trottoir

   Sidewalk / Trottoir restaurant chalk board menu, France, brick path (c) Kristin Espinasse, www.french-word-a-day.com
   a sidewalk under autumn leaves in the Varois village of Flayosc

le trottoir (troh-twahr) noun, masculine
  1.  sidewalk, footpath, pavement

[from trotter (to trot)]

Hear my son, Max, pronounce the French word "trottoir": Download trottoir.wav

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Expressions:
le trottoir roulant = moving walkway or "travelator"
le trottoir couvert = arcaded sidewalk
faire le trottoir = to "walk the streets"

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Citation du Jour:
Pardonnez à ceux qui vous ont offensé et apprenez à changer de trottoir.
Forgive those who have offended you, and learn to change sidewalks.

--Jérôme Riquier

......................................
A Day in a French Life...

"La Collecte de Fonds"

I sped up to the trottoir before easing my car's right front tire onto the curb. Next, I inched the vehicle forward until the second tire climbed the curb, level with the first. Voilà, curbside parking à la française.

As I waited in the warm bagnole for my children's school to let out, my eyes traveled up to the window in the bâtiment across the street. Each day I park my car as mentioned and each day I look for the grandma in the window. There, behind the chipped flowerpots with their thirsty, petal-thinning marguerites, beyond the dull window and the parted lace curtains, I see the soft outline. That's when I lower the volume on my radio, not wanting to annoy la mémé in the window.

This afternoon two men, dressed identically in navy blue uniforms and black steel-toed boots, approached la porte just below Mémé's window and rang the sonnette. I looked up, noting Mémé had disappeared from behind the curtain. She must be on her way down the stairs to open the door, I thought. Anticipation grew as I realized I was about to see the full version of Mémé and
not just a puff of gray hair and a dark profile.

The men continued to ring when, upon closer look, I realized they might be paramedics. "Mémé!" I rolled down my window and shouted, "Elle est là! Je l'ai vue! Allez-y--foncez!" She's there! I saw her! Go ahead--charge on in!

"Merci, madame," they replied, casually. That's when I saw the calendars under one of the pompier's arms. And then it clicked. Mémé hadn't fallen ill. Mémé was hiding from the firemen, in order to get out of forking over 10 euros for the Firefighter Fundraising Calendar. And she might have gone unnoticed--until a clueless bonne Samaritaine went blowing her cover.

...................................................................................................................
References: le trottoir (m) = sidewalk; voilà = (and) there you have it; la bagnole (f) = car; le bâtiment (m) = building; la marguerite (f) = daisy; mémé (f) = endearment for grandma; la porte (f) = door; la sonnette (f) = doorbell; le pompier (m) = firefighter; bon(ne) samaritain(e) = good samaritan

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


pinceau

  old French facade - vieille façade française (c) Kristin Espinasse
  Window and clothesline above an old shop in the village of Les Arcs-sur-Argens.

pinceau
pehn-so
noun, masculine
paintbrush


Breezing past our living room, Jean-Marc is wearing a long African robe and a five o'clock shadow. In his left hand he is holding a small can of touch-up paint and in his right, a wet paintbrush.

I have grown to accept my husband's taste in lounge wear and the fact that he sees no reason to change into work clothes for his latest DIY project.

For a nostalgic moment I remember back to when he bought that robe, or "boubou". It was in '92, during one of his missions d'audit in Africa. Though he did not like his short stint as an accountant, he loved Djibouti. When he wasn't stuck in an office verifying spreadsheets at a local petroleum company, Jean-Marc enjoyed fishing with the locals in a deep, blue bay along the sea.

"Ça va, Mr. Touch-up?" I tease, following my husband through the house. I can't help but want to put in my two cents' worth. "You missed a spot! T'as oublié celle-la!"

The man in the robe responds by playfully poking me in the nose with the wet end of the pinceau. When I complain, he counters: "C'est lavable à l'eau."

Moving quickly through our little house, Jean-Marc brushes paint over child-size fingerprints and across chipped baseboards in a  quest to cover up grease marks, scuffs, and smudges.

"Grab a paintbrush!" he calls, when passing by the kids' rooms. "Allez, on y va!"

Because Mr. Touch-up forgets to mention where he's been, the kids and I are never sure just which surfaces are wet and when to watch out. It is the cream-colored streak across the seat of my pants (where I've backed into a wet wall) or beneath Max's palm or on Jackie's fingertip that reminds us that the touch-up artist has struck again. Touché!


Your Edits Here! Thanks for checking grammar and punctuation. Is the story clear enough? Good to go? Share your thoughts, here in the comments box. P.S. don't forget to check the vocab section. It will appear in the book as you see it here... Thanks!

French Vocabulary

le boubou
African tunic

une mission d'audit
an audit

Ça va?
everything all right?

t'as oublié celle-là
you forgot this one

le pinceau
 (m)
paintbrush

c'est lavable à l'eau
it's washable with water

allez! on y va!
come on! let's go!

touché!
gotcha!

 

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


épine

Jean-Marc arranges rose on a bed of oursins / sea urchins (c) Kristin Espinasse Jean-Marc busy with the 'mise en scène' for his next wine article. (The bottle is lying on a bed of sea urchins.)

une épine (ay-peen) noun, feminine
1. thorn, prickle, spine

Also: épine dorsale = backbone

Listen:
Hear the word "épine" pronounced: Download epine.wav

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Expressions:
être sur des épines = to be on pins and needles
tirer à quelqu'un une épine du pied = to relieve someone's mind or to get someone out of a mess

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Citation du Jour:
La vie est une rose dont chaque pétale est une illusion et chaque épine une réalité. / Life is a rose whose every petal is an illusion and each thorn a reality. --Alfred de Musset

.....................................
A Day in a French Life...

At a sandy Mediterranean crique* near the seaside town of Les Issambres, separated from St. Raphaël by a deep blue gulf, we closed our weekend on a rich, sea-salty note. If you factored out the cloudless sky, you'd see how the reddish blur of the Esterel mountains capped the busy French city en face* like an Arizona sunset.

During the half-hour drive from our village to the plage,* I quizzed Jean-Marc on his favorite appetizer.
"Do you know the other French term for oursin?"*
To my surprise, he didn't.

"Une châtaigne de mer!" I said, pleased to know something French that he didn't. When Jean-Marc found the term 'sea chestnut' endearing, I offered him the English (un)equivalent which is 'sea hedgehog.'

As my masked Frenchman headed out to sea, I wished him "Bon oursinade!"
"That will come later," he reminded me.
True, an oursinade is the "feasting on sea urchin soup" and not the hunting of sea urchins.
"Then... bonne pêche!" Happy fishing! I called out.

Apart from the mask, Jean-Marc wore thick rubber sandals and carried his formidable mop-spear (half mop, half fork, a do-it yourself tool he'd rigged together on a previous sea urchin outing). Back at home, he'd swiped my laundry basket and was dragging that out to sea as well...

Eventually, Max and Jackie swam out to the tiny rock island, and helped their father collect the 'sea chestnuts'.  Jean-Marc returned to shore first, barefoot, followed by the kids who'd tucked a half-dozen oursins into their father's size 12 plastic shoes before floating their catch back.

The four of us sat on our beach towels, the laundry basket full of sea urchins at our feet, admiring the colorful spiny creatures. Beneath the setting sun the urchins showed their brilliant colors in copper, violet and khaki.

Jean-Marc used shearing scissors (another object lifted from our bathroom, along with the panier à linge*) to open the prickly spears, revealing a star pattern inside consisting of sea urchin eggs.

"Bon appétit!" one passerby called out.

We didn't have spoons and were obliged to lick the strips of orange roe from the shell, taking care not to get stabbed by an épine* in the process.

I watched my husband savor the delicate orange 'fruits of the sea,' washing the roe down with a splash of rosé wine.

"Rien de plus simple," he said.  "Rien de plus bon."*

...................
*References: la crique (f) = cove, inlet; en face = facing; la plage (f) = beach; un oursin (m) = sea urchin; le panier à linge = clothes hamper; l'épine (f) = spine; Rien de plus simple. Rien de plus bon. = Nothing simpler. Nothing better.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


tiède

Tiede

          A pigeon's life... tiring of tossed crumbs and considering take-out

Tiède

(tee-ed)

adjective

tepid, lukewarm

For our eleventh wedding anniversary dinner, mon mari chose a restaurant facing the midnight-blue sea in the old Catalan village of Collioure.

I had carefully ironed a two-piece ensemble en lin and applied an extra dusting of bronzing powder sur les pommettes in preparation for our romantic celebration. On my way out of the hotel's narrow salle-de-bain, I noticed Jean-Marc seated on the edge of the bed, watching the Grand Prix de Brésil. He was ready to go, dressed in his favorite Châteauneuf-du-Pape T-shirt.

"Are you sure it's a good idea to wear that here in Banyuls wine country?" I asked. The etiquette question was only a pretext to get him to change out of that bright orange T-shirt! Did he have to wear it on our special night out?

My husband grinned. The wrinkly T-shirt favori would stay with him.

We walked from our hotel to the seaside restaurant, where the employees were slow to greet us. "It's the end of the season," Jean-Marc pointed out. "They're probably tired and fed up with serving the tourists."


With dragging feet, the waiter led us to a room that looked more like a hospital cafeteria than a Michelin non-starred restaurant. Plastic plants did little to warm up the sterile, gris-sur-blanc atmosphere. Only two other tables were taken; I heard French spoken at the one, English at the other. 

Jean-Marc studied the carte des vins while I went over the menu. When the sommelier appeared, my husband had a few questions about the wine; he was searching for a fruity red to go with his meal, one that would also complement his anchovy appetizer.

The wine steward said he did not have a young, local wine, so Jean-Marc set his sights on a rosé. Disappointed to learn they had no half-bottles of rosado, Jean-Marc settled for a demi-bouteille of Collioure red 2002—the vintage being a little older than Monsieur had wished for.

Jean-Marc lifted the glass of champagne he had ordered as an apéritif. Before it even reached his mouth, he was shaking his head. "C'est tiède."

Hoping to get him to quit fussing, I reached over and touched the glass to find out for myself. It felt fine to me.

"No, it's warm," Jean-Marc insisted. "Champagne should be chilled!"

Things heated up quickly when a bug was discovered just beneath the flute's rim.

"Un moustique!" Jean-Marc removed the insect from inside the glass, wiping it on the table. (I looked the other way, hoping to erase the squishy image from my mind.)

Undeterred, Jean-Marc took a sip of the bubbly, only to push the glass away. "Tiède!"

I was dumbstruck when he reached over, plucked up the mosquito carcass, and returned it to the inside wall of the glass. Next, he summoned the waiter.

"You didn't have to do that!" I whispered. "You could have just told the waiter the bug was there!" I have read about customers who do just this sort of thing—bug placement!—in order to change orders on a whim or to avoid paying for something. I did not want the waiter to confuse my husband with "one of them"—one of the buggers!

When the waiter returned, Jean-Marc complained about the mosquito and the fact that the champagne was tiède. The waiter's response was to return with another lukewarm glass of champagne.

Jean-Marc took matters into his own hands, this time asking for un seau of ice. Visibly ruffled, he explained, "A waiter should always pour the champagne in the client's presence. Did you notice that both times he brought the glass, already filled, from the kitchen? The same is true for wine ordered by the glass. They should pour it at the table so that you are sure of what you are getting."

No matter how uncomfortable I was about my husband's exigence, I was impressed by his knowledge of restaurant etiquette—not the kind we diners are supposed to have (elbows off table, chew with mouth shut) but the kind the wait staff are supposed to practice.

While the flute of champagne chilled in the bucket, Jean-Marc began to critique the red wine that had already been served. Apparently, it was tiède as well.

Enough was enough. "You are a wine snob!" I said, pushing my menu away with a sigh of impatience.

"Je ne suis pas wine snob!" he replied. "Wine snobs buy the most expensive wines without looking for a better price/quality ratio," Jean-Marc explained. "A wine snob will walk into a store and ask for the most expensive Côtes du Rhone. That is a wine snob!"

As I learned the difference between a wine snob and a wine buff, I watched my husband of eleven years from across the table. His serious face was in direct contrast to the crinkly orange Châteauneuf-du-Pape T-shirt that he would wear, like a uniform, throughout our romantic weekend. No, he was no snob, wine or otherwise.


Your Edits Here please. Does the story read smoothly? Thanks for pointing out any grammar errors or typos, here in the comments box. Did you notice any words missing from the vocabulary section? 



French Vocabulary

mon mari
my husband 

en lin
made of linen

sur les pommettes
 (f)
on the cheekbones

la salle de bain(s)
bathroom

le Grand Prix de Brésil
Formula One championship car race in Brazil

Banyuls
a kind of wine made in the Roussillon county of France

favori, favorite
favorite

gris-sur-blanc
gray-on-white

la carte des vins
wine list

le sommelier
wine steward

le rosado
slang for rosé wine

la demi-bouteille
a half bottle or 37.5 cl 

monsieur (as in monsieur difficile)
mister, mister picky

un apéritif
drink 

c'est tiède
it's warm (not chilled)

le moustique
mosquito 

le seau
bucket

l'exigence
demanding nature 

Je ne suis pas wine snob (snob de vin)!
I am not a wine snob!

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


aile

French window in Saignon, Provence (c) Kristin Espinasse

Photo taken in the village of Saignon.


libellule

lee-bay-lewl

noun, feminine

dragonfly

 

The flapping sound seemed to be coming from the other side of the bedroom window. I got out of bed and unlatched the wooden volets, which allow the midnight breeze to cool the room.

The fluttering continued as I searched along the windowsill, down to the patio just below. Pauvre bête, a winged insect must have fallen on its back. Its world was now turned upside down! I imagined its helpless, feet-to-the-sky predicament. It would starve or be eaten by another critter of the night!

Tap! Tap! Tap! A noise sprung up from behind me. Startled, I spun around. 

My ears tuned in to a shuffling sound over by the table de nuit. Was my hearing playing tricks on me? Had the creature been there all along? 
.
What had been compassion turned into a creepy feeling (the creepy-crawly had been so close—right beside the mattress!). Returning to the bed, I calmly switched on the lamp. With my cheek flush against the wall, I peered back behind the table.

There it was! The horrifying life form! 

Writhing in anger, its worm-like body twisted as it struggled. Was it a mille-pattes? The name was terrifying enough! Imagine une bestiole with one thousand feet!

In one effective jerk I was standing on the bed.
"Sois calme," I told myself. Tu peux gérer!

I slowly pulled the nightstand away from the wall to study my abominable suite-mate. Examining the insect's wormy body, four iridescent "double wings" came into view....

Une libellule! I recognized the creature from our tableware. I have a set of plates depicting the popular winged insect that is glorified on everything from Provençal tablecloths to glassware! I dropped to the floor for a closer look, unafraid now of what I could identify.

"Ouf, it is only you!" I studied the dragonfly. My chills subsided. "Time to get back on your feet!" 

With the help of an odd scrap of paper, I guided the wayward creature, coaxing it gently along the wall to the window. I watched as the libellule teetered at the edge of the scrap paper precipice, the dark night gently calling it forth.

We paused at the window, one of us peering down at the patio. It seemed an awfully long drop-off for a recovering dragonfly....

A wobbly step or two and off it went, advancing into the night in an uneven fashion. It looked like an old man on crutches, zigzagging forth on the breeze of eternity. 

 


Your Edits Here. Thank you for pointing out any grammar or punctuation problems  in the comments box. Many thanks! 

 

 French Vocabulary 

le volet = shutter
la pauvre bête
 = poor thing
une table (f) de nuit = a nightstand
le mille-pattes = centipede, millepede
une bestiole = creature
sois calme = stay calm
tu peux gérer! = you can handle this!
une libellule = dragonfly
ouf! = phew!

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


la lunette

       Lunettes
           My husband, Jean-Marc, and son Max last summer...
.........................................................................................................
Words_in_a_french_life Words in a French Life: "...a heart-winning collection from an American woman raising two very French children with her French husband in Provence, carrying on a lifelong love affair with the language."
...........................................................................................................
la lunette (lew-net) noun, feminine
  1. telescope
  2. les lunettes = (pair of) glasses
  3. toilet seat

--from the French word "lune" (moon) (due to its shape).

...............................................
Related terms and Expressions:

un étui à lunettes = an eyeglasses case
la lunette arrière = rear window
porter des verres = to wear glasses
les lunettes de soleil = sunglasses
chausser mieux ses lunettes = to pay more attention
un nez à porter des lunettes = a big nose (a nose for wearing glasses)
voir les choses par le petit bout de la lunette = to have tunnel vision or a narrow outlook

...and in English there is the phrase "lunette window" for the piece of cloth that covers the eye of an ornery (or lunatic?) horse.

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Citation du Jour
Les lunettes cachent beaucoup de choses--même une larme dans l'oeil.
Glasses hide a lot of things--even a tear in the eye.
--Sören Kierkegaard

.........................................
A Day in a French Life...

Hand in hand my daughter and I traverse the modern section of our medieval village. When we pass in front of the magasin de lunettes* I slow, turn briefly toward the shop, and wave. Almost as soon as my hand reaches up I quickly tug it back down again.

"Who is that?" Jackie asks.
"A friend."

                                            *   *   *

Originally, "lunette" meant "little moon." The word is now commonly used in French for objects with a crescent shape, such as eyeglasses, and even toilet seats.

Last week I stopped into the lunetterie* to get my shades or "little moons" adjusted. The unbespectacled shop assistant was in the back of the store. She smiled, pointed to the telephone, which was at her ear, and said, "J'arrive! I'll be right there!" I shook my head, raised an arm and waved my hand. She needn't worry about serving me right away. After all, I wasn't going to pay.

The fact that I wasn't going to pay kept me from stepping pied* in an optical shop for the last two years. For my timidity, I put up with sunglasses tumbling down my face or seated lopsided--like a parked teeter-totter--atop my nose. The lenses, which are 'de vue,'* had long ago popped out. How many times had I recuperated les verres* from the sidewalk, only to wrestle them back in again? These same lenses now sat unevenly in the frame's sockets.

Eyeglass boutiques worldwide (it seems) do not charge to adjust frames. I always feel uneasy as the shop assistant puts his or her work aside to tend to my lopsided lunettes.

This time I solved the dilemma by bringing along a pourboire.* I tucked five euros into my pocket and headed for the optical shop. The boutique assistant put the phone down and said, "A vous, madame." I showed her my glasses, apologizing for their tattered état,* then watched her push and mold the frame back into shape.

"Essayez-les," she said now and again. When the glasses were finally adjusted and snug against my face, I promised I would never again push them back as a makeshift hair band (therein lay their demise time after time).

Next, the dreaded question: "Combien je vous dois?"*
And the predictable reply:  "Rien."*
I smiled knowingly and handed her five euros.
"Non. Rien!" she insisted.
I thanked her and mentioned that I would need a few post cards. In a haphazard fashion, I pulled together a half-dozen cartes postales,* trying to get the sum to add up to 5 euros.

The shop assistant counted the cards and said, "Trois euros soixante, s'il vous plaît."* I handed her the five euro note and told her to please keep the change.
"Non." she repeated. Next, she looked me directly in the eyes and said firmly:

"Les bons comptes font des bons amis."
(Good accounts make good friends.)

..............................................................................................
*References: le magasin de lunettes (m) = optical shop; la lunetterie (f) = frame maker; le pied (m) = foot; de vue = prescription (lenses); les verres (mpl) = lenses; le pourboire (m) = tip; l'état (m) = condition; combien je vous dois? = how much do I owe you?; rien = nothing; la carte postale (f) = postcard; trois euros soixante = three euros sixty

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


gaver

   Agayrocher
         The seaside town of Agay, near Fréjus and just east of St-Raphael.

gaver (gah-vay) verb

  1. to force-feed; to fill up (with)

...and in English there is the noun "gavage" (gah-vazh): a feeding for someone who will not or cannot eat.

Expressions and Related Terms:

en avoir jusqu'au gaviot = to be stuffed, to have eaten too much
gaver quelqu'un = to stuff someone with food
se gaver de = to stuff oneself with
une gavade = (a synonym would be "un goinfrerie" or piggery)
Tu me gaves = (I am fed up with you (talking)).

L'éducation ne consiste pas à gaver, mais à donner faim.
Education consists not in stuffing, but in giving one an appetite.--Michel Tardy


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

What? The French Pig Out? 

Eighteen transats are lined up across the Mediterranean seafront. We loungers sit in clusters surrounded by an arsenal of sun cream, stacks of magazines, and our twenty sand-cloaked offspring. Welcome to the rendez-vous Agay, where Jean-Marc and eight of his high school pals--and their wives--reunite once a year in a cozy seaside escape just east of Marseilles.

Two of the nine wives are wearing the top half of their swimsuit; the others are seins nus. We flip through Madame Figaro, Elle and Marie-Claire.

"Tiens!" my neighbor says, pointing to her magazine. "It seems one-pieces are à la mode this season."

I nervously adjust my haut. Just when I've set aside insecurites--and donned a two-piece--the fashion authorities are now touting one pieces! 

Never mind. I never know what to wear anyway. Might as well practice social skills. I turn to Sophie who is applying cream to her daughter. After a decade in France, I'm still tongue-tied when it comes to a natural conversation with my husband's high school friends. I wish I could be as breezy and as funny as the women in this group. I can always try....

"T'as vu comme on s'est jetté sur la nourriture hier soir? Did you see how we threw ourselves on the food last night?" I say to the mom next to me. 

"C'était une vraie gavade! It was a real pig-out!" Sophie laughed, recapping the sun cream and pitching the bottle into a wicker beach tote.

Ouf! I'd made my friend laugh and learned something in the process--a new French word: gavade. I recognized the delightful sounding noun as a Marseillais term (from the verb "gaver"--to stuff). I'll bet you didn't think such a verb existed in the French language what with so many figure-conscious Frenchies? Oh, si!

I was now laughing along with Sophie, thinking of the previous night when seventeen positively chic French citizens and one American "resident of France" turned into one spinning, clawing mass of arms and mouths--Hunger personified....

Panick had arisen after someone miscalculated the number of pizzas needed for all of us adults and our kids! That's when our normally laid-back friends became a human pizza tornado.

We had begun with our ethics intact, serving the kids first until somehow the lines between where the children's meal ended and our repas began became blurred. I noticed that 6 bottles of wine remained untouched as the French turned their attention to the boxes of pizza and to the few remaining pies inside them. Next, all pride was set aside.

When the unseemly gavade was over the French returned to their more disciplined selves--reaching for the sopalin and wiping the corners of their mouths. With all evidence erased someone popped a cork and, for most, memories of the pig out were washed away with the rosé.

*    *    *

More stories in the book Blossoming in Provence. Makes a great gift for a language learner or traveler. Click here to order.

French Vocabulary

le transat = deck chair
les seins nus = topless
tiens = take a look at this
à la mode = in fashion
le haut = top
Marseillais = from/of Marseilles
si = yes ("si" indicates a positive response to a negative question. Ex.: "Vous n'avez pas faim?" "Si! J'ai faim."
le repas = meal
le sopalin = paper towel
le rosé, rouge, blanc = rose, red, white

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Bonjour AuRevoir doormat

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Agay coastline (c) Kristin Espinasse
The coastline, or le littoral, in the seaside town of Agay.

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Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


emporter

La Vannerie = Wickerwork (c) Kristin Espinasse
                    Les paniers for sale in Aix-en-Provence 

petit sac pour emporter les restes
noun, masculine
peuh-tee-sak-poor-ahm-por-tay-lay-rest
doggy bag

 


One of the first cultural differences I encountered after moving to the land of bistros was this: they don't do doggy bags in la France! 

In 1990, in Aix-en-Provence, a plate of egg rolls separated me from my future husband. Egg rolls in France are different from those in the States. In France, Asian restaurants serve the fried rouleaux with sprigs of mint and leaves of lettuce in which to roll them. Les Nems, as they are called, are Jean-Marc's and my favorite entrée, and we usually order so many that by the time the main course arrives we are too full to finish it.

At the end of that first shared meal in the restaurant chinois, we had our first leftovers. I explained to Jean-Marc that les restes in America go into doggy bags.  Jean-Marc was amused by the funny term and  his practical side was quickly won over by the concept. But when he tried out the idea on the waitress, asking her to wrap up the remaining food on our plates, she showed neither amusement nor practicality. In fact, she looked a bit put out by the request. 

After Jean-Marc persisted, the waitress returned with an empty plastic tub which, judging from the label, had formerly held pistachio ice cream. She pried open the container and slid the contents of both plates inside. I watched doubtfully as the sweet-and-sour shrimp was poured right over the canard laqué, and the riz cantonais was heaped directly on top. 

"Ça ira?" As the waitress scraped off the last grain of rice from the plates, her exaggerated gesture embarrassed me, cheapening an otherwise romantic evening. 

Walking down Aix's narrow and winding cobblestone streets after the meal, I suggested to Jean-Marc that maybe it was not a good idea, after all, to ask restaurants to wrap up food. It was too awkward for everyone involved when the servers had to go scavenging for odd containers in order to be accommodating.

Jean-Marc disagreed. It was a very good idea, he assured me—no more wasted food. The French would do well to adopt the practice of asking for a doggy bag!

"But they are not doggy-bag equipped here, so there's no use trying to save the food!" As I argued my point, I walked right into a street beggar. Suddenly, three sets of eyes bounced off each other.

"Bonsoir, monsieur," Jean-Marc spoke first. 

I watched my date, who smiled as he crouched to the ground, offering the homeless man the "useless" invention. Le doggy bag

The homeless man nodded his appreciation. A long pause ended, and Jean-Marc and I walked on. I pulled my boyfriend's arm close. This one was a keeper.

 

***

Your edits appreciated. Does the story read clearly? Should it be included in the book? See the comments box at the end of this edition to leave an edit or feedback.

French Vocabulary

le rouleau
roll

le nem
a kind of fried egg roll

une entrée
starter, hors d'oeuvre

le restaurant chinois
Chinese restaurant

les restes (mpl)
leftovers

le canard laqué
Peking Duck 

le riz cantonais
fried rice 

ça ira
will that do?

Bonsoir, monsieur
Good evening, sir

 

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


le pissenlit

Cimetiere

le pissenlit
(pee-sahn-lee)
noun, masculine
dandelion

Note: the first paragraph of this story was just re-worked! Thanks, red-penners, for the suggestions you sent in. To see what the opening looked like before the chances, see the comments box.


The Mistral wind is sweeping through the cimetière here in Les Arcs-sur-Argens. Strolling alone on an afternoon walk, I am amazed to see parts of the medieval burial site literally lift off! When you live in a 12th-century village, I guess you can expect a crumbling graveyard. What crumbles turns to dust. I wonder, eerily, whether it is this dust that is making me cough as I make my way through the maze of carved stone and iron.

I look around the medieval cemetery at the tombstones, the freestanding mausoleums, the barren plots topped with gravel—plots so old that the names have disappeared from the headstones, or the stones have disappeared altogether after cracking, crumbling and finally being carried off by the wind. On top of dozens of plots, only a lopsided iron cross remains. In one corner of the graveyard there is a pile of broken stone, bits and pieces of statues that have fallen from certain plots, crashed to the ground, only to be swept together in one big heap. I wonder what the groundskeeper is planning on doing with these "ornaments"? I think about how such relics are an antiquarian's gold mine (in fact, wouldn't that broken cherub's wing look great in my bedroom?). I kick myself for letting such an odd thought cross through my mind. I decide to think about language instead.

The French have a colorful expression for "dead and buried": manger les pissenlits par les racines ("to eat dandelions by the root"). Will I one day be buried here in this French necropolis? The question haunts me each time I set foot in a cimetière. Though France feels more like home than Phoenix, I couldn't be more misplaced than in this French graveyard!

It occurs to me that I'll truly be anchored to France the day I lie down pour de bon. Might as well get to know my future neighbors.... I look at the names on the tombstones: Famille Lorgues, Famille Blanc, Famille Bressin... I am an Ingham by birth—Famille Ingham. I think about the cemetery in Seattle where the Inghams are buried. Somehow it doesn't seem like a place to spend eternity on earth either.

Well, what about Phoenix? I try to remember whether I have ever seen a cemetery in The Valley of the Sun. Cemeteries in the desert are so... hidden, not like in France, where the subterranean dortoirs exist at the top of every picturesque village.

No, I don't want to be stuck out in the desert, with nothing but a scrawny desert rat scrambling by, or a few lazy tumbleweeds bumping into my headstone before tumbling on towards Tucson.

Maybe I'll be buried in Fuveau, near Aix-en-Provence? That is where the Espinasse family rests. I realize that I have never met any of the family buried there. No, this is no final home for the future moi either.

Perhaps it is the "forever" aspect that bothers me?  As it is, I can leave France whenever I choose to,  return to the desert whenever I wish. But once I hit subterranean France, my vagabond days will be over, kaput.

Standing there alone, I look around at the cramped grave site, and realize—not without soulagement—that there is no room within this walled community for me. And, just as it always is when I begin to fret about the outcome of things, Madame Here and Monsieur Now appear, in time to offer a needed reminder. I take the hint and reach down to pluck up a stray dandelion.

"Souffle!" they command. "Blow!" And so I do, before watching the seeds fly off—so many tiny encapsulated "what ifs" now scatter toward the sun and gently disappear.

 

French Vocabulary

un cimetière
cemetery

pour de bon
for good

le dortoir
dormitory

le soulagement
relief

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


malentendu

DSC_0062
A pizza parlor in Nyons.

malentendu
(ma-lahn-tahn-dew)
noun, masculine
misunderstanding.



Recently, the kids and I were invited to my husband's office for a "Welcome the New Employee" apéritif. The three of us Q-tipped our ears and shined our shoes in hopes of looking our best before heading over to Jean-Marc's new office to hear him speak.

After the apéro, a few of the employees, along with the director and the company's founder, decided to dine at a nearby eatery. When we were invited to join them, I signaled sharply to the kids as a reminder that we must keep our act together! 

At the reception desk, we waited patiently for our table. To pass the time, the men smoked clopes, the children played a game of pool, and I maintained my new role of Delightful Wife. 

Our act was running smoothly when one of us began rocking from foot to foot. No matter how hard I tried, I could not hold it any longer and so tottered over to the reception desk to ask a pertinent question:

"Where is the 'vaysay' please?" I posed my question in French, trying hard to pronounce the unusual word for "restroom."

"Vaysay?" the receptionist questioned. Confused, she turned to her colleague, who tried to translate. 

"I think she's asking for un whiskey." 

Shocked as much by the misunderstanding as by the indelicate manner in which the women spoke about me (as if I were invisible!), I shot a casual look over my shoulder to assess any damage to our family's carefully constructed first impression. What a relief to find the director and the boss carrying on as if they hadn't heard a thing.

I returned my attention to the women behind the desk. 
"No! Vay-say. I would like.... un toilet!" I whispered, hoping to shush them up, but it was too late. 

"Madame wants a whiskey!" the receptionist shouted over to the maître d', who stood across the room at the bar.

It took a few flailing arms to get my point across, at which point the maître d' offered a VIP escort—past the director and the boss and over to the restroom. So much for avoiding a scene. Next time, best not to act


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French Vocabulary
une clope 
= a cigarette
vay-say = pronunciation for "W-C" (water-closet, or restroom)
un apéro  = short for "aperitif," or drink. Apéritif also refers to a cocktail party
maître d' = le maître d'hôtel = headwaiter

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!