la poule

Boulangerie patisserie in la Motte (c) Kristin Espinasseune poule (pool) noun, feminine
  hen, fowl

(sound clip and expressions follow at the end of this edition)

Celui qui veut manger des oeufs, doit supporter les poules.
He who wants to eat eggs, must put up with the hens.

A Day in a French Life...

I take the one-way road through the town of la Motte, searching for a parking space along avenue Fred Mistral. Another car is tailing me so I cannot in good conscience slow down and hunt for parking. I end up making a left turn on rue du Moulin* to park near a chicken coop around the corner from the Mairie* and just a few steps from the honey shop; the sign in the window, just beneath a flapping blue and yellow striped awning, reads "Mangez du miel. C'est naturel." Eat honey. It's natural.

The wind is coursing through the riverain* town and the tall buildings cast shadows over the tiered and narrow streets, canceling out any warmth that the sun could have offered. I shut and lock the car door, salute the hens, zip up my parka, and prepare my digital camera for the few snapshots it will take in the next hour before it is time to return home to pick up the kids from school.

At two p.m. on a Thursday afternoon the Mottois and Mottoise (pronounced 'moh-twa' and 'moh-twahz')--as residents of la Motte are called--are either siesting or getting a head-start on afternoon chores; those that aren't sleeping or scrubbing are poking their heads out of their windows like the first buds of spring, lured by an endless blue sky and the sun, though hidden behind the tall

On rue du Four I see a woman leaning out of a second floor window. She is hanging white socks, one after the other, across a drooping wire line which runs beneath the window.
"Bonjour," I call up, somewhat embarrassed.
"Bonjour, madame," she replies.

I snap a photo of the street sign "Rue du Four" so as to look like I am ambling with purpose and not simply ambling. As I walk away, tucking my camera back into my pocket, I curse the abashed photographer for not adding "madame" to her greeting, as in "Bonjour, madame." Saying "bonjour" is not enough.

I didn't mean to be impolite or dismissive--no, I did not mean to dismiss. In fact, I would have loved to have stopped and conversed with Madame. I could have begun by pointing out that we hang socks in the same way. (But that would be incorrect; I tend to pile one sock on top of another, never having enough clothespins for an entire batch of chaussettes.*) I could have asked her where the oven was on "rue du Four" or "Oven Street". Perhaps that's when she would have come down to indicate it, at which point she would have noticed how my lips were beginning to turn blue from the cold. She might then have asked me in for coffee. Pourquoi pas?* We would have climbed the red-tiled staircase, chipped and in need of repair, to her second floor apartment. She would have gone to the armoire in the kitchen and pulled out a big tin box of assorted gateaux*--butter, sugar, and chocolate-covered cookies to dunk into the coffee she that would have offered me. We would have talked about "tout et rien" or "everything and nothing" including the man who just walked by with the two unleashed Labradors or the guy with the ponytail leaning out of the window one street back. She must know all her neighbors, or know of them. The stories she could tell... Hélas,* I am too chicken--or 'poule mouillée'*--to stop and say anything beyond 'bonjour'.

When I reach the end of Rue du Four, still wondering where the oven is, I pause to stare back at the woman hanging socks, a would-be friend. Looking up, I am relieved to discover Rue du Tonnerre* and wonder where that street might lead. Off I go, taking the road less traveled which, for once, is less risky than the one just trodden.

References: Rue (f) du Moulin (m) = Mill Street; la mairie (f) = town hall; riverain(e) = riparian, riverside; la chaussette (f) = sock; pourquoi pas? = why not?; le gâteau (sec) (m) = cookie; hélas = unfortunately; poule mouillée ("wet chicken") = coward(ly); Rue (f) du Tonnerre (m) = Thunder street
Go beyond bonjour and meet a few more small town characters in my book, Words in a French Life

Listen: hear Jean-Marc pronounce the word "poule" Download poule.wav

Terms &Expressions:
se lever avec les poules = to be an early riser
se coucher avec les poules = to go to bed early
tuer la poule aux oeufs d'or = to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs
quand les poules auront les dents = "when chicken have teeth" = it will never happen

Learn more French expression and idioms, check out this book.
You will find the French word poule referenced in these books:
French Connections: Hemingway and Fitzgerald Abroad
French Connections: Hemingway and Fitzgerald Abroad by J. Gerald Kennedy and Jackson R. Bryer
Simple French Food
Simple French Food by Richard Olney, James Beard, and Patricia Wells
My First 100 Words In French And English (A Pull-the-Tab Language Book)
My First 100 Words In French And English (A Pull-the-Tab Language Book) by Keith Faulkner and Paul Johnson

Baby Einstein: Language Discovery Cards: Images and Words to Teach and Delight... (Baby Einstein)
Baby Einstein: Language Discovery Cards: Images and Words to Teach and Delight... (Baby Einstein) by Julie Aigner-Clark

Jacques Pépin's Table: The Complete "Today's Gourmet"
Jacques Pépin's Table: The Complete "Today's Gourmet" by Jacques Pepin

Against Interpretation: And Other Essays
Against Interpretation: And Other Essays by Susan Sontag

The Right Word in the Right Place at the Right Time: Wit and Wisdom from the Popular Language Column in the New York Times Magazine
The Right Word in the Right Place at the Right Time: Wit and Wisdom from the Popular Language Column in the New York Times Magazine by William Safire

Paris Bistro Cooking
Paris Bistro Cooking by Linda Dannenberg

Joan of Arc: Her Story
Joan of Arc: Her Story by Regine Pernoud, Marie-Veronique Clin, and Jeremy duQuesnay Adams

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you regularly 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 commited to sharing a sunny 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 (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.