introuvable (in-troo-vable) adjective
which (or who) cannot be found, undiscoverable
A force de s'épandre sur les détails et de chercher l'introuvable, on finit par rater l'essentiel. By getting caught up in the details and seeking what cannot be found, we end up missing what is essential. --Jean Dion
A Day in a French Life...
In the town of Figanières, the French windowsills were bursting with red and pink geraniums, purple petunias, and succulents à gogo* and à green green. The scene had changed since my last visit, back in March, when the only color visible near a window was the lavender-hued curls of the grand-mère* peeking out from behind lace curtains.
With the crisp morning air caressing my cheeks, and Words* tucked under my arm, I retraced my steps through the village. A story I had written about a local street sweeper was now a published chapter and I wanted to find the Frenchman-in-question and present him with a copy of the book.
"He was standing right there the last time I saw him," I said to my mother, who had accompanied me to the village with a mission of her own: to photograph the star of the story and immortalize him "sur toile."* "The man with the turquoise eyes," as he is called in the chapter "Polir,"* would now be the étoile* of my mom's next painting.
I recalled the red brick trottoir* and its familiar rolling pattern. "I know he is working today," I said. "Look how clean the sidewalk is!"
When my mom spotted a man with a broom working near the supérette,* I squinted my eyes. "I don't think that's him," I sighed. Wasn't his face a bit narrower? His eyes weren't the blue that I'd remembered. "No. That's not him." By now we had covered the place du village,* the parking lot beyond the Mairie,* and the little road that leads to the elementary school. Still no luck.
At the foot of the winding cobblestone stairs leading to the church, my mom asked me to take a photo of her--something she had never done before.
"Wait until I get halfway up there!" she instructed.
When I looked through the viewfinder, I discovered my mom hunched over, swinging her arms back and forth. After my initial alarm, I questioned her in a "Now what?!" fashion.
"Mom! What ARRRRE you doing?"
"Did you get the church bells?" she said, pointing to the campanile* on the hilltop above. "I need them in the photo, too; they're going in my painting!"
Mom wasn't about to let a small detail (the absence of the street cleaner) get in the way of her project: the painting of his very portrait. She'd be the brown-eyed, high-heeled stand-in.
"MOM!" I said, upset at the realization that our star was introuvable.*
"Don't worry, honey. We'll find him."
* * *
References: à gogo = in abundance, galore; la grand-mère (f) = grandmother; Words (in a French Life) ; sur toile = on canvas; polir = to polish; chapter in "Words"; une étoile (f) = star; le trottoir (m) = sidewalk; la supérette (f) = small grocer; la place du village (f) = (central) village square; la mairie (f) = town hall; le campanile (m) = bell tower; introuvable = nowhere to be found, undiscoverable
Listen to my son, Max, pronounce the French word "introuvable": Download introuvable.wav
Listen to Max's sentence: "Mes clés sont introuvables": Download introuvable3.wav
French synonyms for "introuvable": perdu (lost), disparu (vanished), envolé (vanished [into thin air]), caché (hidden)
In books: Using French Synonyms
"This new guide to French synonyms is the first to be produced specifically for English-speaking students of French. Its aim is to enable them to develop, broaden and enhance their awareness of the complexity and richness of French vocabulary by presenting in an easily accessible form information not readily available in traditional dictionaries. " Order it here.
Play and Learn French : The fun, easy, and natural way to get kids started in learning French.
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French for Children (Language for Children Series) (Audio CD)
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