comment faire

Jalopy (c) Kristin Espinasse

 "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous." Les coincidences sont une manière pour Dieu de rester anonyme. Thanks to Ardi, for sharing this quote in Monday's comments box.  Does anyone know who wrote it?)

Photo: "The Dawn of Spring"...  near Orange, France. It was worth jumping over a muddy ditch--and parting a curtain of prickly feuilles--to get close up to this floral scene! For a side view of the classic car--and more of these glorious blossoms--click here.

comment faire (koh mahn fehr)

: how to

Audio File: The Francophones have been driven off (see today's story), which means you are stuck with me! Listen to the following sentence at your own péril (especially perilous were the words écrire and jouer)Download MP3 or Wav file

On ne peut à la fois écrire une nouvelle... et jouer chauffeur.* Alors comment faire? One cannot at the same time write a short story and play driver!


* ... in case you are wondering, no! "chauffeuse" is not the feminine of chauffeur.  Chauffeuse is the French word for "low armless chair"...

Grammar note: Wondering where the pas went (after ne peut...)? See Millie's grammar tip at the end of this edition...

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

Note: This column will be back illico presto... just as soon as the slap-happy storyteller either:

1. gets some sleep.... or 

2. quits being solicited for rides:

    a. to the aéroport at (3:58 a.m.)

    b. to school at (8:15 a.m.)

    c. to driver's ed at (9:50 a.m.)

    d. to friends' homes (the rest of the afternoon)

Sheesh! How can anyone pursue the writing life... when the riding life takes over? Off to drive Max to town...


Comments Corner
Just in case today's slapdash baclée offering might have inspired any response whatsoever, you can leave a message here, in the comments box. Thanks!


 Meantime, if you feel like reading a vocab-rich story, try one of these (in theme with today's word!) from the archives:

  1. How to Eat Chocolate Mousse for Breakfast on Monday
  2. How to Mourn a Cat
  3. How to Prune Lavender
  4. How to Know Whose is Whose (Coffee)


 French Vocabulary

une feuille = leaf

illico presto = (see all meanings here -- and some lovely Smokey The Dog photos, too!)

un aéroport = airport

la chapellerie = hat shop

 Another Grammar Tip (...gleaned from the comments box!)

Millie writes:

I remember my French professeur once telling us, in some cases, it is possible to omit the "PAS". Just think of COPS pour Cesser. Oser, Pouvoir et Savoir comme par exemple, il ne cesse de pleuvoir; nerveuse, je n'ose parler en public; elle ne peut venir avec moi; je ne sais qui a raison?

Thanks, Millie. As you can tell, I've been practicing (see today's example sentence!). I hope others will be helped by your tip too!

Have a good grammar tip? Share it here. I will try to post another of your tips very soon, that is illico presto!



Is it any wonder which hat Mom would choose? And you, have you chosen your hat yet? (and don't give us any of that: but I didn't see the black hat!!! How come she gets to choose the black hat? Here are a few more choices, if you like... though it may be du pareil au même--or "more of the same"--from the previous photo.



Another chapellerie... this time in Orange, France.

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  French heart shutter (c) Kristin Espinasse
My husband tells me that today's word is a little too argot... and not something he uses very often. But Jean-Marc is from Marseilles... and I'm betting people in Paris would pucker up in pleasure at pronouncing today's term, which is a synonym for "tribe" or "clan" or "posse" or even "bercail". It is especially in theme with today's story about my kindly kin.

smala (smah-lah) noun, feminine

    : big family (famille nombreuse); entourage

from the Arabic, zmalah: tribe

Audio File & Example Sentence: Download WAV or Download MP3

Pour la réunion de famille, ma belle-mère était la première arrivée, suivie de toute la smala. For the family reunion, my mother-in-law was the first to arrive, followed by the rest of the tribe.

A Day in a French Life... Kristin Espinasse

How To Eat Chocolate Mousse for Breakfast on Monday

1. Invite your in-laws over for an annual pique-nique de Pâques. Overlook tardiness when the belle-famille arrives on Mother's day, two months later. Sympathize (they are French)

2. Offer to be in charge of the BBQ and apéros (easy-pois-peasy, especially when you've delegated this task to your husband). Suggest that each in-law-invité bring along un truc or une bricole; sit back and rest on your lauriers as they negotiate among themselves to come up with the rest of the repas.

  French BBQ (c) Kristin Espinasse

3. Watch as cousins, tantes, uncles, brother-in-law, and belle-mère arrive from as far away as Verona and Fuveau, marching happily to the maison like ants returning from a newly-planted radish patch, each holding a caloric unit: there will be fresh-picked pois chiches, olive-oil pressed from hand picked olives, home-made tabouleh with apricots, hand-rolled chocolate truffles à la noix de coco.. gâteau de canard fumé avec figues, buttery biscuit cake...

4. Before dessert—and already filled to the French gills—ease back in your chaise and listen to Provençale traditions, like bird-calling. Feel your ears tremble to the timbre of merles, alouettes, rossignols, grives... close your eyes and marvel that you cannot tell the difference between man and animal, birdsong or the wistful whistling of a wine farmer.

           Uncle Jean-Claude, left, whistling wine maker (André), right

Ask Winefarmer where he got that treasure of a golden locket that he wears around his neck (the cylindrical piece of gold, fashioned into un appeaux, that he lifts to his lips before letting loose a lulaby of birds in flight. When he looks over, lovingly, to his sweet bride of 40+ years, wish on the next shooting star that you will find as thoughtful a present for your own winemaker husband.

5. Follow your family outside (now that the rain has stopped), over to the tree-lined driveway...

  How to prune an olive tree (c) Kristin Espinasse
  Wine-maker-bird-caller André, thoughtful gift-giving wife Annie, Jean-Marc

Carry a pair of secateurs and a spindle of string... hoping they'll need assistance in this olive-pruning undertaking. Watch as the pros shape the olive trees that once made up an untidy row.  Agree wholeheartedly when they stand back and declare, indeed an hirondelle could now fly through the tree, now that some branches were spared.

  Family (c) Kristin Espinasse

6. Return to the house and look at the crowded kitchen counters, casseroles climbing high to the French sky. Go and get jam jars, plastic ice cream tubs, and tin foil... tell the ladies load up on leftovers. Insist when they resist!

Divide and conquer the casseroles, calling out: est-ce que tout le monde a eu des pois chiches? Et le taboulé? Prenez-en! 

Eight hours after sitting down for lunch, kiss everyone goodbye three times. Steal a few more bisous. Remain planted on the front patio, waving goodbye, never mind that the aunts have told you to get back inside...

You'd rather catch cold than miss the chance to see them off... to the end of the olive-lined road.
Broken branches flanking their path.
When will they be back?

7. The morning after, sit there feeling devilish as you dine on dessert for breakfast. Notice the calm. It isn't the quiet house or the mood altering Mousse Charlotte. It is kinship and kindness.

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::
Corrections, feedback, and stories of your own are welcome and appreciated. Click here to comment

French Vocabulary

l'argot (m) = slang
le bércail = fold ("sheep back to the fold")
la belle-famille = in-laws
le pique-nique = picnic
Pâques (f) = Easter (click here for more on the French word for Easter: Pâques
le pois = pea

invité(e) m/f = guest
le truc (as in un petit truc) = (a little) something, thing
la bricole (as in "un petit bricole)  = (a little) something, thing
le laurier = laurel
le repas = meal
la tante = aunt
le pois chiche = chickpea 
à la noix de coco = with coconut
le gâteau = cake
le canard fumé = smoked duck
la figue = fig
la chaise = chair
le merle = blackbird
une alouette = lark
le rossignol = nightingale
la grive = thrush (faute de grives on mange des merles = beggars can't be choosers)
une hirondelle = swallow
un appeux = bird calling apparatus (see photos)
est-ce que tout le monde a eu des pois chiches? Et le taboulé? Prenez-en!  =
Would anyone like some chickpeas? How about some tabouleh? Go on - take some!

le bisous = kiss
la mousse charlotte (see similar chocolate charlotte recipe here)




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Eggplant caviar
Eggplant Caviar: use with toast or crackers as an apéritif. Lovely alongside hard-boiled quail's eggs (as my mother-in-law serves it!) Order a jar!

Rosetta Stone French Level 1, 2, & 3

Fluenz French 1+2

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!
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Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes Pyrénées. My husband with his two favorite things: grapevines and a stubborn side-kick. More about her in today's story.

têtu(e) (tay-tew) adjective
    : obstinate, headstrong, stubborn

Listen to the French word têtu, and hear this expression "têtu comme un mulet" (thank you, Bastien--my son Max's friend--for today's recording!): Download tetu.wav Download tetu.mp3

Terms & Expressions
  têtu comme un mulet =  stubborn as a mule
  les faits sont têtus = the facts are stubborn ("no getting around the facts")


How to Know Whose is Whose

Sometimes I bring my husband his first cup of coffee in the morning: a thoughtful gesture that I learned from him. He likes his java--or *kawa*--with a little more milk in it than I do, and he likes it a bit cooler. I no longer have to drop two sugar cubes into his cup, not since he listened to Reason when she whispered to him that coffee is just as good without it, once you get used to the taste. Besides, two fewer cubes to stir saves time in the morning.

Once I have micro-waved the milk and filled each tasse* with coffee, it is time to remember whose is whose, that is, which cup of coffee is his (more milk, less hot) and which is mine (the strong stuff), before heading upstairs with the hot drinks.

The cups look alike, so in order to not confuse the two I "mark" them with a hand. "His is Left. Mine's Right," I say of my hands and of our coffees. Sometimes I fret that, by the time I make it up the stairs, I'll forget whose is whose and end up with the tepid milky coffee (his)... but, in fact, it isn't
that hard for me to remember. "Mine," I affirm, "is right". I sometimes repeat the affirmation: "Right. I'm right. Always right!" I'll remind myself, as I head upstairs with our coffees.

This system works well for me, especially when I am the least bit "conflicted" with my husband. "He is GAUCHE.* I am RIGHT," I'll mumble, as I bring him his coffee along with a forced smile and a "Goodmorning dear!" (I learned that one from him, too: "Begin the day with 'Bonjour, Cherie'!").

But when things are smooth and sailing in our everyday life, I am sometimes the coffee in my left hand, and he gets to be the right one. He just doesn't know it, but then he doesn't pay attention to Whose is Whose. Maybe I should pay less attention, too?, learn to share a bit... be less particular about things. Then one day I'll say "he taught me that, too."

How do you like your coffee? Do you know the word for "stubborn" (têtu) in another language? What's the latest life lesson you've learned? Thank you for your "partage" or "sharing" in the comments box.

More stuff I've learned, here in these "Lessons in Life and Language from the South of France"

une tasse (à café) = coffee cup; gauche = left (also: awkward, warped, skew)

Learn French in Your Car while driving to school or work:

Songs in French for Children

Coffee - French Press by Bodum: When Bodum took over a small clarinet factory in Normandy in 1982, it was not because of the fine orchestra clarinets they were producing. In addition to musical instruments, the factory also produced the coffee of a relatively unknown brewer called "The Chambord." Read on, and check out the French press.

French sugar cubes for your coffee -- for those who like it sweet!

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