lumière

Fountain robinet (c) Kristin Espinasse
Flowers drinking in the lumière next to an unsolicited fountain.


Lumière


(loo-mee-air)

noun, feminine

light



The memory of that midsummer night is quickly fading and my mind's eye must squint for the scene to come into view again, fragmented and incomplete.

I can just see the subject in the foreground and how the light playing upon him, along with the quiet night, made for a breathtaking still life.

Just what shade of orange was it washing over the plateaus along the landscape of his back? Tangerine comes to mind.

I should have missed the color—sunburst orange?—what with the fine-lined paperback before me, stealing my vision.

It was the rustling leaves that beckoned, that had my eyes leaving the page to refocus on the chestnut tree outside and to the blue cypress hedge below before returning to the room, riding the night's breeze, to my husband slumbering beside me.

My mind watches now as the street light throws an orangey glow over the outspoken curves of his back. There, between darkness and lumière, I glimpse the drama of here and now.

I flip a page in the paperback... only to pause before the text: do the words that I am reading have as much mystery, beauty, or meaning?

I close my book and read the moment instead.
.

 

*   *   *
.

Terms & Expressions:
  la lumière douce = soft light
  à la lumière de la lune = by moonlight
  un torrent de lumière = a flood of light
  la lumière artificielle = artificial light
  la lumière du jour = daylight
  une année lumière = a light-year

And There Was Light tells the gripping, heroic story of the early life of Jacques Lusseyran, an inspiring individual who overcame the limitations of physical blindness by attending - literally - to the light within his own mind.

 

Ce n'est pas la lumière qui manque à notre regard, c'est notre regard qui manque de lumière. It is not the light which misses our gaze, it is our gaze which misses the light. --Gustave Thibon

 

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paresse

Paresse
Lazy days at a beach in Cavalière, along the Blue Coast.


Paresse

(par-ess)

noun, feminine

laziness, idleness ; sloth

 

By the time my aunt and uncle from San Francisco arrived for a three-day visit, my home, my yard, my kids, my spouse, my dog and I, all in our Sunday best, were as put together as a family of paper dolls. All I needed to do for the next 72 hours was keep our cut-out cover-ups from blowing off: keep the kids from wiping their mouths with the backs of their hands, keep my husband from leaving the bathroom door open (while he occupied it!), keep the puppy from having indigestion and keep myself from feeling the need to explain the greasy fingerprints on the wall and the still-needs-fixin' front gate. It isn't often that I see my American family, so when they come to France I can't help but want them to believe that I've finally "arrived"... when the truth is I'm still zigzagging along Le Grand Chemin de la Vie.

Not 24 hours into last week's masquerade, my paper-thin façade was literally falling off. It began with that monster spot in the back of my car....

A little while back, one of our kids knocked over a bottle of water, soaking the back seat of our Citroën. When a large water stain appeared, I saturated the tache with spot cleaner, only, when I went to remove the powder, the vacuum cleaner's motor went kaput. The spot, now larger and darker than before, remained. A few more weeks passed... and the tea-colored powder hardened!

The growing and darkening spot represented one great weakness: la paresse. That's right, SLOTH, or "the disinclination to work or exert oneself", a label I've been trying to tear off my person since whiling away many a childhood day in front of I Love Lucy or The Bionic Woman or Pippi Longstocking (while my funny, strong, and adventurous sister, Heidi, did the dishes).

But back to that monstrous tache. On the very first day of my family's visit, the spot was spotted! It happened when my uncle volunteered to take the back seat after I proposed a scenic drive. Noticing the blanket that covered the siège arrière, my curious uncle instinctively tugged at it, instantly revealing The Mutant Monster Tacheand all of my flaws along with it!

"You weren't supposed to see that!" I cried, blowing my own cover. "Everything was supposed to be perfect!"

My uncle was taken aback, either by the spot... or by my confession. After a moment, and in his best French and softest voice, he offered, "Personne n'est parfaite."

After our excursion, by the time I had returned the car keys to the armoire à clés, my uncle had unbolted the back seat, pulled the entire siège unit out of the car, and hosed down its surface. After ten minutes and a little liquid laundry detergent and a scrub brush, the spot was completely gone! "Ce n'était rien." It was nothing, my uncle said.

Two days later I said goodbye to my aunt and uncle. It was while polishing the bathroom mirror that I noticed the apple spice lipstick stain on my cheek. "Stay the way you are," my aunt had said, planting the kiss. "Don't ever change."

True to character, I was a bit slack about removing that lipstick stain, and my aunt's apple spice kiss stayed on my cheek until it eventually wore itself off.


French Vocabulary

Le Grand Chemin de la Vie = Life's Great Path

la tache = stain, spot

Personne n'est parfaite = Nobody's perfect

une armoire à clés = key box

le siège = seat

Your edits here, please.
Did you spot any errors in text or in formatting?  Any words missing from the vocab list? Thank you for submitting any edits here, in the comments box

 

Related Stories

The Sugar Snatchers: my law-abiding aunt and I become partners in crime. Read the story.

 

Apparently a lot of artists and writers shun la paresse:

  Le travail pense, la paresse songe.
  
Work thinks, sloth dreams. --Jules Renard

  La bêtise, c'est de la paresse.
  
Stupidity is laziness. --Jacques Brel

  Pas de chef-d'oeuvre dans la paresse!
  
No masterpiece was ever created by a lazy artist! --Salvador Dali



French Pronunciation:
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce this French quote:
  Seule la paresse fatigue le cerveau.
  Only laziness tires the brain. --Louis Pauwels Download paresse.wav

Related Terms & Expressions:
  paresser (verb) = to laze about
  par pur paresse = out of sheer laziness
  paresse d'esprit = sluggishness of mind

In books:
Matisse Chasing Matisse: A Year in France Living My Dream

Crossword Webster's English to French Crossword Puzzles: Level 2

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chiot

Chiot_2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: My 8-year-old and her new chiot.


Chiot

(she-oh)

noun, masculine

puppy



I once knew a French woman who, every time her husband asked, "Chérie, where are my keys?" (or sunglasses or clopes or...) would answer deviously, "Dans les chiottes!"

Chiottes? My mind conjured up the image of a toilet. I imagined the poor husband's belongings floating inside the bowl... until I realized that the wife had only made a smart-alecky remark. Fed up with racking her brain about the location of another misplaced object, she solved the "Where's My Stuff?" issue in three curt words: In the crapper!

Up until a week ago I could not so much as mumble the word chiot without blushing; the problem being its resemblance to the word chiotte. I had this vague notion that one of the words was associated with a certain four-letter word (rhymes with spit) and, like most students of French, I was afraid to mispronounce either word and end up saying something illicit, or just plain icky. Had I simply looked up the two words in the dictionary and noted the difference in sense and spelling (dog/crapper or chiot/chiotte), not to mention pronunciation (shee-oh/shee-oht), my own issue with the word would have been resolved. Instead I avoided the words—especially when my children brought up a certain one (chiot), as they frequently did over the past five years....

Last Tuesday, I gave in to my children's pleas and one of the "shee" words materialized into a slavering suitemate. "What a sweet puppy you have!" friends now say, followed by a spot of advice. "Ah, a golden retriever! She'll be retrieving alright," they tease. "Don't forget to hide your slippers and that television remote!"

Picturing the chewed up and misplaced objects that were soon to be part of our quotidien, it occurred to me that the next time my own husband absent-mindedly sets down his stuff only to bug me about it with a "Chérie, where are my keys?" I may very well answer as the French woman did (only with a slightly devious twist): Dans le chiot!

French Vocabulary

une clope = a cig (cigarette)
Dans les chiottes! = In the crapper!
les chiottes (f) = "can," "john," "crapper" (la chiotte, singular, is also a slang term for car: "jalopy")
le chiot = puppy
le quotidien = everyday life (routine)
Dans le chiot! = Inside the puppy!


Celui qui dit que le bonheur ne s'achète pas a oublié qu'il y a les petits chiots. / Whoever said you can't buy happiness forgot about little puppies. --Gene Hill


French Pronunciation:
Listen to Max's sentence (he struggles a bit over the English words at the end of the sentence...): On a un petit chiot. C'est un golden retriever. / We have a little puppy. It's a golden retriever.: Download chiot.wav

Children's bi-lingual book: Puppy Finds a Friend: Le Petit Chien Se Trouve Un Ami

In children's books:
Suzette and the Puppy: A Story About Mary Cassatt. The time and place of this gentle story is Paris in the 1870s, when many fine artists were creating the exciting approach to painting called Impressionism. More about this picture book for young children, here.


More examples for the word "chiottes" (slang for toilet) are found in these books:

  1. The Beat Hotel: Ginsberg, Burroughs & Corso in Paris, 1957-1963 by Barry Miles. "Each landing had a Turkish chiotte: a traditional hole-in-the-floor toilet with a raised footprint-shaped platform on either side upon which to position your feet while you squatted. Torn sheets of newspaper hung on a nail in lieu of toilet tissue." Order the book, here.
  2. Travels with a Tangerine: From Morocco to Turkey in the Footsteps of Islam's Greatest Traveler by Tim Mackintosh-Smith (for the term "la nostalgie des chiottes")... more here.
  3. Marianne in Chains: Daily Life in the Heart of France During the German Occupation by Robert Gildea "... thirty of them were insulted by a man shouting, "Aux chiottes, Bucard!' (Dump Bucard!)." More here.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
 
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pétillant

Pétillant

(pay-tee-yahn)

sparkling, bubbly, fizzy 


When I finished mopping the apricot tiles of our home, I considered my next mission: to prevent so many little feet from pottering across the clean carrelage. The messy four o'clock goûter would just have to take place outside today! I would not risk cake crumbs or spilled drinks on this clean floor!

I gathered Max, his two neighborhood friends, and Jackie into a football huddle out on the patio.

"Listen closely. I don't want any of you coming in the house, d'accord? I've just cleaned the floor, and I have GUESTS coming soon."

The French boys turned to Max and Jackie for a translation:

"Elle ne veut pas qu'on aille dans la maison car elle vient de nettoyer par terre et elle a des INVITÉS demain."

The kids gave serious nods of comprehension.

"Understand?" I checked.

"Oui," they confirmed.

Satisfied, I brought out individually wrapped chocolate sponge cakes, fruit and water, and placed a stack of plastic gobelets next to the snacks.

"Do you need anything else?" I inquired.

"Non."

"Sure?"

"C'est bon, merci," they replied, politely.

"Okay, now remember, don't go into the house. Keep it clean for my guests!"

I left the kids and the cakes and went inside to tidy up another room. Ten minutes later I noticed a suspicious calm.... Running for the kitchen, I stumbled onto a trail of sucre!

I followed the crunchy path to its source, at which point my eyes shot out of their sockets on witnessing the sticky scene.

"What ARE you doing?" I questioned my children.

Jackie was holding a plastic cup filled to the brim with just-picked mint leaves. Max was standing beside her, pouring sugar from box to cup; some of the sweet crystals landed inside, but the rest of the sugar hit the rim of the cup and shot out across the floor!

"L'eau à la menthe," Max explained, concentrating on his aim.

Astonished, I followed my son and my daughter outside to where the neighbor boys waited patiently, bottles of sparkling water in hand, ready to pour the eau pétillante into the cups of sugar and mint. Another trail, this time of mint leaves, began at the flower bed and ended beneath the boys' feet.

I observed the kids with the virgin mint juleps in their hands. I noticed how careful they were with their gestures as they raised their full glasses to their mouths for refreshment. They looked my way with smiles of gratitude.

And then it hit me. What I had failed to realize, back inside my spotless house, was that my guests had already arrived! My all-important invités had been here all along! Others twice their size might be on their way over; meantime, here were some visitors with a thirst for life! How much more could a hostess ask for?

I quickly made my way back into the house—across the sticky floor… and over to the sticky freezer door—to get my important guests some more ice for their fancy drinks. It is never too late to be a caring and considerate maîtresse de maison.


French Vocabulary
 
le carrelage = tiled floor
le goûter = afterschool snack
d'accord = okay
Elle ne veut pas qu'on aille dans la maison car elle vient de nettoyer par terre et elle a des INVITÉS demain = She doesn't want us to go in the house because she's washed the floor and has GUESTS tomorrow
le gobelet = cup
c'est bon, merci = it's good, thanks
le sucre = sugar
l'eau (f) à la menthe = water with mint
l'eau (f) pétillante = sparkling water
l'invité(e) = guest
la maîtresse de maison = the "mistress of the house" (hostess)
pétillant(e) = sparkling, bubbly
Did you see any typos or formatting faux pas in this story. Thank you for pointing them out for me, here in the comments box!




French Pronunciation:


Hear Jean-Marc pronounce the word pétillant:
http://french-word-a-day.typepad.com/motdujour/files/petillant.wav
Hear my son Max's sentence: Je me suis servi un verre d'eau pétillante avec de la menthe. (I served myself a glass of sparkling water with mint.): Download petillant4.wav

Quel vin est aussi pétillant, savoureux, enivrant, que l'infini des possibles! What wine is so sparkling, so fragrant, so intoxicating, as possibility!
                                               --Sören Kierkegaard

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
 
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noyau

Marseilles (c) Kristin Espinasse
View from my mother-in-law's apartment, in Marseilles.

Tapenade

(tapenahd)

noun, feminine

olive paste


When my mother-in-law, Michèle-France, looks out the window of her two-room apartment, she can just about see the paquebots leaving Marseilles's Old Port, for Casablanca. That is when the memories of childhood in her beloved Maroc come flowing back.

One floor below, Janine is also staring out to sea from behind her tiny kitchen table, where she sits with her crippled little dog and waits for the telephone to ring.

At times like these, when nostalgia and solitude weigh on their hearts, Michèle-France's 4th floor apartment turns into a spicy olive-paste factory as my mother-in-law puts her petite voisine to work; her neighbor's job is to remove the noyaux from the olives.

Great bowls of hollow black fruit are soon delivered by 3rd Floor Janine up to 4th Floor Michèle-France, who mixes the olives with a couple of bay leaves, some anchovies, capers... and a few top-secret ingredients. The mixture is then marinated overnight. The next morning the mélange is poured into a food processor for grinding.

All that pitting and pulverizing plucks the loneliness right out of the women's souls, and the resulting pots de tapenade have the women on the train in no time, delivering the latest batch of bonheur to family and friends.

On Wednesday, Michèle-France brought over six mustard jars full of tapenade—three flavored with fresh basil leaf, three with red bell pepper—for Max's birthday celebration. As we sat at the table chatting, I spread spoonfuls of the dark olive paste over a sliced baguette before sinking my teeth in... Crunch!

"Janine doesn't always get the pits out of the olives," Michèle-France confided. "She can't see that well. I always know when she's left a noyau behind because my mixer goes CRACK CRACK!"

"Je vois..." I sympathized with my belle-mère as we held our sore jaws in our hands while our own teeth went crack-crack over yet another missed pit. But that didn't stop us from savoring the latest bocal de bonheur, and raising a toast to la petite voisine Janine.

French Vocabulary

le paquebot = liner, steamship
le Maroc = Morocco
la petite voisine, le petit voisin = term of endearment for "little neighbor"
le pot = jar
le mélange = mixture
la tapenade = olive paste made from crushed olives, capers, anchovies, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil
le bonheur = happiness
le noyau = pit
je vois = I see
la belle-mère = mother-in-law
le bocal de bonheur = jar of happiness

 

EDITS HERE, PLEASE!
This story may need a name change ("noyau" or "pit" doesn't capture the theme, which is on helping another, or sharing. "Solidaire" might be good, but it's so similar to the English "solidarity". How about "Tapenade"? or would "Bonheur" be the most fitting, for happiness can be as simple as sharing a simple culinary chore). Any suggestions welcome. Thanks for pointing out any typos, in French or in English, and any other rough spots or inconsistencies! Click here to comment.

 

Listen: hear the word noyau pronounced: Download noyau2.wav

Expressions:
le noyau familial = the family unit
cracher un noyau = to spit out a pit.
des fruits à noyaux = stone-fruit
électrons autour du noyau = electrons around the nucleus

La vie est une cerise. La mort est un noyau. L'amour un cerisier.
Life is a cherry. Death is a pit. Love is a cherry tree.
 --Jacques Prévert

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noeud

A colorful slice of Sète, an historic port on the French Mediterranean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Noeud

(neuh)

noun, masculine

bow


Heading down the couloir, I hear a low hum coming from my daughter's room. Peering around the door, I find Jackie sitting on the floor, one leg extended, the other bent with the knee up. Her arms encircle the bent leg with its scraped genou and her fingers are caught in her shoelaces. With a sigh, she frees her hands from the tangle, only to pick the laces up again before repeating this mantra:

Pour faire un noeud
Je fais une boucle
Je tourne autour
Je passe par le petit trou
et je tire...
...Raté!


To make a bow
I fashion a loop
I circle around it
I pass through the little hole
and pull....
...Missed!

Jackie brushes a lock of hair away from her face and begins again. As my eight-year-old repeats the chant, I can just imagine the pressure she must be under. Earlier, her brother had warned her that if she couldn't tie her shoes by the time she was twelve, she would be la honte of middle school.

I think about my disservice to my daughter in opting for all those Mary Janes and tennis shoes with the Velcro closures. What was a helpful shortcut for a busy mother is now an honteux obstacle for her daughter.

Hands now clasped in supplication, I stand quietly by the door listening to a few more shoelaces-tying attempts:

Pour faire un noeud...
To make a bow...

I watch, front teeth pressing into lower lip, until the last line of  the mantra changes:

...et voilà!
...and there I have it!

With a sigh of relief, I slip away unnoticed and carry on down the hall, my heart swelling. That's my girl!


YOUR EDITS HERE
Thanks for your edits, here.

French Vocabulary

le couloir = hallway, corridor
le genou = knee
la honte = the shame
honteux (honteuse) = disgraceful                                             



Listen
: Hear my son Max pronounce the word "noeud": Download noeud2.wav
Hear Jackie say "un noeud de chaussure" (a bow): Download noeud_de_chaussure_2.wav

Also: le noeud papillon = bow tie; le noeud coulant = slipknot

Expressions:
une tête de noeud = an idiot
avoir un noeud dans la gorge = to have a lump in one's throat
un sac de noeuds (sack of knots) = something very difficult
faire un noeud à ses lacets = to knot one's (shoe) laces

References to the French word noeud in litterature:

The Book of Practical Fishing Knots  
The Book of Practical Fishing Knots by Geoffrey Budworth
Le classique des noeuds  
Le classique des noeuds by Franck Ripault
Ecrits: The First Complete Translation in English  
Ecrits: The First Complete Translation in English by Jacques Lacan and Bruce Fink
The Lives of the Great Composers  
The Lives of the Great Composers by Harold C. Schonberg
Hugo's Les Miserables (Cliffs Notes)  
Hugo's Les Miserables (Cliffs Notes) by Amy L. Marsland and George Klin
Piano Roles: A New History of the Piano  
Piano Roles: A New History of the Piano by James Parakilas
André Breton: Surrealism and Painting  
André Breton: Surrealism and Painting by Andre Breton, Mark Polizzotti, Simon Watson Taylor, and André Breton
From the Royal to the Republican Body: Incorporating the Political in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century France  
From the Royal to the Republican Body: Incorporating the Political in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century France by Sara E. Melzer and Kathryn Norberg
Dictionary of Medicine: French-English with English-French Glossary  
Dictionary of Medicine: French-English with English-French Glossary by Svetolik P. Djordjevic

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
 
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toc

French door (c) Kristin Espinasse 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue door in the medieval village of Les Arcs-sur-Argens (Var)

toc-toc

(tok-tok) 

knock knock




Everything about Martine could be known by her knock: unhesitating, energetic, persistent. It was the kind of knock a policeman might use: "Toc-toc-toc! I know you're in there. Come out, come out!"

Though law-abiding, Martine was always on the run. "I passed by your house last night," she'd say, "on my way home from work. Your shutters were open so I closed them for you." I guessed she had figured out that my husband was away a lot on business and that I needed a reminder to lock up my windows for the night as the villagers do. 

When Martine wasn't watching over my home, she was filling it. She brought the children strawberries from the farmers' market and she brought me fresh cabbage—then stayed to stuff and bake it.

"It's good, isn't it?" she'd say, of the stuffed chou. "You love it! It is delicious!" While I ate, she would set about reorganizing my frigo. "All of the condiments go here!" she'd say, gathering the ketchup and the pickles and the tapenade from the back of the fridge and placing them in the door compartments.  

If I complimented her on her dress, she would straighten her five-foot frame, hold her head high, and raise her hand with a flourish. "Je suis belle, non? Just look at me! Bella!"

Her teeth, one slightly and charmingly bent over the other in front, were always showing, because her mouth was always smiling. She was Italian with a dark complexion, her hair was bleached light, her makeup heavy, and her figure—which she decorated with pride—somewhere in between. Martine did not have hang-ups or low self-esteem; she had no time to question or to second-guess. Like her knock—Toc-toc-toc! Come out, come out!—she was direct.

"Get in the car!" she ordered, when personal doubts had begun to consume me. Struggling as a young mother, an étrangère, and a wife, I decided I had nothing to lose by allowing this colorful new friend to steer me out of my tristesse.

Martine drove, speeding across the countryside and over a narrow bridge—edging so close to the guardrail that I shrieked, "Martine!" When I had recovered from the fright, I turned to my friend:

"How do you know you're not going to hit that rail? How can you judge so well?"

"Ce n'est rien! You just need to take driving lessons, know the size of your car—sois confiante!"

True, I thought, forgetting about the guardrail and remembering my earlier self-doubts. It was high time, now, to step confidently into some of the new roles that I had been given since moving to France. Wife, mother, French resident... the ability to fully carry out these roles was there, somewhere, inside of me. I just needed to let go of that guardrail and have confiance

When we had cleared the bridge, Martine abruptly pulled the car over and reached past me to the glove compartment, from which she produced a folded piece of paper.

"Écoute bien," she said. "I am going to read you something...."



                                           *     *     *

(In the next edition: the famous words Martine shared. Click here.)


YOUR EDITS PLEASE
Did you see any typos in this story? Thanks for pointing them out, here.

 

French Vocabulary

toc-toc-toc = knock knock knock

le chou = cabbage

le frigo = fridge

la tapenade = pureed olive spread

je suis belle, non? = I am beautiful, aren't I?

un étranger, une étrangère = foreigner

la tristesse = gloominess

ce n'est rien = it's nothing (it's easy)

sois confiant(e) = be confident

écoute bien = listen closely

la confiance = confidence 


...........................................................
Listen: Hear the word "toc" pronounced Download toc.wav

Quand une porte se ferme, une autre s'ouvre. When one door closes, another one opens. --Miguel de Cervantès
.
Expressions:
Toc, toc. Qui est là? = Knock, knock. Who's there?
et toc! = so there
il est un peu toc toc, celui-là = he's a little crazy, that one

Toc (noun, masculine) can also mean "trash, junk":
  en toc = fake (gem)
  C'est du toc = It's fake
  Ça fait toc = It looks fake

Download martine.wav

Also, the capital letters 'TOC' stand for "troubles obsessionnels compulsifs" ("obsessive compulsive troubles").
.......................................................................................................
  Words in a French Life - order it here.
.......................................................................................................

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
 
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tourterelle

watercolor by Serge Nicolle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

les tourtereaux
(tohr-tewr-elle)noun, plural
lovebirds



Had you been one of the two turtledoves coo-cooing up high on the French telephone fil, you might have spotted another couple, sans plumes, on the patio below.

There, under an old tuile-roofed terrace, just beneath the sleeping bignonia vine, a man and a woman sat, close as the tourterelles on the line above, sharing a small patch of soleil at the end of a long rectangular table, on which their coffee cups rested.

"Tu n'as pas trop froid?" said he.
"No, and you?" said she.

Comme ça, they softly spoke, cooing to one another, each in his (and her) own language.

 

YOUR EDITS HERE
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French Vocabulary

le fil
wire, cable

sans plumes
without feathers

la tuile
tile

le bignonia
trumpet vine

la tourterelle
turtledove

le soleil
sun

tu n'as pas trop froid?
you're not too cold?

comme ça
like that

 

The following text will not be included in the book.

Listen to eight-year-old Jackie, pronounce the word 'tourterelle': Download tourterelle.wav

Synonyms for tourterelle: le pigeon, la colombe (dove), la palombe (ring-dove), le ramier (woodpigeon)

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lance

Roulez au Pastis (c) Kristin Espinasse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Marc with his genial 'mop-spear'. Read on...

 


Lance
(lahnse)
noun, feminine
a spear


While preparing for a romantic getaway, I asked my husband where he had set his suitcase. That was when he informed me he wasn't taking one. I guessed the shirt on his back would be, once again, sufficient for an overnight trip, and that he would just borrow my toothbrush and deodorant, comme d'habitude.

No matter how many times I object—Beurk!—regarding the toothbrush-sharing and—c'est pour les femmes!—concerning the deodorant, he does as he pleases. Such accoutrements and hygienic hassles are unimportant details—downright snags—in his very down-to-earth existence.

Meantime, life beckons with its rugged, cobalt-blue sea and its remote, Mediterranean coves now bursting with succulent sea urchins. Such were the treasures we were about to rediscover over the weekend, on the quaint French island of Porquerolles, where Jean-Marc had reserved a Valentine's Day retreat.

On the eve of our departure, I found my husband in the kitchen fashioning an impromptu spear from a floor mop.

"Where'd you get that?" I questioned, pointing to my mop.

"I didn't think you used it," he said, innocently.

"That's beside the point!"

Rather than argue, Jean-Marc began to pierce holes in one end of the mopstick, having already removed its stringy top....

"Hey! What are you doing?!" I asked as I stood there, goggle-eyed, not sure whether I really cared about the mop, but shocked, all the same, to witness its demise.

Jean-Marc opened the silverware drawer and reached for a fork. He had found an old shoelace and was now using it to tie the fork to the end of the mop. For an instant, I was tempted to calculate just how many gasoline points we had saved to pay for that fork... only this, too, was beside the point. Come to think of it, just what was the point? What on earth was he rigging together this time? A hunting lance, I think he said it was?

"Let it go!" I thought to myself, for the umpteenth time in 10 years of marriage. I walked out of the kitchen, leaving my husband to explore his creative side—at the expense of yet another cooking or cleaning utensil.

By the time we arrived in the coastal town of Hyères to catch the navette, I'd long since gotten over the novelty of the wacky, homemade hunting implement. It was when we began to receive odd looks from the other passengers that I realized just how goofy (worse—psychopathic!) my husband appeared, sitting there with a blank look on his face and the mop-fork spear at his side. One woman got up and changed seats. Another pulled her child close. A few people whispered. More than one set of eyes narrowed.

Jean-Marc sat oblivious to the commotion. I'm certain he was dreaming of the day's catch—all those spiky oursins (and the delicacy inside them: sea urchin roe), the ones he would soon rake in with his clever, multi-purpose outil.

There he sat, dreaming of the new frontiers he would be forging with the aid of his... mop. He was terribly impressed by how the mop-spear doubled as a walking stick.

"Look," he said, tap-tap-tapping it against the ground, stepping gleefully forward and backward for effect.

I shook my head, reminded of life's simple pleasures, and of my husband, who is like the child who pushes aside the newly-acquired toy to play with the champagne cork. May he continue to free himself of life's superficial snags, to enjoy the ongoing adventure that thunders beneath his French feet. May he go forward, unadorned by all that is superflu. May fashion or deodorant never hinder him from his burning quest to discover the rugged coastline, where shellfish rock gently beneath the shimmering sea.

Should the road less traveled ever get too bumpy, he'll have his mopstick to lean on—and he'll have me, too.
 

French Vocabulary

comme d'habitude = as usual
beurk! = ew, yuck!
la garrigue (f) = Mediterranean scrubland
la navette = shuttle (ferry boat)
une lance = spear
un oursin = a sea urchin
un outil = a tool
le superflu = excess

YOUR EDITS HERE
Did you see any typos or ambiguities? Thank you for pointing them out, here, in the comments box.

 

                                       
Listen: hear Jean-Marc pronounce the word 'lance': Download lance2.wav

 

Expressions:
baisser la lance = "to lower the spear," to yield; to give in
rompre une lance = "to break a lance" to support an argument
rompre des lances pour quelqu'un = to defend someone
rompre des lances contre quelqu'un = to cross swords with someone
être à beau pied sans lance = "on foot without a spear," to be ruined

 

Citation du Jour:
La France fut faite à coups d'épée. La fleur de lys, symbole d'unité nationale, n'est que l'image d'un javelot à trois lances. France was built with sword strikes. The fleur-de-lis, symbol of national unity, is only the image of a javelin with three pikes. -Charles de Gaulle

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
 
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le béton

    Les Millesimes wine shop in Chateauneuf-du-Pape (c) Kristin Espinassse

Béton

(bay-tohn)

noun, masculine

   concrete
 


My son has mentioned wanting to be a baker or a construction worker when he grows up, but I suspect his talent might lie in styling.

For the past year Max has been working hard at perfecting what I call the gentleman's Mohawk: "gentleman's," for the understated height of the hair, so subtle you could almost get away with it at the office or at school... if your mom weren't waiting by the front door each morning with the flat side of her hand ready to "mow" down your "hawk".

"It's called une crête," Max corrects me, "...une crête iroquoise!"
"OK, Max. But you aren't allowed to wear your hair like that to school. It isn't polite."

But wear his hair like that at home he does, so much so that he is running out of gel again.
"Papa," Max asks during the drive to school, "the next time you go to the supermarket can you get me the 'gel fixation béton'?"

I can't help but laugh at what he has just requested: "concrete binding gel."

"Even if you spin on your head," Max insists, "your hair won't move—not one millimeter! My friend Lucas has the concrete gel and the last time he fell on his head rien a bougé! Not one hair went out of place!"

Recently I came across une pub for the gel my son requested. The ad suggests that with the help of this product, "les cheveux sont durs comme du béton!"

"Hard as concrete?..." I am reminded of Max's other when-I-grow-up wish: to work in masonry. Concrete...construction... Yes! I am finally seeing the subconscious connection! OK, in that case our son will need to rule out baking... or take the risk that his pâtisseries have the lightness or the flakiness of a cinder block!

 

French Vocabulary

une crête
 = comb, crest
une crête iroquoise = Mohawk (hair)
Papa = Dad
rien a bougé = nothing moved
la pub (publicité) = advertisement
les cheveux sont durs comme du béton = the hair is as hard as concrete
la pâtisserie = cake 

Your Edits, Please!
Do you see any typos in this story? Is the episode clear and understandable? Thanks for your feedback and suggestions here, in the comments box!

 


.............................................................

Citation du Jour:
L'oeuvre d'art naît du renoncement de l'intelligence à raisonner le concret.
The work of art is born of the intelligence's refusal to reason the concrete
.
                                                                                  --Albert Camus

Listen: hear the word béton pronounced: Download beton.wav

Terms and expressions:
laisse béton! = forget it!
bétonner (verb) = to consolidate; to build using concrete
le bétonnage = defensive play (football)
la bétonneuse = cement mixer

More on Max's travails with the tube (of gel) in the book Words in a French Life.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
 
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