Arrosoir: How to say "watering can" in French

A Lavender wand & Holy Water from Lourdes = an awkward gift exchange with a Frenchman

lavender for making a lavender wand
Lavender Factory is a big term, but then it is often all or nothing around here. Read on in today's story.

fuseau (fooh-zo) noun, masculine
    spindle, bobbin; time zone, time belt

[plural : "fuseaux"]

un fuseau de lavande or un fuseau provençal = lavender wand (hand-weaved lavender flowers... see today's story and photo)

Also: un fuseau horaire = time zone

Hear my son, Max, pronounce today's word and related terms: Download fuseau.mp3 . Download fuseau.wav

At a Tuesday night meeting I attend, a fellow attendee looked at me as though the gift I had just given him was a macramé wall hanging. There was that split-second hesitation, that... "qu'est-ce que je suis censé faire avec ça?" befuddlement that the gift receiver just cannot hide.

I was afraid of this reaction. After all, there was quite a bit of purple ribbon involved... and delicate flowers. It wasn't exactly a gift for a guy, not even for a French guy. But men have sock drawers, I reasoned, and sock drawers always need freshening.... and so this hand-woven lavender wand (my third, and least dreadful, attempt at weaving lavender) would at least be useful if not displayable. More importantly, it would be a respectable enough exchange for the gift that he had thoughtfully given me: a plastic two-ounce bottle of holy water from Lourdes (a bottle, I might add, shaped like the Virgin Mary).

"Je... je...." Monsieur with the thick bifocals stuttered, holding the unnamable object up to the light, hesitating with his remerciement. It being my weakness to nip suffering in the bud--as quickly and painlessly as possible--I almost finished his sentence for him.

This gift exchange took place in my car, after I had picked up my nearsighted (and tongue-tied) passenger -- a retired Frenchman who, I guessed, had had his license revoked at some point, hence my occasional stint as chauffeur to our weekly meeting.

Seated there, in silence, the fragrant lavender wand suspended in the air between us, I had a change of heart. For a moment, my pride got the best of me and I had a mind to shed light on the situation, to point out one man's privileged position. "Listen here, Giftbuster," I thought to say... "Do you know just WHO I AM? Here, before you, is not some Macramé Missy who spends her days weaving organic matter... No! I, Emphatic I, don't normally have time for this sort of "passe-temps"! In fact, passing time is not my luxury, especially as I am perpetually projecting toward the FUTURE, to the land of crowning glory.

The last few words of the imagined tirade struck me back to reality, and I remembered my own not-so-privileged position. Truth was, I'd weaved the  "drawer freshener" as an exercise in humility, in an effort to pluck myself from the futile fast track that is vainglory. I'd woven it as a prayer--or prayed it as I wove--intent on tapping into the present moment, the only true eternity.

As a recent pilgrim to Lourdes, where he'd stopped into a cramped souvenirs shop and thoughtfully picked out the two-ounce Virgin, I supposed Monsieur's intentions were the same as mine: we were reckoning with our pasts as best we knew how, there gathered together with the others, each Tuesday night. Of little importance were the lightweight, somewhat looney gifts: the key seemed to be in thinking of the other, for once, instead of the high-falutin' futuristic Me.

*     *     *
Have you ever received a gift that left you tongue-tied? What was it and who gave it to you? Share your story in the comments box.

And, speaking of the new comments box, visit these links for:

1. Hilarious reader stories about French language faux-pas & mix-ups:

2. Fantastic tips, also by readers, on how to use lavender:
qu'est-ce que je suis censé faire avec ça? = what am I supposed to do with this? 
le remerciement = thanks, thank-you, acknowledgment
le passe-temps = pastime

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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I had an uncle who returned from WWII with serious mental problems. My grandmother would not allow him to be "locked up forever" in a back ward at a VA hospital and for the remainder of her life, he lived with her. Due to his mental illness, he was heavily medicated and rather oblivious to anyone else's feelings. He was able to hold down an uncomplicated job at the post office and toiled there for thirty years. After the Christmas rush each year, he and my grandmother would come to visit. In the thirty years he came to visit, he only ever brought me one gift. It was a large, shiny, metal, hand-cranked pencil sharpener. Dad mounted it to the wall in a closet and whenever we had to sharpen a pencil, we thought of Uncle B. The man whose life was blighted by the horrors of war is gone now and so is the house with the closet with the pencil sharpener. I hope he knows that I still remember his gift.

Debra Rose

I have known a lovely, handsome, caring man just about forever. We had dated from age 14 to 17 and it ended. Then in our 50's we reconnected. We lived about 2+ hours apart, and had been dating long-distance, driving back and forth from time to time, for about 6 years when he gave me a birthday gift that stunned me. It was a painted heart-shaped wooden wallhanging with a couple of dangly ribbons, on the wall, and on it was some sort of buzz-kill saying about "Friendship". Turns out that all those years he thought we were just friends, even though he had spent many weekends at my house. How disappointing. I saw the writing on the wall. That was the beginning of the end for us.

Mary E

Bonjour, Kristin!
I should have written long ago; as an ex-expatriate (now back in California) I enjoy reading your blog as a way of invoking my own, somewhat distant, memories of French life. Thank you for that!
I hope you don't mind, but I want to offer a slight correction to today's column. "Sensé" should actually be "censé." They are both words, but mean entirely different things. (By the way, I should admit that I have made, at one time or another, most of the gaffes recounted in your list of French faux pas.) Best wishes to you!


je suis censé faire .... sans le "de".
"Nul n'est censé ignorer la loi"...

Bon courage!

cheri Wilke

About ten years about we hosted a high school student from St. Petersburg, Russia. Her name was Alexandria, but we called her Sasha. She was about 15 when she arrived, with the most beautiful hazel eyes and the sweetest round face I had ever seen. About a day or two after she settled in, she began dispensing gifts. My 14 year old daughter came running down stairs with a beautiful shawl, my husband received a tin of caviar. I was sitting on the sofa when I heard a tinkling sound as Sasha came down the stairs. She came through the living room doorway holding a tray. On that tray was the most beautiful tea set I had ever seen. The light caught the gold leaf on it, making glitter before my eyes. I was speechless. She had carefully packed and brought this amazing gift all the way from Russia in her suitcase; cups, saucers, creamer, sugar bowl, plates and the lovely teapot. My throat had a lump, I will never forget that sweet girl or that gift. Today it sits in my china hutch and I see her face and smile every time I look at it.

Jennifer in OR

So, I'm guessing the lavander wand is now safely tucked in the gentleman's sock drawer? Very sweet story!

Last Christmas, I opened a gift from my husband, a waffle maker. This was good, I'd wanted one and asked for one. Then, I opened a gift from his grandmother, the exact same item. Dang it! "Oh, I really, really needed two, we have a big family, this is actually perfect, thank you!"

Then, one of my best friends gave me a book on how to raise children. Hmmm. Hidden message or simple encouragement? I'm still not sure!

Great post!


I spend summers in Provence and have always wondered if there was somewhere I could find directions on how to make un fuseau de lavande. Any ideas?


My husband gave me an exercise machine for Christmas one year........was he trying to tell me something????
I've been reading your blog for years; Richard Patocchi introduced me to it. (I took a class from him at the local college.) I enjoy your blog immensely!
I have a tutorial on lavender wands on my blog:
Maybe it will help a bit.
Regards, Laura


Thanks for the story of the lavender wand. I bought one recently and now I know its proper french name. I also enjoyed the whole gift-giving account.


I would have loved to receive such a thoughtfully made gift! But for a man of his generation, it might be perceived as too personal or feminine. An object like this, that is put in a personal place like a drawer and seen every day, has a slight overtone of intimacy or connectivity. Sorry, but that's what I've learned from a trial & error experience of my own. Having said that, I think that beneath the inscrutable French reserve there are people who yearn for caring attention or a receptive ear to hear them. Last month there were 3 suicides in our town (near Paris). This is culture that needs more down to earth communication and even some hugs. Don't give up on being a beacon of warmth, Kristin.


Is weaved actually a past participle? I've always used woven. Anybody else want to chime in on that? OK, Webster's 9th says weaved is a second choice.

Carol Reed

I love these lavender bouteilles. I grow lavender every year here in Northern NY even though it's supposedly not possible for it to make it through the winter. I've found that if it's close enough to the house and sheltered, it will survive. Now I can't wait for next year's crop to try this. Merci.

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