The sign on this quirky façade in Alsace reads Le Chat qui Pêche ("The Cat that Fishes"). Read on for a story about another smart cat...and don't miss the photo at the end of this post.
TODAY'S COOL WORD: "désinvolte"
: casual, nonchalant, detached, glib
A FEW BLOOPERS...Today's sound file, recorded by Jean-Marc, has a funny mistake. The good news is you will hear both the term and the translation (in English). Click the link below for the audio, then scroll to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.
Click here for the audio file
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
I was looking for a word to describe Mom's new pet, son animal de compagnie, when Jules offered a suggestion: "ALOOF. Cats are aloof." Well that seemed like a good term to share with you today... until I saw the boring French translation:
Bof! You already know those words, in French and English! Luckily, the dictionary offered an interesting synonym for aloof: désinvolte, which reminds me of "revolt" which is what Lili The Cat did when we moved into her house 5 years ago. You see, Lili belonged to the family living here before us. But they were moving abroad and were unable to transport their 12-year-old minette overseas...So we agreed to help out by adopting Lili. But when our new chat figured out our golden retriever, Smokey, was part of the Live-Together deal, she hightailed it over the border, to the neighbor's.
Then, mysteriously, the very day Smokey passed away, Lili quietly migrated back....
I almost stepped on her while watering the rose bushes. Longhaired Lili was the same color as the muddy gravel surrounding her. Lifting her up I had a shock: she weighed less than an empty sock and she resembled as much. This wasn't the neighbor's fault. Our kind voisine regularly fed her, along with the other felines living over there (including one of Lili's offspring), but Lili is a fussy eater, picky to the extreme. "And she is not sociable and won't come into the house—not even when it storms!" My neighbor filled me in on a few of Lili’s quirks as we chatted at our little “window” in the hedge between our yards..
The day Lili met Jules everything changed, for both immigrants. My mom, who moved to France 4 years ago, when her husband passed, was now grieving over the loss of her best friend and confidant, Smokey. "He used to sleep beside me, with his head on my pillow. We used to talk to each other all night long," Mom shared. I remembered their special language, and loved it when Mom impersonated a talking Smokey!
Since Smokey departed a great void filled Jules' studio... until sock-light Lili appeared! Lili, as you know, had this reputation of being distant, unfriendly, unpredictable, ungrateful--and maybe even a little bit sociopathic...à vrai dire). So we had zero expectations when she returned after 5 years, and instinct told me to reroute the errant cat over to Jules' place, to the little studio 15 meters from our front door.
This many months later and Lili weighs almost as much as our chubby puppy (Smokey never looked his age, even at almost 13 years). "She won't eat anymore home-cooked salmon, so I'm giving her meatballs," Mom explained, during one of our daily "Lili chats". I love going over to Mom's and sitting on the edge of her bed in time to hear of Lili's latest exploits (just as we used to discuss darling Smokey antics):
"She ran off the other cat," Mom said, of the stray with the broken tail who used to eat Lili's leftovers. "And she loves to sit behind the window and glare at the two hedgehogs when they come for their dinner!" (Jules offers Smokey's unused dog food to the spiky hérissons... carefully soaking it in water first). "I can't believe she is 17 years old," Mom confides, petting her new boarder. "You love Grandma, don't you? You can have anything you want! You deserve it!"
I can't believe Lili has come this far--from misanthrope to Miss (that's "beauty queen," in French). It remains a mystery how this cat manifested in time to become Jules' new confidant. I like to think that some tubby golden-haired angel in heaven is smiling down: I promised I would never leave you alone, Grandma! Smokey is saying, in that special, human parlance he uses with Mom.
un animal de compagnie = a pet
désinvolte = nonchalant, detached
bof! = meh, nah
le chat = cat
le voisin, la voisine = neighbor
la minette = kitty, kitty cat
à vrai dire = to tell you the truth
un hérisson = hedgehog
la Miss = beauty queen
Lili, beside Mom's pillow, doing her best impression of Smokey.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety