To flip somebody off in French

Beach in la ciotat (2)
Today's spicy story takes place here along the boardwalk in La Ciotat...

faire un doigt d'honneur à quelqu'un

    : to flip somebody off

Click here to listen to the following sentence

The driver--a woman in her 50s--flipped us off.
La conductrice--une femme d'une cinquantaine d'années--nous a fait un doigt d'honneur.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Oh, this wind! It's Day 2 of Le Mistral and this morning my husband actually said a prayer to protect us from people's humeur or moods!

Cranky, irritable, rude--my daughter and I witnessed the gamut yesterday, after Jackie invited me for Mothers Day lunch.
(Our 21-year-old is back home from Colorado and, having worked all season at The Ritz Carlton--where she won an award for excellence in service!--she is now waitressing on the beach. She'll work sept sur sept and long hours all summer, but she doesn't mind. The only thing is, we are finding it difficult to spend time together--and we didn't see each other at all last Sunday, which was Fête des Mères here in France.)

At a local restaurant here in La Ciotat, Jackie and I chose indoor seating after seeing the dining room was almost empty (nice and quiet). But once we sat down, we heard the blaring radio. So when the waitress appeared, I asked if she would mind turning down the music...just a little bit.

'Well, hopefully not so low that the rest of us can't enjoy it,' she snapped, before barging off. 

Alors, laissez-le! I snapped right back (was the Mistral wind getting to me too?). Jackie told me to shush, and we brushed off the initial greeting...but not for long.

'Vous avez de la daurade?' Do you have sea bream on the menu, I asked, searching for the familiar fish.

'Il faut regarder.' You'll have to look, came the cheeky answer, as the waitress pointed to the menu. 

'But it is usually your specialty', I countered.

'I don't know. I usually work at the bar,' came the reply. Next, the waitress stomped off to check with the chef. I widened my eyes, making eye contact with the couple in the next table, who seemed as baffled as we were.

Bon, I said to Jackie. Let's just get cheeseburgers and enjoy our time together. From that point on, we were extra nice to the waitress, who must have been having a bad day. Jackie left her a nice tip and we left, to stroll along the boardwalk, arm in arm.

Returning home, we jaywalked across the street--as every local does--only the car coming towards us would not slow down. I looked beyond le pare-brise and saw a middle-aged woman at the wheel. Jackie made eye contact, too, and added a few choice words directed at the driver who, having let us pass, abruptly blared her horn. Turning we watched the driver reach out of the window....

And flip us off!

Elle nous a fait un doigt! Un doigt d'honneur! I said. I can't believe it! Who would flip off a mother and daughter walking arm and arm? That is so bizarre!

Jackie didn't seem to find it so unusual. Laughing, she offered, Maman. Ça a pimenté notre sortie mère-fille

Looking at it from my daughter's angle, I lightened up. True, it only spiced up our mother-daughter outting.

Book update:
Speaking of spice, things are heating up in our memoir! Midway into chapter 4, this is the perfect time to jump in and read our book-in-progress. Read about it, here. 

le Mistral = a cold and strong northwesternly wind
sept sur sept = seven days a week 
la Fête des Mères = Mothers Day
alors = well then
laissez-le = leave it
Vous avez toujours de la daurade = do you still have sea bream?
le pare-brise = windshield
pimenter=to spice up

Jean-Marc will be pouring his latest wine, Ephemera, at Le Vin Sobre wine shop where he works. You can also taste a selection of some of the other wines on offer--this June 6th at 6pm.
2, av. Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny
Tél. 04 91 30 68 35 

Ephemera wine by  Eileen DeCamp
Thanks, Eileen deCamp, for this wonderful picture of Jean-Marc's Ephemera wine!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

mesaventure: Mom's mishap, Smokey's in limbo, and I choked on a pill


In limbo. Both Smokey and my Mom were in limbo this week: the one is still waiting for his tumor  test results, while the other is about to land in Madrid, si Dieu le veut (God willing!) Here is a picture of Smokey to make us all smile in the meantime. The title "Ironmutt" is in reference to the medal he is wearing, swiped from Jean-Marc who is a recent finisher of the race which took place in Aix-en-Provence. Bravo Jean-Marc! And Bravo for helping my Mom when she was stranded in Mexico City at the airport.... More in today's story.

Meantime... Is it possible to choke to death on a vitamin? Yes, it is! Stay tuned and I may share my story of this morning's ambulance ride to ER in the next edition when I share a life-saving verb with you! (No, on second thought, you should not have to wait for this tip. Here it it is now, in English: CRUSH your vitamin pills if they are too big! Never, ever cut them in half, where a square or jagged end could lodge itself in place. And never ever try to flush a giant stuck tablet with water. )


    : mishap

 AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jackie talk about her grand-mère:
Download MP3 or WAV

Grandma Jules a eu une petite mésaventure à l'aéroport.
Grandma Jules had a little mishap at the airport.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Mom's mésaventure in Mexico City

Yesterday morning I woke up to some alarming news: instead of being in flight and about to land... my mom was turned away at the boarding gate and could not make her connecting flight to France! She was now in limbo midway through her voyage, stuck in a Mexican airport far from home, without a valid ticket or a credit card!

And yet, the ticketing agents let her onto her first flight back in her home town of Puerto Vallarta! The airline employes did not notice, at that crucial moment, that her ticket was not paid for!

"Log onto your bank account and see if they debited your card!" Jean-Marc ordered, upset at finding out the news upon waking at 5 a.m. 

Groggy, I hurried out of bed and fired up my computer to learn my card was not debited, months ago after we made mom's reservation. Despite this, we received a confirmation email for all three flights! (And all three flight were "paid for" on the same credit card.)

So how did Mom manage to get on that first flight?

"I did ask, at check-in, for all my boarding passes," Mom explained, speaking to us now from the Camino Real aiport hotel. "But the flight attendants were dealing with a technical issue, an could only provide my first boarding pass. They assured me my baggage claim voucher, which mentioned my final destination, would suffice."

Mom relaxed, had a beer near the gate, and, as usual, proceeded to dole out much of her cash to the "sweet ladies who clean the restrooms." 

But when she arrived in Mexico City only to be refused entry on her flight to Madrid, she was now in limbo, and with little cash and no credit card! "They told me at gate check-in that my ticket was not valid.

In addition to being in limbo, Mom's  limbs were aching as well (after having a steel plate removed from her hip several years ago, and a double mastectomy, she just doesn't have the energy she used to. For this, Jean-Marc arranged a wheelchair, but the moment she was found to have been traveling on an unpaid ticket, and having gifted her pocket change to the restroom angels, she lost her wheelchair advantages!

I don't know how she made it back to the Camino Real hotel, or how she kept her chipper and thankful attitude which sung as we spoke on the phone.

"Honey, I'm just worried about those people who did make it onto the plane!" Mom explained, wondering if all the roadblocks she just experienced were somehow shielding her from misfortune....


Post note: I checked the original flight throughout the day and night, relieved when it touched down safe in Madrid. All I ask now, is that Mom's alternative flight will land safely! I'm off to check "Madrid arrivals", now on the internet. Mom should be resting in the airport since her 14:20 landing. She is probably visiting the powder room, looking for some more cleaning angels in which to share the euros she saved from her previous trip! (Mom, if you are reading, save a few euros as you have one more flight to go before you land in Marseilles!)

Thanks for your positive thoughts and "see you" next week (or this afternoon, on Instagram and Facebook, if you are reading updates over there!)



Here is the photo and message I posted on Instagram and Facebook, just before Mom took that first flight! Blue borage flowers and the early evening sky. My mom will be boarding a plane soon, and asked me to pray she gets three seats to lie down on for her Mexico-Madrid flight. It is a long journey, so please think good thoughts for her. Thanks.

For more stories, and to help support this free language journal, check out my books on Amazon.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


A couple of Max's cahiers from 4ème (8th grade). More than in the classroom, cahiers are used in many French establishments...  

 le cahier (keye yay)

    : notebook, exercise book

(from the Latin "quaterni" or "set of four": the first cahiers had four pages... from the pliage, or folding, of one page)

le cahier d'exercices = workbook
le cahier à spirale = spiral-bound notebook
le cahier de textes = homework notebook 

Audio File: The sound files will return soon... now that Chief Grape is back (I'll get him, shortly, at the airport in Marseilles).

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

The Art of Bookkeeping

I am at the bank trying to deposit a royalty check (made out in US dollars). I watch as the mademoiselle behind the counter is overcome by a look of doubt.

"Et qu'est-ce que c'est comme société?" she interrogates, pointing to the name at the top of the check.

Mademoiselle's question sounds like an accusation in the ears of the homebody who is hearing it. Standing there in muddied boots and an unironed chemise I wonder whether my appearance has anything to do with things? No, I reason. You are once again reading too much into it (besides, it's impossible to see my boots from where she is sitting). 

Meantime, Mademoiselle is waiting for an answer...

"C'est une maison d'edition," I point out.

I am instantly ashamed of the smug feeling I have just enjoyed in announcing that the check has been issued by a publishing house! But any puffed-uppery is short-lived when, like soiled clothes tossed into a laundry chute--I am abruptly released from Pride thanks to Truth. (Truth is, the young teller makes more money in one month than I have made in six months of book sales... and the exchange rate sure doesn't help things!)

I watch as Mademoiselle Money-Maker reaches for a thin spiral notebook; inside, I see handwriting scrawled across les pages quadrillées. Next the bank teller practices what I have come to know as "French Data Entry". Forget, for a moment, France's history of being on the cutting edge of data processing (remember Le Minitel?), the French still revert to ink when it comes to documentation.

I stare at that flimsy cahier. Will she note the check information in there? Will my money be safe?....

Since moving to France, I have seen and been intrigued by the modern-day uses of scholastic notebooks by the likes of dentists, secretaries at town hall, the local garagiste, and, now, the banker. Record-keeping at its French best! In the flip of a curlicue-covered page (French longhand is unmistakable), my dentist can tell me my children's oral history. (Note: the same dentist also has the latest Mac with which to view those cool tooth diagrams on the big screen... I guess cahiers are more for documenting than for drawing). 

Such old-fashioned ways and means for information recording are a breath of fresh air in this technologically chetchy society. But I have to admit that it comes as a relief when I notice the bank teller doing a backup (...and typing the check information into a computer database).

All that scribbling in the cahier seems like a lot of extra work... but then again... if Mademoiselle's computer ever gets fried as mine once did... then I am grateful knowing it's all been documented--my not-so-smug salary--via dotted I's and crossed T's.


Le Coin Commentaires
Have you, too, noticed the French tendency to use cahiers to record data? Is it just me? Or do the French have a tendency to note... and to note encore!? Share your experiences... and ask/answer questions in our community corner (aka the comments box!)

French Vocabulary

la mademoiselle = young lady

Et qu'est-ce que c'est comme société? = what kind of company is it?

une chemise = shirt

C'est une maison d'edition = it's a publishing house

le Minitel = in the early 80s, pre World Wide Web, the Minitel (picture a small computer terminal) was an online-information resource (users could look up telephone numbers, reserve train tickets, do online banking... way back when!)

les pages (f) quadrillées = the cross-ruled, checked pages

le cahier = notebook

le/la garagiste = mechanic 

Flower Charm (c) Kristin Espinasse

"Fanfare on the Front Porch" Thanks again and again to the Dirt Divas for coloring up our world. These flower arrangements were created by Doreen. She gave them to me at Malou's house, after tea and a "books-n-gardening" meeting. We loaded the freshly planted pots into the trunk and I drove wildly, excitedly home. So much so that when I opened the trunk there was dirt everywhere. I tucked the clumps of plants back into their upended pots... and followed Doreen's instructions: put the two outside (in any weather), and the others indoors until the threat of frost passes.

I could not imagine, then, that from the clumps of dirt and scattered greens... up would come this jubilant scene! P.S.: Doreen had apologized for the plastic containers, suggesting I set them into something a little more eye-catching. I hope these boots will do the trick! Many thanks encore, Doreen and Malou. I hope to see you here again very soon! To comment on the flowers or to share your own gardening notes, join us in the comment box, click here.

You will find more stories and photos of the Dirt Divas in the "Garden" section


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.


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.