found. For the next 4 weeks, she worried herself sick, and finally, her worst fears seemed to be coming true when the phone rang and a so-called government agent introduced herself. When she received the fateful call, she believed every word--and in under two hours, Jackie's hard-earned money was stolen from her. The rollercoaster ride wasn't over, because we now wanted our daughter home immediately. (To our relief, she arrived safely in Marseilles, yesterday.)

Having left France three years ago in pursuit of The American Dream, Jackie fled The Land of The Free, without her money, or a sense of security. What will she do next? She is not sure about anything at the moment, except that it feels good to be home.


PLEASE SHARE YOUR STORY 
As Jackie recovers from this troubling experience, it would help for her to know she is not alone--and that anyone of any age or intelligence can fall for a scam and be a victim of extortion. Have you or has someone you know fallen for a scam--phone, email or otherwise? Please share related stories in the comments section below. Thank you!

FRENCH VOCABULARY
un escroc = a scammer, a con man, a cheat
escroquer =
to scam, cheat, swindle
une escroquerie
= a scam, a fraud, a rip-off
je vais réessayer = I'm going to try again
raccroche!
= hang up!
en vain = to no avail
le temps presse! = time is of the essence!
blanchiment d'argent = money laundering

Helpful links:
Don't fall for scam calls and Emails impersonating IRS


Figuerolles calanque sea inlet La Ciotat France
Back in La Ciotat

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


Celebrating today! + French for gentle, pleasant, sweet & Reader tips for a good relationship

French American marriage eglise church Marseilles wedding noces
Flying rice at our noces de mariage

Today, Jean-Marc and I celebrate 27 years of marriage. Help us mark the occasion by sharing your best tip for relationships in the comments below.

DOUX
(doo)
soft, sweet, gentle, pleasant, mellow

Practice your French Listening Skills. Click to hear Jean-Marc read in French and English:

Le mariage est comme le vin : doux, amer, intense, moelleux, acide ou plat. Mais un couple comme le nôtre sait apprécier toutes ces saveurs. Bon anniversaire de mariage, Chéri!
Marriage is like wine: sweet, bitter, intense, mellow, sour or flat. But a couple like ours knows how to appreciate all these flavors. Happy wedding anniversary, Honey!


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse 

What makes you happy? I think it is a good and healthy habitude to ask the question. One thing that makes me heureuse is when a relationship is going well--especially after a conflict. Never do we feel more grateful than when we are back on track with someone we love. We know we must never prendre pour acquis, never take for granted those we share life with, but life itself can trip us up!  This reminds me of the verb trébucher - to cause to stumble.... 

There are snags in every day. Did you wake to a broken coffee machine, une panne? Or, having made it all the way to the post office (early, to avoid la foule) you realize you left your mask at home...Pulling your shirt up over your face won't cut it--il faut faire un demi-tour... Big or small it's sometimes these dérangements that leave us deranged! If we're not careful l'énervement can carry over onto our entourage.

Having weathered moods, BROODS, and 'tudes, I'd say it is by the grace of God we've made it this far.  (Jean-Marc might give credit to another entity!) And 27 years later, nous y voilà here we are. Hallelujah! (My husband might say Allez L'OM! Go team!)

I am tempted to rewrite these last paragraphs which sort of veered off track from the original plan. Or maybe it's time to trust that "this is all leading somewhere!" Oui! Whether in an essay or in a marriage, have faith your efforts are leading somewhere... Just keep on trucking, and believe in a good future! 

*    *    *
Jackie Jean-Marc Max Kristi June 2021
This summer with our daughter, Jackie (24) and our son, Max (26)

FRENCH VOCABULARY
Listen to Jean-Marc prounce these words, then check your comprehension via the list below

Click here for the audio clip

les noces = wedding, nuptials
une habitude
= custom, habit, practice
heureuse/heureux = happy
prendre pour acquis = to take for granted
trébucher = to stumble, trip
la foule = crowd, mob; multitude
faire un demi-tour = turn back, make a U-turn
la panne
= failure, breakdown, out-of-order
le dérangement = inconvenience, trouble, bother
l'énervement = irritation, annoyance, frayed nerves
l'entourage = family, relatives, relations
nous y voilà = here we are
Allez L'OM = go team (go Olympique de Marseille!)

Jean-Marc Kristi Jens Gary Lou at Le Vin Sobre cave wine shop La Ciotat France
Jean-Marc, Kristi, Jens, Gary and Lou at Le Vin Sobre Wine shop in La Ciotat. Thank you, Jean-Marc, for creating the sound files for this journal, and for organizing wine tastings, which began in 2007--these have led to a lot of friendships...which reminds me, please remember to submit your relationship tips in the comments, below. 
Mediterranean sea and Port of St Tropez France
End photo from St. Tropez, known for its popular fall braderie.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


A Beautiful Escape via the French word échapper belle

Mediterranean pebble Beach at Plage Mugel La Ciotat France
Today's story takes place in La Ciotat, not far from the beach. 

ECHAPPER BELLE

(ay-shap-ay bel)

    : to have a close call, a lucky escape; to let off the hook

L'ECOUTE: Practice your French Listening Skills. To hear the French in today's story, click below. Next, check your comprehension by viewing the vocabulary list (farther down).

Listen to the vocabulary list, click here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Is there a word in French or English for when you are avoiding your To-Do list... by shopping instead? And does going grocery shopping count? En milieu de semaine, there were a lot of things I could be doing instead of hanging out at the supermarket, such as:

  • applying for French citizenship (but it's so much easier to renew my titre de séjour every ten years!)
  • completing the colorectal kit offered by the French government when you turn 50 (as I did 3 winters ago...)
  • working on Mom's bureaucratic papers before she is deported!

Ah well, as Scarlett O'hara famously said, Après tout, demain est un autre jour! Today, there's Monoprix--France's grocery/clothing/home store all wrapped up into one! But before rushing over to les allées de tentation, better exercise un tantinet of delayed gratification and shop for food first.

Touch screen and french produce scale for weighing fruits  vegetables

In this supermarché you weigh the fruits and vegetables yourself, using une balance and its accompanying touch screen (with photos of all the produce). Searching the screen, I could not find the picture of the onions. But it was there a minute ago! It even reminded me I needed onions. So where was the picture now that I was back with my sack full of oignons? The universe was playing tricks again. I looked around hoping for a Good Samaritan. Finally, I marched over to the only other scale.

An elderly man with a hunched back stood weighing a small bag of abricots. Glancing into his chariot, I saw a dozen more bags of unweighed produce and a battered cane he had tossed inside. The Man Sans Canne looked so calm and peaceful as he took his time at the self-serve station. A flash of admiration erased any memory of The Onion Dilemma, and I quietly returned to the other scale (where, incredibly, the onion was back on the screen!). Leaving the produce department, I kicked myself for not having the courage to say something to the man, to this last bastion of le bon sens. Here was more than a man--here was an inspiration. I hope to be eating like him and solo shopping like him (my own cane tossed into my chariot) well into le trosième âge!

Studying my family's grocery list I saw "ice cream, raspberry jam, and another quatre-quart (kids love this rich, buttery poundcake for the 4 o'clock goûter. No more kids in the house, but Grandma loves this treat!). Having gotten some eggs I rounded the bend and.... Chariots of Fire! There he was in the dairy aisle! Alas, I missed a second chance to say something, anything, to The Man Sans Canne. Instead, I hurried off and, rounding the corner, the handle of my own chariot (a smaller, two-wheeled poussette de marché) slipped and the cart fell, its contents tumbling out.

(Ouf, the carton of 12 eggs was intact!)

"Vous avez échappé belle!" another shopper exclaimed. 

"Oh, oui!" I smiled, quickly making a mental note to share with you, dear reader, the wonderful French phrase which literally means "a beautiful escape". Echapper belle also means to be let off the hook, which reminds me of hooky.... We'll end with that: the reminder to play hooky de temps en temps. Why not play at the grocery store? It might lead to a beautiful escape and some meaningful encounters, too.  

FRENCH VOCABULARY
en milieu de semaine = midweek
un titre de séjour = residence permit (see la carte de séjour...)
Après tout, demain est un autre jour = after all, tomorrow is another day
les allées de tentation = aisles of temptation
un tantinet = a smidgeon, tad, wee bit
une balance = weighing scale
un abricot = apricot
le chariot = shopping cart, trolley
le bon sens = good sense, common sense
le troisième âge = later life, old age
le goûter = snack, afterschool snack, afternoon tea
la canne = cane
ouf! = phew!
échapper-belle
de temps en temps = from time to time, now and then, occasionally
Caddie grocery cart in french chariot
It's amusing, isn't it, to read a stranger's grocery list. And judging from the crossed out item, it looks like they finally found the onions, too! :-)

Highlights from the archives:
Review the five senses in French: la vue, l'ouïe...
Check out The Most difficult French words to pronounce (and add your own in the comments to that post)
A family vacation in Queyras (the French Alps), pictured below.

Queyras France Alps

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


How to say "shortcoming" or "vice" in French + recipe reminder: "La Tarte Tomate"

Street in la ciotat France climbing vine morning glory blossoms
"Take a new road each day," Mom says. Like that, I discovered this quaint, unfamiliar rue on my way to our little Baptist church here in La Ciotat. The vine-flanked ruelle was as peaceful as the photo, with neighbors chatting at a window sill and laundry fluttering in the breeze. 

TODAY'S WORD: un défaut (day-fo)

    : fault, flaw, shortcoming, vice

la curiosité est un vilain défaut = curiosity killed the cat

AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc read the French vocabulary in today's post:

Vocabulary List, click here to listen to the French


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Coucou! I love this two-syllable, cozy French greeting for "hello, hiya, hey there, salut"--all very warm ways to reconnect after a brief absence. How did your summer go? Did you thrive or just survive? (Or a combination of the two?)

Ah, c'est la vie! 

That is life indeed and, if you are new here, life or la vie quotidienne is the subject of these posts. Life and all of its joys and absurdities. Because family life is the heart of this journal, now is a good time to reintroduce you to our lovable (mostly--on a tous nos défauts!) cast of characters:

JULES: the matriarch of the family and my mom. Jules came to live with us here in La Ciotat 3 years ago. Time flies and so do her trusty friends: all the neighborhood birds who she feeds. 

JEAN-MARC: a.k.a. "Chief Grape", my French husband, who began two vineyards in Provence. He currently runs a wine shop ("Le Vin Sobre") when he is not plotting his next sport adventure, like a triathlon in Spain

MAX: our 26-year-old son, who had the nerve to choose a career in wine after we made the difficult decision to sell our vineyard! (Now he dreams of having vines of his own!) Meantime, he works near Aix-en-Provence and loves the wine business.

JACKIE: our 23-year-old daughter, born and raised in France and who felt the need to discover her American roots. She currently lives in Miami where she is trying to decide whether to return to Fashion design school, learn finance, move to a new state or return to France....

SMOKEY: our 12-year-old golden retriever who survived a two-dog attack as a puppy. Scars and all, he keeps on trucking--and caring for my Mom (a job he assumed 3 years ago) keeps him going.

EDIE: our 3-year-old chicken who bosses everybody around.

KRISTI: founder of French Word-A-Day.com, I grew up in Arizona, moved to France in 1992, and began this French word journal ten years later, as a way to carve out a place in my dream profession: writing. Thank you for reading and for keeping me employed!

YOU. Saperlipopette! I nearly left out a most important member of our French Word-a-Day family. YOU. It would mean a lot to all of us here if you would introduce yourself in the comments section below. What city do you call home? What's your favorite past-time? Are you old enough to remember WWII? Thank you. I look forward to reading your words and I thank you for reading mine as I gear up for a new year of postings. Bonne rentrée!

Amicalement,

Kristi


FRENCH VOCABULARY
la rue = street, road
la ruelle = lane, narrow street, back alley
la curiosité est un vilain défaut = curiosity killed the cat
coucou = hey, hi there
salut = hi
c'est la vie = that's life
la vie quotidienne = daily life
on a tous nos défauts! = we all have our faults!
saperlipopette = goodness me! good heavens!
bonne rentrée = have a good fall (happy back-to-school, return from summer)
amicalement
= yours (way to sign off a French email or letter)

Tomato pie tarte tomate petunias

LA RECETTE DU JOUR: La Tarte Tomate
Visit the tasty recipe archives and discover this most delicious way to use some still-in-season tomatoes. Click here.

Tomato pie tarte tomate yellow and red  tomatoes
Click the recipe link above this photo for easy instructions on how to make a tomato tart.
Window in la ciotat
I leave you with a homey scene from La Ciotat, France. Prenez soin de vous et à bientôt!

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!