Le Paysan (C) Kristin Espinasse
Read about "the last peasant" -- in today's story column, then forward to a friend.

le paysan (pay ee zahn)

    : farmer, peasant

la paysanne = woman peasant

 Audio File & Example SentenceDownload MP3 or Wav File

Un paysan est une personne tirant des ressources de la nature proche de son habitat. Il peut adopter ou subir une économie de subsistance. A paysan is a person who makes a living from the natural resources near his dwelling. He can adopt or suffer an economy of subsistence. -from Wikipedia

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


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

"The Last Peasant": Endangered People, Endangered Values

Walking through the town of Buis-les-Baronnies, I experienced what long-distance runners feel: that endorphin high that comes from steady exertion. It didn't take a marathon for the feel-good chemicals to kick in: the rush came from picking up my camera again.

Salon de The (c) Kristin Espinasse

Sabot (c) Kristin Espinasse

(see the full picture of this window, here)

Wheelbarrow (c) Kristin Espinasse

How long had it been--six months? one year?--since I set out to capture the endangered beauty of a village and the timeless character of its people?

Ah yes, its people. This last detail explains the recent bout of camera shyness from which I have suffered. I had had a few run-ins with the French -- only two, to be exact (once while photographing a pot of geraniums and once while zooming in on an old wooden shop sign. I hadn't seen the woman seated deep in a leafy courtyard, behind the potted flowers... and I hadn't seen the grand-mère in the window above the artful wooden shop sign. I didn't see them because my lens was not trained on others, but on objects. I knew better than to point my camera's objectif at a person, but I couldn't help what transpired when all my attention focused in on an object, blurring every detail around it. It wasn't until the blurry "detail" began jumping and wagging an angry finger (in the periphery of my lens!) that I noticed the angry, accidental models!

In the town of Buis, I re-experienced the drug of photography. Holding a heavy appareil photo felt so good: curling one's fingers around the body, pulling the unit up to one's eye, peering through the viewfinder... seeing life through the narrow lens helps one focus on the intricate details that are so often missed. I love the feel of my hands twisting the zoom lens... my finger pushing down on the release button. Finally, there's nothing like the sound, or déclic, of a capture! The comforting click that records Here and Now, while Father Time spins his heels beyond the lens.

Zigzagging along the streets of the mountain community, I lowered my lens each time I was eyed by a curious citoyen or shopkeeper. There was that feeling that at any moment I'd be caught. But it isn't illegal to take pictures! I reminded myself, pressing forward in my photo journey. I remained discreet, snapping pictures quickly.

Rounding a bend I ran into a living monument. That Frenchman who encompasses the past--its traditions, its romanticism... while living and breathing in the present! 

I knew I had to have a picture of this man (with his neck-scarf and beret... his débardeur and cane!), but the angry women's voices (from behind the geranium pot and, again, from above the wooden sign) came back to haunt me, "Pas de photo! PAS DE PHOTO!"

I stalled at the corner, eyeing le monsieur. He was as charming as any potted geranium, with as much character as any chipped and peeling shop sign. I would have traded any photo in my camera's archive -- all of them!... pour lui....

I thought about stealing away with his photo! I could do the ol' "snap-n-run" technique... or the "pretend to be photographing the horizon" scheme (only to zoom in on the subject). But I did not have the energy for deceit, and so I quit plotting. 

I began to turn on my heels, when something inside said: Just ask his permission, Dummy! And, fast as that, I beelined it over to the bench!

"Pardonnez-moi, Monsieur.... Would you mind if I took your photo?" And then, not wanting him to feel like the object of some elder scam, I introduced myself. "I live nearby... I am just on my way home from the horse camp, where I left my daughter for the week".

The man recognized the name of the centre équestre and, voilà, we had a contact in common. I told Monsieur that I loved to take photos of France, especially because it is changing so quickly. "Sometimes," I explained, "I return to a village, only to find fresh paint over a perfectly charming publicité -- the old painted advertisement gone forever."

Monsieur shook his head. "Everything's changing." With these words, he introduced himself: "Je suis le dernier paysan".

"I am the last peasant." His words struck me as I sat listening to his story. In the old days, he walked eight kilometers to the field and back. Work, as a child, consisted of harvesting gladiolas, "un travail d'esclave"...  As a teenager, he would work in the olive orchards, in the verger (picking abricots), and he would harvest grapes ("pour la maison").

His brothers and his sisters worked just as hard, lest his mother remind them of their standing. "Elle ne nous a pas gardés pour notre haleine!" he explained.

"She didn't keep you for your breath"? I had never heard such an expression but it didn't take a dictionary of idioms to understand the harsh reality behind it: the mother had mouths to feed! All members of the household were required to be industrious. She wasn't keeping the kids "for their breath", or for her amusement. She had work to do!

I thanked Monsieur for his story and for his photo. It was time to move on (besides, I noticed a shopkeeper, up the way, who seemed to have a protective eye on the venerable villager). I didn't want to cause anyone concern. And so our conversation came to a close.

But Monsieur seemed so alone... I wished I would have asked him what became of his siblings, the ones that worked as hard as he did as a child. I only learned that, after he retired, rest would not be his reward. He left the fields to begin caring for his mother. "It is the hardest job of all to take care of another," Monsieur admitted. His words had me thinking about the old Eastern values concerning caring for our parents. A friend once reminded me:

We care for our parents until they cannot walk anymore, at which point we carry them over our shoulder. We don't question it. More than our duty it is our honor to care for the elderly.

But the mental and physical testing of our strength often blurs our vision and our very values. Monsieur and I sat side by side in the silence, lost in thought. Only a deep, long sigh reminded me of Monsieur's presence.

I thought about the sad irony. Monsieur's mother did not have the luxury of keeping her son "for his breath". But he did keep her... until her very last.



Post note: I was surprised that Monsieur called himself a "paysan" as I have heard that the term can be pejorative. Not only did Monsieur refer to himself as a paysan, but he said, more than once, will all sincerity, that he was no more than "un petit paysan".

Le Coin Commentaires

Comment on this edition or answer the following question: What are some endangered things that you'll regret one day no longer seeing (in architecture... in local characters... wildlife? Endangered traditions or valtues?) Click here to leave a comment.

Related stories:

"Tricoter" (To Knit): Meet the woman who was keeping a protective eye on "the last peasant". Click here to read or review the story and to see the photos.

Capture plein écran 22072011 104134
An an all-time favorite book--one I highly recommend! I hope you'll order a copy of The Life of a Simple Man and enjoy it this summer! Click here to read the reviews


Thank you for visiting our sponsors!

LES PORTES TORDUES (The Twisted Doors): The Scariest Way in the World to Learn and Listen to French! Check it out (if you dare). 


French Vocabulary

la grand-mère = grandmother

un objectif = camera lens

un appareil photo = camera

le déclic = click

le citoyen (la citoyenne) = citizen

le débardeur = sleeveless T-shirt, tank top (sometimes called "un Marcel")

pour lui = for him

le centre équestre = riding school

le verger = orchard

un travail = work

esclave (m/f) = slave

l'abricot (m) = apricot

Trenet One way I learned French was by listening to the classics (check out songs by Charles Trenet). Or you might prefer something more modern, like  Tour de Charme by Patricia Kaas


 I Heart French mailboxes... and French Script! Photo taken in Buis-les-Baronnies. Never miss a picture, sign up yourself--or a friend--for the free emailed version of French Word-A-Day.


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.

bien fringué

"Love in a Mist." One of the "locals", dressed to the nines for springtime. Thank you, Dirt Divas, for all the lovely flowers that are popping up in the garden!

bien fringué(e) (bee ehn frehn gay)

    : well-dressed

From "la fringue" (garment). Today's expression is used in informal speech! (Read: my daughter and her girlfriends use the phrase often!) Also: "Elle a de belles fringues!" = She has great clothes!

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

Fashion and The Four Agreements

At a house-warming party, or crémaillère, I spoke to the best-dressed guest. I would soon learn that such an opinion was "my truth" and not necessarily her own, that what matters about our appearance is not what others assume or conclude, but that we do what our creative hearts and instincts inspire us to do!

Seated on jewel-toned cushions in our South African hostess's courtyard, I listened to the woman wearing the dos-nu dress as we sat huddled together, fast friends. Not knowing a single soul, I had gravitated to her enigmatic presence.  Not knowing a single thing to say, I said the truth:

"J'aime votre robe!"

With that, an animated conversation began. I pointed to the whimsical ruffles along her sheer hemline... "C'est très joli!"

I looked down at my own get-up, which whispered "Play it safe! Wear black and beige!" In a rare moment of recklessness, I'd thrown on a sheer, calico scarf, tied it tightly around my neck, letting one of the long ends flow down my back. The decision felt dramatic and a little bit thrilling! setting into motion a series of unusual events: I dug out a pair of high heels... dusted off a bottle of perfume, and found a can of hairspray... As I dressed, I shut off the volume of the inner-critic, who heckled back rules about scarves and age, time and place. "Yes, there is a place! I shouted back, and if I don't dress up now, then when will I?" With that, I drew a red line around my lips, filling it in with several strokes of vibrant determination.

"Il faut oser...." You've got to dare...the woman in ruffles explained and, as she spoke, I took in her every detail. From the thick white bandeau tied over her closely-cropped, auburn hair... to her heeled ankle-strapped shoes. She told me that she chose the shoes from a tas de chaussures that her girlfriends had piled high, as they do each season, when they troc their clothes. (And what a great idea to clothes-swap!)

"I don't wear a lot of dresses... or heels," I admitted, pointing out the grapevines that surrounded us. Out here in wine country, it's not practical. 

Il faut du provoc! came the response to every one of my wardrobe-wavering excuses.

Provocative! Oh no, not I! I don't want to mislead others... and risk being mistaken for une pouffe!

The woman in frills shook her head. "Mais ça, c'est LEUR HISTOIRE et non pas la tienne! But that is their experience and not your own! It's their assumption based on their experience and it isn't your reality." Ultimately it is their baggage, not our own. And we are free to unpack our own suitcase and dress up or down as we so fancy! 

The woman huddled beside me threw her arms out as she spoke and her passion and her joy echoed in the delicate threads that enveloped her. "But all this fashion flair must come naturally to you?!" I said, sharing my doubts.

"Mais, non! I look back at photos of myself in my twenties and wonder, "Why didn't I dress up? Why was I so hard on myself. At 50, I'll try anything! So what if I make a wardrobe mistake one day? It doesn't matter... Il faut oser! You've got to dare!"

When I confided that I had a wedding to go to this fall, and that I would be wearing a little black dress, the woman in ruffles ran her coal-lined eye over me and suggested:

"Wear red instead!" 

Red? Wow? RED! Her enthusiastic response was the best reminder to shake up those "rules" of fashion (especially the oft-cited "little black dress"). I may not end up wearing red; but I will try to remember to oser, and, especially, to forget about fashion's dos and don'ts! Ultimately, how we appear to others is out of our control - it has so much to do with their own experience. It is based on their story and not ours. So why not write our own book? I'm calling mine "La Femme en Rouge"!


Postnote: Please excuse the "her" and "woman" and "she" references. But I was not sure at which point in the story to name our stylish character, who goes by "Anita". Anita tells me that she is a coursière for L'Orchestre National de Montpellier. The nature of her job (as messenger) means that eccentricities in dress are impractical (a good pair of boots are "par for la coursière"...) so Anita makes up for it by dressing up at every chance. I would have needed several chapters to share Anita's generous and affectionate spirit with you. I hope you've caught a glimpse of it here...

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections, comments, and stories of your own are welcome here in the comments box

P.S. Based on the ideas that Anita shared, I wondered whether she had read the book The Four Agreements. Turns out she has, in French!  (I have not read it, but have heard it praised by friends.)

Speaking of fashion, a few books to consider. Read the reviews and choose for yourself!
Parisian Chic: A Style Guide by Inès de la Fressange and The Gospel According to Coco Chanel and 

French Vocabulary

la crémaillère = housewarming

le dos-nu = low-backed dress

j'aime votre robe = I like your dress

c'est très joli = it's very pretty

il faut oser = you've got to dare

le tas de chaussures = pile of shoes

le troc = trade

une pouffe = a tart

La Femme en Rouge = The Lady in Red


Dear Mom, can't wait to see you on Wednesday when you land in Marseilles! Can't wait to show you the artichoke I grew from seed! (Pictures taken with this handy pocket camera.)


Never miss a word or photo. Have French Word-A-Day delivered, free, to your inbox!

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.

faire passer le temps

                            Scottish broom in the French countryside...

Thank you for your thoughtful notes and emails, but we do not have any test results from Jean-Marc's kidney biopsy to share with you. And today, le lundi de Pâques, means we'll have to wait another day or two!

faire passer le temps (fer passay leuh tahmp)

    : to while away the time

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the following French words: Download MP3 or Wave file

L'autre jour j'ai fait les magasins pour faire passer le temps. The other day I went shopping to pass the time.

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

"A Hell-On-Wheels Heart"

Friday afternoon, with a morale at sub zero, I was haunting the aisles of a home-decor store. This was not retail therapy. J'étais en train de tuer le temps. There were two hours to kill while my 13-year-old and her giggly cohort cruised the mall (and I wasn't up to making an aller-retour to the farm and back!).

C'était un drôle de deux heures. It was a very strange two hours spent in full martyr mode. "What a dumb decision that was!" I chastised myself about the anecdote I had just posted. "You should have written about "Adult Chicken Adoption", as you had set out to do! 'Ex-battery Hens' would have been a much better topic, DUMMY! The plight of commercial egg-layers was surely a less risqué sujet than "ego annihilation via death to self"! (Of all subjects! Of all subjects!!!)

(Later, I would have the consolation of laughter, over a telephone conversation in which I admitted to my mom that perhaps a journal titled "French Word-A-Day" was an unlikely place to talk about mortification of self!)

Mortified, I was. And, in this state, I continued worrisomely to while the time away, or faire passer le temps, falling to greater and greater depths of despairing humiliation.

Though my eyes were fixed to the blur of my mind's colorful imagination (in which scores of Word-a-Day subscribers were signing off, en masse, dismissing its author as some sort of mystic moon-bather), I somehow managed to catch a glimpse of the shopper ahead me. Her head suddenly jerked to the side... as if an invisible tug rope were tied to it. Every few moments her head jerked again...

As the woman's children bombarded her with questions, the cigar-voiced mother-with-a-tic would snap back, literally. Her violent head-jerkings were tamed only by her take-no-shit send-offs, or ripostes, which followed her visible suffering. The whole hard-edged package was wrapped up in a cropped-haired, tight-jeaned, 30-something. As tough-exteriored as the woman appeared, you could not miss the affection and protectiveness emanating from her center as her children and her mother flocked around her in time for more chattering and more head-jerking riposting. 

If I ever had a heroine, the slumbering novelist inside of me mused, she'd be a little like her. I would have liked to have studied the woman a little closer, but feared that her involuntary tic might seem to her the object of my curiosity. She could not know that it was her hell-on-wheels heart that so enamored me. 

Thanks to this unknown woman, I left the store with my very own hell-on-wheels heart. A heart with character in time to weather the fickle air, cloudy one day, sunny the next. It was just the antidote my uneasy interior had been searching for, there, of all places, in the home-improvements store. 


A hell-on-wheels heart is not cold or closed, it's fiery and has wheels! ...though it doesn't always know where it is going...

Le Coin Commentaires
To respond to today's word or story, click here.


The Bug Hug (c) Kristin Espinasse

Feeling unloveable? Go out and hug a flower! Nature will never snub or snob you :-)

French Vocabulary

le lundi de Pâques = Easter Monday

tuer le temps = to kill time

aller-retour = round trip

le sujet = subject


        Sunny façade in Cassis. All photos & text © Kristin Espinasse

In books, film, and cuisine:

French Demystified...simple enough for a beginner but challenging enough for a more advanced student.

Sara midda's South of France: a sketchbook Sara Midda's South of France is a place of ripening lemons and worn espadrilles, ochre walls and olive groves, and everything born of the sun. It lies between the Mediterranean and the Maritime Alps, and most of all in the artist's eye and passion. Read the glowing reviews, click here.

In film:  Paris Je T'aime Paris I love You.

Eiffel Tower Cookie Cutter -  handcrafted by artisans to last for generations. Order 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    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

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


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    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

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


Josephine baker colins
Read about "Josey" (from our former stomping grounds of St. Maximin) in today's story... and don't miss a photo of Smokey's Ma and Pa at the end of this edition.




to keep oneself busy

Italian Josephine made homemade pizza the size of a hamburger patty, only there wasn't any viande, just a bony anchovy and a meaty olive or two. When she had the energy, she delivered her Italian pies and stayed to watch you enjoy them. And she never charged.

"Ça m'occupe." It keeps me busy, she would say, simply. As I ate, she would sit facing me with her cane, her knitted shawl, and her buckled shoes, and reminisce about an American friend, whose name she shared, and the adventures they had back in the '50s along the Côte d'Azur, when one ran an Italian épicerie and the other ran away from Paris. I listened, but mostly I studied Josey, whose dark eyes, once dull, now sparkled.

The last time Josephine showed up at my door with one of her trademark mini pizzas, she was carrying a black-and-white photograph.
"I have something to show you," she said. We sat at the table, I in my one-size-fits-all dress (weeks away from giving birth to my second child) and Josey with her shawl and cane and buckled shoes, the black-and-white photo between us. The scratched and faded image revealed the two glowing Josephines: one "café," the other "au lait." The women were dressed in satin kimonos and holding umbrellas, smiles as big as the complicity they shared. I studied the old photo from afar when suddenly my Josey mentioned that her friend loved to sing and dance....

Sing. Dance. Josephine! That's when I grabbed the photo from the table and viewed, up close, the veritable, the one and only Josephine Baker—the celebrated American danseuse (and sometime secret agent) known to appear at the Paris Folies in nothing more than a jupe made of bananas, her pet leopard, Chiquita, in tow.

My excitement was cut short when Josey told me that she was moving to Saint-Raphaël, that her daughter could no longer look after her here in Saint-Maximin. I quietly set down the photo and looked at my friend as a lump formed in my throat. C'est toujours comme ça, I thought bitterly. Just when you meet someone—the kind of person you can just sit with and say nothing to and not feel awkward, the kind who makes a little pizza pie for you because they are thinking of you in your absence—they up and move to a faraway city!

Before Josephine left, she pushed the photo across the table. "C'est pour toi," she said in her soft voice. I tried to tell her that I could not accept her photo, that she should keep it, but she insisted. I couldn't take Josey's only photo of her with her legendary friend...unless...unless it wasn't the only one? Perhaps there were others? Yes! There must be others of those "girls" in the good ol' days—other snapshots—with leopards and banana skirts and maybe a feather boa or two!

I watched as my Josey padded out the door, little steps with her big-buckle shoes. So fragile, she seemed, that you might have taken her for a broken-winged bird, but for the leopard-printed tracks in her wake.



 Thank you for pointing out any typos or important ambiguities (!)  here

French Vocabulary

la viande = meat

l'épicerie (f) = grocer's

le café = coffee

au lait = with milk

la danseuse (le danseur) = dancer

Folies = Les Folies Bergères (famous music hall in Paris)

la jupe = skirt

c'est toujours comme ça = it is always that way


Hear Jean-Marc pronounce the verb s'occuper: Download soccuper.wav

Expression: Occupe-toi de tes affaires! = Mind your own business!

Conjugation: je m'occupe, tu t'occupes, il/elle s'occupe; nous nous occupons, vous vous occupez, ils/elles s'occupent

 Easy French Reader: A fun and easy new way to quickly acquire or enhance basic reading skills

In film:  Paris Je T'aime Paris I love You.

Kindle 189
Kindle Wireless Reader, 3G + WiFi. Order one here.


Smokey's parents: Mr. Sam (left) and Mrs. Braise (brez). 

You did read the story of their elopement in Marseilles? They were about to board the train for Venise when we finally caught up with them! Read the story here.

 Recipe! Though I never did think to ask Josey for her pizza recipe, here is something similar...  a cinch of a recipe from my daughter's French godmother, Rachel. View it 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    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

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


Meet an extraordinary 8-year-old and a giant named Hefty in today's story. All photos by Braden (except for the one above...).

abracadabrant(e) (ah bra kah dah brahn [brahnt]) adj.

    : amazing, extraordinary

syn: invraisemblable (bizarre), extravagant

abracadabra : interjection , also, masculine noun for magical formula  

Audio file: Listen to "abracadabrant" at French Wikipedia...

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


When Jean-Marc needed to spend the day prospecting with an American wine importer, I offered to host the man's 8-year-old son, or traveling companion.

Doubtful about my decision, I ran to the phone and rang Jules, in Mexico.
"Oh, Mom. How will I do with him?!"

Jules told me not to worry. Instead she shared the story about "Hefty", the giant carnival hand:

"When I was a little girl," Mom began, "I had a horrible wart on my thumb... I was always trying to hide it. One day I was sitting on a tree stump, outside the carnival grounds, staring at my thumb. That's when Hefty appeared. The giant, noticing my sadness, assured me I would never shed another tear. I watched Hefty disappear into the carnival tent and, fast as that, return with a secret ointment. Abracadabra! The wart disappeared!"

As Mom told the story, I could sense her wonderment. The kindness of a stranger... it was such a small detail in the grand scheme of a child's being, and yet the carnival hand's caring gesture never left her.

I considered Mom's words. I might not be as giant, or giant-hearted as Hefty, but there is that unmistakable oddness, or rather, that awkwardness that amounted, did it not, to no more than self-doubt? 

I began to hope for a genuine gesture, like Hefty's, to somehow surface from deep within me. Maybe in this way my eight-year-old guest and I would enjoy the same simplicity?

"Don't worry," Mom assured. "And what an exciting thing... just think about your visitor and wonder just whom, after all, you are hosting."  Thinking about it that way... perhaps Einstein was coming for the day? Or Victor Hugo, or Gandhi, or some other hero... or hero-in-progress!

When Braden arrived I was as nervous as a bride. "Would you like orange juice? Milk? A pain au chocolat?" Our hero was not so hungry and, after a bite or two, I was wondering what to do? what to do? 

I spotted my camera on the comptoir.... 
"Would you like to take some photos, Braden?" 

     Braden enjoyed "styling" the subject before taking the pictures.

And—voilàwe were off! The rest of the day I spent in the privileged presence of an artist and visionnaire. As I followed the intrepid ingénu...  I began to notice ordinary things anew! And oh the possibilities... of pairing grapes with flowers and pumpkins and trees!



By the end of Braden's stay my narrow world was as wide as the Milky Way. And it's all thanks to Hefty whose heart went out. And to the child he helped, who then pointed the way to me:

"The potential of a child... is as endless as a giant's smile."


:: Le Coin Commentaires ::
Corrections, comments, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box.

Sign up a friend or family member to French Word-A-Day


            The artist's self portrait. "Looking in" by Braden.

French Vocabulary

le comptoir* = counter

voilà = just like that! 

*Newforest, whom many of you know via "Le Coin Commentaires" offers these notes:
Originally, "un comptoir" (from the verb "compter") was a table used by a shopkeeper, on which he showed the goods you wanted to buy - he also used that table to count his money which he kept in a drawer. 

Nowadays, "un comptoir" can be found in shops and bars, in banks, post offices, libraries & commercial places.

For a kitchen: "un plan de travail", "une surface de travail" (I heard French people saying "la table de travail" but I believe "un plan de travail is the most common expression) 


Thank you, Braden, for a wonderful day! And thanks for taking the photos here.

 Gift Ideas...

Paris Hook PillowHand-hooked, heavyweight 100% wool face. Soft cotton velvet back. Order one here.




Eiffel lamp Eiffel Tower lamp: see the reviews, here.




Pie dish Emile Henry 9-inch Provencal pie dish in cerise red. Order one here.




Shalimar Shalimar Eau de Parfum by Guerlain. Introduced in 1925. Fragrance notes: an alluring, classic fragrance of exotic florals and vanilla. Order 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    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

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


Municiple flowers, blue shutters, Valréas, Vaucluse, hanging flower pot, France (c) Kristin Espinasse
Municipal flower pot in Valréas.

jojo (zho zho) adjective

    : short for "joli(e)", pretty

 Audio file (not available today... désolée!)


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

I followed Madame's directions and ended up at the medieval church, looking up at those "magnifiques fronts", the faces of which were almost as long as my own. Staring up at the church's eaves, where sculpted eyes stared back at me, I searched for God knows what: familiarity? unity?

My eyes scoured the stone faces but, try as I might, I could not "connect" or feel the warmth that had left me back at the little placette, where I had said mes au revoirs. Madame with the soft white curls and sentimental scarf  had surely returned to the room behind the window of white hearts. Why had she sent me here? Why were these sour faces so sweet to her?

I hurried back to the farmers' market to pick up a few bricoles before leaving the town of Valréas. Walking along I was awed by the municipal flower pots which lined the polished streets, punctuating every corner. The bright red blooms tumbled over, flowing almost to the cobbled ground. A little girl, no more that three, tousled her mother's hair as the latter knelt down to tie the toddler's shoes. The girl's fingers were light as feathers, little birds in her mother's silky hair. "Ça suffit, chérie," the mother said, standing up in time to fix her disheveled locks. I smiled at mère et fille as the two turned down the street, the sound of church bells behind them. It was eleven a.m.

"Quel joli sourire!" exclaimed the butcher, as I strode past his stand. I stopped, feeling both embarrassed and obliged... I wondered whether we needed some bacon, after all? I took my place in line.

"Yes! A very pretty smile!" repeated the butcher. There was no way I would leave now, and so I stood, awkwardly so. Relief came when the butcher turned his attention to the frail lady in the front of me. "And you, too! What a lovely smile you have!"

"Oh, no. I do not have good teeth," the woman said, apologetically. "Non, je ne suis plus jojo!" She turned, focusing her pale blue eyes on me. "But it is good to smile! Life is hard enough..." she said, gently. With that, everybody in line nodded and clucked their tongues in commiseration. I wondered about the various hardships beneath all those clucking tongues. Was it lost love? Bad health? A job loss?

Next, a man in a wheelchair arrived and took his place in line behind me. Collective hardships were forgotten as tongues abruptly quit clucking. All eyes focused on the butcher, who broke the silence.

"Debout!" "Stand up!" he roared, pointing his knife at the man in the chaise roulante.  

For one surreal moment I stood frozen. If I'd had a pair of earmuffs I would have thrown them over the man's oreilles, sparing him the butcher's words, which seemed to amount to one big and very bad joke.

I turned to greet the man in the wheelchair. His face was handsome or, to borrow a new word I'd just learned from Madame, "jojo". Yes, he was a joli homme or, rather, un bel homme with caramel brown hair and eyes the color of marrons

"Je vous dis, DEBOUT!" the butcher thundered, becoming even more animated.

The moments that followed were awkward, made almost unbearable by the bel homme's silence. Suddenly, his face lit up. "Cher ami," he said to his friend, "I haven't walked in 25 years... and it isn't your half-witted hollering that's going to make a difference now!"

The two men exchanged friendly bonjours and soon it was back to business. "What can I get you today, mon grand?" he said to his friend in the wheelchair. With that, the butcher winked at me as I stood marveling at the locals and their camaraderie.

Le Coin Commentaires

Corrections and feedback welcome! Click here to leave a message.



French Vocabulary

magnifique = magnificent

le front = face (of statue, building)

la placette = small "place" or (village) square 

mes au revoirs = my goodbyes

une bricole = a thing

ça suffit, chérie = that's enough, dear one

mère et fille = mother and daughter

quel joli sourire = what a pretty smile

non, je ne suis plus jojo = no, I am no longer pretty

debout! = stand up!

une chaise roulante = wheelchair

une oreille = ear

le marron = chestnut

je vous dis debout! = I tell you, stand!

cher ami = dear friend

mon grand = big boy, dear

golden retrievers, girl, chrysanthemum, bamboo, roseaux, canne de provence (c) Kristin Espinasse

Our Jackie, with Braise (left) and Braise's son Smokey

pumpkin, climbing vine, Virginia Creeper, vigne vièrge, chrysanthemum, golden retriever, dog, wooden chair, deck (c) Kristin Espinasse
Smokey "R" Dokey

pumpkin, chrysanthemum, golden retriever, dog, old grape vine, deck, France, Vaucluse, vineyard (c) Kristin Espinasse
                           Thank you, Kathy and Ron, for the mum and for the pumpkin!

Un, Deux, Trois: First French Rhymes:
...a collection of 25 traditional nursery rhymes for children. 

French Exambusters Study Cards:
Over 1500 questions and answers written by certified teachers and professional translators with a focus on exam preparation. Highlights the essential French grammar and vocabulary you need to know to test well. Prepare for quizzes, tests, AP, PRAXIS II, SAT II, CLEP, and N.Y. Regents Level I-III. Helpful for travelers! Click here to buy.

I Know How To CookThe bible of French home cooking, Je Sais Cuisiner, has sold over 6 million copies since it was first published in 1932. It is a household must-have, and a well-thumbed copy can be found in kitchens throughout France. Its author, Ginette Mathiot, published more than 30 recipe books in her lifetime, and this is her magnum opus. It's now available for the first time in English as I Know How to Cook. With more than 1,400 easy-to-follow recipes for every occasion, it is an authoritative compendium of every classic French dish, from croque monsieur to cassoulet. 


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.


Caromb, next-door neighbor to the beloved towns of Bédoin and Crillon-le-Brave. 

mansuétude (man-sooay-tood) noun, feminine

    : tameness, gentleness, "mercifulness"; leniency

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

A Day in a French Life...

by Kristin Espinasse

We were watching, she and me—that is, if heliotropes can see.


I, through my camera's viewfinder
and she, the sunflower, gazing unencumbered,
without binoculars or a "digital blinder"


I followed her example, lowered my camera lens, and observed, unhindered, the scene before us: raw and real now that it was no longer grist for a photo mill.

"I'll tell you a secret," said she, the sunflower in the window sill above me...

"Open your eyes, your very own lenses, and you will see love... if you pay attention—and open up all of your God-given senses.

I studied the rubble outside her window and wondered where love could be hiding there?


I followed the sunflower's gaze, to a fragile figure down the lonely lane...
On closer look I saw a man—
baguette tucked under his arm, a cane in his other hand

 DSC_0055"There," said she, gazing affectionately. "Do you hear his whistle?"
"No, I hear mumbling. He is talking to himself... I think he is grumbling!"

"Listen closer, Dear," said the sunflower—
and I wondered, do sunflowers have ears?

"Pay attention," said she... "Remember to open your eyes—and your ears! Soon you will sense love, ever-present, quite near!

I noticed how she turned her head,
as certain flowers do, following the light as some follow whim.

Only she was chasing "Love" pure and simple, not the passing fancy kind.
Love, as personified in this mumbling man with his loaf of bread and vocal mind.


I wouldn't have believed her (she and her "Love" theory)—

Had not time stood still
when the man with the cane turned
and smiled up at the flower in the window sill.


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.


51Qckm1DSfL._SL500_AA280_ I Heart Paris Shopper: made of recycled material


A Day in a Dog's Life...
by Smokey "R"

If Mama Braise sees my table manners she'll have a fit! So don't tell her. She won't put up with any mamsie pamsie behavior—not since my "accident". She's just trying to toughen me up.

But I do get tired sometimes... My jaw was displaced during the attack, making it hard for me to lap up liquids (most of the water falls out one side of my mouth, when it isn't drooling out the other! Good news is I have just discovered this position which lets in the maximum of liquid—and all I have to do is lower my jaw. Yee haw! high-five! and gimme a paw!

P.S. you might have noticed my new signature "Smokey R". "R" is not for "Robinson"--it stands for "Russell". I get the name—and my good looks—from Gramma K's dear Uncle Rusty.


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.


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

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

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


Santons, outdoor flea market, brocante, and grenier dans la rue in Suze la Rousse (c) Kristin Espinasse,
A brocanteur and his santons in the town of Suze-la-Rousse.

languir (lahn-geer) verb

    : to yearn

Verb conjugation:
je languis, tu languis, il/elle languit, nous languissons, vous languissez, ils/elles languissent => past participle : langui

Audio File & Example Sentence: Listen to this sentence: Download Wav file or Download MP3


Je languis de vous voir à Paris! Venez nombreux -- amenez des amis!
I long to see you in Paris. Everyone's welcome -- bring your friends!

A Day in a French Life...

by Kristin Espinasse

Such characters in the town of Suze La Rousse! I look at all of the lively locals who I had missed when visiting the village last fall, with my mom (known to many of you as "Jules"). Mom and I had hoped to spend more time in the village, but the chill in the air sent us quickly back to the warmth of our car, with the promise to return when the weather was warmer.

C'est un été indien! Alone now, I listen to the French tchatche* about the extended summer that we are enjoying, as I stroll solo through the central parking lot, where a bustling brocante* is well underway. Noticing a basket of santons on the ground, I stop to talk to the brocanteur,* who, I soon discover, has as much character as all three of the santons that he is now holding.

Santons, outdoor flea market, brocante, and grenier dans la rue in Suze la Rousse (c) Kristin Espinasse,

The brocanteur tells me he is half Portugais* half Français* and I can see that he is wholly one of a kind. With his chiseled cheekbones, his salt and pepper hair swept back into a ponytail, and his piercing black eyes... He would be the perfect character study, I muse, for any aspiring novelist... 

He might be a villian... or a viscount
A policeman
... or a prisoner
A hick... or a high-society socialite
A sailor
... or a swordsman
A male model
... or a monk
A French farmer... or a Finnish funambulist*...

Oh, the possibilities. Yes, he is the perfect character study, I muse, for a forlorn fiction writer... With that, I sigh, and begin to negotiate a price.

"The santons start at 15 euros each," the brocanteur informs me.


I point to my camera with its telephoto lens--hoping to give him the impression that I am a professional.
"I am here to take photos, not to shop," I begin my argument, "...but if you'll take twenty-five euros..." I bargain, "for these two santons and... and... for that pichet* over there," I add, (quickly pointing to anything to seal what I calculate to be a good deal...) "then you have yourself a sale!"

With that, the character of my unwritten book yields--as any one of his alter egos might while facing a feisty female-- and wraps the old santons, in newspaper, and the jug, in papier à bulles,* and I, the aching to be inspired novelist wrap my hands around my camera lens to capture my hero on film... if not in words.

Santons, oudoor flea market, brocante, and grenier dans la rue in Suze la Rousse (c) Kristin Espinasse,

To respond to this story, click here and access the comment box. I love to receive your feedback, even if I don't always have the chance to respond. Mille mercis!

To see the photos that I took in Suze la Rousse -- please subscribe to my private photo blog. You'll discover the villages that surround my own (Camaret, Tulette, Serignan...) via a gallery of images for each village. You might also give a gift subscription to a friend -- for the perfect Francophile cadeau! Click here for more information.

*   *   *

Gview Note: if you are planning on attending the American Library in Paris event this Wednesday, Oct 7th, then please be sure to let me know so that I might look for you! Mille mercis to Ann Mah for organizing this event!

~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~
(tchatcher) = to chat; la brocante (f) = second-hand goods, fleamarket; le brocanteur (m) = seller at a fleamarket; portugais = Portugeuse; français = French; le funambulist = tightrope walker; le pichet = pitcher; le papier (m) à bulles = plastic wrap with "bubbles"


golden retriever puppies, identification ID tags, in France (c) Kristin Espinasse,

Puppy Update!: Two of the puppies have left the nest! The happy "parents" are Christian, Marie, and Marie's son, Thomas. (Marie and Christian are cousins.) Marie has a Westie named "Cesar" and Christian has a golden retriever, "Sally". Wish them all the best!


Tune Up Your French :
This book is structured around numerous key areas for improvement, covering everything from tricky grammatical structures to gestures, slang, and humor.

Map of French Cheese (Fromages de France) on Printed Towel:
Printed with a map showing France through their famous cheeses

Staub Heart Shaped Fondue Set : Feast like the French!
(for cheese or chocolate )

Globe-Toddlers Adventures in France!
With 55+ words in French and English, Adventures in France DVD will help your child's vocabulary expand.

Provendi Revolving Soaps
The practical and very neat Provendi revolving soap fixtures have adorned public school washrooms throughout France for years.

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.