Have you ever heard an old word... as if for the first time? Your eyes sting; suddenly, you are seized by meaning, when a humble old mot causes your body to form a lump in your throat. Read on, in today's story column.

mangeoire (mahn-zhwar) noun, feminine

  1.  trough, manger (animals) ; feeding dish (birds)
  2.  crèche (Christ child's crib)

Audio File Hear today's French word and proverb: Download mp3 or Wav

           Cheval affamé nettoie sa mangeoire.
            A starving horse cleans its trough.

In music: 21 Christmas Songs in French and English.

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

Reading to my Francophone children in their native tongue is a humbling, sometimes humiliating experience—not only for the "pronunciation pause" (kid-issued breaks in which I must stop reading in order to repeat a French word that I have tripped up on), but also for the words that I still do not know, both French and in English!

Thankfully, not all readings are cause for reprimand. De temps en temps, there are eye-opening moments when suddenly, more than a word making sense, the world seems to take on new meaning as well.

It was while reading a chapter called "The birth..." or "La naissance de Jésus" to my daughter that I suddenly felt a lump in my throat and a sting in my eyes. An English word with which I've had but a yearly encounter—usually during the holiday season—suddenly defined itself as its French counterpart moved up my vocal chords and exited in a French chorus of sound and meaning. The text preceding the word (indicated in bold, below) only served to set the dramatic stage:

Là, dans la saleté et entre les animaux, elle mit son bébé au monde. Puis elle l'enveloppa chaudement et, comme il n'y avait pas de berceau, elle le déposa dans une mangeoire pour qu'il puisse dormir...

"There, in the filth and between the animals, she brought her baby into the world. Then she wrapped him warmly and, as there was no cradle, she put him down in a feeding trough so that he could sleep."

Replacing the word "manger" with "feeding trough", its equivalent, gives the account an even more heartrending effect; "manger" is poetic, while "feeding trough" effectively evokes the brutal bed that was the only resting place for the delicate newborn.

                                        *     *     *

As for those instances of humiliation—whether in fumbling through French text before a ten-year-old (or in the stories that I have lived and that will never be told)—my mind now calls up a peaceful bergerie, wherein an unspoiled baby would come to suffer all humility; this, instead of me.


French Vocabulary

de temps en temps = from time to time
La Naissance de Jésus = The Birth of Jesus (from the book "Grande Bible Pour Les Enfants," Chantecler edition)
la bergerie (f) = shelter (sheepfold)
une étoile = star 

Plat du Jour (c) Kristin Espinasse

One of the black and white pictures that did not make it into my book. I still get a big smile each time I study the elements in this photo (taken during our wedding anniversary celebration, in Collioure's).

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