Plage des Estagnets and the French words dorloter, bichonner, pouponner, and gâter, chipie, grincement

Giens, France and the words mauvais perdant, fiston, allez, chiche!, poignée, tas, and deranger in French

My fourteen-year-old fiston* on the beach in Giens. He's eating "un sandwich baguette". Learn about another kind of baguette (en bois*), in today's story column.

mauvais perdant (moh-vay pair-dahn)

    : sore loser

(feminine: une mauvaise perdante [moh-vayz pair-dahnt)

Audio File & Example Sentence:
Listen to my daughter, Jackie, pronounce the following French words:
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Battu, il fut aussi mauvais perdant que ses adversaires étaient de piètres gagnants.
(Help translate this quote? Click here to share your interpretation.)

A Day in a French Life...

by Kristin Espinasse

It is half-past seven in the evening. My stomach is rumbling, my head is a basket of butterflies, and I am wondering about what to cook for dinner... when my son walks into the room.

"On joue?"* Max offers.

A fun French mom might respond "Allez, chiche!"*; instead, a famished mom's eyes drop to the wooden box in her son's hands. Oh, no. C'est un jeu d'adresse*. I do not feel up to a game of skill, given these pre-dinner jitters and this fluttering brain.

That my son seems to find me a worthy opponent has me re-prioritizing. Hunger will have to hang on.

I look at the rectangular box of sticks and wonder what the rules are and will they be complicated? The name* on the box looks Japanese. So much for instructions! My stomach rumbles and my head spins.

"These colored bands," Max explains, pointing to the painted sticks, or baguettes, "correspond to the Samouraï bâton* and are worth ten points, and this one, un Mandarin, is worth 5...."

Oh no--points!--and more foreign terms... "Okay, okay. J'ai compris. Allons-y!"*

I have never liked games, ever since my Bridge*-busting, card-slinging grandmother-on-the-rocks called me a mauvaise perdante.* "Don't be such a poor sport!" She'd complain, under gin and tonic breath. The satisfaction on her face from winning another round of Go Fish, Slapjack, or, appropriately, Old Maid, was hard to miss. I gave up cards and signed up for a real sport: Little League Baseball. Cleats replaced cards, as I became pitcher for the Yankees, outfield for the A's -- and, oh! -- if those weren't the good ol' winning days!

"So, what do we do next?" I ask Max.  I sit on the floor, facing my opponent, legs tucked into a "pretzel" as I watch my son drop une poignée* of sticks. Dozens of spaghetti-thin batons fall to the floor in one chaotic heap.

Max explains the simple rules: "Tu dois déplacer une de ces baguettes sans déranger les autres."*

I stare at the tangled tas.* Every stick seems "stuck" to another. I am to pick up one of these sticks without disturbing the others?

"But that's impossible!" I point out, and my stomach growls in accord. "It's late. Why don't we eat dinner first?" Seeing the disappointed look on my son's face, it occurs to me that hunger will have to hang on, and on... just like those baguettes -- all three or four dozen of them.

"Just how does one pick up a stick without disturbing another?"

"With patience," Max encourages.

And I, the impatient outfielder am awestruck -- by a young Frenchman who runs circles around me, philosophically, having hit another balle of wisdom out of the ball park. And he didn't even have to change sports, as others have tried, in order to find his stride.


*     *     *
"Oh, I guess that one moved..." I say, sad to have to give up the newly-seized stick in my hand.
"I didn't see anything..." Max assures.
"The sticks didn't move?"
"Like I said, I didn't see a thing...."
"Oh... thanks. Thanks, Max!"

(Like that, I managed to pick-up 18 sticks. Max picked up almost double that, sans déranger le tas.)

*     *     *

Comment, send a correction--or share your own story here. Merci beaucoup!

~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary & References~~~~~~~~

le fiston (m) = son; en bois = in wood; on joue? = shall we play; allez, chiche! = Alright (Let's go), I'm game!; c'est un jeu d'adresse = it's a game of skill; name (of game) = (Max and I were playing "Mikado"); le bâton (m) = stick; J'ai compris. Allons-y = I've understood. Let's get going!; Bridge = the card game (also called "Bridge" in French => jouer au bridge = to play bridge); une mauvaise perdante = a sore loser; une poignée (f) = a fistful; Tu dois déplacer un de ces baguettes sans déranger les autres = you must move one of these sticks without upsetting the others; un tas (m) = heap, pile; la balle (f) = ball; sans déranger le tas = without upsetting the heap

Quote reference: Le Bulletin Des Recherches Historiques
 By Société des études historiques (Québec, Québec), Archives du Québec

New! Three Random Words:
un chasseur de têtes
(m) = headhunter
un ramasse-crottes
(m) = pooper-scooper
faisable (adj) = doable

Add your own "Three Random Words" here.


Happy dog in the seaside town of Giens, near Hyérès.

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Jane Sutherland

Kristen, do you live near La Londe? We used to spend the whole of the summer there for four years running when our son was little. I have very fond memories of walking into the town, the fish that was sold in an open fronted shop with joss sticks burning amongst the fish to detract the insects and the boulangerie where I struggled every day to speak French - only to discover, after three weeks, that the woman behind the counter was English! Other memories - huge bunches of freshly picked basil smelling heavenly, Le Jardin de les Oliviers, travelling circus with llamas and having my birthday on the beach; the wind and Canadiers dropping water onto forest fires!

The smell of the heat and the haze over Les Maures.




I played this! Pick Up Sticks we called it:) Nice to see it's still "en vogue"..We rarely forget childhood daughter just emailed me something she found on Etsy about Strawberry Shortcake..:) She' 34.

You are a great mom! No dinner at 7.30 I would be a bit cranky..the older I get the earlier I eat....Not 4 mind you!

Bonne Maman .And your son is so very handsome.


Hi Jane. No, we live farther inland, near Orange. I enjoyed your souvenirs. Thanks for sharing!

Monique: Glad you mentioned "pick-up sticks" for I had completely forgotten to mention the name of the game (aka "spillikins")! :

Our pick-up sticks are called "Mikado". There is a similar French game, from long ago, called "jonchets"... the old, carved, sticks are sometimes found at the brocante or antique markets:

bill en Libye

Ah oui! Pick up sticks. I never had the patience for this either, and was always getting beaten by my younger sisters. Mauvais perdant? Moi? peut-etre... I do so love the opportunity to enlarge mon vocabulaire avec ce blog. Merci autre fois! et maintenant j'ai un question/plea for help. Ma directrice m'a demande si je connais une bonne texte pour un cours de Francais. Est-ce qu'il y a de personne que connait a good French series. I have taught with a series Discovering French Nouveau, written by Jean-Paul and Rebecca Valette, which I found very good, just wondering if there are French teachers out there who have found a series they feel very strongly about and would recommend. Je vous remercie en avance pour l'information.


Pick Up Sticks and Jacks were two of my sister and my favorite games when we were kids. And 7-Up (a ball game played against the garage wall). Delightful story, thanks.


I still have my set from childhood. It's called "Lustige Jagd" or "Chasse Joyeuse" and the instructions are in German and French; we called the game pick up sticks or spillikins. The different sticks are (in descending point value) cerf, chevreuil, renard, blaireau, and lièvre -- and of course the same animals in German.

I used to be quite good at it as a child. I tried again a few years ago and was hopeless!

john newman

Beaten, he was such a poor looser that his adversaries were poor winners.

Bill in St. Paul

As others have mentioned, we called it Pick-Up Sticks, too. I don't remember that we paid much attention to the color bands on the sticks. We just counted the number of sticks that you could successfully remove from the "tas". I think that this might be a game that my nearly 4 year old (I had miscalculated her age in an earler comment) granddaughter would like.

On a different note, my wife and I just returned from two weeks in Alsace where we did a lot of hiking which included hiking through the vineyards. We were amazed at how labor intensive it is to train the growing vines to the four wires that everybody seemed to use. It appeared that they have to be in the vineyard constantly to train the vines to the next wire as they grow. Is this wine growing method unique to Alsace or is all wine growing this labor intensive?

Thanks for the memories of one of my childhood games.

Franklin Levin

My neighbor used to beat me soundly at this game. I lost so often it stopped making me "sore," when I did so. The sticks came in a cardboard tube with a screw-on lid.

We board the plane for France on Tuesday morning. Actually we are flying into Brussels (we plan to eat mussels in Brussels) for two days and then the TGV to Paris. After Le Mans we are off to the Atlantic coast around Vannes for a week. I will be keeping up via my iPod Touch and the wonderfully free wi-fi at McDonald's. Here McD charges for access.

Let the garden envy begin!


Pick-Up Sticks, as many have mentioned. I don't recall different points for different sticks, but I played by myself so I may have ignored that.

A more recent game with the same idea is Jenga. There you have a stack of domino-like pieces and try to pull one out of the stack without causing it to topple. It's relatively easy to get a piece from near the top of the stack. The challenge is pulling out something from lower down. Again, I don't remember points, but it was a bunch of us playing so we may have dispensed with points (as we used to dispense with the board and dice rolling while playing Trivial Pursuit).


I loved playing pick up sticks but my boys do not have the patience, that and they turn everything into a weapon, so sharp, pointy things are banned in our house. Off to walk the dog, must remember le ramasse-crottes, it sounds so much nicer in French.

jr from San Diego

Three Random Words:

C'est chouette! (That's great!)

casse-tete (daredevil)

Ah, bon? (Really?)


I haven't played Pick-up-Sticks in a long time! But once in a while, if I see a mess on the ground somewhere, I'll say, 'It looks like Pick-up-Sticks.' Thanks for the memory.



"Defeated, he was as bad a loser as his opponents were poor winners."
My words: I've always thought that French, like English, I suppose, has a lot of words for astonished, so étonné, ébahi, and stupéfait, to name a few. What a lovely portrait of your fils. He is a handsome jeune homme.


jr: thank you for the 3 random words. Keep 'em coming!

Merci, John, Merci Leslie, for the helpful translation!

Douglas: Great to see your note to FRED. My turn: Joyeux Anniversaire, Fred! Here's a colorful song for you, who has a colorful heart! Happy 82!:


Bonjour Kristin,
You give me hope with each story. I was very down on myself (comment dit-on?) about not being one of those people who love to play games. I think it is angoisse de perdre left in me since childhood. Oh well! I have played the sticks and wonder if I now would be able to do better, now that I could care less what anyone thought or said. In fact several years ago I participated in a game of Clues (a group of Clue fanatics) and single-handedly screwed up the game because I did not understand correctly. Tres mauvais? RIght?

Anyhow, love the picture of Max eating the baguette sandwich et passez un bon weekend. Look foward to Cinema Verite demain.



Jules Greer


I feel as though I know you so well, your delightful comments over the years have always brought a bright note into Kristi's life. I know before Kristi opened the comment box this year you regularly encouraged her passion for writing - giving her the attention she needed to always push her onto the next step. Your photo is proudly displayed in Kristi's post-card rack in her kitchen, so I saw you each morning as I poured my coffee. I could see that mischevious twinkle in your eyes, you are a very handsome man.




Hi Kristin,

I agree Max is very handsome and very wise,
et vous etes une tres bonne Maman.
As for others your story brought back a flood of good childhood memories, pick up sticks, jacks and hop scotch. I have particularly enjoyed the last two posts, you use words and observations like a painter uses brush and color.
As always I can't wait to see Cinema Verite tomorrow. I loved the picture of the pigeon and the water fountain last week...
mille mercis

Robert K.

Beaten, for us sore losers it had to be that our opponents were poor winners.

Phyllis Morton

Kristin, go back to Wednesday's comments. My native French speaker, Nicole, whom I directed to your site, today posted a comment.


I play Pick-up-sticks with my cheeky 4 year old nephew who loves to come and play....I can assure you he nearly always wins! ;-)

A game of patience...I would say Max seems to have bundles of it...happily for Mamam!

Patience...I think this is a great virtue to teach kids in this day and age. I have an old kettle that sits on top of the stove and takes an age to boil. My husband and son gleefully went out once and returned triumphantly with a shiny, new electric kettle promising to deliver piping hot water in 30 seconds. I smiled, thanked them and delegated the kettle to the top cupboard in the kitchen. When questioned I said with a smile that I like my old kettle and the fact that you need to wait for 3 minutes until the water boiled because it was probably the only time we thought about "patience" and how it can allow us to slow the world down, take a breath, gather thoughts before the whirlwind of life carried us off again! My kettle has stayed and my family laugh at me but I know the lesson has been learnt! ( PS the other kettle has found a new home elsewhere!)


Also...wishing a Bon Anniversaire to the delightful Mr Caswell as well!!

Evelyn Jackson

Kristin...loved Cinema veritie today! Great colors especially the light green on the house with the lovely tiles. Can't see a place on that page to leave comments, tho. And the video was such of my favorite 'feel good' songs even if I can't understand the words.Hopefully the movie will come Stateside with English subtitles! Enjoy the weekend.


Thanks, Evelyn! To leave a comment on one of the photos, you'll need to click back to the CV blog, to the "Giens" post. So far there isn't a comment box for the individual photos -- which would be handy!


I still can't see a comments section for CV today Kristin. Nice to see the war memorials. June 6 is coming up.


Ce jeu est comme Jenga, aussi!

I'm reading the Harry Potter books in French and "baguette" is the word they use for "wand." That took some getting used to! I kept imagining them casting the light spell, "Lumos!" while waving around a loaf of bread :)


j'adore l'addition de trois mots au hasard. What a great idea............ Je m'appelle Patience......for the last 78 years.....It is a name you grow into. Thanks Kristin for coming up with new ideas non stop!!!.

Catherine VandeVelde

Ah, those sandwich baguettes. Probably one of the things I remember best from my trip to Provence five years ago! Ate them nearly every day.


Is it, Defeated, he was a bad loser, but his adversary was a poor sport?


Defeated, he was as poor a loser as his adversaries were bad (ungracious) winners.


"Beaten, he was as much a sorry loser as his opponents were poor winners."


He lost and he was a bad loser as much as his adversaries were lousy winners.


Diane W. Young

Not only was he beaten but he was a sore loser because his opponents were bad winners!

D Mills

He lost as badly as his enemies won

Linda Collison

In defeat he was as sore a loser as his opponents were winners.

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