Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes Pyrénées. My husband with his two favorite things: grapevines and a stubborn side-kick. More about her in today's story.

têtu(e) (tay-tew) adjective
    : obstinate, headstrong, stubborn

Listen to the French word têtu, and hear this expression "têtu comme un mulet" (thank you, Bastien--my son Max's friend--for today's recording!): Download tetu.wav Download tetu.mp3

Terms & Expressions
  têtu comme un mulet =  stubborn as a mule
  les faits sont têtus = the facts are stubborn ("no getting around the facts")


How to Know Whose is Whose

Sometimes I bring my husband his first cup of coffee in the morning: a thoughtful gesture that I learned from him. He likes his java--or *kawa*--with a little more milk in it than I do, and he likes it a bit cooler. I no longer have to drop two sugar cubes into his cup, not since he listened to Reason when she whispered to him that coffee is just as good without it, once you get used to the taste. Besides, two fewer cubes to stir saves time in the morning.

Once I have micro-waved the milk and filled each tasse* with coffee, it is time to remember whose is whose, that is, which cup of coffee is his (more milk, less hot) and which is mine (the strong stuff), before heading upstairs with the hot drinks.

The cups look alike, so in order to not confuse the two I "mark" them with a hand. "His is Left. Mine's Right," I say of my hands and of our coffees. Sometimes I fret that, by the time I make it up the stairs, I'll forget whose is whose and end up with the tepid milky coffee (his)... but, in fact, it isn't
that hard for me to remember. "Mine," I affirm, "is right". I sometimes repeat the affirmation: "Right. I'm right. Always right!" I'll remind myself, as I head upstairs with our coffees.

This system works well for me, especially when I am the least bit "conflicted" with my husband. "He is GAUCHE.* I am RIGHT," I'll mumble, as I bring him his coffee along with a forced smile and a "Goodmorning dear!" (I learned that one from him, too: "Begin the day with 'Bonjour, Cherie'!").

But when things are smooth and sailing in our everyday life, I am sometimes the coffee in my left hand, and he gets to be the right one. He just doesn't know it, but then he doesn't pay attention to Whose is Whose. Maybe I should pay less attention, too?, learn to share a bit... be less particular about things. Then one day I'll say "he taught me that, too."

How do you like your coffee? Do you know the word for "stubborn" (têtu) in another language? What's the latest life lesson you've learned? Thank you for your "partage" or "sharing" in the comments box.

More stuff I've learned, here in these "Lessons in Life and Language from the South of France"

une tasse (à café) = coffee cup; gauche = left (also: awkward, warped, skew)

Learn French in Your Car while driving to school or work:

Songs in French for Children

Coffee - French Press by Bodum: When Bodum took over a small clarinet factory in Normandy in 1982, it was not because of the fine orchestra clarinets they were producing. In addition to musical instruments, the factory also produced the coffee of a relatively unknown brewer called "The Chambord." Read on, and check out the French press.

French sugar cubes for your coffee -- for those who like it sweet!

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Laurie Gill

J'aime mon cafe le meme que ton mari! Avec beaucoup du lait et pas tros chaud.

Joyce C. Hoover

I don't speak French. I am learning German. and I get my morning fix with my first cup of coffee. Sincerely Joyce


"Testardo/a" is stubbon in Italian and I take my coffee with a bit of milk.
A recent life lesson was learned last week through a dear friend, and that is to listen to my "mothers' intuition". Her son had worsening flu-like symptoms for several days and was continually turned away by the family pediatrician as something that just needed to run its course. My friend knew instinctively that something was not right and insisted on taking him to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a serious staph infection in his hip. Had she waited any longer, the consequences to his hip joint (and life!) could have been dire. He faces a long recovery, missing the start of school and no sports for some time, but he dodged a bullet thanks to his mother's gut feeling.


And here I've been assuming that Jean Paul wanted his coffee very hot (we let la tasse sit with boiling water in it for several minutes before putting the coffee in)and strong (you could stand the spoon up in it) because he was french! Or formerly as it were!

Armando zetina

Testarudo and also Terco in Spanish


Another great little vignette Kristen.
This is nothing to do with coffee, but having now lived in fabulous france for five wonderful months, the local expression I love is "on doit profiter de chaque jour" ... or "we should make the most of each day"
Thanks so much again for your thrice-weekly slices of french life. Wonderful !


My husband prepares my coffee on the weekends as a very kind gesture (weekdays I wake up earlier than him) even though he doesn’t drink it or even like the smell of it... and HE IS FRENCH!!!
We both are very stubborn people... I call him ‘terco’ or 'necio' and he calls me ‘têtue’ all the time, so I’m familiar with today’s word :)

têtu comme un mulet = stubborn as a mule = terco como una mula (spanish)


hot always,with milk only if it is bad coffee. Dad always used to put ice cubes in his coffee when at a restaurant. I don't know the Norwegian word for stubborn, but we always say "you are acting just like Grandma" in my family. Norwegian Grandma was very stubborn and determined (but very loving too).


I like mild flavored coffee with cream, sugar and a little caramel syrup. It is an occassional treat as I am more of a tea drinker. The Vietnamese restaurants serve a coffee, hot or iced, that is dark, sweet and has condensed mild added. It is delicious after a spicy meal.


I am ridiculously STUR about my coffee . . . EIGENSINNIG, in fact. Real cream if possible, plenty of sugar, and if it doesn't take the skin off the roof of your mouth, it's hardly worth drinking!

It doesn't burn me. Very seldom. I would like to like it warm, tepid, room temperature, but it hasn't happened. I ask waitresses, with all the grace I can manage, to heat my coffee in a microwave before they bring it. They ALWAYS say, "Our coffee is really hot, ma'am," and it never is.

I assure them that I won't sue if it spills; in fact, I always caution my servers to be extra careful not to burn themselves. The amazing thing is how often and how kindly they will humor me!

My poor daughters! Can you imagine going through this every time we go out to eat? Poor darlings, I ask for water with lime . . . !

Augusta Elmwood

Being from New Orleans, as a youngster I always drank my coffee and chicory with lots of milk and sugar (this is the way that coffee was introduced to children, "coffee-milk" we called it), and I continued this habit into adulthood.
However, the MOST memorable cup of coffee I ever had was in a friend's house in Ossès, where we were seated at the dining table, watching the sun rise over the misty foothills of the Pyrenees. It was perfect moment: a cup of Malongo brand coffee ("café ordinaire," Pierre assured us), served in a simple white Limôges cup, with nothing added but the ambiente around us. I will remember that cup of coffee and that moment for the rest of my life!
Anyway, it's good to have you back, Kristin !! Looking forward to getting your Word-a-Day, if Gustav doesn't come visiting like his sister Katrina did 3 years ago tomorrow :-/ Priez pour nous !! I have the holy candles burning already!



I love my coffee straight up black, most often. On occasion I will use honey with 'milk'. Just recently I reaquainted myself with my French Press and am loving it so much - I don't know why i ever stopped using it!

Berry Schendstok

You asked for "stubborn" in different languages. I am sure it's a trait found partout dans le monde!

In Dutch, one is called: KOPPIG


R. Roll

Tetu in Tagalog is "matigas ang ulo" (hard headed).When a baby has a pronouced crown (puyo), we say it will be stubborn. Nothing scientific about it, but it's been known to work.


Hi Kristen,

Once again a lovely little glimpse into your life. It's probably best that I reside in happily single solitude, because I have a problem with always being "right" also,(or I should say "thinking" that I am). I find that less gets spilled when you're just carrying around one cup, metaphorically speaking.

P.S. I was absolutely thrilled that you viewed my blog page and that you took the time to write a comment. Thank you so so much!! I told my family and friends that a famous author viewed my page!!! Well you're quite famous to me!! Take care, Chrissi


Hello Kristin,
Life lesson for me this week has been a reminder of how precious each day is with our children and how very fast they go by. My nest is very empty this morning after leaving my beautiful daughter at college yesterday and I am missing our morning cup of coffee together. One thing we can both still enjoy is your 'French Word a Day'. I am always touched by your writings of your loved ones, it is obvious how much you cherish them. Thanks for sharing your life with us and for helping us to undersatand more about the language and life in France. Cordialement, Dana


Je me suis très bien amusée en lisant cette vignette. Moi, je mets les tasses par ordre alphabétique, mais je suis toujours gauche parce que mon nom commence par "m" et son avec "r" ! Il faut que j'adopte son système !


On the other hand (insert snigger here)... to be "polie il faut donner de la main droite". Well, that's how I was brought up, but have noticed it is a disappearing custom. Except in some religious areas where to do anything else would cause real offence.

Carol Folino

My husband is left handed,so I place his coffee in my left hand and that is how I remember!



I drink my coffee black and hot, but not boiling. On weekends my husband and I drink special coffees. I make myself a cappuccino and he makes himself a cafe mocha. It is a time to relax and read the newspapers and eat breakfast.
We both like strong coffee that is dark and rich. Sometimes after having dinner out, we order double espressos and still sleep at night.


Being a tea drinker (genmai), and not one bit stubborn (hardy har), I thought I would have no comment to make... however in reading the other comments something struck me. Têtu is of course missing an s, as the little thing above the e reflects (I forget what it is called?) ... but in Spanish and Italian the s is there... it just reminds me of the first four letters of the male hormone testosterone (yes I know females have it as well - just not as much)... would there be any correlation between the word stubborn and maleness? Hmmm! Something to ponder.


I am known, and defined by 2 addictions : coffee and perfume ! I am French by fantasy.
I use a farberware percolater - using very fine coffee:Gevalia, Cafe La Semeuse, Starbucks ..mostly.
I used to prepare the coffee the evening before. Alas to save time duringy comatose state is of thev utmost importance.
I mostly love my coffe is a great big beautiful mug - with either half and half or whole milk or even black./
I enjoyed reading of your daily routine.


I always drunk un café crème avant moving to Paris. Now however in an effort to seem more french, I'm more of a un café allongé sort of girl.

I really identified with today's message. I think you're in a good relationship when you not only learn these things off the other person but the things you learn make you a better and more well rounded person. I guess that's the beauty of true love!




I used to hear both of these from my Spanish-speaking ex-wife, "terco", "testarudo", but I think she preferred the latter one. I find it interesting, though not surprising, that her favorite has the same meaning in Italian.

As to coffee, I once had a lady friend who occasionally stirred my coffee anti-clockwise. Alas, I haven't had a cup of that coffee in many years!

Personal lesson, learned from a lawyer, by experience: "don't call in a wolf to get rid of a rabbit - it just causes more problems".

Best wishes.


In Danish - my mother tongue - têtu is called 'stædig' (3rd letter being a particular Danish one - a & e put together -pronounced almost like the English 'a').

In Denmark I drink all my coffee black but on our holidays in France (Vaucluse) I add both milk and sugar. I don't know why.



When I originally commented I clicked the "Notify me when new comments are added" checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get three emails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service? Bless you!

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