Previous month:
December 2005
Next month:
February 2006

Entries from January 2006


stone chapel in Sauze, France (c) Kristin Espinasse

NEW! Don't miss Jean-Marc's new podcast--hear his most recent column in French & English:

percer (pehr-say) verb

 : to make an opening, a hole; to pierce, to drill

  L'eau douce gouttant sur la pierre dure finit par la percer.
  Fresh water dripping on hard rock ends up piercing it.

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

Jean-Marc took Jackie to the Carrefour mall in Trans-en-Provence to get her oreilles pierced. I stayed home to lessen some of the angoisse that would soon overtake my daughter, though she denies any fear--so desperately does she want to wear real earrings and not the glittery stick-on kind.

Jean-Marc brought along two tiny silver dolphins, the boucles d'oreilles Jackie had begged for at the Yellowstone Park gift shop during our latest visit to the States. I wish she had chosen the Geyser Pen or even the Old Faithful shot glass (she could have stored her beads inside there) and, besides, what kind of souvenir do dolphins make when, really, the park is full of bison and bears? The earrings, I warned her, she would have to save until she was twelve because that's how old I was when my mom drove me to Metrocenter Mall to get my ears done--this, after I convinced my sister to stick a halved pomme de terre behind one of my ear lobes--which she did--only I passed out on the moquette before needle ever hit ear, let alone patate.

A small hour* after father and daughter had left for the ear-piercing procedure, my girl came running across the yard wearing a smile as big as the hoop earrings those cagoles* sport down south.

At the lunch table Max and I study the rhinestone studs on either side of a grinning girl's face; that's when Max asks if he can get an ear pierced. The Frenchman sitting across the table just about gags on his green bean omelet before his daughter replies, "Well then, Max, maybe he'll let you pierce your nose?!"

French Vocabulary

une oreille = ear

une angoisse = anxiety

une boucle d'oreille = earring

la pomme de terre = potato

la moquette = carpet

la patate = potate

"a little hour" (from the French, "une petite heure")

la cagole = a woman of easy virtue and vulgar language

Audio File Listen: Hear my son, Max, pronounce the word 'percer': Download percer.wav

  percer les oreilles = to pierce one's ears; percer ses dents = to teethe

Conjugation: je perce, tu perces, il/elle/on perce, nous perçons, vous percez,
ils/elles percent

French synonyms: trouer, perforer, transpercer, forer

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.
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice


Pêle mêle ( = confused, rushed, disorderly) shop in French Alps (c) Kristin Espinasse

Photo taken in Barcelonnette



higgledy-piggledy, any old how


Jean-Marc pulled into the snow-n-slush parking lot behind l'Equipe Hotel, got out and searched for the entrance. Ignoring the two-foot-tall board marked ENTREE, he side-trekked around the back of the building. I think he purposely misses these "how-to" signs and, in so doing, he turns life into one man's perpetual back-to-nature quest (and French boot camp for his prissy American bride).

Max, Jackie and Miss Priss followed, dragging our bags up the steel-grated stairs reserved for employees; we hiked around the brasserie to find ourselves back on track with the normal guests who approached the hotel in a conventional fashion.

Three hours earlier, just before heading out for the French Alps, I'd talked my style-unconscious husband out of his Glad Bag valise so that this time we were not stealing past other hotel guests—me with a duct-taped suitcase, the kids with a plastic laundry basket "drawer-for-the-weekend" and my husband with two hefty garbage bags (the deluxe kind with built-in handles, and not the cheap ones with the detachable plastic yellow string), contents thrown in pêle-mêle.

In the Ubaye valley, where the village of Enchastrayes is nestled, the nearest town being Barcelonnette, we were greeted by three French mutts—which explained the surprise-on-ice we'd sidestepped out on the Path Less Traveled. The dogs' owner stubbed out her cigarette before checking the reservations book.

"Chambres 15 and 16," she said, pulling two keys from a wallboard of 23 hooks.

Max pointed to the keychain and quizzed his sister: Did she know what the small, abstract wooden carving represented?

"Un castor!" she correctly guessed.

We climbed four levels of moquette-covered stairs, pausing to catch our breath in front of a needlepoint wall hanging, its thick yarn mustard, orange and black... looped loosely across a cotton canvas. Plastic flowers, now faded, punctuated each landing.

Two floors up, Jean-Marc pushed the long metal key into the keyhole at room 15. He had to tug the door forward as he turned the key to the right and to the left (this tugging and key jiggling was in response to an indice he was discovering in real time—as he watched a demonstration given by the young woman standing next to a vacuum cleaner and cart two doors down.

No framed needlepoint art in the rooms, just more plastic flowers and more synthetic-carpet tile. Each side of the bed in room 15 had candle lighting—except a plastic flame stood in for a fiery one. Behind a vinyl accordion door, the bathroom, which included a plastic flamingo pink shower head draped over decades old robinetterie, smelled like a porta-potty.

"No, it doesn't smell like that," Jean-Marc retorted. "It smells like a hospital."

"Oh," I said, encouraged. The kids' room was a repeat of our own, except that it had twin beds.

The stringy sound of a violoncello filtered in from chambre 14, the cellist's glorious musical notes almost canceling out the infant's cries from the room above; such wailing from deep in the icy French woods, along with the bow and string (sans arrow) next door, seemed in keeping with one Frenchman's return to the Land Before Time, and the hotel decor, though not prehistoric, had that barbaric feel with just the right dose of vulgar to temper Miss Priss's great expectations.

I watched my husband unpack his bags with gusto, and it occurred to me to face our circumstances with a similar verve or joie de vivre.

With a little effort, I could begin to see our surroundings in a new light: no longer did the room feel oppressive. With renewed thinking, I began to feel a flutter inside my spirit, as a new sense of adventure was born. One that would sustain me, again and again, each time my husband reserved a hotel room....

French Vocabulary

l'entrée (f) = entrance
pêle-mêle = in confused haste
la chambre = room
le castor = beaver
la moquette = carpet
un indice = clue
la robinetterie = plumbing
la joie de vivre = joy of living


====Note: any text from here, on, will not be included in the book.=====

Your edits here, please!

Thank you for scouring this story for any typos or blips or inconsistencies in formatting (for example, all chapter titles should look similar to today's formatted title. All French words (in the story) should be in italics... etc). I appreciate your efforts to help me. Thanks again! Click here to submit corrections.


Listen: Hear our daughter, Jackie, pronounce today's word: Download moquette2.wav

chambre moquettée = bedroom with wall-to-wall carpet
faire poser de la moquette = to have a fitted carpet laid
la moquette murale = fabric wall covering

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.
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice