Words, Meaning & Avoir le déclic (to have a lightbulb moment)

A cafe in Montmartre Paris
A café in Paris. A bit of a coffee theme in today's story, so we'll pair that now with a picture taken years ago in Montmartre.

TODAY'S FRENCH EXPRESSION: "avoir le déclic"

  : to have an aha moment, a lightbulb moment

Click below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here for the audio clip

, by Kristi Espinasse

I will never forget the time the true meaning to an English word jumped from a French page. It was Christmas at our vignoble near the Drôme and a children's storybook was concise enough for me to pause amidst the holiday flurry and read to the kids. Only, as soon as the lecture began a certain mot moved me to tears.

Fast forward 11 years and one more vineyard later... My husband and I are going through another phase, and for this we have been talking a lot to each other. These causeries are encouraging, difficult, relaxing, and sometimes funny. Especially amusing is how each time Jean-Marc says the word "express" (a recurring term lately) it conjures up an image of an expresso machine in my mind. Suddenly I picture hot water being forced through a dense mass of ground coffee, the liquid coming out the other side in rich, dark droplets (our cafetière italienne could use a good détartrage for the expressed coffee to flow out).

The exact definition of the verb reflects this high-pressured process: to express... from old French expresser: “to press out, to obtain by squeezing.” Quelle image! Can you see how it illustrates the effort involved in transporting our thoughts or ideas to words? The next time I struggle to express myself I'll remember those precious droplets of expresso—it’ll also be a needed reminder to service our machine.  

Funny how remembering those gouttelettes is not helping much now as I try to conclude today’s causerie*...though droplets of another kind are forming on my brow from effort... One thing that helps me when I cannot express myself in French or English, specifically when I can’t find the word needed, is to stop squeezing my brain and quickly grasp for another way to say the same thing (this often involves a series of words to replace the unknown term). This keeps the conversation going fluently and requires creativity and un chouïa, or smidge, of confidence. When all else fails I have invented words, often accidentally, always to the amusement of my French interlocuteur.

In the name of expression, you might even borrow an inexact word (a colorful one, in theme with the discussion...) and plug it in juste comme ça, pour le plaisir. So, in closing, and for your thoughtful words following our recent update, Jean-Marc and I would like to espresso our thanks, in good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, like good coffee, like a good verse.*  


Le café populaire


avoir le déclic = bingo! eureka! to have an aha moment
le vignoble = vineyard
la Drôme provençale = French department
la lecture = reading
le mot = word
la causerie = informal conversation, chat; *also means short essay
la cafetière italienne = Italian espresso maker
le détartrage = descaling, tartar removal, cleaning
quelle image = what a picture
un expresso = espresso
une gouttelette = a droplet
un chouïa = a tad, a smidge
un interlocuteur, une interlocutrice = conversation partner
juste comme ça, pour le plaisir = just because, for the plaisir 
amicalement = yours, best wishes, best

* "pressed down, shaken together, and running over" from Luke 6:38 

Cordonnerie shoe repair shop to coffee shop
La Cordonnerie: a former shoe repair shop now expressing itself as a coffee shop in Paris. Ah! The power--the sheer percolating force--of expression!

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety