Screenshot from the online magazine Elle.fr - sent to me by Antonia, who discovered the French Word-A-Day blog after googling the même pas peur expression.
MEME PAS PEUR = NOT AFRAID
Recently, my word journal received a surge of activity after people all around the world began to google the French expression même pas peur. The popular French expression, featured here in January of 2013, means You don't scare me at all!
You can learn more about the "Not afraid!" expression, and hear its pronunciation, here.
MEME PAS PEUR = YOU DON'T SCARE ME!
It is a fitting response to those who would try to manipulate our emotions. Perhaps the biggest thing we have to fear is fear's ability to alienate us from one another. Let's promise to not let that happen. One way is to share our stories. Here is mine.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE...
by Kristin Espinasse
(The following was written in 2014. My mother-in-law has completely recovered.)
Driving alone toward Marseilles, my pint-size Citroën was whipped to and fro by the Mistral wind. Passing a semi-truck was a chilling experience, but when cars swept by to my left, au même temps, I gripped the steering wheel in terror.
Wouldn't it be ironic to crash on the way to hospital? Just when I began picturing myself in bed beside my mother-in-law--sporting the same drip system as she--I shook my head, putting the brakes on an overactive imagination. I was not destined to be Michèle-France's hospital roommate. I was going to be her visitor!
Only, arriving at St. Joseph's réanimation wing, I learned visiting hours were over. In the salle d'attente, I waited to know whether hospital staff would make an exception. After all, I'd traveled far to get here--and even kept calm looking for parking when the hospital lot was complet!
Flipping through a fashion magazine, waiting for the staff's answer, a murmuring of Arabic tickled my ears. Two women seated en face were in a lively conversation. Every so often their sentences were peppered with French.
The older woman wore a traditional dress and a head scarf and her daughter (?) faded jeans and dyed blond hair. She looked my age, le quarantaine. I set aside the magazine. Why look at models when you could admire the real thing? Authentic women!
"You are mixing languages," I laughed, entering the conversation.
The blond smiled and her mom lit up. Thick gold fillings in Mom's teeth sparkled along with her smile.
"I do the same," I assured them. "Only in French and English--when I talk to my kids."
My waiting room friends giggled, and I thought to tell them about the wonderful movie I'd seen the night before: La Graine et le Mulet by Abdellatif Kechiche. Only I was quickly riddled with doubts. To suddenly bring up an Algerian-Tunisian film... wasn't that, after all, assuming? Or dumb or ignorant or flippant? Along the lines of "Hey, I notice you're North African and I just saw a North African film!!!"
Et alors? As if guessing or alluding to another's culture was a no-no. The tricks the mind plays on us to keep us silent and alienated one from the other! So what if I put my foot in my mouth? What was important was to reach out!
"Where are you from?" I blurted, only to die a twelve-second death when the daughter hesitated.
(One-thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three....)
"Oh, I hear Algeria is beautiful," I squeaked.
One-thousand four, one thousand five... my new friend was looking at me silently. If she was seeing my thoughts, she was now picturing my great French aunt, who carried around a razor blade in her pocket! A war bride in Algeria, she was poised to slit her childrens' throats, then her own, rather than be killed by a native during la guerre d'indépendance Algérienne. It was a matter of dignity.
The shocking thought was but a flash, part of a great Kaleidescope of images that churn in my mind as it sifts life's experience. Here, now, with the bottle blond and the gold-toothed grandma, a new set of images swirled into the technicolor machine, a mind ever hungry for understanding.
Soon (back in the waiting room) a lively conversation began. As barriers quickly dropped talk turned sentimental. "I don't understand why we all can't get along," the bottle blond from Algeria said. Live and let live. We need only respect one another's religions.
Hallelujah! Inshallah! This was my kind of conversation: away with the small talk, get right down to matters of the heart. But just when we were getting to the soul of things, my telephone rang. It was my mother-in-law trying to talk me out of coming to the hospital.
"Too late," I said, "I'm here. Now if they'll only let me in to see you!"
When I hung up the phone, the women across the room were in an excited conversation as they turned to me. "But you should have told us your situation. Come!" said the younger woman, guiding me over to the door where a note was posted to the wall."
"You need to call this number and they will let you in!" she said.
"But I've missed opening hours..."
"Tell them you've come from very far away!" And, with a smile and a wink, my new friend added, "Arizona, you said? Yes, tell them that!"
Our eyes embraced as we said goodbye to one another. We had so much in common, least of which our homelands in the desert.
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A picture (taken in Paris) that reminds me of my mother-in-law. I can almost see the stylish interior, inviting us inside for a taste of some delicious olive tapenade. Read a favorite story "Mal Barré" (Up The Creek) about my French mother-in-law. Click here.
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Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi