How to say kleptomaniac in French?

La Grotte restaurant in Marseilles (c) Kristin Espinasse
La Grotte - the restaurant at the end of Marseilles located dans les Calanques de Callelongue (les Goudes)

un kleptomane (klepto-man)

    : kleptomaniac

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Un kleptomane ne peut se retenir de dérober des objets, la plupart du temps sans aucune valeur. A kleptomaniac cannot help himself from lifting objects that are, for the most part, worthless.

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

After an emotional visit to the American Consulate, we swung by my mother-in-law's, buckled her into the car, and drove to the end of Marseilles where the coastline rumbles out to sea, the huge limestone rocks meeting a turquoise eternity.

We arrived at the last port, "Callelongue", where a couple handfuls of fishing boats rested along the tiny bay. Facing the boats, there was our longtime favorite restaurant, La Grotte.

Ça fait du bien. Ah, ça fait du bien! My mother-in-law and I agreed: getting out, with family, did wonders for the morale! But our spirits were about to be stirred up once again....

It happened when Jean-Marc shared an update about a certain someone. The news was innocent enough but my focus automatically shifted to my mother-in-law, who I knew would self-detonate in a matter of seconds.

One.... two... three! I listened as my normally lovable mother-in-law made a cutting and unsavory remark, before staring off in the opposite direction of her son. (Leading me to speculate that older people don't roll their eyes, they dignifiably remove them from the annoyance).

Ha! My eyes hurried over to Jean-Marc to witness his predictable reaction: "Maman, is it really necessary to make such a remark each time? Why don't you just keep it to yourself?!"

Michele-France mumbled something loud enough to solicit another peeved response from her firstborn. Well, if he didn't want to hear such a remark, he needn't have brought up a touchy subject, my mother-in-law insinuated. Things were heating up now!

As my eyes traveled eagerly back-n-forth I caught myself enjoying some guilty entertainment. But it was a relief, for once, not to be on the receiving end in the word-slinging arena! Besides, I might learn a tip or two from my mother-in-law--on how to dish it back!!

Guilt won out and I quickly jumped in to defend my belle-mère. This time Max and Jackie's eyes jumped in too as we followed the grumpy dialogue. Wishing to avoid a commotion (the tables all around were beginning to take notice) I begged everyone to calm down and try to be normal like the rest of the French families, who were enjoying their public outing in a good-mannered, typically reserved way.

Why couldn't we be normal like everyone else? (The previous meltdown happened when one of our teens would not stop saying the "b"--or "bouton" (pimple) word, thus breaking a rule enstated by the weak-stomached member of our family (no potty talk at the table, either, I'm always reminding everyone!). Allez. ça suffit. ARRET! Quit it!

Soon we were all on our best behaviors again, letting go of the worries and irritations of the week in time to enjoy plates of deep fried supions and even a round of ice cream sundaes! What a lovely lunch, I thought, standing up to stretch as Jean-Marc paid the bill. Only the newfound peace was short won....

I watched in disbelief as my mother-in-law picked up the table's ashtray. "Do you think I could take this?" she asked her son. My eyes were glued to the cendrier which hovered dangerously close to my mother-in-law's wide open purse.

I thought about what a dupe I'd been to sit there defending my rascal of a mother-in-law... when, in the end, she was about to pull one on us--"one" of those social don'ts that no longer seems to faze people like her. People like her who have already been labelled or judged or misunderstood or sadly shunned to the point where no matter what they do they're damned.  

I knew I needed to be understanding but despite all my efforts I had not yet, in my 45 year experience, evolved that far spiritually. It was still very important to my well-being to control all outcomes or, at times like this--as a desperate last resort--to keep up appearances!

"No! No she can't take that! " I implored my husband. "Tell your mom she can't steal the ashtray!"

Jean-Marc, caught in the middle, spoke firmly. "Laisse-le, Maman." Leave it, Mom.

But wasn't that, after all, a little hypocritical to judge my mother-in-law for wanting to swipe restaurant property? Hadn't I done the same at some point in the past? What about that time when, after a couple or 5 glasses of wine, I slipped a wonderful clay cendrier into my purse on leaving a historic restaurant in our old neighborhood? Who was I to be so shocked by my mother-in-law's simple desire? At least she had the politesse to ask if she could steal it!

"I should have just slipped it in my purse," Michèle-France explained, "and not bothered you about it."

Or was it pride that had me wanting to control the situation? We weren't going to risk our reputations, were we, over a cheap cigarette dump! Frustrated, I looked at the pitiful ashtray. It was only a standard glass cendrier. Rather than cause a scene, we could stop by the dollar store, on the way back--or any local quincaillerie--and buy her one! Or I could send her the pretty ashtray that we inherited from Maggie and Michael when we moved to our new house. If my mother-in-law wanted an ashtray, she could at least have a beautiful one. It certainly wasn't worth the risk of condemnation to steal this lousy thing! 

Michele-France spoke innocently to her son. "Do you think you could ask the waiter if I can have it?"

Oh gosh! This was almost as bad! She wasn't going to ask the waiter! This was the point at which I realized it must be pride that was shuffling all my emotions. If only I could learn that lesson, which began 10 years ago. And what little progress has been made...

"Jean-Marc!" I said, hoping to influence him. But my husband grew frustrated with the ridiculous situation and I watched as his turn came to self-detonate.

What a ridiculous situation indeed. And to think, up til now I wasn't in trouble with anybody! I had set out to mind my own business--pausing only to help defend my mother-in-law (that was it! Last time I'm sticking up for her--THE RASCAL!--only to end up on the attack end!)

It was too late now to try to keep up appearances. My husband threw up his arms, "C'est le monde à l'envers!" With that he stormed out of the restaurant, leaving me to translate--and then contemplate--his departing remark: "It's a crazy world!" Indeed, it's the world upside down.

Michèle-France wasn't fazed, but lingered suspiciously close to that ashtray before I snapped, "Come on, let's get out of here!"

"I'll just rest here until he brings the car around," my mother-in-law casually mentioned, pretending to ignore the ashtray. 

Oh no she wouldn't. Not if I could help it! With that, I coaxed the little trouble maker away from the table and its treasure, past the discreetly indiscreet restaurant audience, and out to the curbside where we waited for our ride.  

I couldn't wait to see how my husband would navigate... what with the world being as he said,"upside down". I guessed we had better put our seatbelts on! 


French Vocabulary

la grotte = cave

ça fait du bien = that feels so good

la maman = mom

la belle-mère = mother-in-law

le bouton d'acné = pimple
allez / ça suffit / arrête! = come on. that's enough. stop! 

le supion = une petite seiche =small cuttlefish

la quincaillerie = hardware and junk store

c'est le monde à l'envers! = this is crazy! (or this makes no sense!) 


"Cabanes de Pêche" or Fishermen's cottages in Marseilles (c) Kristin Espinasse
Cabanes de pêche. On the way to the restaurant, there are these classic fisherman's cabanes--used nowadays by families who spend the day at the beach. (The colorful doors open up and the family has access to everything from beach mats to little cooking stoves on which to fry merguez sausages for lunch!)

Kristin Espinasse (c) Jean-Marc Espinasse

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hats or chapeaux in Sicily (c) Kristin EspinasseShade in Sicily. More photos of Italy in this weekend's Cinema Vérité.

enflure (on-fler) noun, feminine

: swelling (of cheek, etc)

also enfler (to swell) and enflé = (swollen)

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Notre chien a été piqué par une abeille. Sa "bosse," c'est l'enflure d'une piqûre. Our dog was stung by a bee. His "bump," it is the swelling of a sting.


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

"Bobbing for Bees in Elizabethan France"


Smokey is doing just fine after Friday's "stitching up" chez la vétérinaire (this following his attack by two dogs last fall. The first surgery, which left him with staples across the neck and the cheek, also left behind one stubborn wound, which would not close).  

If his furry face is swollen, this has more to do with curiosity than with surgery: on Saturday morning our Golden happened upon the honey hive!

Manque de chance! I had just fitted the one-year-old rescapé with one of those plastic head cones or "e-collars,"(e" for "Elizabethan," after the resemblance of the cone to Elizabethan-era fashion). Such space collars are designed to keep a dog from licking its wounds or, worse, from scratching them.

(We won't go into details regarding the farce involved in assembling a deceptively simple e-collar. Bref, it is a wonder more pet owners don't end up wearing them—as one does a straitjacket—for by the time the enigma of all those flaps and all those buckles has been solved, Insanity's onset is apparent in the e-cone assembler.)

Having fitted the cone around Smokey's neck, I stepped outside for some needed air in the garden, where I noticed how quickly our pup adjusted, undertaking normal activities (eating, roughhousing with Mama Braise, adventuring) unhindered by the constrictive cone circling his head.


Satisfied, I turned my back on the dogs and went about a few chores in the flower patch: the belles-de-nuit were ready for seed-harvesting and the cherry tomatoes (propped up with the help of the hollyhock's trunk) had a new crimson crop on offer. I tossed a few tomates cerises into my mouth while discovering the latest developments in the jardin.

My eardrums began to tickle and I turned to have a look at the front gate. Commotion in the periphery of my gaze had my eyes darting over to the wooden beehive, where Smokey had just stuck his head! Next, I saw our dog spring backwards from la ruche! He threw his coned head to and fro, then, on hind legs, he reached his front paws forward and began swatting (in vain...). That is when I understood or "got it": our patient had bees in his bonnet!

I took off running, my own arms flailing and swatting while a high pitch issued from deep inside of me, a mad and murderous menace directed at those bees! All that shaking and shrieking soon sent the swarm to pick on other life forms. As the bees settled on the lavender and the last of the sunflowers, I knelt down to look at Smokey's face, just beyond the not-so-protective cone.  Calm eyes starred back at me.

Stoic Smokey had not so much as yelped for help—not even when the two-legged tornado chasing him and those bees quit spinning—at which point he pushed his nose past the limits of the e-cone and kissed the dizzy woman, recognizing her as his own.


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French Vocabulary

chez la (le) vétérinaire = at the veterinarian's
manque de chance! = bad luck
le (la) rescapé = the survivor
bref = in brief
la belle-de-nuit = "lady of the night" flower
la tomate cerise = cherry tomato
le jardin = garden
la ruche = beehive


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A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety