Sicilian Seat with Geraniums (c) Kristin Espinasse
Alice Cooper crashed at our place over the weekend. Read on...

heurter (euhr tay) verb

    : to bang into, to knock against, to run into

heurter à la porte = to knock on the door
un heurtoir = a door-knocker

Audio File: listen to our daughter, Jackie, pronounce these French words: Download MP3 or Wav file

Le petit oiseau a heurté la fenêtre. 
The little bird crashed into the windowpane.


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

Over The Rainbow, Bluebirds Fly

The other night I noticed our golden retriever standing very still... nose-to-nose with wild creature.

"Smokey!" I shouted, in time for our dog to run into the house, only, the little creature remained....

Slowly, I approached the motionless visitor, getting close enough to identify it. Un petit oiseau... From the way the little bird stood perfectly still, it was clear it had been through some sort of trauma. 

A collision? I looked up to the window above the front door, then back down to the bird. Meantime, Little Blue Feathers stood staring at the wall. 

"Ça fait de la peine! It's heartbreaking," my friend Pascale sympathized, from the wooden deck beyond. She returned to her telephone conversation with her daughter, the subject now being "Comment aider un oiseau blessé?" or "How to help an injured bird?"

Lying on the ground beside the little sparrow, I noticed its dashing plumage: navy blue feathers which contrasted with the lighter blue and brown hues of its covering. How exquisite its design!  I resisted the urge to photograph the beautiful bird. Reason whispered into my ear, saying: All creatures are owed dignity in suffering.   

Surely the creature was suffering? Eye to eye with the bird, mindful not to touch it, I studied its behavior. My head resting on the cement porch, I studied the bird's beak, which opened and closed automatically. Open, close, open, close... Not a peep! It would seem Little Blue Feathers had seen a ghost... or a giant monster which, come to think of it, from the bird's perspective, must be what the giant, worried eye beside it looked like. I blinked. The bird blinked. "N'aie pas peur, petit oiseau. Don't be afraid, little bird."

I scooted back a bit, and studied the overall picture. No blood, no crooked, might-be-broken wings. Just a perfectly beautiful, if stunned, bird.

Now what to do? "Don't touch it!" Pascale suggested, transferring a message from her 13-year-old daughter, Alice.

I went in search of a small branch. "Qu'est-ce que tu fais?" Pascale wanted to know.

"I'm going to coax the bird onto this branch, sans le toucher!... then I'll... well, I'll...." (Well then what would I do?)

Pascale looked doubtful. Meantime, the sun set. I resisted the urge to set a basket over the bird, to protect it from predators. It seemed the best thing to do was not to tamper with Mother Nature (perhaps the bird, if left free, would fly off in time? under a basket it would not...). I trusted that our dogs had left enough of their scent to ward off any cats and, with that, we left the poor creature on its own beneath the darkening sky... into which the winged bats flew out to spy....

That night I said a Thy Will Be Done prayer and the next morning, on waking, I said another before opening the window shutters and looking down at the front patio.

No bird... It must have flown off. Could it be?!

I ran downstairs but my heart sank on opening the front door and seeing the little stranded sparrow... which had managed to move forward during the night, finding shelter between the chipped flower pot and the old Sicilian chair.


I knelt down, level with the little bird, and noticed its feathers were all puffed up. I hoped this wasn't a sign of distress!

And just when I thought my heart could not handle the worry of it all, I gave up and decided to trust. That is when the miracle happened: the little bird flew up... and into the tree just behind me!

I swirled around, amazed. Looking up into the mulberry tree, I found Little Blue Feathers looking back down at me! Well there you are! I thought. There you are!!!

After our silent, grateful bird-to-human exchange, le petit oiseau turned and hopped from branch to branch. Higher, and higher, and higher... in step with my thankful heart. 


Post note: I named the little bird "Alice", after Pascale's daughter, who had cared so much about the bird's outcome. Only, I had a doubt as to whether the bird might be a male... in which case, Alice would seem to work, too... (for in my home state of Arizona, we have a famous man who goes by "Alice". For this, our feathered surviver will be called, for the records, "Alice Cooper" (and hereafter, affectionately known as Alice (Ah leece).

Le Coin Commentaires
Join us now in the community corner. Respond to today's story or share one of your own. Corrections in English and in French welcome. Click here to leave a message

P.S.: Little did I know, when dragging that chair back from Etna last summer, that its most noble incarnation to date would be that of sauvetrice, or héroïne...

French Vocabulary

un petit oiseau = a little bird

ça fait de la peine = it's heartbreaking

comment aider un oiseau blessé = how to help an injured bird?

n'aie pas peur = don't be afraid

qu'est-ce que tu fais = what are you doing.

sans le toucher = without touching it


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French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France


Garden update: Voici, here is my first attempt at lasagna gardening. I am doing things backwards (having gotten a late start). The idea is to build up layers of plant material that will eventually break down and amend the soil. It is also an effective way to control weeds! Suzanne, if you are reading, I will be trying to get my hands on some of that straw... meantime, I am collecting tiny twigs and building them up around the tomato plants. A suivre... to be continued...

I need mulch!!! The old vine stalks are only there to hold down the cardboard... I need to find a lot of tiny twigs -- plenty of them around here. Now to get out and hunt for them! Any other mulch suggestions? Stuff to be found around one's garden? I hear one can even grow her own straw. Pourquoi pas?

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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Along the steep zigzagging path to the sea in Sicily, we stopped to peer in to this tiny chapel. The doors were locked but we stole glances all the same.
colombe (ko lohmb) noun, feminine

    : dove

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

 (Continued from the previous story: "Switch-back")

On New Year's Day I was walking along a steep and slippery path to the sea, one very much like life itself: get past the obstacles--both real and perceived--and cross the finish line in victory! You might wonder just what reward awaits on the other side of the broken ribbon... but, consider: Life is not a race and the prize may just lie in the act of taking it all in stride, at a peaceful pace.  

Currently I strode, in panic mode, behind my husband of 16 years. I wanted serenity and I knew, by instinct, that Peace is what happens when you give in and quit fighting life's current. For the first ten years in France, I'd swum against the stream, it is only recently... since following my husband's dream... that I've begun to float. 

"Ça va Mon Amour?" Everything okay, Love? There were two ways to answer the question; similarly, there are two ways to face the new year: by caving in (to fear) or by venturing out (by faith).

I ventured a "Tout va bien!" and, voilà, we swiftly rounded an uncertain switchback, and landed on the seashore. 

As soon as my husband's feet hit sea level, he was off! Scrambling over the giant rocks beneath the seawall to kiss the salty waters beyond (in the end, he opted for a splash-on-the-face "bath" and not full immersion!).

I was still standing in the road when a foot-dragging dog limped past me. The dog seemed to live in the modest house at the back of the parking lot, which faced the sea. My eyes followed the crippled creature to an empty, industrial lot, farther on where thousands of birds were gathering.

Amid the commotion, a figure began to appear from within the frenzy of feathers. It was a man! The man, of a certain age, was holding a 20 liter bucket in each hand, the source of so much excitement on the part of the birds.

I followed in the dog's tracks... drawn to the stranger's simple act of charity. Why would a man lug such a heavy burden, then stand still as an altar... only to risk being capsized by a hungry flock of seed thieves?

The answer was written on the stranger's face: for the joy in giving!

I leave you with photos of "Antonio" and his dog "Lupo". And who said there is no prize at the finish line? I do believe this man and his dog and "their" birds of peace were the reward for following the path of life, for trying--one step forward, two back... to take fears and doubts in stride.


 Le Coin Commentaires / Comments Corner
Corrections and comments are most welcome. Click here to leave a message.


Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: 
Click to Download the MP3 file

L'homme était en train de nourrir les colombes.
The man was feeding the doves. 

Please help me to resolve a technical issue by trying out the audio feature, above, and then giving feedback on the following question (those reading via email may need to click over to the blog to see the question and to vote)? To comment on this question, thanks for using the comments box (click here).





Look closely and you will see the man in the photo, above...


I thought they were pigeons... but Antonio pointed out the colombes....


Yes -- doves!


Sweet Lupo...


What a lovely man and dog -- and a flock of fans to prove it!


Do you have a minute to read the story "Tourterelle" or "turtledove": it's short--under 200 words... and you'll learn the French word for "lovebird"! Click here.

 Exercises in French PhonicsExercises in French Phonics is " a great book for learning French pronunciation", "useful and practical", "high quality material, good value for your money" --Amazon customer reviews. Order a copy here.


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!
♥ Give $10    
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♥ Give the amount of your choice

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Meet Madame Alberte. It's cold out, but inside Madame's nest there's enough warmth for new friends: feathered, furry, and foreign, like me. Come along and see...

mamie (mah-me) noun, feminine

    : granny

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

I was hoping she would talk to me. Chances were, she would, for as I advanced along one of the many ruelles that make up the village of Roquemaure... yes, as I drew closer, so did she.

From her little, lace-lined first-floor window, she caught my eye. The closer I came, the more she leaned out of her fenêtre... until we might have brushed shoulders with each other, as two pedestrians crossing on a cobbled street.

"Bonjour, Madame."
"Bonjour," said she. "What a beautiful day it is!" She declared, and I knew right then and there she was a Glass Half Full type. In fact, it was very cold outside, and my hands took turns warming themselves first in one coat pocket, then in the other. How else could I keep a hand free to photograph the village surrounding me?

I paused to take a picture of the window next to Madame's and watched, surreptitiously, as Mamie studied me.

 Rustic Window

"May I take your photo?" I asked, transferring my gaze from the somber shutters... to the window with the bright stickers and colorful mamie leaning out.

"Bien sûr! Mais..." (and here, Madame reacted as any modest mamie might) "je ne suis pas très présentable."
"You look lovely," I assured her, while admiring the auburn color of her hair and the little heart pendant hanging on a chain. Madame smiled softly, revealing a single "pearl" just beyond her lips... With only one left, it was indeed precious. Next, she closed her mouth for the photo.


When I showed her her portrait she agreed, "Ce n'est pas mal du tout!" said she, as in is that really me?
"May I post your photo? I have a blog..."
"Un grog? You would like a grog?"
"No. A blog... I have an on-line journal and would like to post your photo."
"Ah, bien sûr! Please mention my son, who has a vegetable stand just outside of town... le jardin "Île de Miémar" à Roquemaure!" She added, with a chuckle, "the publicité won't hurt him!"

With that she told me stories of her heroic and helpful son, as any mother might. As she spoke I stole glances inside of her home-sweet-home. There was a chatty parrot, "Paco," to her left  and a floppy-eared rabbit to her right. I longed to see what other furry and feathered friends she had tucked away inside.

Perhaps it wasn't too late to change my story... from a blog... back to "I'd like a grog!"? Mamie could have the warmed rum all for herself and I would sit beside the rabbit and listen, cozily, to Mamie's 73-year history.

Comments are appreciated. Thanks for responding to this story--or sharing it with a friend.

French Vocabulary & Audio File:
Listen to my daughter, Jackie, pronounce the following French words Download Wav or MP3

Ma grand-mère française préfère que je l'appelle "Granny" au lieu de "Mamie". Et ma grand-mère américaine préfère que je l'appelle "Grand-mère, au lieu de "Grandma." Elles sont compliquées, les "grandmothers," n'est-ce pas? My French grandmother prefers that I call her "Granny" instead of "Mamie".  And my American grandmother prefers that I call her "Grand-mère" instead of "Grandma". They are complicated, grandmothers, aren't they?

une ruelle (f) = alley(way), lane
la fenêtre (f) = window
la mamie (f) = granny
bien sûr, mais je ne suis pas très présentable = of course, but I am not very presentable
ce n'est pas mal du tout = it's not bad at all
la publicité (f) = advertising


Emile Henry 

A French standby. Strong, durable, all Emile Henry cookware can be taken directly from the freezer to the hot oven, can go under a broiler and in the microwave; freezer and dishwasher safe. The natural clay is unsurpassed for conducting and retaining heat.

Lavender sachetsFleurs de Lavande: A petite version of our fragrant Provencal sachets. Filled with tiny lavender flowers, these sachets add a lovely fragrance to any drawer.

Nutella Nutella® spread, in its earliest form, was created in the 1940s by Mr. Pietro Ferrero, a pastry maker and founder of the Ferrero company. At the time, there was very little chocolate because cocoa was in short supply due to World War II rationing. So Mr. Ferrero used hazelnuts, which are plentiful in the Piedmont region of Italy... to extend the chocolate supply. Order. (from NutellaUSA.com)

Pronounce it Perfectly in French

Pronounce it Perfectly in French with Audio CD: this program emphasizes speaking, sound discrimination, and standard intonation patterns that are typical of native French speakers. Words and sounds are put into a variety of conversational contexts for students of French to practice and perfect.

A Day in a Dog's Life... by Smokey Dokey

Smokey says: Sometimes we get a bad picture. We mustn't get discouraged. Instead, remember: we all look better in person, especially when we smile!

By the way, these flowers are for you as a reminder: Never mind the bad "posies"—and don't forget to smell the rosies.


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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

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lavoir (c) Kristin Espinasse

lavoir (laah-vwar)noun, masculine

    wash house, washing place

Audio File & Example Sentence
Listen to my daughter's dear friend, Sonia, pronounce these French words:
Download MP3 sound file

On lave son linge sale au lavoir.
We wash our clothes at the (community) wash basin

Improve your French pronunciation with the Exercises in French phonetics book. Click here. 

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

At the old stone lavoir* in Saint-Maurice-sur-Eygues a man is doing the washing.  There is a plastic bucket beside him and box of sugar in his hand. He is sprinkling the white powder over the linge sale,* which drips from the centuries-old stone below. When the laundry begins to froth at the surface, I realize that not sugar--but laundry detergent--is responsible for this sudsy chemical reaction.  Turns out our washer man has recycled the plastic box of sugar into a soap recipient, so as not to carry a much bigger box to the launderette each time.

lavoir (c) Kristin Espinasse

I study the ancient wash room from across the street, where I have finished a photographic journey around the Provençal village. I am headed back to my car, content with the images I have captured, only, the man at the lavoir is the most precious picture of all! As a rule, I do not point my lens at the locals. It seems intrusive--if not exploitative. However, just as with French grammar, there is an exception to every rule and, in this case friends are that exception.

After all, the man and I had established some sort of rapport* (you might say we were des connaissances*) back at the fountain when first I arrived to the village. Seated on some steps, he had been feeding the birds... and I had been setting out, from the municipal parking lot, to discover the village. 

Locking my car door, I had paused to witness the scene across the way:  the joy on a stranger's face, the happiness that only a dance with Dame Nature* can bring. The dance, in this instance, was no more than the doting relationship between man and wild animal: Monsieur was feeding the pigeons.

How his face lit up with delight, bite after bite, on feeding the feathered friends to his right! When one of the pigeons flew up--to land at the top of the fountain--a friendship was born: that's when I pointed my lens at the pigeon and snapped the photo. Monsieur smiled at me, as if I had photographed a member of his very own family. He pointed to his bag of bird feed (a small sack of rice, premier prix*). I nodded in affirmation. Hunger is hunger, black, white, or feathered, and he who gives to the poor is priceless.

...Priceless as the scene before me of a lone man washing a lone shirt in a lonely French town. Of the many remarkable scenes I had viewed from the other end of a camera lens, none were so picturesque as this. But how to proceed? It occurred to me that I might simply ask Monsieur's permission for his photo.

Lavoir (c) Kristin Espinasse

Permission granted, I watched as Monsieur thoughtfully rearranged the bucket and the box of soap before returning to his chore. I could now see his working hands, as they kneaded and scrubbed, and I now had a better view of the soapy subject:
"Ma chemise,"* Monsieur explained, and his accent was as foreign as my own.

"Je suis marocain,"* the washer man offered.
"And I am American," I offered back.

But what to say next--apart from "do you come here often?" And so it was that I asked the clumsy question:

"Do people actually use these old washbasins?"
"Vous savez,"* Monsieur said simply, unassumingly, "on n'est pas tous les riches."*

I set my costly camera aside... and wanted to crawl under the stone lavoir and hide. I had an urge to become small, petit as the pigeon back at the fountain--and with an appetite as all-consuming as its own: an appetite for amour* and approval from the man sans machine.

*   *   *

Thank you for your comments & feedback.

Lavoirs: Washhouses of Rural France ~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~

le lavoir (m) = wash basin; le linge (m) sale = dirty laundry; le rapport (m) = connection, relationship; la connaissance (f) = acquaintance; la Dame Nature (f) = Mother Nature; le premier prix (m) = first (bargain) price; ma chemise (f) = my shirt; je suis marocain = I am Moroccan; vous savez = you know; on n'est pas tous les riches = we are not (all of us) rich; l'amour (m) = love

Book (photo above): Lavoirs: Washhouses of Rural France

lavoir (c) Kristin Espinasse
Postnote: Monsieur, sensing my malaise, offered a kind conclusion to our conversation:
"Besides," he said, "Je n'ai pas de femme," I don't have a wife... and not alot of clothes to wash.... Je n'ai pas besoin d'une machine à laver.

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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.


"Zig" and "Zag" a couple of gypsy chicks (...or "pintades") that live up the street. I mentioned them in Saturday's Cinéma Vérité, and showed a few other "characters" from my neighborhood including one Don Juan of a swan.

(boo-zhowt) noun, feminine

    wanderlust; itchy feet 

avoir la bougeotte = to have ants in one's pants, to be always on the move

French definition : envie de voir le monde - a desire to see the world

Example sentence from French news*:
Aujourd'hui, Robert Piché a toujours la bougeotte mais il voyage en sage aventurier. Today Robert Piché still has wanderlust, but he travels as a wise adventurer.

*"Le tour du monde - Commandant Piché : les racines du ciel," Le Devoir

Audio File: hear the French word "bougeotte" and the example sentence: Download Bougeotte Wave . Download Bougeotte MP3

My French Coach by Nintendo: Learn French through mini-games and competition
Speaking Better French: The Key Words and Expressions that You'll Need Every Day

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

The enigma surrounding my mother is beginning to dissipate. It began with her response to a question I posed in a recent post: "Tell us your goals". Mom's were to:

Hit the road, whether in a Porche or on a donkey, find out what lies around that next mountain!

There could not have been a truer statement and, in a nutshell, that is my Mom: 99 percent wanderlust, one percent rooted to the ground. As I read my own mother's comment among a dozen others, I think about Mom's husbands.

All four of them, if they read Mom's answer, would surely be shaking their heads at the day a young bride ran away: whether on foot, by car, by plane... or by Mexican ponga. She hasn't stopped "running" since, and she's never caught up with "that next mountain."  My mom, I am beginning to realize, is a gypsy at heart... which might explain why my childhood home came with wheels.

There in our single-wide trailer, I observed my mom and her "enigmaties" (so as not to say "eccentricities"); beyond the exotic exterior, deep inside her beautiful heart, basking in the twilight of mystery, was the golden seed. A French gypsy had unwittingly sowed it there, on fertile ten-year-old "soul", setting my Mom and, by design, me on a wayward and wonderful journey.

Today I invite you to enjoy part two of Mom's story. (Read part one here.)

Mom writes:

53 years later; as I recline around a lovely French table in the heart of Provence, memories of my first encounter with the French color my thoughts as I inhale the aroma of spring deep in the Rhone Valley. 

(note: Jules is missing from this picture... busy taking the photo from afar!)

I am seated with a bunch of Kristi's French relatives by marriage - my mind fading in and out of the scene - unable to follow their lively conversation. I reminisce once again of my first encounter with JOSEPHINE - the first and only Frenchwoman who took up her brush and painted my future on the rainbows of dreams.  Of course she was a GYPSY!!!
Josie's first words to me were "Bonjour, Cherie, comment vas-tu?"

My ears perked up and they were filled with this strange and melodious sing-song chatter....what on earth was this? At ten years old and in 1956 (pre-t.v. and coming from the mountains of northern Utah) I was ignorant of France and the most beautiful language in the world.
Josie's voice floated down the stairs enhancing this already enchanting memory.  Her slippers were a metallic gold, like the sparks of light bouncing off of her hair this late afternoon.  I didn't know which end of her to focus on first -- it was all so magnifique.  After her shoes my eyes caught the repeated glimmer of gold woven throughout the hemline of her dress.  In and out, the strands of gold swam through the heavier layers of thin taupe-colored yarn that constituted the knitted entirety of her dress. So many firsts for me in that treasured moment of time... a foreign language... metallic gold shoes... colored hair... a dress made of  strands of gold... BIG DIAMONDS on graceful fingers... and of course the finale: a glass of rose-colored liquid in a beautiful cup, fused on a stick of glass with a tiny upside-down saucer attached. How great it was to be ten years old, to have your body and soul quake with expectation and wonder of what is around the next corner!  At this moment I was seduced into the wandering, dreamy life I would continue to pursue with joy every day of my life.
I was invited through the gate into this magical garden of delights in the fall of 1956 -- a door I stumbled upon that opened up door after door... each doorway introducing me to the magic and wonder of life.  Josie and her adorable husband, Jimmy, lit the fires of language, history, archeology, cuisine, cocktail-hour, style & elegance, the art of sharing (with a ten-year-old)... mentoring to all of the little sprouts of my senses and soul.
There was so much to discover about Josie and Jimmy; of course I had to share this find with my 13-year-old brother, Rusty.  And so our adventure began.  When Josie and Jimmy met Rusty, I was kind of pushed into the background, understandably so, because Rusty was a star -- a STAR whose brightness couldn't be denied.  I was fine with this, mostly because he was my star too. Underneath my skin resided a solitary soul who could turn on and off her brightness when need be. 

*     *     *

I hope you have enjoyed my Mom's stories.  If you would like to respond to them, please do so here, in the comments box. Merci d'avance!


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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.


How much is that doggy oie in the window? Photo © Kristin Espinasse taken in or near Buisson (Vaucluse)...

Which do you find more charming in the photo above: those curvy curtainettes, those bucolic beads, the patched up window pane, or that oisive oie--or gazing goose--in the window upstairs? Or maybe it's the whimsical frieze above the door? Or simply, shutters? Share your thoughts in the comments box.

Word of the Day:

oie (wah) noun, feminine

    : goose

[from the Latin avica, from avis -- bird]

une oie sauvage = a wild goose
une oie des neiges = a snow goose
faire l'oie
= to act silly
une oie blanche
= a white goose (also "a naïve, silly girl")
le jeu de l'oie = game of snakes and ladders
le pas de l'oie = goose-step
  avancer au pas de l'oie = to goose-step along

... and this, from the comments box (remerciements to "Dkahane"):
A road intersection in the shape of an X (as opposed to a +) is known as a patte-d'oie. And once we reach a certain age, les pattes-d'oie (crow's feet) start appearing in the corners of our eyes.

Reverse dictionary (English term / French equivalent):
goose pimples / goose bumps = la chair de poule (chicken skin)
silly little goose! = petite dinde! (little turkey)
to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs = tuer la poule aux oeufs d'or

Did you know that the male goose is le jars and the young birds are les oisons. Do you know any other "oie" expressions? Would you like to talk about one that you've seen here or fill us in on a further meaning? Thanks for sharing in the comments box.

I can't remember which of our holiday dinner guests had suggested goose
(was it Alicia or Misha, who had driven up from Les Arcs-sur-Argens via London? Or was it Florence or Olivier, who'd arrived from Collioures via Brussels?). Or maybe the tipster was my do-it-yourself sister-in-law, Cécile, who'd rigged a faulty gas tank to her car's back seat in order to make it here for Christmas... the voyage took forever (driving at 80 km/hour so as not to splash too much...) and, as for a Frenchwoman's fragrance, hers was authentically essence.* Talk about splashed on!

Never mind, it doesn't matter who brought it up, goose that is--goose, not as a main course, rather goose as a force: one for hen-hungry thieves to reckon with! (Did you know some people steal chickens? My neighbor, down the way, tells me it's the gypsies. Toujours les gitans!*)

But back to the dinner table where I, under my husband's influence, was talking about why it would be futile to have chickens what with hen-hungry hounds in the environs... That's when my guest came to the rescue: offering suggestions (including "get a goose!") regarding poule* posterity--this, to my husband's chagrin....

You see, I have been pestering Jean-Marc about chickens ever since he promised them to me, just as soon as we wrapped up the 2007 grape harvest. For the record, we got plenty of fruit from that harvest--but not one friggin' feather! The 2008 harvest flew past, still no chickens.

Nowadays, there's an ongoing joke around my house and anything to do with eggs, feathers, or potential chicken coops triggers it. It goes like this:

(Me) "Oh look! An over-sized wine-barrel. Think that would make a good chicken hut?"
" Jean-Marc and the kids respond, in thick American accents. "PEWL, elle veuh lay pewel."*

Yes, I still want chickens. Only I haven't yet figured out how to build a simple PEWL EYE YAY* (part of our agreement was that I would have to come up with chicken digs, hence, every playhouse, garden shed, u-haul trailer--anything roughly chicken-hut sized gets me calculating "Would a chicken fit comfortably in there?" I ought to ask my self-sufficient sister-in-law for help, and just build one!)

But all that is beside the point. The point being the cute goose in today's photo and how she might just be the antidote to all this feather fever that I've suffered.

For, while chickens are delightful (see them strutting through the grapevines, en masse) and practical (eggs ever on hand!), they don't, as I am told, throw their wings up in a fury, honking obscenities, when trespassers approach--nor do they frighten gypsies (those known hen heisters).  But take a goose, oh a goose, a silly goose and she'll stand her ground--and stand yours while she's at it. Yes, that's what I need around here: more than a chicken, I need a championner.

*     *     *

French Vocabulary: l'essence (f) = gasoline; toujours les Gitans = It's always the gypsies; une poule (f) = hen; PEWL, elle veuh lay pewel = (Jean-Marc's imitation of American wife pronouncing the French words "Poule, elle veut les poules"; PEWL EYE YAY (pronunciation for poulailler (m) = henhouse

The Snow Goose (my dad sent me this book and I loved it!)

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Stumbling over the vines... a swarm of soûlards or drunks. Read on...

étourneau (ay-toor-no) noun, masculine

  : starling, star (bird)
  : scatterbrain, featherbrain, birdbrain (you get the picture)

Les aigles ... volent seul... ce sont les corbeaux, les choucas et les étourneaux qui vont en groupe. Eagles ... fly alone...they are crows, daws, and starlings that flock together. --John Webster

                                *   *   *

In books: "The Boy Who Drew Birds." John James Audubon, who was born and raised in France, was sent to America at age 18 to avoid service in Napoleon's army... Read on, here.

Imagine a vintner's field in wintertime. Row upon row of dark, leafless vines... trunks over which a spray of rust-colored limbs (or so the morning light, reflecting across the unpruned field, would have us think). Now imagine that woody, glowing champ* disintegrating from the "waist" up (this, before your
very eyes)! Watch as the vines seem to lose their combined "heads," if not their minds!

Les étourneaux...
They are called "scatterbrains," tout simplement.* Not the vines, which appear to be losing their heads, but the birds who've alighted, eaten, and are now, once again "altitude bound" -- by the thousands! The visual effect of so many migrators "unmoored" is, if not stunning, sobering.... to the birds at least.

For while the birds themselves aren't scatterbrains, they sometimes act that way after feasting on the fermented fruit which, this time of year, might as well be grape-size "shots" considering the alcohol inside those wrinkled raisins.*

Now this would explain the odd swerving flight pattern that some exhibit--those birds that can't seem to hold a feathered finger to beak while "walking" a straight line (for starlings are known to walk and not hop). Like that, they commonly flunk French breathalizer tests before jamming jail cells from Lille to Paris, all the way down to Marseilles.

A former fêtarde* myself (and still a bit featherbrained from it) I shake my head and cluck my tongue on hearing those birds, beaks-a-begging, try to get out of jail time by pleading with the French cops, swearing that they are merely scatterbrained and not at all soûlard!*

                              *     *     *

Update: One of our birds seems to have landed on my friend Ann's Paris bistro table. Can you see its bloodshot eyes and that telling grenache-stained grin?

References: le champ (m) = field; tout simplement = quite simply; le raisin (m) = grape; fétard(e) = merrymaker, partyer; soûlard(e) = drunkard
:: Audio File :: 
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's French word and quote:
Etourneau. Les aigles ... volent seul... ce sont les corbeaux, les choucas et les étourneaux qui vont en groupe.
Download etourneau.mp3
Download etourneau.wav

Stocking stuffers and more for your Francophile:

Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France
Magnetic Poetry Kids' Magnetic French Kit
This French Bingo version promotes vocabulary enrichment and hones perceptual skills.

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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Hâte-toi de bien vivre... Make haste to live and consider each day a life... Seneca


noun, feminine


I was staring at the empty branches of our dogwood tree,
willing its wooden limbs to quiver and send forth so many rosy blossoms, 
when I recognized a vague longing coming from within.

I stood up and walked over to the north window,
threw open the painted green shutters
and saw a small feathered creature pacing back and forth 
over a bed of crumbling leaves,
just above the would-be strawberry patch. 

I recognized another restless soul throwing its own will around,
this one willing so many worms to pop out of the cold ground!

I looked at my dogwood,
the red robin at its frozen patch,
neither of us able to get the universe to dance for us. 

On days like this the worms rejoice and the dogwoods, 
still as they are, cause willing hearts to stir.

It is hope that keeps us going.

Note: there is no vocab section for this story... I will leave it at that, as I do not want to introduce any words which might throw of the flow of this story of longing. Click here to edit or to comment.

::Audio Clip::
Listen to my daughter, Jackie, pronounce today's quote: Download hate.wav

Hâte-toi de bien vivre et songe que chaque jour est à lui seul une vie.
Terms & Expressions:
sans hâte = without haste, in a leisurely way
à la hâte = hurriedly, hastily
en hâte = fast as you can
hâter = to hasten, bring forward
hâter le pas = to quicken one's step
avoir hâte de faire quelque chose = to be eager or anxious to do something
  J'ai hâte de te voir! / I can't wait to see you!
se hâter = to hurry, to force
se hâte de faire quelque chose = to hurry to do something
hâtif, hâtive = forward; premature; precocious, hasty

In Books, etc...:
The Flying Apple Pie and Other Tales of Life and Gastronomy by David Paul Larousse

LIRE is a French-language literary magazine featuring reviews of new fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, author interviews and profiles, and articles on classic literature.

French Tulip Travel votive candle in embossed tin

Cafe Au Lait Oversize Coffee Mug

Hâte-toi de bien vivre et songe que chaque jour est à lui seul une vie. Make haste to live, and consider each day a life. --Seneca

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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World Cup enthusiasts in Le Vieux Cannet des Maures -- an ancient village niché dans une colline/ nestled into a hill overlooking the valley of the Maures.

le nid
noun, masculine

It was the purple flowers that first caught my eye. Turning my back to the tournesols,* I set down the garden hose, tripping over it on my way to check out the fuzzy pointed tops jutting out of the stone flower-bed. Only two days before, I had envied the flowering mint in the neighbor's jardin,* and wondered why our own herbs never seemed to bud like that.

Moving in closer, I knelt down and examined the delicate lavender-colored flowers with the mint scent, just next to the bunch of three-leafed trèfles.* That's when I saw the nid*: a swirl of brown twigs no bigger than a child's knee. My hand drew close to the tumbledown nest as I searched for the small spotted eggs that I imagined belonged inside. Rien.*

I studied the fallen nest, amazed at one bird's creation, now cradled in my palm. Looking skyward to the towering oak above, I wondered which branch let drop this quiet-mannered tenant.

Perhaps the little nest followed in its gawky inhabitants' tracks, quitting the branch as the young birds quit the nest* (only to fall instead of fly). Who says le syndrome du nid vide* is for the birds? Might an inanimate bunch of sticks feel the loss as well?

Somewhat heartened, I looked down to the patch of mint, to the flowering bed of herbs that caught the empty nid. I thought it a heaven-scented place to land, and softly so.

References: le tournesol (m) = sunflower; le jardin (m) = garden; le trèfle (m) = clover, shamrock; le nid (m) = nest; rien = nothing; quit the nest ("quitter le nid" = to leave the nest); le syndrome du nid vide = empty-nest syndrome

French Pronunciation:
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French word "nid": Download nid2.wav
Hear Jean-Marc's recite the French proverb: Petit à petit l'oiseau fait son nid / Little by little the bird makes its nest.: Download nid4.wav

Terms and Expressions:
nidifier = to build one's nest
la nidification = nesting
le nid d'amour = love nest
le nid d'oiseau = bird-nest
quitter le nid = to leave the nest
trouver le nid vide = to find the birds have flown
le syndrome du nid vide = empty-nest syndrome
un nid de guêpes = wasps' nest
un nid-de-poule = pothole

...and the English expression "nest egg" = le bas de laine (hoard of money) (also "le pécule" = store of money)

A few lines by Arthur Rimbaud, to illustrate today's word, "nid" :

Au bois il y a un oiseau, son chant vous arrête et vous fait rougir.
Il y a une horloge qui ne sonne pas.
Il y a une fondrière avec un nid de bêtes blanches...

In the woods there is a bird ; his song stops you and makes you blush.
There is a clock that does not strike.
There is a bog with a nest of white beasts...

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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Printemps by Jackie (c) Jean-Marc Espinasse Photo: my 8-year-old, Jackie, collected these flowers and made the vase... the poppy flew off before her father snapped the picture.

le printemps (pran-tahn) noun, masculine = spring

Il y a des pluies de printemps délicieuses où le ciel a l'air de pleurer de joie. There are delightful spring rains wherein the sky seems to be weeping for joy. --Paul-Jean Toulet

A Day in a French Life...
Opening my front door I see the end of winter. While the groggy old oaks are still leaf bare, the abricotier* and almond trees are covered with the blossoms of spring. The dogwood beside our garage trembles as a crimson-chested rouge-gorge* delights in hopping from branch to branch causing a flurry of pink petals to fall and carpet the earth below with sweet-scented confetti. Joining the fête* are the sunshine yellow pissenlit* which spread their cheer across the lawn. Further down the lane the fun continues with the tipsy coquelicots* now hanging from the stone walls; soon they will cover the fields beyond.

I envy the feathered and petaled merrymakers who bring the dull countryside to life while I remain sluggish to give up this cozy hibernal shell. At once yearning for the soleil,* I cling to the coziness of winter and early evenings spent fireside.

Stepping out of the house, I see the dwindling woodpile--only five logs left to burn. A trail of ants leads into the house as if to coax me out of it. The campanile sounds and my thoughts turn to the village where my neighbors are giving up their winter shells: shutters are opening and blankets are airing from the second floor windows; below, the cafés now stretch out over the trottoir* along with an end of winter yawn. And just like a contagious yawn, so is the merrymakers' excitement for spring which pulls me over to the dogwood and under its shower of pink petal confetti now tickling my toes.

References: un abricotier (m) = apricot tree; le rouge-gorge (m) = robin; la fête (f) = party; le pissenlit (m) = dandelion; le coquelicot (m) = poppy; le soleil (m) = sun; le trottoir (m) = sidewalk

: hear Jean-Marc pronounce the word 'printemps': Download printemps.wav

Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France"...a heart-winning collection from an American woman raising two very French children with her French husband in Provence, carrying on a lifelong love affair with the language."

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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.