Draguer: At what age are you "lucky" to be hit on (or even noticed at all)?

French token or jeton shopping cart chariot

Joyeuse Saint Valentin! That's Happy Valentine's Day in French. Photo: A "liste des courses" spotted at our local supermarché...where pick-up artists and good Samaritans operate. Don't miss today's vocabulary-packed story, below.

TODAY'S WORD: se faire draguer or se faire brancher

        : to get hit on

brancher une nana = to hit on a girl, to make a pass at a girl

CLICK HERE to listen to the following example sentence

Ah bon? Tu t'es fait draguer au supermarché?
Oh really? You got hit on at the supermarket?

Try Easy French Step-by-Step. Click here to view the book.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE  by Kristi Espinasse

"My Inner Hot Mama"

While putting away groceries I reached for an item my husband had requested--pleased to have brought back the right ones. "Found you some rasoirs," I shouted to the man two rooms down. "A nice man helped me...." I added, smiling to myself and waiting for a reaction. Such plaisanterie is healthy in a marriage, n'est-ce pas?

"Ah bon? Tu t'es fait draguer au supermarché?" Mr Two-Rooms-Down called back, feigning la jalousie.

This time I snickered, remembering what a French woman told me two years ago, "At your age, you should be grateful your husband is still so attracted to you." Her comment made me feel so....unsexy, unadventurous and perhaps even undeserving? I have heard a similar statement from American women, a generalized idea that at this age, we should be grateful for a man's attention.

Earlier, back at the grocery store, such words came to mind as I stood before the men's razor display, suspicious of the stranger who'd begun talking to me. Busy wondering "is this guy hitting on me?" a more humbling and sarcastic thought surfaced: "Ha! At your age!" It immediately silenced my Inner Hot Mama, who gets stuffed deeper and deeper into the psyche--the more I listen to the media and certain women.

"Vous cherchez un rasoir?" the man with curly black hair smiled.

"Oui. Pour mon mari," Yes, for my husband, I pointed out.

"Does he have soft or coarse hairs?" the man replied in English, with a thick French accent. His question set me back.

After all these years I should know whether my husband has soft or coarse whiskers! In a guilty panic I studied the stranger's stubble (a.k.a. la barbe de trois jours).

"Coarse!" I guessed.

"Here, these should be good for a man on vacation," he said, handing me a 6-pack of "Wilkinson Swords."

Vacation? He thinks I'm a tourist. I did not correct him. Instead, I said Merci, c'est vraiment gentil and, as he walked off, I thought of how absurd it was to have confused a pick-up artist with a good samaritan. The ego is a funny thing. One minute it's a Hot Mama, the next it tells itself it should be so grateful, at one's age, for even being noticed at all.

***

When Mr Two-Rooms-Down came into the kitchen, I touched his stubbly face. "What kind of whiskers do you have?" I said, handing him his razors. "Soft or coarse?"

"Je ne sais pas," he mumbled, pulling me close and planting a kiss on my middle-aged lips. Whatever the mainstream says, I will always be a hot mama in his heart. And for that I'm grateful.

***
EDIT ME: If you see une faute de frappe (a typo) in French or in English, I would greatly appreciate it if you would point it out in the comments or via email. Merci beaucoup!

Jean-marc teaching kristi golf at golf de dolce fregate provence near bandol
Photo from 2005. This weekend Jean-Marc and I celebrate 30 years since we met in a nightclub in Aix-en-Provence. My husband has enriched my life in a myriad of ways (I even got the word myriad from him, after seeing it in his recent chapter...), and even if I don't golf, I appreciate each new defi or challenge he sets for me, including a recent swim with the dolphins which I hope to tell you about. I've been in some uncomfortable places, because of Jean-Marc's adventurous nature, but oh the stories he gives me to tell! The biggest is our love story, which I am focusing on in our war of the roses and wine memoir. Our intercultural marriage hasn't been easy, as you will see. I hope you will consider buying our book-in-progress, and begin reading it in installments. Click here to support our book project by buying a copy of our memoir, The Lost Vineyard.

FRENCH VOCABULARY
Increase your French vocabulary with these useful terms from today's story

le rasoir
= razor

la plaisanterie = banter
n'est-ce pas? = isn't that true
ah, bon? = really
tu t'es fait draguer? = you got hit on?
la jalousie = jealousy
vous cherchez? = are you looking (for something)?
mon mari = my husband
la barbe de trois jours = stubble (stylish stubble)
vraiment = really
gentil = nice
je ne sais pas = I don't know

Valentines day in french roses cards
A valentine for you. I miss exchanging these colorful cards as we did once upon a time with all our classmates. Remember this practice? 

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


French for "fighter, warrior, survivor" + Fate, Love, and Dogs: Our golden retriever is “un battant”

305B92BC-DE2C-4E9C-87D7-FB0AC1073AD8
These are our dog’s parents. That’s “Sam” on the left and Breizh, right. They lived life to the fullest and are over the rainbow bridge now. We hope to keep their son, Smokey, on this side of that colorful arc-en-ciel for as long as possible. Read on, in today’s post.

Today's Word: un battant

    : fighter, warrior, survivor

French Audio/Listening: Click the following link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Click here for the sound file


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

“Universal Love”

On the eve of our dog's surgery, we had a whiskers-to-whiskers talk (whiskers, because at 54 I may have a few myself...). "Smokey, tomorrow you're going to have le she-rur-rur-zher-ee," I explained. "But here's the deal: your mission on earth is not over yet. We all need you here with us, and it is not time for you to leave our family. D'accord?

Our golden retriever had une bosse on his chest that had grown to the size of a tennis ball (and was as hard as one). Finally, we made the difficult decision to remove the lump. The doctor said the dangerous part would be the anesthésie, given our dog's advanced age. Therefore, we decided to remove several lumps while Smokey was under anesthesia, as the actual surgery was the “easy” part, according to our veterinarian. 

La Salle D'Attente
In the waiting room with two other patients (an energetic cocker spaniel and un chat de gouttière). Smokey, was uncharacteristically calm as the assistante vétérinaire sat beside me to complete a questionnaire concerning our chien. “Do you want the supplemental blood test for seniors to determine whether Smokey is fit for surgery?”

That’s when tears began to flow.

"Oh, ça va bien se passer!" the vet’s assistant assured me.
"He is twelve-and-a-half years old," I reminded her, wiping away les larmes.
"Ne vous inquiétez pas...."

The stranger's empathy must have opened up a few chambers in my heart because the catharsis that came with it brought more than release, it brought a mysterious energy.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
Lean not on your own understanding

In all your ways acknowledge Him
And He will make your path straight.
                                Proverbs 3:5-9.

Those were the words that escaped as I drove away from the vet’s without our beloved “pet” (à vrai dire, I have never thought of Smokey as a pet). I don't know why my mind recalled these particular Bible verses, there are so many others that would seem more specific to the occasion. But those words coming out of my mouth, in repetition and in various tones and cadences, sustained me until I arrived at the next (unplanned) destination: le supermarché.

In an emotional spree, or frénésie, I selected lots of goodies for Smokey’s No. 1, full-time caregiver (my Mom): a box of almond-covered Magnums  (chocolate-coated ice cream bars), her favorite raspberry jam (aptly named “La Bonne Maman”), an exotic fruit juice (la canneberge this time) and more Greek yogurt—comfort food to dry Mom’s tears (tears I don't ever remember seeing before). I also put three extra big boxes of Kleenex into my cart.

"Smokey is everything to me. He is my whole life," Mom admitted, her face awash with worry when I took him away that morning.

***

Loading the groceries onto the tapis roulant, I paused to inform the cashier, "Those are the green kiwis and not the one-euro-each yellow ones from New Zealand."

"Pas de souci," she smiled, ringing in the fruit at .75 a piece.

"By the way, did you ever find your glasses?" I asked la caissière, remembering how troubled she was last week, asking other employees if they’d seen her lost lunettes. We customers in line promised to jeter un oeil on the way out to our cars.

"Oui!" she said. “Je les ai trouvées.”

Oh, quel soulagement!” I smiled.

When the cashier finished ringing up my groceries and asked if I had a store fidelity card, I said I hadn't gotten around to it. That's when she left the register, walked around the counter, took out her own wallet, and selected a card inside of it...

"What are you doing?" I asked, but the cashier didn’t answer. 

I did not realize the extent of the cashier’s gesture until I got into my car and looked at the store receipt, which was reduced by 25 euros, thanks to “des remises immédiates salariés.” (She had used her very own employee discount.)

I was blown away. Why she took this risk on me instead of someone in need is a mystery.

Passing other drivers on my way home, I looked beyond our individual windshields and said:

Bless you! To the white-haired lady behind the wheel,
and bless you! to the conductor with the beard,
and bless you!! to the solo driver in the N95 mask— 

That may seem like a strange thing to do, blessing strangers from behind a windshield, but hadn't the cashier done the same from behind her plastic store shield before stepping around the barrier to deliver the blessing?

I remembered the vet’s assistant and how a stranger’s sympathy began this whole domino effect—only instead of pieces falling down, hearts were opening up. And I realize now that the mysterious energy that came when I left my dog in the hands of Fate, was Fate itself or one facet of a complex and universal love—a love we are led to trust.

I hurried home to tell Mom about what happened when I left the vet’s, about all the goodness along the way. But if those first two hours flew on angel's wings, the next three were deep in the pits of hell as we waited and waited for a call from the vet's office. During the long attente my faith à froler le superstition. In a canine version of Step on a crack brake your mama's back, I navigated a host of possibly-fatal actions while waiting for the vet’s call:

...On the way to our mailbox I stalled: Do you really want to check the mail now...or check it later? What if it’s bad news? (reflecting further bad news from the vet!)
...and when lunchtime came there was the question of eating or not eating....then chewing or not chewing...while my dog was under the knife...
...Ditto with nap time.  Could I lie down or might resting be symbolic of eternal rest? A superstitious voice whispered.
...finally, a nagging question: Should I call the vet for an update or would calling irritate the staff (and somehow this would affect the outcome?)....

WHY WEREN’T THEY CALLING!!?! Did Smokey NOT wake up from the anesthesia? 

Finally, 5.5 hours after dropping off our dog for surgery, news came in the form of an SMS from our beloved dog:

Coucou, Je suis en train de me réveiller. Tout va bien. Smokey” (Hello, I am waking up now. All is well. Smokey). I burst out of bed, flew down the stairs and over to Mom’s to share the good news:

"Smokey sent an SMS...I mean, the vet sent an SMS!" 

We were giddy! Exaltées! A little while later I walked into the vet's and heard my dog barking! “He heard you first,” the receptionist pointed out, letting Smokey into the waiting room. If Smokey was quiet and calm this morning, now he was wagging his whole body, which was covered in stitches. Stitches on his calf, stitches on both his sides, stitches on each side of his chest, stitches on his private parts... While he was asleep, they even burned away the large growth in his mouth!

C'est un battant!” the vet's assistant said, sharing that two doctors and one anesthesiologist worked on Smokey!

Oh oui! Un vrai battant! Smokey is a true survivor. And when earlier he disappeared into the operating room, his spirit seemed to float back out, blessing everything in its furry wake, reminding us: when facing Fate, abide in trust--and take comfort in Universal Love. As the words of a familiar verse promised, It will set your path straight!

Jules and Smokey
Both Mom and Smokey are doing great. Merci infiniment to Dr. Trapes and the team at La CiotaVet, here in La Ciotat. 💕

FRENCH VOCABULARY

un battant = a survivor
le she-rur-rur-zher-ee
= lighthearted rendition of "chirugerie", or surgery. The correct term is "intervention chirurgicale"
d'accord? = ok?
une bosse = a lump
une anesthésie = anesthesia 
la salle d'attente = waiting room
un chat de gouttière
= alley cat
le chien = dog
ça va bien se passer! = everything is going to be ok
une larme = tear
ne vous inquiétez pas = don’t worry 
à vrai dire = to tell you the truth
le supermarché = supermarket
la frénésie = frenzy
pas de souci = no worries
la caissière = the cashier 
Bonne Maman = Good Mom
la canneberge = cranberry
le tapis roulant = “the rolling carpet” (conveyor belt)
l’attente (f) = wait
frôler = verge on
jeter un oeil = have a look
je les ai trouvées = I found them
le soulagement = relief
des remises immédiates salariés = immediate employee discounts
exalté = giddy

A dashing Smokey at 7
A dashing Smokey, back in the day (2016?)

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


S’épancher: to pour out one's heart + Another grocery store encounter

fleuriste flower shop in Sospel France hearts on window niche
A flower shop in Sospel, France. The hearts in the fleuriste's window hint at today's word. The story below reveals the full meaning. Enjoy two sound files in today's post and thank you for sharing this journal with a friend.

Today's Word: s'épancher

    : to pour out one's heart

Example Sentence and Sound File
Retenir ses larmes, voilà bien, selon moi, le comble du " charnel " ; car lorsqu'on refuse à son coeur de s'épancher, le chagrin ne s'ancre-t-il pas en nous, pesant comme un fardeau? To hold back one's tears is, in my opinion, the height of the "carnal"; for when one refuses to let one's heart out, does not grief become anchored in us, weighing us down like a burden? -Jostein Gaarder, author of Sophie's World

Click to hear the quote in French


A DAY in a FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
"Life Unraveling as it Should"

I was blowdrying my hair when Mom knocked on the bathroom door.

"I'm not feeling well. I'm going to stay home," Jules said. I noticed she was hunched over.

Our plans were now changing and this rattled me--especially as I had waited an extra hour to wake up Mom (had I known she wasn't coming with me, I'd have left for the grocery store earlier). In my frustration, I couldn't help but wonder whether Mom was really sick or did she just want to ditch the shopping errand and get back in bed?

"Mom, stand up straight!" I said, assessing the situation. I had never seen her hunched like that and wanted it to stop. (My own kids have a similar reaction when I am not brimming with health. They don't ever want to see their parents weak.)

"I'm not going to the store," Mom put her foot down.
 
"Well, I don't want to go to the store either!" I announced.

"Then don't go," Mom challenged.  

"But I have to!"

In the 30-second standoff that followed, huffs and puffs could be heard...followed by a move on the more mature one's part:

"Here," Mom said, waving some cash.

"No. You keep it!" I thought Mom was giving me pocket money again. If she had 50 dollars to her name, she'd still give us l'argent de poche--no matter our age, for the joy it brings.  

"Just get me some grape juice and bread please."

"Don't worry. I'll get a bunch of goodies," I said, thanking Mom for le flouze.


When I got into my car I saw Mom walking toward me from her studio, reminding me to bring her the pommes de terre I'd cooked earlier. She needed them to make the fried potatoes we were having for lunch. I got out of the car, walked back to the house (pausing to pet our old dog) then back around the house, to Mom's place, patates en main.

Smokey golden retriever 12 years old
                                 Mom's hand resting on Smokey

"Oh, and the bacon..." Mom reminded. Right, les lardons! I hurried back around the house (pausing to pet Smokey) unlocked the front door, ran to the kitchen...then back to Mom's.

(Old Smokey needed more pats on the way back. And because his time is limited, I had to slow down.)

Finally, in my car, seatbelt on.... and zut! I forgot my phone! Oh, leave it. No, you need it or you'll forget what's on your list... One more dash back to the house, and up the stairs to my room.... I sensed at that moment that all the va-et-vient, though annoying, amounted to Life unraveling as it should.

***

At Monoprix supermarket I took a deep breath. You're here now. Take your time. Get what you need. You can catch up with everything else later....

In the frozen food aisle, a petite woman with soft platinum curls approached me. "Pardonnez-moi. Je cherche les épinards."

"Oh, spinach... there it is," I said, walking with Madame over to the display: "il y a des épinards en branches, épinards hachées, épinards à la crème fraîche...."

"Merci beaucoup," she said, "You are so kind. You are so kind."

"Oh. I only showed you where the spinach was," I smiled.

"I'm so lost." Madame said suddenly. "My husband just passed away. I don't know why I am telling you this."    

I stood there holding her gaze and reached for her arm. The widow now held on to mine. 

"And I lost my daughter. She was 45...."

"Oh, I am so sorry! I am...holding you in my heart," was all I could think to say. We stood there in our flimsy paper masks, clinging to each other. I gently squeezed la veuve's arm, hoping the tender gesture would make up for a lack of words.

"Merci, merci, vous êtes gentille," the widow repeated. 

"I will be here shopping for a while,” I assured her. “If you need me, je suis dans les parages."

I continued shopping, glancing here and there for the lost soul, but the widow had vanished. 

***

Back at home Mom was much better (hmmm....) and after lunch we sat together in the sunshine, Mom popping up from time to time to show me her ideas for our garden: “And I'm going to have Max dig a trench here and one there for flowers! Lots of flowers!

Mom sat back down in her favorite papillon chair, looked over at me at snickered. "Stand up straight! I used to tell you girls that when you were little."

Obviously, somebody was still irritated by the comment I made earlier. "Mom, I'm sorry if I was harsh with you," I apologized. “That was just Fear talking. I didn't want you to be sick. And also, I get frustrated when plans change. And then I had a hard time getting out the door. Back and forth, back and forth."

"To and fro, to and fro
, like the Holy Spirit," Mom smiled, in reference to our celestial helper.

It dawned on me then that every little change, every empêchement in my schedule, added up to the chance encounter with a stranger in need. It is a lesson the universe continues to teach: Everything is unfolding as it should, setbacks and all. Just trust that you are in the right place at the right time, right now. (And always be respectful and loving to your Mom!)

Mom  in jeans
Jules. My beautiful Mom.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to the French terms below

s'épancher = to pour out one'sheart
la pomme de terre = potato
les patates en main = potatoes in hand
le lardon = bacon strip
l'argent de poche = pocket money, spending money
le flouze = cash
zut = shoot!
va-et-vient = back-and-forth
épinards en branches, hachées, à la crème fraîche =
je suis dans les parages = I’m in the area
Vous êtes gentille = you are kind
Merci beaucoup = thank you
un empêchement = a delay

Words missing from the sound file:
le/la fleuriste = florist, flower shop
le papillon = butterfly (read about Mom's butterfly chair)

shopfront artisan fabrication sur mesure
I leave you with a photo from the archives, from the story «Faire Bisquer » (to rile someone) 

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


A Beautiful Escape via the French word échapper belle

Mediterranean pebble Beach at Plage Mugel La Ciotat France
Today's story takes place in La Ciotat, not far from the beach. 

ECHAPPER BELLE

(ay-shap-ay bel)

    : to have a close call, a lucky escape; to let off the hook

L'ECOUTE: Practice your French Listening Skills. To hear the French in today's story, click below. Next, check your comprehension by viewing the vocabulary list (farther down).

Listen to the vocabulary list, click here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Is there a word in French or English for when you are avoiding your To-Do list... by shopping instead? And does going grocery shopping count? En milieu de semaine, there were a lot of things I could be doing instead of hanging out at the supermarket, such as:

  • applying for French citizenship (but it's so much easier to renew my titre de séjour every ten years!)
  • completing the colorectal kit offered by the French government when you turn 50 (as I did 3 winters ago...)
  • working on Mom's bureaucratic papers before she is deported!

Ah well, as Scarlett O'hara famously said, Après tout, demain est un autre jour! Today, there's Monoprix--France's grocery/clothing/home store all wrapped up into one! But before rushing over to les allées de tentation, better exercise un tantinet of delayed gratification and shop for food first.

Touch screen and french produce scale for weighing fruits  vegetables

In this supermarché you weigh the fruits and vegetables yourself, using une balance and its accompanying touch screen (with photos of all the produce). Searching the screen, I could not find the picture of the onions. But it was there a minute ago! It even reminded me I needed onions. So where was the picture now that I was back with my sack full of oignons? The universe was playing tricks again. I looked around hoping for a Good Samaritan. Finally, I marched over to the only other scale.

An elderly man with a hunched back stood weighing a small bag of abricots. Glancing into his chariot, I saw a dozen more bags of unweighed produce and a battered cane he had tossed inside. The Man Sans Canne looked so calm and peaceful as he took his time at the self-serve station. A flash of admiration erased any memory of The Onion Dilemma, and I quietly returned to the other scale (where, incredibly, the onion was back on the screen!). Leaving the produce department, I kicked myself for not having the courage to say something to the man, to this last bastion of le bon sens. Here was more than a man--here was an inspiration. I hope to be eating like him and solo shopping like him (my own cane tossed into my chariot) well into le trosième âge!

Studying my family's grocery list I saw "ice cream, raspberry jam, and another quatre-quart (kids love this rich, buttery poundcake for the 4 o'clock goûter. No more kids in the house, but Grandma loves this treat!). Having gotten some eggs I rounded the bend and.... Chariots of Fire! There he was in the dairy aisle! Alas, I missed a second chance to say something, anything, to The Man Sans Canne. Instead, I hurried off and, rounding the corner, the handle of my own chariot (a smaller, two-wheeled poussette de marché) slipped and the cart fell, its contents tumbling out.

(Ouf, the carton of 12 eggs was intact!)

"Vous avez échappé belle!" another shopper exclaimed. 

"Oh, oui!" I smiled, quickly making a mental note to share with you, dear reader, the wonderful French phrase which literally means "a beautiful escape". Echapper belle also means to be let off the hook, which reminds me of hooky.... We'll end with that: the reminder to play hooky de temps en temps. Why not play at the grocery store? It might lead to a beautiful escape and some meaningful encounters, too.  

FRENCH VOCABULARY
en milieu de semaine = midweek
un titre de séjour = residence permit (see la carte de séjour...)
Après tout, demain est un autre jour = after all, tomorrow is another day
les allées de tentation = aisles of temptation
un tantinet = a smidgeon, tad, wee bit
une balance = weighing scale
un abricot = apricot
le chariot = shopping cart, trolley
le bon sens = good sense, common sense
le troisième âge = later life, old age
le goûter = snack, afterschool snack, afternoon tea
la canne = cane
ouf! = phew!
échapper-belle
de temps en temps = from time to time, now and then, occasionally
Caddie grocery cart in french chariot
It's amusing, isn't it, to read a stranger's grocery list. And judging from the crossed out item, it looks like they finally found the onions, too! :-)

Highlights from the archives:
Review the five senses in French: la vue, l'ouïe...
Check out The Most difficult French words to pronounce (and add your own in the comments to that post)
A family vacation in Queyras (the French Alps), pictured below.

Queyras France Alps

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Two brothers at Aldi and riots in France

The Green Island
L'Ile Verte. The green island, here in La Ciotat, for a peaceful image to begin today's post.

Today's Word: chercher ses mots*

    : to be at a loss for words

*I settled on this "word of the day" following the struggle in writing a story in these sad, scary, and emotionally-charged times. Thank you for reading with open hearts.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

In the parking lot at Aldi I was loading our groceries, Mom's, then mine, into our car, when I saw two familiar faces. It was the funny duo behind us in the checkout line. Turning to the brothers (who were twins?), I smiled:

Je voulais vous remercier pour votre bonne humeur. Ça fait du bien--surtout en ce moment. I hope they understood my French, and my appreciation for their funny commentary back in line, when they were snapping each other's face masks and reminding one another to keep at a safe distance from the next customer. They were regular Laurel and Hardys in the age of coronavirus!

The short, gray-haired men, so full of antics back in the store, suddenly grew shy, in a French version of Aw, Shucks! "Well," one of the guys offered, you've got to have a sense of humor in times like these!"

"C'est sûr!" I agreed, adding, "Are you from La Ciotat?"

"Oui!" 

"My mom and I are from Arizona," I shared.

The men grew thoughtful. "A lot of upheaval in the US right now..." one of the brothers reflected.

"Here in France, too..." I said, mentioning the riots breaking out in Paris and beyond.

"Non!" The brothers replied, in a possible misunderstanding (were they unaware of the émeutes?).

"Non!" They affirmed. "We are not racist!"

I think the brothers were referring to themselves--or possibly to our region? Either way, they echoed the feelings or beliefs or ideals of many.

Our conversation ended in awkward silence, one that lingered. Later that day the brothers' words returned to mind. "We are not racist." I understood what they meant. I believe they were sincere. I know I am too! My last thought came as a surprise: But is that enough? Is it enough not to be racist?

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY
Je voulais vous remercier = I wanted to thank you
bonne humeur = good humor
ça fait du bien = it does one good
surtout en ce moment = especially at this time
une émeute = uprising, riot

The coast in la ciotat
I leave you with a peaceful image taken here in La Ciotat. Thank you for reading.

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Peuchère or What Not to Say to a Disabled Person

Mom (c) Kristin Espinasse
I'm having the time of my life with my wonderful mom! I love this innocent, serendipitous photo with Mom and her little fish purse. The sign says: "You are at the right place. Look no further." Vous êtes au bon endroit. Ne cherchez plus


peuchère (peuh-sher)

    : poor dear, poor thing

Peuchère is a Provençal expression of sympathy, used to indicate compassion for someone: Peuchère elle doit avoir mal au dos! Poor thing. Her back must ache!

Peuchère may also rank among the top Ten Things Not to Say to A Disabled Person. Can you list some others? Comment... or read on in the following story.


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

I was standing in the supermarket checkout line with my daughter when I saw a man approach in a motorized cart. A familiar dilemma returned: did I offer him my place in line--or risk making the man feel pitied?

Over the years I have struggled with the subject--ever since watching a man in a wheelchair open the door of his car (driver's side). A friend and I were across the street when we noticed the wheelchair-to-car transition--only each of us had a completely different reaction.

My instinct was to wait and see how the transition unfolded. If the man needed help, we could then offer it. But my friend fumed. "WHY ISN'T ANYONE HELPING HIM?" She shook her head angrily as she stood watching.

Her outrage made me feel ashamed. Had I not reacted fast enough? Would I have reacted in time? But I hadn't wanted the man to feel pitied. I hadn't been sure how to respond, I only knew I would be there if the man needed help. Meantime, the man managed to hike himself up into his car, taking with him the folded wheelchair. No assistance had been needed after all. But could the man's experience have been smoother had my friend and I intervened? Or might we have slowed or even put a snag in his familiar routine?

Fast forward ten years. Youtube. I happened upon a rant wherein a middle-aged man in a wheelchair complained about how people over-respond to his condition. "Can I get the door for you?" said the man (paralyzed from a bike accident), and the cynicism in his voice as he mimicked the modern-day good Samaritans made me even more uncertain of how to assist--or how NOT to assist--a disabled person. It seemed you were damned if you did, damned if you didn't.  But how to get past the poor them/poor me (all I wanted to do was help) syndrome in time to help out when needed?

Standing there in the checkout line I tried to be discreet while figuring out whether the man-on-wheels needed help. The answer came swiftly and easily when I looked up and noticed the sign depicting a pregnant lady. Aha! This was the caisse prioritaire line. It would be perfectly normal for me to offer my place in line without making the man feel pitied.  But the woman in front of me was about to fall into the same trap I had hoped to avoid.

"Peuchère!" she declared. "Il me fait de la peine!" she said, explaining why she had just given up her place in line, too. I wanted to shush her up so that the man wouldn't hear her "I feel so sorry for him!" remark... but who was I to shush another's expression of compassion? Her sympathy was sincere and mimicked my own sentiments as we watched the hard-of-hearing senior hand over his thread-bare change purse to the cashier so that the latter could fish out the somme due.

That's when we watched the cashier turn the purse upside down and shake it. Oh no! The man was 4 euros 36 cents short! Suddenly the "peuchère" woman went silent, opting to arrange and rearrange her pile of groceries along the tapis roulant. It didn't mean she was indifferent to the man's dilemma; she was probably doing what many do, French or otherwise: allowing the man privacy as he settled his finances.

But, given the purse's upturned state, it didn't seem likely that finances would settle on their own accord! I looked around nervously, and finally whispered to the woman ahead of me. "We ought to be able to rustle up the rest?"

The French weren't stingy, they just didn't seem to have the "pay it forward" reflex. "On doit pouvoir trouver ça," We've got to be able to come up with that," I hinted to the other customers in line. Next, I watched as wallets flew open and French fingers went to work rifling through the contents of their money purses. The collective reaction was so touching that I didn't notice, right off, how the contents of my own purse were as spare as those of the man we were trying to assist....

"Jackie!" I whispered, "do you have any change? I can't believe it," I said, searching through my wallet, "I don't have enough!" And there I'd gone suggesting that "we" pay the difference! Only, as things were, I'd given the job of debt-paying to the others in line! No matter how many times I rooted through the change purse, all I could come up with were pennies. The ten euros I'd been searching for was in my jeans pocket... back at home!

"No worries," the woman in front of me said. "I think I've got it!" I watched as she handed over enough coins to pay off the man's modest debt. I noticed the relief and happiness on her face. Whereas she had initially frozen up allowing the man to deal with his dilemma in privacy, she now had unwittingly experienced the "Pay it Forward" principle--and the good feelings it brings to all involved! The movement was gaining ground in other countries, but I'd yet to see strangers paying for strangers in France.

I watched as the senior-on-wheels gazed up at his lovely benefactor. "You are an angel," he said to the woman. And by the way his face beamed with light you'd think he was the very same.


FRENCH VOCABULARY

peuchère = poor thing
il me fait de la peine = I feel sorry for him
la somme due = amount owed
le tapis roulant = conveyor belt, carousel
on doit pouvoir trouver ça = we should be able to come up with that

Colorful patina in Sospel

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


How to say discount card in French: Carte de Fidelite

French pigeon bird oiseau bis address sign
Name this photo (taken in the nearby village of Suze la Rousse)


la carte de fidélité (lah kart deuh fee del ee tay) noun, feminine

    : rewards card, discount card (loyalty card)

Audio File and Example Sentence: Download Wav or Download MP3

Avec votre carte de fidélité, vous recevrez dix pourcent de réduction.
With your rewards card, you receive a ten percent discount.

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

Waiting in the supermarket checkout line, I overhear the man in front of me flirt with la caissière.

"Non, je ne suis jamais fidèle!" he boasts, and his eyes brighten like a predator having zeroed in on his proie. Those same self-satisfied eyes leave the young cashier, to fall upon the forty-something femme in line behind him. Hands in his pockets, his heels lift, then touch the ground, lift, touch the ground with one, two, three counts of immodesty, baby.

Next, Monsieur I'm Too Sexy for this Supermarché, swings his big ego eyes over to the cashier—then back to forty-something me—for a conspiratorial glance. I look away, no conspiratorial glance receiver am I! 

The adolescent boy, standing next to his flirting father, looks as if he'd rather be passing the dreadful BAC, cleaning out his closet, or sitting through a six-course meal with the former monks at his private Catholic collège—he would rather be anywhere but here, listening to his father drag la caissière.

Eventually, the caissière responds to the shopper-seducer's comment, by an abrupt handing over of the credit-card receipt and a sarcastic smile. With that, our playboy trots off.

When it is my turn to be greeted by la caissière, I receive another conspiratorial glance.
"Ils disent tous ça!" the cashier complains. "All the guys that come here say the same thing: 'Je ne suis pas fidèle'!"

'Ce n'est pas tellement original!" she says, referring to all the customers who have come up with the same recycled retort. I nod, sympathetically, but our conspiracy is short-lived when the caissière switches swiftly back to business mode and fires off the same question that had, only moments ago, caused her such a hassle:

"Vous avez une carte de fidélité?"

***
Post note: Just like Mr I'm Too Sexy for this Supermarket, I realized, soon after, that I, too, had forgotten my carte de fidélité... only I didn't trot out of the store, as he did, but was a bit bummed to not get credit for all those groceries.

French Vocabulary

la caissière (f) = cashier; non, je ne suis jamais fidèle = no, I am never faithful; la proie (f) = prey; la femme (f) = woman; le supermarché (m) = supermarket; le BAC (baccalauréat) = French exam / school leaving certificate (high school diploma); le collège = junior high school; ils disent tous ça = they all say that 

***

DSC_0076
Mediterranean Island Life (c) Kristin Espinasse

A Day in a Dog's Life...
by Braise and Smokey

DSC_0048
Day-old baguettes just hit the spot... a step up from those sticks, anyway.

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Underwear in French: from "caleçon" to "culotte"

Laundry hanging below a window in France
un caleçon (kal-sohn) noun, masculine
1. boxer shorts, underpants
2. leggings (for women)

Also:
caleçons de bain = swim trunks
caleçon(s) long(s) = long johns
une caleçonnade = a "spectacle de boulevard" (road show) including risqué themes

...........................
Expression:

jeter le caleçon à quelqu'un = to provoke someone to fight

............................
Citation du Jour:

Le caleçon est au vaudeville ce que la toge est à la tragédie.
The underpants are to Vaudeville what the gown is to tragedy
.
--Carlo Rim

........................................
A Day in a French Life...

The lady in line before me at the supermarché is busy sending her husband back and forth for items oubliés.*

"Mais non, that is not what I asked for!" she says.
"Ils ne comprennent rien, les hommes. Men don't understand anything!" With that, she looks at me, winks and throws her jaw over to the next line:

"Çelui-là, il a des choses à se faire pardonner! That guy there has things he needs forgiven!"

I look across to the next line. A man is waiting to check out, a bouquet of twelve long-stemmed roses in his arms--grocery store roses--with their tips darkened and fané,* mimicking the disheveled look of their holder.

"Oh! Mais, je vous ai dit...But I told you...!" this time the lady's husband has returned with Swedish krisprolls and not the apéritif toasts, she had asked for...

I return home with the groceries and hand Max four new pairs of underwear.

"Ce sont des slips!" he says, pronouncing "slip" as "sleep."
"Slips are for girls! I wanted caleçons."

I know very well that "un slip" in French is not like the slips women wear back home in Arizona (under skirts). In French, a slip can mean "briefs" for men (the non-boxer type) or "panties" for women. The slips I bought my son are the non-boxer type.

Though it took a while to understand French underwear terms, including slip, caleçon, culotte,* sous-vêtement,* dessous,* bas,* collant,* soutien-gorge* et compagnie*--I eventually caught on, and now have underwear vocabulary under control (though I couldn't tell you what the term for "control top" is...").

In brief: there will be one less stereotypical Frenchman in a Speedo at the beach this summer, which might have some of you cheering "Bra-vo!"

.....................
*References: oublié (oublier) = forgotten; fané (faner) = withered; une culotte (f) = briefs, panties; un sous-vêtement (m) = undergarment; le dessous (m) = underwear; les bas (mpl) = nylons, stockings, pantyhose; un collant (m) = tights; un soutien-gorge (nm) = bra; et compagnie = and the rest
Drying laundry in Nyons FrancePhoto: "Laundry drying in Nyons, France"

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens