avoir les chocottes

P1010433Smokey takes a thoughtful pause (from blowing bubbles in the brook...) to contemplate nature and the history of the fleur de lys *** read more at the end of this edition.

Update on Jean-Marc: We are still waiting for the kidney biopsy results. Meantime, read about how we are passing the time, in the following story...  We have very good news: all is OK! The nurse called to say that the test results show nothing to worry about. That is all the info we have for now. Thank you very much for your caring notes and positive thoughts!

avoir les chochottes (ahv whar lay sho koht)

    : to have the jitters

Tip: Read beyond the word of the day. Discover stories from a French life, just below. You will learn many more French words in context as well as everyday expressions not found in a textbook.


Les chocottes is a synonym for "teeth". In the expression "avoir les chocottes" we can imagine chattering teeth in response to fear.

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce this example sentence (Download MP3 or Wav file)

Quand il m'a demandé de tenir la barrique pendant que la tronçonneuse allait la scier, j'ai eu les chocottes! When he asked me to hold onto the wine barrel while the power saw cut through it, I had the jitters!

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

"Taking Trust to the Next Level"

Jean-Marc wants to play "Magician and Assistant" only I'm not game. 

Never mind. My husband is not one to wait for an answer. Instead, he points to the 220-liters wine barrel and says: Mets-toi là! Stand there!

I drag my legs over to the old wooden barrique
"Je ne peux pas faire ça!"

My protests are met by slight annoyance on the part of The Magician, who turns his attention to the power saw and begins yanking at the cord.

The tronçonneuse gives a roar only to die down again... and just when I think I will be dismissed from this macabre chore... back to life that power saw roars!

The edge of the saw wavers to and fro as The Magician motions to the side of the barrel. I take my cue to step into place. I have no stileto heels, no sequined gown. I am dressed in tatters and terror.

Standing to the side of the huge barrique, I reach out to put the tip of my finger on its hard metal edge.

"Ne bouge pas! Don't move!" The Magician orders. 

Don't move? Je suis paralysée. Only, when the saw hits the barrel and the wood dust begins to fly I jump back. "I can't! I can't!!!"

Jean-Marc fires up the tronçonneuse once again and moves in toward the wine barrel. He is going to saw it in half with or without me!

Seeing the barrel rock, I inch over to it and grab onto the end. My eyes are pressed so tightly together that my upper lip rises in time to bare my teeth, which receive a thin screen of saw dust when wood particles hurl forth from the saw's blade.

When the power saw is fired up for the next round, I remember to hold my mouth closed. I feel the barrel roll forwards and backwards as the Magician rotates the cutting surface.

"C'est presque fini!" he informs me. 

I pry open my right eye to see whether Mr. Magician is telling the truth. En effet, the barrel is about to split in half!

"Voilà, Chérie," the husband-houdini announces. Two new flower pots for you!

I study the halved barrel. My other eye pops open when the critic in me can't help but point out the wavy, uneven coupe:

"Perhaps a straight line should have been traced first?"

"Mais c'est ça qui fait son charme!" Jean-Marc argues.

I follow the French accent to the uneven smile from which the argument pours forth. 

"T'as raison!" "You are right!", I admit to the disarming Magician, "C'est ça qui fait son charme!" Only, my eyes are no longer lingering on the crooked barrel.


Le Coin Commentaires

Corrections, Comments, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box



French Vocabulary

P1010371 mets-toi là = stand there

la barrique = large barrel 

Je ne peux pas faire ça! = I can't do that

la tronçonneuse = power saw

ne bouge pas! = don't move

je suis paralysé = I am paralyzed

c'est presque fini! = it's almost done!

en effet = as a matter of fact, indeed

Voilà, Chérie = There you are, Dear

la coupe = the cut

Mais, c'est ça qui fait son charme! = But that's what gives it its charm!

(pictured, left, another charming twist in home decoration: a whimsically painted wooden shutter. Photo taken in the town of Jonquières, and featured in Saturday's Cinéma Vérité edition)

Newforest's Notes : Chocotte & Chochotte
In a follow up to her comment in today's Coin Commentaires, Newforest sent in these helpful and interesting expressions:

When you are afraid, your teeth may chatter (choc-choc-choc)... "les chocottes" are a very old term for "les dents" (teeth) and is no longer used these days, except in a childish language and in the familiar expression used when you are frightened: "avoir les chocottes". In 'ordinary' language, you would say: "claquer des dents", which can be caused either by "avoir froid" ('being cold') or, "avoir peur" ('being afraid, scared') 

Here are other very 'familiar' expressions in French, to translate the idea of being afraid, being scared, being frightened

-> "avoir la frousse" = to be scared
BTW, if you are always afraid of something, you are "un froussard" (= "un peureux") 
- "froussard(e)" and "peureux (peureuse)" are also used as adjectives.

-> "avoir la trouille" = to be frightened/scared to death
You measure temperature with "un thermomètre"... atmospheric pressure with "un baromètre" and, by analogy, you measure your fear (your "trouille") with an imaginary.... "trouillomètre"! 
so, "avoir le trouillomètre à zéro" = to be VERY frightened indeed... to be petrified/paralyzed with terror

-> "avoir la pétoche"
= to be scared stiff, to be scared out of one's wits
Synonyms for "la pétoche" ->  "la crainte", "la frayeur", "la peur" 

The word "chochotte" (pejorative) means something totally different! 
"une chochotte" is either
--> a girl we can describe as affectedly pretty, very fussy and rather snobbish - a girl "qui fait des chichis"
- "faire des chichis" / "des manières" / "des simagrées" = to put on 'airs' 
- Familiar words for such a girl: 
"une pimbêche", "une chichiteuse", "une bêcheuse" (the word "bêcheuse" has also got other meanings).

--> a boy we can describe as excessively trendy, stylish (but lacking virility...), having extremely refined manners, effeminate.  
- pejorative for homosexual-



 What kind of flowers shall be put in our recouped barrel (which is just like this one, only sans fleurs)? Share your suggestions here, in the comments box -- and thanks in advance!



Mama Braise (BREZ) is pictured here... As Smokey dries off somewhere outside the edge of this photo.

**fleur de lys, continued ... one theory has it that the famous flower came into recognition in the early wars, when a certain king waded through the narrow, iris-flanked waterways to escape the enemy. After a safe journey (thanks to the camouflaging flowers...) the humble iris des marais, or "iris of the marais", was honored. It is this "fleur de Louis" that inspired the French coat of arms (and not the fleur de lys). But don't take my word for it... there are other theories (I heard this one from Uncle Jean-Claude and the facts might have gotten mixed up in translation!)

Exercises in French PhonicsExercises in French Phonics is... 
" a great book for learning French pronunciation" Order your copy here.

French shopping bagI Heart Paris Shopper: made of recycled material

Tune Up Your French: Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Spoken French 


Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

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epingle a cheveux

Ionian Sea (c) Kristin Espinasse 
Jean-Marc and the Ionian sea in Sicily... where the saline breeze draws you to the salty waters, pleadingly. 

épingle à cheveux (ay pehngl ah sheuh veuh) n.f.

    hairpin bend (road, path); switchback

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

Le chemin de terre qui mène vers la mer descend en épingle à cheveux.
The dirt path that leads to the sea descends (in a series of) hairpin turns. 

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

 (Continued from part one: "Peur Bleue: A Morbid Fear".)

The miles-long footpath on which Jean-Marc and I were treading, from a Sicilian city down to the shores of its sea, changed from urban, to industrial, to earthy. I was anxious about crossing through the dark, graffitifed tunnel, when a sudden spell of terror, born of an overactive imagination coupled with every macabre news headline that I had ever read, had me freezing in my foot-tracks!

The idea of turning back was quickly factored out: just look at Jean-Marc, l'homme de la nature! He was so completely in his element, taken up with the salty breeze—pulled forth by the foamy claws of the sea! (I just knew he was looking forward to swimming in the winter waters below. A New Year's Day "bath" is a tradition for a true Marseillais.) 

But just when I let my spirit lift, we came out of the tunnel and face to face with a group of idle youths.... (Idle Youths = Tourist Abuse! in my news-headline-hazy head.) 

I watched my husband, who nodded an international greeting to the group, but my own neck was so stiff with suspicion that it couldn't manage the same salutation.

The group was seated on a rock wall, the other side of which plunged to the shoreline below. As we drew near I listened to their voices, which were foreign to me: not Italian, not French, not Spanish were they speaking. The headlines roared once again in my mind as we approached the strangers, who jostled one another, smiling and having a good time.

Tout va bien, I thought, reassuringly, there are women in the group, and they are all just having fun and acting carefree. But then so were Charles Manson and his "family"...! 

The grassy path we were now sharing was a switchback, hairpin turns from here to the sea. I studied the modern-day hippies. The only way to access the sea was via the switchback where the group sat, threateningly, according to my mind's graphic cinema, which reeled, helter skelter, with headline horror stories.   

 (Read the next and final installment here...)

Le Coin Commentaires / Comments Corner
Corrections, comments, and stories of your own are welcome. Click here to post a comment to the blog. 

French Vocabulary
l'homme de la nature = refers to an out-doorsy, Mister Nature type
tout va bien = everything's all right

Trivia: Today's word "épingle" appeared briefly, in only one of the 1100 French Word-A-Day word editions. Discover it here.

We'll soon meet a character from this Sicilian city... so don't go anywhere and do check back on Friday. .

  Kristin & Smokey

Meantime... "The Continuing Education of Smokey-Doodle" (pictured here at 8 months):

Today's lesson: French Fashion!

No, Smokey dear, these are not to be worn in your mouth. These boots, that have trod upon thousands of Gallic grapes (I can understand your attraction to their sweetness...), yes, these cleat-covered caoutchoucs are to be worn as head ornaments. Voilà, Smokey-Doll. Now, your turn.... hold your head up high and don't let those fashion victims in the capitol intimidate you! It's all about creativity! And the best-dressed dog wins le prix!

Feel like learning a few more words... or seeing a few more pictures of France? Check out the French Word Archives, here!

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
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peur bleue

Door in Sicily (c) Kristin Espinasse
The French have a colorful word for what we scaredy cats feel. Read on. Photo of Italian door taken in Aciereale, Sicily. Get out and take some photos or keep a point and shoot camera on hand, at all times, and never miss a shot!

une peur bleue (per bleuh)

    : a morbid fear 

(also, in French expressions including color, see "l'heure bleu")

Audio File
: listen to the following words: Download MP3

Je connais des gens qui ont une peur bleue des serpents, des araignées, et des rats. Et vous? C'est quoi votre peur bleue? I know people who are frightened to death of snakes, spiders, and rats. And you? What scares the daylights out of you?

Pronounce It Perfectly in French with Audio CDs

avoir une peur bleue = to be scared stiff
faire une peur bleue à quelqu'un = to put the fear of God into someone


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

The rain in Catania, Sicily had us changing our plans: forget a periple through the vine-dotted hinterland—, we might take our chances and follow that patch of open sky.... 

In a rented Fiat Panda, Jean-Marc drove toward the clear coastline, and we hoped the industrial zone that we were currently passing through would break, just as the clouds had, and it did. We coasted into the city of Acireale, our eyes filling with history as it draped itself across the façades of the Baroque bâtiments.

A New Year's day parade was underway and we weaved in and out of the Catanian crowds, like fish in the Ionian sea just below, and when the sea breeze wafted past we followed our noses out of la piazza, past a dozen churches and chapels....

"Ça te dit de marcher jusqu'à la mer?" Jean-Marc proposed, pointing up to the street sign, which indicated a footpath to the sea.

I am not so adventurous as my husband, but it is a new year!: a good time to shake off one's lazy ways and a good time to put other's wishes before one's own. 

Halfway down the isolated path, doubts began to creep in. Strangely, there was no one else around—unless you counted the ghosts of graffiti. And where there are graffiti there are gangs, are there not?! I thought about the industrial zone we had passed through earlier... industrial zones where delinquents roam!

Stop imagining the worst! I cautioned my mind, which was ever jumping to conclusions, thanks to the news reports that had fed it over the years!

Still, I began to panic. What if a couple of drug-hungry hooligans were hidden at the end of the painted tunnel through which we walked? Switchblades came to mind. My heart thumped and, fast as that, my mind was off and running... with all of the sensational headlines that I had ever read! The macabre news came back to haunt me. It was for this very reason that I had to stop reading the newspapers last year, when the collective shock value of so much bad news had begun its debilitating effect until it seemed safer to stay in ... than to venture out.

It is thanks to almost daily telephone calls to my mom, Jules, that I am reminded of all of the good in this world, despite so much tragedy. Though my mom spends a lot of time in her room, when she does get out the door... to the Mexican streets beyond, she is shaking hands and kissing faces and smiling at the locals—and wondering why she doesn't get out and dance with life more often.
"But Mom!", I always warn her, "you should be careful where you go!" Nevertheless, by the end of our conversation, I have listened to yet another lively story of love: or what happens when you reach out and literally touch someone. 

During last night's call we shared our sadness about the horrible tragedy: the shootings that took place this past weekend in our former home state of Arizona. And yet, Jules reminds me, you've got to trust others, despite it all. We cannot live in fear, which only perpetuates more of the same.

The antidote to this peur bleue, or "blue fear", may just be a red badge, or un emblème rouge: the courage to face our fears, to continue to count on and be counted upon by others, and to trust that it is, after all, a beautiful life.


(Read part two of this story, here.)

To post a comment on this story or on today's word, click here.

French Vocabulary

le bâtiment = building

la piazza = Italian for square (village square)

Ça te dit de marcher jusqu'à la mer? = Are you up for a walk to the sea?


Graffiti and all, it's still a beautiful life! Photo taken in Aciereale, Sicily, Italy. 

Smokey (pictured here as  a pup) recommends the story "Mémère"--about his own mom and the funny French term of endearment that they gave her as a pup! Click here.


Bien dire magazine Keep up your French with Bien Dire (magazine subscription). A 52-page magazine to improve your French that you'll enjoy reading! Full of interesting articles on France and French culture, Bien-dire helps you understand what it is to be French order here.

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


French window in Saignon, Provence (c) Kristin Espinasse

Photo taken in the village of Saignon.



noun, feminine



The flapping sound seemed to be coming from the other side of the bedroom window. I got out of bed and unlatched the wooden volets, which allow the midnight breeze to cool the room.

The fluttering continued as I searched along the windowsill, down to the patio just below. Pauvre bête, a winged insect must have fallen on its back. Its world was now turned upside down! I imagined its helpless, feet-to-the-sky predicament. It would starve or be eaten by another critter of the night!

Tap! Tap! Tap! A noise sprung up from behind me. Startled, I spun around. 

My ears tuned in to a shuffling sound over by the table de nuit. Was my hearing playing tricks on me? Had the creature been there all along? 
What had been compassion turned into a creepy feeling (the creepy-crawly had been so close—right beside the mattress!). Returning to the bed, I calmly switched on the lamp. With my cheek flush against the wall, I peered back behind the table.

There it was! The horrifying life form! 

Writhing in anger, its worm-like body twisted as it struggled. Was it a mille-pattes? The name was terrifying enough! Imagine une bestiole with one thousand feet!

In one effective jerk I was standing on the bed.
"Sois calme," I told myself. Tu peux gérer!

I slowly pulled the nightstand away from the wall to study my abominable suite-mate. Examining the insect's wormy body, four iridescent "double wings" came into view....

Une libellule! I recognized the creature from our tableware. I have a set of plates depicting the popular winged insect that is glorified on everything from Provençal tablecloths to glassware! I dropped to the floor for a closer look, unafraid now of what I could identify.

"Ouf, it is only you!" I studied the dragonfly. My chills subsided. "Time to get back on your feet!" 

With the help of an odd scrap of paper, I guided the wayward creature, coaxing it gently along the wall to the window. I watched as the libellule teetered at the edge of the scrap paper precipice, the dark night gently calling it forth.

We paused at the window, one of us peering down at the patio. It seemed an awfully long drop-off for a recovering dragonfly....

A wobbly step or two and off it went, advancing into the night in an uneven fashion. It looked like an old man on crutches, zigzagging forth on the breeze of eternity. 


Your Edits Here. Thank you for pointing out any grammar or punctuation problems  in the comments box. Many thanks! 


 French Vocabulary 

le volet = shutter
la pauvre bête
 = poor thing
une table (f) de nuit = a nightstand
le mille-pattes = centipede, millepede
une bestiole = creature
sois calme = stay calm
tu peux gérer! = you can handle this!
une libellule = dragonfly
ouf! = phew!

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.