"Cruisin'" (c) Kristin Espinasse
Two things I love about Italy (see the second in today's story...)

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clandestin(e) [klhon deh sten (steen)] noun

: stowaway

(adjective: underground, secret, illicit)

Example Sentence & Audio File:  Download WAV or MP3

Au retour de Sicile, les enfants ont découvert quelques clandestins dans la voiture! On the way back from Sicily, the kids discovered a few stowaways in the car!

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

On our long drive home from Sicily, Max and Jackie moaned and slapped at their arms and their knees. Ça pue et il y a des bêtes! It stinks and has bugs!

The kids were complaining about a couple of stowaways with which they had to share the back seat.

DSC_0016Jackie wrinkled her nose and Max leaned far away from the pest-ridden, poussièreux passengers, but the kids' theatrics did not win them any sympathy from the driver.

DSC_0014 "Your mom would like to keep those chairs," he said, of the cobwebbed clandestins

There, in the front seat, I heaved a sigh of relief. It looked as if those throwaway stowaways were truly mine to keep! I had not sorted through the Sicilian trash bins pour rien, had not tippy-toed past the broken glass, lifted the tossed toilet seat, the rotten tomatoes, and the rancid meat only to have to return the chairs to the trash heap.

Through a cloud of flies I had not in vain tried to save three rustic lives. But there was no way of saving us now from the stench coming from the back of the car....

"And your mom would like to keep the cabbage..." he explained, referring to the 7-day-old chou (one of the many garden gifts from our landlord, and while it was easy to know how to prepare the eggplants—as for that smelly chou... what to do, what to do?).


Home on the range... a temporary cover for the chairs until I figure out how to saw wood for some new seats. Wish I'd paid more attention in 7th-grade carpentry class.

Le Coin Commentaires

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French Vocabulary

ça pue et il y a des bêtes! = it stinks and there are bugs!
poussiéreux (poussiéreuse) = dusty, dust-like
clandestin (m/f) = stowaway
pour rien = for nothing
le chou = cabbage



Finding one of the chairs....

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Tomette tiles and old French keys at an antiques store in the town of Piolenc.

clef or clé*
(klay) noun, feminine
    : key

(from the Latin, "clavis")

*the two spellings are correct

Can you guess what the following terms & expressions mean and do you know of others to add to this list? Answer here, in the comments box.

mettre la clef sous la porte
clefs en main
clé à bougie
la clef des champs
livre à clef*
clef de fa
une clé de sol

mis sous clé
clé RIB
clef USB


* livre à clef (also: roman à clef or roman à clé)

Audio File:  listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and hear the words in the list above: Download clef.wav . Download clef.mp3

Motoring home from the brocante,* tires now crunching over our dirt driveway, I turned to my mom, who was jammed into the passenger seat. It was difficult to see her, as the "antique" that we had just brought home took up the space between us.

"I think we need a Plan B!" said me.

I was hoping Jean-Marc would be out in the vine fields, scanning for remaining grapes, post harvest. Instead, he was fixing the tractor, right there at the front gate! How, now, to tiptoe past my husband with this not-so-petit purchase?: one which amounted to no more than a few old planks of rotting wood studded with a hundred crooked clous.* Surely the Frenchman would think me mad for dragging home a board of rusty nails... even madder for having paid for it!

It was those fallen French keys that were cramping my style. Up until the last hour, that old "board" had been a unique exposition. On display (and currently off...) were over a hundred fat-toothed keys that made the wooden structure a veritable "objet d'art".

...that is, until I turned the board on its side, wrestled it into my car, and proceeded to jingle and jangle all the way home, losing, with each bend and bump in the country road, another coppery clef*. Like that, a pile of rusty keys began to collect on the floorboard below.

Keyboard The first few keys fell off in Piolenc, then another couple outside the town of Orange. In Sérignan, I swerved and, like that, two more slipped off as I avoided a curb... More keys collided and fell, there on the outskirts of Sainte Cécile... and a final bunch bounced off as we pulled into our lot.

What remained was that old "board"... and several shadows where the keys' images were burned into the wood, thanks to the sun. As I pulled the board out of the car, my hands were quickly plastered by cobwebs. I hadn't seen those... It was time now to face my practical-minded husband, time to come up with an explanation for this pathetic-looking, plastered "plank" -- and there would not be time to collect all of the fallen keys from the floorboard: Jean-Marc was approaching the car, like one of those husbands who can sniff a spousal "spenditure" from two farm fields away.

Quick, like any clever countrywoman, where tall tales are as common as wedding bells, I came up with a solution: "speed on by with a cry"...

I picked up that "plank" and peeled past my husband... pedaling my feet as fast as my mouth which pronounced: "No worries about what to get me for our quatorzième* anniversary------------------"

PS: As for what Jean-Marc's getting ... I'm working on it. Here's a hint: I'm turning one of those "tall tales" into a short story... about an old door, some rusty keys, and the secret to life-long liberty.

PSS: for the record, Jean-Marc very much likes the "keyboard".

Freedom keys
une brocante (f) = flea market
un clou (m) = nail
une clef (f) = key
quatorzième = fourteenth

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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