haut les coeurs!

"Heart in Burgundy" (c) Kristin Espinasse
Current events have us wearing our hearts on our former façades... and it's a good thing, n'est-ce pas?

haut les coeurs (oh lay ker)

    : lift up your spirit, take heart, be brave! have courage!

Thank you, Carolyn Foote Edelmann, for today's French expression: Carolyn writes, in response to Monday's seisme post:

Small thought - watching their dignity and fortitude, I think [the Japanese] may not want to be called 'victims'.

My Provencal neighbors had a phrase which sounded to me like "o, liqueurs!" - but was, in fact, HAUT LES COEURS! - [High the hearts]... I love it that this word, in France, implies "to infuse with courage".

Thank you for linking those of us who love France with a country I am taught to love (having lived through Pearl Harbor) as I never thought I would, watching their fortitude in the face of the impossible.


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

Universal Love

I am rooting through the medicine chest, looking for the small blue box that contains my mouth guard. I haven't worn the protective shield in over a month, but I need it now. Teeth grinding is up, along with that ticky tremblement just beneath my eyelid. Twitching and grinding - it is the body's way of responding to those things that are out of its control: like our dog's destructive behavior, like Japan, like Mother Nature.

I grab the small blue box and pry it open... when something flies past me... landing with a TING!  I bend over, narrowing my eyes, ignoring the annoying tremblement de la paupière. 

I see a heart lying there, on the floor... t'was a heart that had fallen out of that toothbox...

Suddenly it all comes rushing back to me...

I see myself back in Mexico, packing my bags. I see my mom reaching to hug me. I hear her voice: "I've put a little surprise in your toothbox... open it up when you are on the plane."

I'm on the airplane now... reaching into my backpack for the blue box. I open it up and there, beside the plastic tooth guard, is the tarnished locket-heart.

I hear Mom's explanation when I call her that evening to thank her.

"It was a gift," she says.  And she tells me the story of the bus ride, when the Mexican "street man" stepped on board. 

Listening to the poor passenger who had taken the seat behind her, Mom sympathized, pointing to her own losses: she took off her hat and pointed out her thinning white hair. Then she pounded on her chest, pointing out her missing breasts!

When she put her hand on her hip, the man could not possibly know about the once broken bone. Mom didn't have the Spanish words to tell him.

And so, without translation, the odd couple on the bus shared their rotten luck, without drama, without fuss. And when Mom stood to get off the bus, so, too, the Mexican man stood up.

Humblement, the street man reached into his frayed pocket and pulled out the little tarnished heart-locket. He closed Mom's hand over the gift, before sending her off with a mutual heart-lift. 


Standing there in the bathroom looking down at the treasure in the palm of my hand... I feel the quiet peace that has swept in all around me. The world outside the bathroom door might be in a state of chaos. But I no longer feel swept up in it, shaken or tossed. 


 Le Coin Commentaires
To comment on today's word or photo--or to ask our cozy community a question--click here to access the comments box. Corrections to French/English text most welcome.


  July2005 039

Mum's the word! Jackie (pictured sans maquillage, age 7) thanks you for your feedback on her story! She's written three more articles... one of which is très "edgy". (She doesn't seem to have a problem with self-censorship, as her mother does!) I warn her that posting the story might get her kicked out of school. Her roll-of-the-eyes response? "Et alors, la liberté d'expression? What about freedom of speech?" 

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 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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A la recherche du temps perdu

                                                   "Jules & Frida."

À la recherche du temps perdu

    : in search of lost time; remembrance of things past*

*One of the English translations to Proust's famous "A la recherche du temps perdu". Have you read it? Pick up a copy, here.

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

In Search of Lost Time

On this journey I had the privilege to get to know my step-dad, who, all these years I misunderstood.

After asking John for his forgiveness, I listened meekly for his reply.

John answered, with a twinkle in his eye.

"Kristi, one thing you will discover about Mexico, is that the expats here are either "Wanted"... or Not Wanted."

With that, John confided, "Something I have learned in life is that everything changes. What's important is to be grateful for every moment."




"Angel Wings". When John presented me with this delicate poncho, I realized I had recovered those lost wings.

This story was written in February 2011. We are sad to say that John passed away on August 7th, 2016. Thank you for taking the time to read the story, HERE


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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Aussi Froid Que Le Cul d'Un Mort

One of these locals taught me a funny expression when, at a local café, she sent back her fried eggs, complaining they were cold as a dead man's butt! So I promised Lulu (left) that today's not-so-French expression would be in her honor...

aussi froid que le cul d'un mort* (oh si fwah keuh leuh kul dun mohr)

: as cold as a dead man's butt

*(and, gosh, I'll be mortified if I didn't get this translation right... after butchering the shoulda coulda woulda French translation...)

PHOENIX Meet-up: click here  for info on Friday's meet-up in the Valley of the Sun.

A Day in a Mexican Life... (by a damned tourist*)

50 Ways to Please Your Mother

Mom and I are tying our shoelaces and tucking pesos into our pockets.
"You don't want to be one of those damn tourists* who stand there counting out change, holding up the driver and the locals." With that, Jules slaps on her hat and shouts, are you ready yet?!

I suspect we are heading out, after all, for that mountain adventure she's been raving about, on our way to dusty jungle paths far from the typical tourist traps... though by now I am content to remain within a half-mile radius of the marina, especially since my stomach never did settle down completely, not since the pre-flight adventure last week.

Oh, Pffft! Mom gestures, and the unimpressed look on her face reminds me that I do not want to be taken for the namby-pamby neurotic that I really am. 

"OK. So what are we going to do?" I wonder, anxiously.

And Mom, as cool as an accomplice, gives me the gist:

"We're just going to get on the bus, Gus."

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections are helpful and comments are welcome here, in the comments box.



Bel ria dog of war by Sheila Burnford I am currently reading one of Jules's all time favorite books "Bel Ria". I hope you will read along with me. Check out the story of a darling dog in wartime France. Bel Ria by Sheila Burnford. More than a children's book - any grown up would adore reading this. The vocabulary is rich - a wonderful book for a budding or a practicing writer or a Francophile or a history buff or a dog lover... a great read for all. Order a copy here.








From left to right: Teri, Berthe "Bety", Penny, Lulu, Jules, Breezy, Kristin, and Matt, who is a reader of French Word-A-Day and who emailed, inviting Mom and me to hang out with him and his friends.

We ate with the mischievous group here at the marina, where I've been hanging out all week.


Why venture out when characters like these two bring the best of Mexico right to you? 


Teri and Penny are from Portland, OR... and might've been featured at the top of this post... had they come up with a saucier expression than Lulu's (did they not dare to?).

Fun loving Lulu (see her there in the back?) steals the show once more... that's Matt and I, trying with all our might to stay in the spotlight...

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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Arizona meet-up & "Shoulda Coulda Woulda" in French


"Moto Mama." I should have posted this photo a long time ago. More shouldas in the following ramble, below, and an update on the next French Word-A-Day meetup in Phoenix. Read on!
PHOENIX MEET-UP: See info at the end of this post! Scroll down for directions to our next meet-up! 

A Day in a Mexican Life.. by Kristin Espinasse

J'aurais Pourrais Roarais

I should not write these posts far from my desk, far from my dictionnaire.

I should not make up a funny French equivalent for the Anglophone expression Shoulda Woulda Coulda ... nevertheless:

J'aurais Pourrais ROARrais!

I should not tack ROAR onto the end of an almost correct French equivalent, but it is so much more fun to say it that way, so much more exhilarating-- what with the ROAR in it: j'aurais pourrais roarais!

Back to those shoulds woulds coulds, to those AURS POURRS et ROARS... which do not, after all, exist in the mind of a French purist. (I should try to be a French purist... I should I should...)

I should tell you about the people I have met here, while visiting Mom at her home in Mexique...

I should tell you about all the chick magnets (how does one say "chick magnet" in French? Chick magnets: those charismatic characters that cruise this Mexican marina with parrots or rabbits or puppies in their arms and on their shoulders. How we chicks can't resist chickadees and animals of all varieties. 

I should tell you about ma soeur cadette and the surprise visit she paid me. How she did agenda acrobatics with the airline where she works, in time to make it south of the border to bavarder or chat with me. (Thank you, Kelley.) I should show you a photo of her (I should tell you there's one here, at the end of this post - click here). 

I should tell you about the sweethearts, Colette and Abdalla, that Mom and I met that first day on the Malecon (sp?) and about the instant connection... but you can see it for yourself in this photo: 


and here, in this one:


I should share with your their secret to a happy union (because, of course, I was itching to ask them): respect and space! and knowing that a relationship is like the waves... I should go on about this couple who might have been Love incarnate.

I should tell you about Morlis (pictured below), who chased Mom down in time to ask her about her fish purse and how Morlis is our kinda man, one who can appreciate a purse! and I should tell you how Morlis helped Mom up, onto the bus, before the door closed shut and lurched forward, rumbling, jumbling, and bumbling all the way back to the marina and I sat there with my stomach beside me.


I should not forget to mention the man who chased us off the bus, with Mom's purse in hand : "Listen! Listen!" said he, guessing what the English word for "Hey, you forgot this!" might be, and waving the purse, which he returned to us lest we leave it behind.

I should tell you about the Croatian couple whom we met at the bus stop in front of the marina and how they offer bright smiles each time we bump into them - how I wish I knew their names, but didn't want to be intrusive. How touched I am each time they remember us with a sparkle in their eyes. 

I should tell you about the fashion designer, Oded, from Tel Aviv, who reignited Mom's longtime dream: to visit--or, rather, live, in Israel. "You must go! It is only a 4-hour flight from Paris... You will love it there."

I should remember to be here... to be here now... 

I should tell you about how many times I have started and stopped and flopped this post - as I try to type out of my comfort zone (here in a cantankerous cafe where a new acquaintance is just a table away. I chat with the ladies from Toronto and the family new arrivals from New Jersey).

I should stop shoulding and start coulding: I could rest and relax and take a break.... for more than my own -- for everyone's sake :-)

And I should finally remember what I came here for today: to remind all Arizona-based readers of our next meeting place: so please, listen up: the next AZ meetup entitled "The Horizontal Hike" (we're taking any and all pressure off the lazy lizards, such as myself...) will be on Feb 11th (Friday) at 8:30 a.m. I hope you will make it out to see us. Here are the particulars - any questions should be posted in the comments box so that one of us might answer. Again, here's the info:

Phoenix, Arizona Meetup: "The Horizontal Hike"*

8:30 a.m. at Starbucks -- 7th St and Thunderbird.
The address is 13240 N. 7th St.

*wear your tennies or sneakers or hiking boots!

Le Coin Commentaires
Comments, corrections, and stories of your own are welcome and very much enjoyed. Thanks in advance! Click here to leave a message.



Click to enlarge photo ... Finally, I shoulda told you about these guys. Oui, j'aurais pourrais roarais!

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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"Mom and Me".  Photo taken Feb 1st, on arrival: read on... (sorry about the blurry image, but blurry, like love, covers a multitude of sins! That's my lovely mom, Jules, left.)

s'aventurer (sah ven tur ay)

    : to venture

synonyms: se risquer = to risk, oser = to dare


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

I arrived in Mexico yesterday, after almost cancelling the trip when Montezuma's revenge (or what the French might call a very bad case of gastro) struck the night before my flight was to leave Phoenix.

Because the theme of this trip is "to venture out of one's comfort zone", the moment was ripe to dare, or oser, to catch the plane ride to Puerto Vallarta - with a stomach in a million little pieces. And because the only risk was one of mortification and not of "contagion" (it wasn't the flu bug that I was carrying, but the remnants of food poisoning), I enplaned, careful to pack an étanche, or waterproof, paper bag au cas où.... or just in case!

I kept my mind off an upset estomac and on the happy memories that I had made thus far: a moment with my dear friend, Susan, and time with my sister, Heidi, and my niece and my nephew, who gave me a memorable pep talk: "You've got to be a daredevil Aunt Kristi! (We were sitting in the parking lot of Krispy Kreme in our pajamas. I had not wanted to do the doughnut run in pj's and would not dare get out of the car, though my family had gotten me this far."Truth is, I'm just a big wet chicken," I explained to my 7-year-old niece, teaching her the French expression for "coward", which is more than a chicken: a WET chicken! or poule mouillée.)

I watched my niece and my nephew swagger out of the car in flannel wear, along with my sister (clad in a fluffy leopard robe, slippers, and bedhead), and walk in to order doughnuts comme si de rien n'était! as if nothing were out of the ordinary. I began to wonder about reverse culture shock... or was it the new thing in the States to do the doughnut run in one's bed clothes? 

The next morning, with a stomach very much amiss (nothing to do with the doughnuts), I made my flight. The old wet chicken would have stayed in bed an extra day, just in case, but the new daredevil that my niece and my nephew saw in me remembered her guts, however groaning, held them high, and boarded that plane for the ride of her life.

Post Note: the flight was uneventful and, soon enough, any queasiness was replaced by butterflies, or papillons: My mom and her husband, John, were waiting for me at the end of the long hall, just after la douane, or Customs. 

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections are helpful and appreciated and comments are the best part of of this journal. Thanks in advance. Click here to leave a message.

Phoenix Readers: I would love to meet up with you! We are planning a hike on Feb 11th at 8:30 a.m. (at the Starbucks on or near 7th street and Thunderbird. Stay tuned for a confirmation! Please join us (so far Herm and Karen and Ed and Gail and my sister, Heidi, will be there!) I would be so happy to meet you so don't be shy -- it would make my day--et encore!--to meet you! 


My mom, Jules, and my other "sister", Breezy.

How do you say "sibling rivalry" in French? My sister, Heidi, and I packed a bottle of Jules's all time favorite perfume (now, Breezy, what can you say for yourself? Hum? Hum?):

Shalimar Shalimar Eau de Parfum by Guerlain. Introduced in 1925. Fragrance notes: an alluring, classic fragrance of exotic florals and vanilla. Order here

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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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la grippe porcine

Sanglier wild boar France niche pyracanthis
One sassy sanglier says, "Swine Flu! What's to you?" Tell us your opinion in today's debate, below.

la grippe porcine (lah greep pohr-seen) noun, feminine
    : swine flu

AKA: la grippe Mexicaine

Audio File: listen to my daughter pronounce the French words la grippe porcine Download Wav File . or Download mp3

*     *     *

Swine Flu Debate
In today's debate: la grippe porcine. Please chime in and tell us how you feel the news coverage on this topic (Is it excessive?) and its effect on you. Are you nervous or fearful about the Swine Flu, or what the French call "la grippe Mexicaine"? Or do you think, as one French woman recently confided to me, that topics like this just drive our attention away from other hot-button issues, such as the economy, unemployment... war? Did you see the French comedian's skit "Une Petite Grippe de Tafiole"?* I look forward to reading your thoughts, in the comments box. Meantime, I'm off to help Mom pack for her return trip to Mexico...

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

I am happy to see Mom ironing her pink poncho.
"You going to get dressed up?" I ask Jules.
"Oh... Well, would you like to wear these sandals?" I offer.
"No. I'm going to wear my tennis shoes."
"Ah... Did you need to use my hairdryer?" I question.
"No," Mom answers. "I'm just going to throw a blanket over my head!"

Obviously Mom is in some kind of mood and I intend to shake her out of it.

"Mom! You never know who you might meet on the plane!" I point out, trying to cheer her up before she leaves for the airport.  Jules is returning home, after a two-month absence. Though this should be an exciting time for her (reuniting with Breezy The Dog, her cats, and husband, John...), I notice that she is dragging. She wore house slippers to town the other day, and she's not putting on her make-up, as she does.

Her before-departure blues have nothing to do with the news (where Swine Flu in the City is a sexy media topic), and it isn't that she is sad to leave France... No, Mom's lethargy is the result of feeling paralyzed by fearful thoughts.

To be clear, it isn't the swine flu that scares Mom, it is the Mexican economy and how this will affect her adored amigos, her beloved Mexico. The restaurants have closed, as have many of the shops, and her husband has been sent home from work.

"I told him to stock up on rice and beans..." Mom mumbles and I can just see her train of tick-tick-ticking thinking. I tell Mom that I can relate to her obsessive, fearful thoughts. I, too, tend to latch on to a train of fearful, negative thinking, and don't know how or when to just let go. Besides, even when I let go, a different, equally defeating thought rushes in, only to replace the former one.

Mom and I sit there, each consumed with concern, until the quiet in the room attracts our attention. That's when Mom looks over at me and her face brightens until she's got that pull-herself-up-by-her bootstraps look in her eyes. Speaking of boots, Mom no longer wears spurs on hers, but gets by these days with a spike in her spirit.  That spirit is now shining through her pupils and I can sense a lesson coming on.

"Do you know the story about the farmer?" Mom begins.
"Which one's that?" I ask, glad for the distraction.
"The farmer who is sitting quietly in his kitchen, when a dozen pigs rush in, through the open door, creating mayhem. The china cabinets shake, the jam jars come crashing down, the wife screams, and the mug of coffee that the farmer had been enjoying falls off the table, scatters. The room is full of chaos!

(It takes me a moment to realize that Mom's story is a parable: the pigs represent thoughts, whether fearful, angry, or unruly.)

"When the pigs begin to overwhelm him," Mom continues, "the farmer gets up and chases them out of the kitchen, latches the door. Only, now, he is sitting in an empty room."

Sitting in an empty room seems fine to me, I reason... but before I can argue with that, Mom sums up her story:

"It is not enough to chase the pigs out. You have to fill that empty (vulnerable) space, replace the pigs with something else!"

Mom's story ends here, and she looks over at me with a knowing glance--only, I don't know what she's talking about. I begin to wonder whether Mom's forgotten something, left a certain point principal out of this parable. I mean, replace the unruly pigs with what? Flowers? Chickens, maybe? Cancan dancers (a nice distraction if not a change from that nagging wife)?

"I can't wait to get home!" Mom announces, and she's already off, to put that parable-lesson into practice.

"Do you have any shampoo?" Mom inquires. "Oh, and where's that hairdryer? I've got so many people to see when I get home!" I guess Jules is not going to wear that blanket on her head after all... Looks as though she has replaced those fearful "pig" thoughts with positive ones.

*    *    *

In Roussillon


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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