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Entries from December 2021

A Special Request + Playground in French (and wild and free learning!)

D6B8B0C3-AD8D-4B45-A239-CE376DB4BF2F
The little stone cabanon at our vineyard. Do you remember the heart door? 

Today's Word: la cour de récréation

    : playground, schoolyard


Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Click here to begin listening

A (Birth)DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Recently the word "recreation" jumped right off the page of the book I was reading. For the first time, the meaning revealed itself right there in the spelling: RE-CREATION.

Waouh! Quel mot!

From the Latin "recreare," récréation literally means to create again, to renew--though most of us understand recreation as "an activity done for enjoyment when one is not working."

Speaking of not working that's my plan for my birthday! And while Miss Manners says it's uncouth to announce one's anniversaire on social media--it is A-OK to shout it out on the playground (etiquette dictates if you're under the age of 12, you can run around telling everybody it's your birthday)!

According to my passport I'm way past the age of 12, but today we're pretending we're on the playground--at a long table decorated with balloons and gifts. And it would give me so much pleasure, Dear Reader, to open those imaginary cadeaux--and discover a certain memory you have from this blog. Will you share your souvenirs? Is there a word or story that comes to mind? A recipe, un truc or une astuce you'll never forget learning here? Or maybe you have a special connection to this newsletter (you had to read it in high school, and now this many years later you are still reading?). It would tickle me to know. 

Thank you very much for playing along and, on that note, may this cours where we meet weekly remain a creative playground—an alternative classroom where we may nod in respect to Miss Manners while running wild and free!

Amicalement,
Kristi 

P.S.: I could write a book about how much I have learned from you, beginning with grammar (when I began this blog I didn't know the difference between it's and its). Thank you for all you have taught me. I think about you, your words, your advice, your personal experiences, and sometimes I even dream about you when I am sleeping! 

FRENCH VOCABULARY
le cabanon
= little stone hut or shed in Provence
la cour de récré
= playground, schoolyard
waouh! (or ouah!) = wow!
quel mot = what a word
un anniversaire = birthday
autrement dit = in other words, put another way
le cours = lesson, class
la cour = courtyard, schoolyard
le cadeau = present, gift
le souvenir
= memory, recollection
amicalement = yours, kind regards, best

Words not included in the sound file
un truc = a thing, a trick (hack)
une astuce = a tip, a hack

Related Story
Speaking of a word's meaning suddenly revealing itself, don't miss the story "Mangeoire"--just in time for Christmas.

Kristi birthday niece nephew kids
My birthday 15 years ago, surrounded by my nephew, niece, and kids. Thanks, Heidi, for the cupcakes!

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. PayPal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


The French Cure + vitamins and supplements + the expression "tant s'en faut" (find it in today's story)

Mediterranean sea in la ciotat south of france
The sun gives us vitamin D... and magnesium and calcium are a few gifts from the sea. How do you get your RDA (or "AJR"*): from un comprimé or some other way? Read on for a healthy dose of French vocabulary....

Today's word: une cure

    : course of treatment, therapy

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Click here to open the sound file

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
"Pipi cher?"

This week's obsession is...vitamins! minerals! supplements! And when I say obsession, I mean I'm trying to understand les pours et les contres of taking nutritional supplements and whether a multivitamin is beneficial...or, as critics say, just "expensive urine."

Urine coûteuse? Le pipi cher? No matter how I translate it, my husband and my son (subjects I've interviewed as part of my research) are perplexed by the expression. That may be because they're French! Megavitamins are not part of their culture, not that les compléments alimentaires are missing from French pharmacopeia--tant s'en faut! The French have encapsulated every nutrient under the soleil--they just prefer to lounge in the sun (for vitamin D) and eat their fruits and veggies (for vitamins A, B, C...through Zinc). 

THE FRENCH CURE
And yet, my toubib prescribed "une cure de vitamin D" after un bilan sanguin showed low levels of "the sunshine vitamin." And, years ago, when I was enceinte, my gynéco prescribed prenatal vitamins. Then, as a nursing mom, l'allaitement engendered a few carences which were corrected by various cures including le fer. But each time, these vitamins, minerals, or supplements were given as a therapy or course of treatment--une cure. After 10 days or two weeks or one month, the supplementation stopped. End of cure. The magazine Figaro sums up the Gallic viewpoint that "a well-balanced diet provides all the vitamins necessary to navigate bad days":

"...une alimentation équilibrée apporte toutes les vitamines nécessaires pour traverser les mauvais jours."

I'm not exactly sure what they mean by "bad days", but this brings up the subject of mood--and the food/mood connection. Is it true that certain nutritional supplements help diminish anger, anxiety, and stress? I have read that low levels of B-12 and folate are linked to depression and that NAC (N-acetylcysteine) is used to treat ADHD and addiction (even tobacco dependence).

Ideally, we could get all our micronutrients from food, but have you ever stopped to think about the fruits and vegetables you are eating? After weeks of sitting in warehouses, that vitamin-packed persimmon...is less packed: it's lost some of its nutritious load. Next, think about the soil, so much of which is depleted...or treated. 

A proactive approach to health seems like a good idea especially during winter (when sunshine only hits your face, because the rest of your body is covered). Recently, I ordered these dietary supplements:

D3 (normally found in fatty fish, egg yolks, cheese...)
Vitamin C (citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes...)
Zinc (meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds)
Quercetin (onion, red grapes, honey and citrus fruits)
NAC (a plant antioxidant naturally found in onion; a precursor to glutathione)
Melatonin (a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, it improves sleep and manages immune function and cortisol levels)

No matter how many times I hear the word "antioxidant," the meaning doesn't stick. Speaking of sticking, this brings us back to le pipi cher or pricey pee. Critics argue all these extra vitamins don't stick but get flushed right out of the body. I wonder, how true is that? Surely some of the vitamins are absorbed?

Les effets secondaires? Side Effects?
While discussing vitamins with my son, Max pointed out that taking supplements might habituate your body to accepting "outside help" and so weaken its response. Hmm... Good point, Fiston! This reminds me of the saying, If it's not broken don't fix it! 

Alors, que faire? What to do? What to do? Maybe all I really need is a cure for indecision! (The only side effect to that is progress :-)

***
In the comments section, below, I would love to know your thoughts about vitamins and supplementation. If it's not too personal, which vitamins, minerals, supplements do you take and why? Do you take them as a cure (only in the winter) or all year round? You may also use the comments box to offer any edits to this article (greatly appreciated. Merci beaucoup!)

FRENCH VOCABULARY
*AJR (apports journaliers recommandés) = recommended daily allowances
un comprimé = pill, tablet
une cure
= therapy, course of treatment
le pipi cher = expensive urine
le pour et les contre = the pros and cons
urine coûteuse = expensive urine
le complément alimentaire = dietary/food supplement
tant s'en faut = far from it, not by a long shot
le soleil = sun
le toubib = (slang) doctor
un bilan sanguin = blood test
enceinte = pregnant
gynéco (gynécologue) = gynecologist
l'allaitement = breastfeeding, nursing
une carence = deficiency, lack
le fer = iron

Words added to the story (after sound file was recorded!)
le fiston = son
alors  = well then
que faire = what to do?

Smokey and Kristi below Christmas treeSmokey wants to know: Do dogs need vitamins? Meantime, our golden takes Harpagophytum procumbens (Hp) or "Devil's Claw"--an antiinflammatory and analgesic preparation and homeopathic treatment that really helps his arthritis. Sometimes Grandma takes it too!

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. PayPal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Faire le Sapin, "la flemme" and The Spirit of the Season

Christmas tree sapin de noel in the port of Bandol France
A giant sapin de noël in the Mediterranean port of Bandol, south of France.

TODAY'S WORD: la flemme

    : laziness, reluctance 

Consider all these translations for "j'ai la flemme":
I don't feel like, I'm too lazy, I'm not motivated, I can't be bothered, I don't even care, I haven't the courage

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

French pronunciation MP3 file

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
“For the joy it brings”

As I look up to the highest cupboard in our house, guilty thoughts permeate my mind: What if we skip the tree this year? Would anyone notice or care? Is it a crime not to deck the halls at Christmastime?

Recognizing the lassitude as one big bout of holiday flemme, I had a little pep talk with my inner flemmarde:  It's time to prendre du poil de la bête! Time to pep up, se requinquer! and the only way to do it is to move it. Move that energy. Start by moving the tree!

Ni chaud ni froid?
Dragging a bistro chair over to the mile-high cupboard, I retrieved our sapin artificiel and began decorating it, beginning with la guirlande lumineuse. I began to think about why I had been so reluctant to trim our tree: Was it indifference (ça ne me fait ni chaud ni froid?) Or lack of novelty? (Our Christmas tree lingered until Easter last year...) Or was it because no one was participating this time—does my family have la flemme too? I tested the theory when my son returned from work: "Max, help me put some ornaments on the tree?" 

"Désolé. Trop occupé!" Jean-Marc was busy, too, with les cadeaux de fin d’année (delivering wine to Toulon, to Aubagne, to Marseilles...) and Jules was in her studio, keeping warm under a pile of blankets (Smokey being part of that pile). Jackie would have helped faire le sapin, but she moved out last week--which brings me back to Pourquoi?

Pourquoi faire? What's the point in decorating? Who am I doing this for anyway?

From flemme...to flamme!
Once the fairy lights were on the little tree I stepped back and, Holy Flamme! There it was: une étincelle. A spark in my heart...and then another. I hurried over to get Mom and drag her with me into The Spirit of Christmas, as it moved through our home--an Eternal Flamme overcoming la flemme.

"I'll be there in a minute," Mom said, putting on her lipstick.

I ran back to the house to put on some Christmas music and light a pine-scented candle (the best friend of a faux sapin). When I turned I saw Mom at the glass door. Those same sparks in my heart were now in Mom’s eyes which were lit with excitement. Even Smokey had the spark, bark! bark!

The mixture of surprise and delight on Mom's face as she discovered the lighted Christmas tree put an end to a nagging question—Pourquoi?

The answer was so simple now: for the joy it brings! Pour la joie que cela procure!


FRENCH VOCABULARY
la flemme = laziness, reluctance 
J’ai la flemme = I don’t feel like it
le (la) flemmard(e) = idler, lazybones
prendre du poil de la bête = to bounce back
se requinquer = perk up, pep up
le sapin = fir tree, pine tree
artificiel = imitation, fake, ersatz
la guirlande lumineuse = Christmas-tree lights
ni chaud ni froid = indifference
Ça ne me fait ni chaud ni froid = I don’t mind either way
désolé = sorry
je suis trop occupé = I’m too busy
le cadeau de fin d’année = year-end gift clients give each other
faire le sapin = to put up a Christmas tree
pourquoi? = why?
pourquoi faire = why do it
pour la joie que cela procure = for the joy it brings

...a few words missing from the soundfile
une étincelle = spark
une flamme = flame
un faux sapin = fake tree
Smokey and the Christmas tree Noel 2021
Bark, bark! 12-year-old Smokey beneath the fairy lights, doing his best impression of Le Flemmard, or Lazybones.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. PayPal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Une saccade + Tic Talk: Let's talk about tics (did you know "Tourettes" is named after a Frenchman?)

Mediterranean port of La Ciotat south of France
Our bustling port here in La Ciotat. Today we're talking about a word we share with the French. A tic is "a frequent usually unconscious quirk of behavior or speech" (Merriam-Webster). Read my story and then share your own experiences in the comments. Merci!

TODAY’S WORD: une saccade 

: jerk, twitch (movement)

saccader (verb): to tremble, shake, jerk

A saccade is also a rapid movement of the eye between fixation points.

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Click here to begin listening


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

Have you read about a certain eye exercise that improves vision?
Bref, all you do is look left, right, up, down, rouler les yeux, then repeat. Do these ocular rotations several times a day and eyesight will supposedly improve. 

But if that were true I would have 20/20 vision by now—without even trying! Because for years I’ve done the left, right, side-to-side sequence sans s’en apercevoir. I say “unknowingly” because I only became conscious of the repetitive eye movements when we lived at our first vineyard

UN AUTOMATISME?
It was during the busy wine harvest when I stole away for a break in my room. I remember laying in bed “stretching” my eyes in different directions when it struck me I’d been doing this a lot lately and that all this straining could be damaging! What if my eyes stuck that way (or one of those ways)? Even that didn’t stop me from doing the eye equivalent of scratching an itch. (And getting the same sort of relief).

Blink, stretch (left), blink, stretch (right), rouler, rouler…. I didn’t think much more of the “eye-scapades” until recently when the habit seemed to get worse. I began to wonder: is there an explanation for these forced eye movements and how common is it? Do you, dear reader, do such a thing? What’s this thing called?

UNE MANIE?
Is it a simple compulsion? A habit? Un TOC? The internet didn’t list “eye stretching” among other popular obsessions, such as:

⇒ biting one's nails (ronger les ongles)
⇒ pulling one’s hair out (arracher les cheveux)
⇒ picking at one’s skin (gratter sa peau)
⇒ picking one’s eyelashes, eyebrows (arracher les cils, ou les sourcils)

UNE SACCADE?
Meantime, I googled an interesting term having to do with repeated eye movements: une saccade (French for “jerk”) is a quick, simultaneous movement of both eyes between two or more phases of fixation in the same direction. According to the Oxford dictionary, saccade means literally ‘violent pull’, (from Old French saquer ‘to pull’).

UN TIC?
Tic is big word (often associated with Tourette’s)... maybe that’s why so many of us don’t make the conscious connection between our repetitive behavior and ticcing (ticking?). Here’s a non-exhaustive list of tics (when the following behavior is continuous):

⇒ blinking (clignements des yeux)
⇒ shoulder shrugging (haussements répétitifs des épaules)
⇒ Foot or finger tapping (tapotements involontaires du pied ou des doigts)
⇒ Sniffing (reniflements),
⇒ Throat clearing (raclement de gorge)

Saperlipopette! Looking over the 2 lists above, I realize I am not alone: some of my family members have either une manie or un tic—everything from continuous throat-clearing to incessant hair-pulling to a spectacular neck jerk. It appears that such gestures may be related to fatigue, anxiety, tension, or stress--even excitement or happiness. The heartening news is that,  just like a sneeze, tics can be controlled...

Ha! Tell that to a control freak.

***

TIC TALK
Share your thoughts about tics and manies (compulsions): do you or a loved one suffer from one? Can you name a famous person with one? (Tennis champion Rafael Nadal, who before serving, rubs his ears and pinches his nose and bottom—il frotte ses oreilles, pince son nez et sa fesse. These are knowns as tics or "little routines", for which he is sometimes mocked.). Are all tics related to Tourette’s? Is there a positive side to tics? And do you know of a technique to reduce or eliminate this sometimes embarrassing behavior? Share your knowledge in the comments box.

FRENCH VOCABULARY 
bref =  in short
rouler les yeux = roll the eyes
sans s’en apercevoir = without realizing it
rouler = roll
une manie = habit, obsession 
un TOC (trouble obsessionnel compulsif) = OCD obsessive-compulsive disorder
ronger les ongles = to bite one’s nails 
arracher les cheveux = pull out one’s hair
gratter sa peau = to pick at one’s skin
arracher les cils, les sourcils = to pick one’s lashes, eyebrows 
une saccade = jerk, twitch
les clignements des yeux = eye blinking
les haussements répétitifs des épaules = shoulder shrugging 
les tapotements involontaires du pied ou des doigts = foot or finger tapping
les reniflements = sniffing
le raclement de gorge = throat clearing
saperlipopette = good heavens!
frotter ses oreilles = rub one’s ears
pincer son nez, sa fesse = pinch one’s nose, one’s bottom
Gilles de la Tourette
From Wikipedia: Tourette syndrome was named by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot for his intern, Georges Gilles de la Tourette, who published in 1885 an account of nine patients with a "convulsive tic disorder".

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. PayPal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens