la Grande Ours

Sun-bleached in the town of Visan. photos © Kristin Espinasse. What do you see in this photo (and, re the word of the day, I promise you won't find a bear--or even a Big Dipper--hidden behind those lacey curtains!). Share your observations in the comments box.

At the not-so-enlightened age of thirty-four, I learned that the Tooth Fairy did not exist least not in France. Here, they call that toothy thief in the night "La Petite Souris". The Easter Bunny disappeared next... only to resurface, this side of the "pond" as a bell! So why should any of us be surprised at how the French "see" the Big Dipper?  Read on, in today's story column. (More about France's version of The Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy in my book).

la Grande Ourse (lah grahnd oors) noun, feminine
    : "The Big Bear" (The Big Dipper)

turn up the volume and listen to the French word "la grande ourse" & quote below:
Download (wave)   (mp3)

On donne le nom d'Ours à deux constellations de l'hémisphère boréal qui sont proches du pôle arctique, et dont une s'appelle La Grande Ourse et l'autre, La Petite Ourse...  Dictionnaire de l'Académie françoise by Académie français

Help interpret the above quote. Write your translation in the comments box. Merci!

by Kristin Espinasse

Home renovation has recommenced here at the wine farm and, with it, the reassignment of chambres.* Our eleven-year-old is now sleeping in her brother's room, bunking with Braise-the-Dog, Jean-Marc and I have taken over the guest room, and Max has claimed Grandma Jules's cool digs (the lit de camp* beside the window in my office).

"Bonjour, Maman. Those are water chickens!" Max informs me, as he wakes from a deep slumber. I am at my desk, reading email during the quiet morning hours. Water chickens? I wonder if Max is still dreaming.  That's when my mind recalls the odd echoing from moments before...

"'Poules d'eau'!* So that's what that noise was!"
I think about the birds and their funny French name. I picture them, like ducks, out there on the water, where soon bright yellow "irises of the marais" with push up like pâquerettes.* Spring is in the air!

"You see so many things from here!" Max continues, thoughtfully, and I realize that my son is indeed awake. He is looking out the window toward Monsieur Delhomme's potager, just beyond the ruisseau* where record rainfall recently threatened to flood the potato, leek, and lettuce patch just beyond.

"...comme la constellation de la Grande Ourse," Max says, citing an example.
"What's that?" I say, returning my gaze to the sleepy boy.
"La constellation de Grande Ourse? Oh, those are the stars that line up to resemble a casserole.

"Casserole?" My mind soon registers a pan with a long handle. "Ah, yes! We call that the Big Dipper ..."

"La Grande Ourse... The Big Bear..." I mumble. "Why don't they just call it a casserole--if that's what those stars look like?"

"Parce que les Français sont bizarres!" Max answers and, just for the record, he said it, not me!

Feedback, corrections--and stories of your own--always welcome in the comments box. Merci d'avance!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
la chambre (à coucher) (f) = bedroom; le lit (m) de camp = cot; la poule (f) d'eau = moorhen; la pâquerette (f) = daisy; le ruisseau (m) = brook, rivulet


Ours-brun Read to a child in French (and improve your own français while you're at it! Enjoy the classic Ours Brun, dis-moi...

Le Petit Prince: French language edition (or enjoy this story in English).

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In Music: C'est L'Amour: Romantic French Classics

Fred Birthday 148
Loitering in France

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