le béton

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



noun, masculine


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.

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Charles Orr in Flat Rock, NC

The phrase "or at school... if your mom" has an extra space before "if".

I don't quite get the "like a scale" reference. Do you mean like fish scales? If so, I think "like scales" would sound better, but I don't see how it would describe Max's haircut. If it were that short, how could Mom "mow it down"?

Audrey Wilson

I don't think you need the second 'for' in:- "I can't help but laugh at the translation for what he had just asked (for) - "concrete binding gel"!
How's the project going ?

Malou Cole

Kristi, I would say "une crete d'Iroquois"
thus making it masculine, like your son, and I don't think the "Iroquoises" were having their hair done that way..:)

Kristin Espinasse

Charles, I didnt see the space. Maybe I took it out and already forgot about it :-) Let me know if its still there (if you happen to check back here...)

Audrey, Ive changed the for for to of: the translation of what hes just asked for. Hope this fixes things. And the project is going smoothly today... after a mini meltdown yesterday... deep breaths!

Malou, So happy to see your edit! Ive taken out the d (Ive since googled the term; turns out that iroquoise remains feminine, as it is preceeded by une crête. But I really needed to remove that d! Heres a link to some crête iroquoises photos:



The point of this story seems to be about a teen's need to fit in - a universal need! The ending of the story doesn't seem to flow from that. But thanks for the word "beton"!

edith schmidt


I liked the imagery, but found this sentence a bit awkward:
"But wear his hair like that at home he does, so much that he is running out of gel." I think it's the "he does" at the end that doesn't work also the "so much" maybe isn't the phrase you're looking for?
Incidentally, I loved Daudet's book!

Edie from Savannah

Bettye Dew


1. "I can't help but laugh ... he HAS just asked for." You're writing in present tense and need the present perfect tense to show that the "asking" happened before the "can't help but laugh..."
2. The dash before "rien a bouger" should be removed. It's the subject and verb of the last part of the compound sentence, rather than being parenthetical. You can put a comma there if you like.
3. Last paragraph: "when-I-grow-up" and "one day" are the same thing. Consider: I am reminded of Max's other when-I-grow-up wish: to work in masonary.

I'm only a three-month reader of your blog, but I happened upon two stories I want to recommend: "Sein" and "Baiser." Both are lovely.



height of the hair - to me, sounds awkward. IMO, it should be length of the hair, or height of the hairstyle/hairdo.

Also: "Hard as concrete?..."
Could you change that to "Hard as concrete?"...

Small difference there.

Kristin Espinasse

All good points, Charles. Ive rewritten that sentence (though I did keep mow).


Wow..such a classroom! I believe a good word for "asked for" in that "for-for" sentence, would be "requested",... as in, "...what he had just requested, concrete binding gel!"
AND, personally, I like your wording in this phrase: ""But wear his hair like that at home, he does, so much that he is running out of gel." It just needs a comma after "does". That style is elegant, as in, "A good citizen, I am!".

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Tonya--requested clears things up nicely!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you very much, Bettye! Ive updated the story. And thanks for the story suggestions... Im on my way to check them out now!

Update: To be sure, are you referring to these stories:



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