The first time we dined together, she remarked that I was stuffy. Specifically, she said she had the impression that she had spent the evening with "la Reine." Her remarks struck me as ironic, for it was this woman and her upper-class status which had so affected me.
So when it was my turn to invite my neighbor and her husband for le déjeuner, I took care to appear more relaxed, even though I was twice as nervous, given her previous impression of me.
Stuffy? Perhaps my nerves were to blame, for we were dining at the home of a local personality. Yes, I must have been a little bit crisp as I carefully sat down on an elegant sofa and began to take in my surroundings. The home was filled with romantic statues and modern-art paintings; fresh flowers dressed every table.
I thought about what I had worn that evening: did my attire lead her to classify me as coincée? I'd worn a long skirt and a button-down chemise under a cardigan. She had worn leopard and those glittery stiletto heels....
This time I wore all black, mindful to défaire one more button on my blouse. Though I had upped my efforts to be cool, relaxed, and very un-reine-like, my neighbor (now wearing sequins for our lunch date) had another agenda.
From the kitchen, where I was serving up steaming bowls of pumpkin-and-chestnut soup (soup, a.k.a. "the peasants' meal"... no queen would serve that!), I heard the laughter. Maybe it had something to do with my cooking? I had been so nervous at the idea of serving my neighbor's husband, a renowned chef!
When I went out to see what was so amusing, I found my husband and the invités standing, their eyes watering, their sides splitting.
"What? What is so funny?"
My eyes scanned the living room for any "laughable" objects strewn about, bricoles or bibelots I had looked at so often that the novelty had worn off. I saw nothing ridicule. Next, I checked my clothes to see whether something had gone wrong during the dressing stage. That is when I noticed my blouse, which was tucked into my underwear.
My fashion gaffe wasn't in tucking a shirt into a culotte (people do this all the time—don't they?), but in wearing low-waisted pants. Dumb, dumb, dumb!
The good news was that I was looking as down-to-earth as ever! Just how much more relaxed could one get? Such a get-up might de-throne this so-called "queen" once and for all, or at the very least earn a few "graceless" points with the neighbor who thinks me so stuffy, so reine-like.
I soon realized that no one was looking at my underwear. All eyes were fixed to the floor. Curious, I followed my guests' gazes. That's when I saw IT. So dull. So deflated, So dégoûtante! A caramel-toned coil lying atop the tiled floor right next to the dining table.
I stood staring at it. Stunned. Une crotte de chien? But we don't have a dog....
Elbowed by the woman standing beside him, my husband began: "Kristi—what is that?" I looked to the others for an explanation. The blank looks I received only intensified my embarrassment. What happened next was the French version of The Twilight Zone.
Jean-Marc went over and picked up that crotte! Next, he handed it to my sequined guest, who then put it in her pocket....
That is when I realized I had been tricked—fooled by fake dog-doo, no less!
But how to react? As dumbstruck as I was, I did not want to lose my new "unstuffy" status! I had worked so hard to dash any misconceptions! And I did not want my delayed response to condemn my neighbor, who I sensed did not mean any harm, but had found in that classic gag what she felt to be a friendly icebreaker.
"Where can I get one of those?" I ventured, walking my stiletto-heeled guest to the door after lunch.
"Here. You can have it. It's yours!" my neighbor winked, patting me on the shoulder, as pals do. It seemed I had somehow passed the test and, I hoped, found a new friend thanks to an old jest.
la reine = the queen
le déjeuner = lunch
coincé(e) = uptight
la chemise = shirt
défaire = to undo
un(e) invité(e) = a guest
une bricole = trinket
le bibelot = knickknack
ridicule = laughable
la culotte = underwear
dégoûtant(e) = disgusting
la crotte de chien = dog mess
Did you spot any typos? Are the vocab words in order (any missing, any extras?) Thank you for submitting your corrections in the comments box.
Terms & Expressions:
Crotte! = Damn!
Je te dis crotte! = Get lost!
C'est de la crotte = It isn't worth a thing
ma crotte = my darling, my little sausage (probably best to stick to "ma cherie" or "mon cheri" :-)
crottes en chocolat = Christmas chocolates
une crotte de chien = a dog dropping ; une crotte de nez = a booger
Chantez pour une bourrique / Sing for a donkey
Elle vous donnera des crottes. / and she'll give you droppings.
A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.
Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. PayPal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.
Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens