How to say "to catch" in French + Treating a cold with the help of my little nurses

abricot pays farmers market France apricot (c) Kristin Espinasse
Fruits and vegetables ought to help this cold... (picture taken at the farmers market in Les Arcs-sur-Argens)

attraper (a-tra-pay) verb

1. to catch, to pick up

une attrapade (a-tra-pahd) f = a reprimand
un attrape-mouches = a fly-catcher
un attrape-touristes = a tourist trap
attrape-tout (adj) = a catch all

attraper froid = to catch cold
attraper un rhume = to catch a cold
attraper une contravention = to get a ticket
attraper un coup de soleil = to get a sunburn
se laisser attraper = to be had
attraper quelqu'un = to trick someone
se faire attraper (par quelqu'un) = to be told off by somebody
attraper le coup = to get the knack of something

Je préfère attraper un torticolis en visant trop haut que devenir bossue en regardant trop bas.
I'd rather get a stiff neck from aiming too high than become hunchbacked from looking too low.—Sylvaine Charlet

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

I caught a cold last week. In French, that would be: J'ai attrapé un rhume.

My husband says: "As-tu téléphoné au medecin?" This is so French of him, the reflex to head straight to the doctor at the first sniffle. For me, c'est hors de question to go to a doctor's office and mingle for one hour with a roomful of microbes in la salle d'attente.

"Prends un Dolipran, ça te fera du bien." my friend Barbara suggests.

"Vas-y, mets toi au lit," my husband encourages. He'll fix dinner tonight. Suddenly tout le monde is sympathetic. But the most sympathetic of all is le pharmacien, whose job it is to sell me un traitement.

I ask for a salt water nose spray and le pharmacien returns with two cans of a new brand that I have never heard of. "I only need one can," I point out.

"C'est une meilleure affaire," he explains. "Deux pour un" or "two for one" as we say in English.

"But is it REAL salt water. De la vraie?" I ask.

He assures me that it is and piles the cans into a bag along with some powders and chalky disks that fizz will fizz when I add water to them.

I walk out of la pharmacie, my pockets now 15 euros lighter. I know my husband is right and that I should have gone to the doctor. A doctor visit costs 20 euros and the prescribed medications would have been reimbursed (health care payments) along with the visit.

By the next morning the children are fussing over me:

"Ça va maman? Tu te sens mieux ce matin?"

"Yes, Max. Thank you. I do feel a little better."

"A tes souhaits, maman!" Jackie says when I sneeze. "Pauvre maman..." 

I smile appreciatively at my little nurses. Le médicament helps some, but it is les mots that soothe the most when we are sick, n'est-ce pas?


As-tu téléphoné au medecin?
= Have you called the doctor?

c'est hors de question = it is out of the question

un microbe (m) = a germ

la salle d'attente (f) = the waiting room

prends un Dolipran = take a (paracetamol tablet)

ça te fera du bien = that'll make you feel better

vas-y, mets toi au lit = go ahead and get in bed

tout le monde = everybody

le pharmacien = the pharmacist

un traitement (m) = a treatment

une meilleure affaire (f) = a better deal

de la vraie = the real (thing)

n'est-ce pas = isn't that so?

pauvre maman = poor mommy

le médicament (m) = medicine

La Ciotat 8.16.03 047
One of my little nurses, Jackie.

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