Milestone in French
caviar d'aubergines

une idée fausse

Shakespeare and Company bookstore, Paris, France (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Shakespeare and Company: an historic expat bookstore in Paris. Still soaring from the high of speaking at the American Library... I marched right into Shakespeare & Co. (before Fear had a chance to bully me and lie to me again...) and offered up my new public speaking services... To get this new gig--I acted as if--as if I had the confidence and composure of a conquistador (never mind that my previous speaking engagements included passing out on the floor). Convinced, they signed me for an author's talk on March 1st! 

Pronounce It Perfectly in French - with exercises in sound discrimination and accurate sound creation. Order your copy here.

idée fausse (ee-day fowce) noun, feminine

    : misconception

(The verb is "suer" : je sue, tu sues, il sue, nous suons, vous suez, ils suent => past participle = sué)

Audio File & Example Sentence: Download Wav File

Une idée fausse, mais claire et précise, aura toujours plus de puissance dans le monde qu'une idée vraie mais complexe.

  (Please help me to translate this sentence in the comments box!)

A Day in a French Life...
by Kristin Espinasse

The following are some idées fausses, or misconceptions, that were running around my hopeful mind during the week leading up to my (once feared and dreaded) public talk:

...When my talk is over I will be okay again...
After my speech I can relax, let go...
...Life will begin again
after the speaking event. I will be able to taste my coffee, feel the breeze on my skin... I will smell the autumn air once again... my senses will no longer be dull (all-consumed with cowardice).

I will go home, put on my favorite soft robe and cozy slippers
and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate....  I will experience bliss. I will have my reward. Imagine this!

The strange thing is: none of these things happened. Instead, I had a revelation:

The joy, the bliss, the aliveness that I believed would be mine after this tortuous trial (a.k.a. The Speech)... instead took the place of it. Instead of feeling like the proverbial deer caught in hell's headlights, during my speech I felt the power of love, warm and bright.  I never felt so alive! The speech was the reward.

Could it be that public speaking is the best-kept secret? And that 99.9 percent of the earth's population (that is, the percentage of people that are petrified by public speaking) are depriving themselves of what is, in reality, a powerful instant -- a divine drop of distilled life?

Public speaking may be, after all, the best-kept secret. If you want to hog the spotlight (and all of the "life" that comes with it) then keep on perpetuating the idée fausse that public speaking is something that will kill you. (It will kill the Ego... so add that to your "Gifts I receive from Public Speaking" list.)

But if you want to join the revolution, and begin to murder the misconception, then please tell someone today that they WILL be okay the next time they have to speak, publicly; that the secret reward that nobody is telling you about is this: speaking can be bliss!

(We'll talk more about this on Friday, when I'll post another list of tips and techniques that worked for me....)


(former fainter, aspiring orator)

Post note: It is important for me to remember that nothing is ever "a given". That is: I have not conquered my fear of public speaking (Coach Conchita, and others of you, might beg to differ). The truth is, as long as we have our fickle "feelings" we won't be spared of what amounts to internal warfare. But we can take winning steps to counter this, and experience the bliss, when we recognize our God-given gift of confidence and assurance.

One of the most common fears that public speakers have is the belief that they will lose control of themselves in front of an audience. For me, this meant that I might somehow come undressed during my speech! (One tick that you will witness--when you view my speech--is this: I kept placing my hand over my heart -- not because it was beating violently (it wasn't)... but because I feared the snaps on my back might come undone (as they had in gym class... before my bra busted, some 20 years back!). Horror of horrors that this might happen again, now--in front of an audience! And so all that obsessive hand-to-heart business you see amounted to my checking (and rechecking) to make sure my "underwear" was still "there".

Witness this tick for yourselves in the video from my Paris talk! See the video immediately, when you sign up to become a supporting member of French Word-A-Day.

Finally, here is a book that I have just ordered. I am excited to learn and grow in the area of public speaking. Won't you join me? Check out this book and read along with me!:In The SpotLight, Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking and Performing


Comments ~ Corrections ~ Stories of your own...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts in the comments box. Please forward this post to a student or stilted speaker. I hope it will help someone and eventually open the door of opportunity to others.

*   *   *



French Demystified: A self-teaching guide "simple enough for a beginner but challenging enough for a more advanced student"

French language software:
Rosetta Stone Personal Edition contains everything you need to give the voice inside of you a new language. The method used recreates the natural way you learned your first language, revealing skills that you already have. This approach has won numerous awards, and has been adopted by countless organizations, schools and millions of users around the world. Join the language revolution today. Only with Rosetta Stone.

My French Coach by Nintendo.
Playing My French Coach for 15 to 20 minutes a day is all you need to become fluent in French, no matter your age. The simple touch screen interface lets you spend less time learning the game and more time learning French.

French music: Jacques Brel

Restaurant in Paris, Chez Julien, Lou Pescadou, 2CV, citroen (c) Kristin Espinasse,
 "Parisian Parking"-- why not forward today's edition to a friend? Or sign up a family member for French Word-A-Day?

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Bill in St. Paul

A quick translation of the phrase "une idée fausse, mais claire, aura toujours plus de puissance dans le monde qu'une idée vraie" using what is left of my high school and college French would be "A misconception given clearly will have more power in the world than a true idea" (hmmm, "true idea" needs a better translation - it's too early in the morning yet).

Kristin, the male equivalent of checking for your bra strap is making sure our "fly" is closed! It's great that you have lost your fear of public speaking and have even signed on for another one. I think the key is to keep speaking in public, otherwise, like myself you will regress.

Evelyn Jackson

Good for you..charging into my favorite bookshop in the whole world and offering up your gifts and talents!! When I was in high school, my dad (very uncharacteristically) told me I WOULD take two classes...typing and speech, that both would be useful my whole life. Boy, much as I hate to admit it, he was right! While I still get butterflies before I have to speak in front of people, I can do it without fainting (altho I do occasionally feel like throwing up!)They say being a little nervous gives you an edge and makes you a better speaker, so don't despair! Good luck in March.


As Tocqueville says, " a false idea, related clearly (with conviction), will always have more strength in the world than a true idea" (without conviction) .


I remember slogging through Tocqueville's "Democracy in America" first semester, freshman year at my university. It amazes me how often I'm drawn back to his timeless observations! Hitler took a spin on this (though perhaps not intentionally so), thanks to his propaganda head, with the idea that the big lie, repeated enough, becomes a 'truth' in the minds of the people. That's a scary, scary thought... but it ties in with the political idea of 'the Big Lie'

Kate Schubart

Une idée fausse, mais claire, aura toujours plus de puissance dans le monde qu'une idée vraie.

A specious idea, boldly asserted, will always have more currency in the world than the simple truth.

And Happy Columbus Day (now there's a 'fact'--that he discovered America--that is a false idea but that has carried the day as fact for a couple of centuries at least.)

renee lerner

I googled the quote you gave today and found this one. The additional words will help the translation.

Une idée fausse, mais claire et précise, aura toujours plus de puissance dans le monde qu’une idée vraie mais complexe. » Alexis de Tocqueville, De la démocratie en Amérique.

Mary Agnes Norman

A clearly stated misconception will always
have more power in the world than a true
idea. (I think "badly stated truth" is
implicit in the quotation.)

Susan Sparkman

Dear Kristi,

I am so proud of you! You ARE a public speaker!

Did you practice at the window in front of your huge audience of grapevines?

I miss all of you and France. Would you believe I am now a French teacher in Texas?!?!?

Please give Marita bises for me if you see her.


John Steel / Bunny Freidus

You certainly smashed the false idea that public speaking is a fearful task with the winning conclusion that speaking in public is in itself a pleasure. As a litigator for 50 years, a former Mayor, and a lecturer on Pilates, I look forward to public speaking. Your Mom's advice was great, and it needs to be remembered. Yes, I still have some anxiety before speaking. It has to do with fear of humiliation. Hard-wired, I suppose. But 10 seconds into it, all gone. Just like acting. Your story is touching and instructive, and you should feel very proud of yourself.
My wife Bunny and I, (we have a maison secondaire in the Luberon,) will call you shortly to arrange a visit to purchase some of your husband's wine. We love your blog.

John Steel

Derek Hodkin

nothing to do with any of this but . . just a question . . how old do you have to be to wear your hair long successfully? You are a lovely looking lady - I just wonder about you thinking about . .cutting your hair? . . . I will still read avidly your thrice weekly offerings of course - just a 'passing thought'

Derek Hodkin (age nearing 73!!

Lisa Smith

Dear Kristen,

You are an inspiration! As a fellow author, who just launched her first book, I am following your example and marching into my local bookstore (no Shakespeare & Co., but still....) here in Sydney this week to book a speaking engagement! Bravo on your chutzpah & sending you much support!



Hmm - thinking about the quote. Wouldn't a true idea presented with conviction be just as powerful? In any case, that was a good forward move on your part to march yourself right into that wonderfully historic bookstore. You will make your mark there too - that's very exciting.

Keep practicing until March - maybe you could go into town with a portable wine crate stage and a Karaoke machine and just see what happens??

Nancy LoBalbo

Congratulations Kristen! Are you ready for a book tour/speaking engagement?! How great that you have conquered this "fear". Sometimes we are just READY to get over our fears. I did not fly in an airplane for 20 years, then one day my husband said to me "Let's take a vacation on the Outer Banks in North Carolina, it's a 14 hr drive or a 1 1/2 hr flight, which would you like to do?" At that time we had already driven from CT. to Michigan(16 hrs) and taken a train to Florida (24 hrs) due to my inability to fly. I looked at my 2 teenagers (at the time 13 & 15 years old) and thought that the idea of 14 hrs in a car with them was more frightening than 1 1/2 of flying and decided to get on the plane. Well, that was about 5 years ago and since then I made my 1st trip to France (and my second trip to France) and my life had changed and improved dramatically! It just takes a leap of faith and 'a little help from your friends' (or, in your case, family). I look forward to seeing you when you line up a speaking tour in NYC area(-:
xo Nancy L.

Larry Krakauer

Hmm. A classic technique to help overcome fear of public speaking is to imagine the audience naked. I think that imagining yourself undressed must be counterproductive.

I don't see anything in the de Tocqueville quote about the idea being "presented with conviction" or "boldly stated". Taking the longer version given by Renée Lerner above, it seems to say, "An idea which is false, but clear and precise, will always have more power in the world than an idea which is true, but complex."

Some related or similar thoughts:

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. (H. L. Mencken)

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. (Albert Einstein)

We think only through the medium of words . . . The art of reasoning is nothing more than a language well arranged. (Etienne Condillac)


Hi Larry -

Regarding the quote, "puissance" means powerful to me - so I went straight to that meaning (in addition to "claire" - clear) in my own understanding.


Nothing can stop you now from enjoying the experience of sharing your light when ever you wish.


Thank you Bill, Susan, Kate, and Marie Agnes for your translations and, to Renee, for the correct version of the quote, in French! That is helpful and I've updated the blog post!

Susan (in Texas): great to hear from you! I will be sure to share your message with Marita!

John, looking forward to seeing you!

Lisa, congratulations on your book!!!

Many thanks to everyone for your thoughts and for sharing your own stories of courage!

Carol Wayne

From my dear friend Peggy Rice, it sounds like you did a fine job. I think the anticipation is worse than the experience.

Bon courage,


jan greene

Remember, the 'only thing to fear is fear itself". You have demonstrated that the fear is worse than the speech, or the flying or all the other fears we all have. How good to be reminded of this as occasions to be anxious and fearful even in smaller way, can pop up so often in daily life. Congratulations Kristin, Jan


Kristin, what a treat! Je t'adore! I agree with Bill in St Paul, you just need to keep doing it. I love the playschool appliance analogy. I remember sitting in front of my French machine for hours watching a few towels slowly wash..chug-a-chug..chug-a-chug, and learning to adjust shopping habits to accomodate un petit réfrigérateur. I did not want your talk to end. You are a natural. Félicitations et continuez mon amie.

Mary Relling

Kristin: Remember me, with the place in Sablet? Reading about your public speaking (which I think is great!)....don't forget why God made beta blockers: 20 mg of propranolol for "stage fright"! Takes out the heart-in-throat but not the thrill!


I always think people are looking at my flaws rather than listening. An eye that wanders to the right, maybe my makeup isn't put on right, missed facial hair. Never about actually speaking in front of a group.
A cousin speaks loudly and in drawn out sentences because he actually has a stutter if he speaks normally even just in front of family. See, everyone has issues with speaking in public. You are conquering yours and doing a wonderful job. I really admire your going to Shakespeare and Co. and scheduling that speaking engagement!

Jacquie Sabourin

Taking medication to block the discomfort wouldn't really enable one to learn about oneself, gain confidence and insight and become a stronger person for living through and surviving one's fears, would it? Getting the thrill without the effort is asking for some reward or glory without any discomfort or hard work (and is very unrewarding and uneducational).

Congratulations Kristi on overcoming your fear (the natural and hard won way).


Yay!! Am so happy for you, Kristin, on your newly-found, deeply embedded courage!:) It is Thanksgiving here today in Canada, and so I just want to say Thank You for your perseverance and gumption, and for sharing your experiences with all of us. It is a pleasure to read your bursts of sunshine......

Anne A

I just called in to say Hi. I started looking at your blog, after my latest trip to Paris, where in a lovely teashop was your book...

The teashop is in La Butte aux Cailles...owned by a lovely lady named Aimee..!

Lynn Worn

The full version of the quote is definitely helpful in getting the sense of what Tocqueville meant.
Congrats to you for approaching Shakespeare and Company and for getting an engagement!
Courage et bonne continuation !!

Lin Burdett

Enough has been written about the quote. I just wanted to tell you that I loved the photo of the deux cheveaux in front of Lou Pescadou. My husband and I rented an apartment on the same block of rue Mabillon a couple of years ago and enjoyed eating at the restaurant, as well as the other restaurants in that block. It's such a wonderful neighborhood, one which we've frequented for forty years.
Love your blog. Keep up the good work.
Bonne chance.


The Toastmasters organization cured my fear of speaking in front of a group about 28 years ago when I was a bank manager in Southern California. I was a member for a couple of years and, since then, I have never been afraid so speak in front of a group. Here's the link:

Robert Haine

Fear is a very strange emotion, especially fear of the unknown, the new, the never before experienced. Once you've been down that road, crossed that bridge, climbed that mountain, it no longer holds the same power. Having taught high school (French) for 33 years, you'd think I'd be over it, but last night my wife and I were asked to do a "Pulpit talk" after mass at church, a mostly scripted little announcement, but still the same nervous feeling, looking out at a congregation (many of them teens). It went well and was done in a couple of minutes, but we were both relieved as the congregation applauded and we returned to our seats.

Pat Cargill

Enthusiasm is interesting - it brings out spontaniety and a desire to jump into the thick of things; we just speak up and out, not given to much forethought and in the process, sometimes we set ourselves up for a little "roughing up," a touch of sarcasm, wearing a cloak of truth, that pronounces one's idea unworthy, not in keeping perhaps with the general overview being presented. I am trying to remember who said: "Enthusiasm, an emotive burst of life, never needs its fire doused by a bucket of cold water opinion." Can anyone help me on this? Just can't remember...

Congratulation K and all who have overcome their fears. May those who have not continue to persevere and cope however they may be able.

I am glad to know you will be at S&Co in March! May make it back by then. Cheers! (C'est moi raising an imaginary flute de champagne on high.)

Jules Greer

Dearest Kristi,

I have so many things I would like to say--

the most important thought I have right now is to express my joy from reading all of these brilliant comments and having the opportunity to get to know each of your friends as they come out of the woodwork and share their thoughts here at FWAD. I am humbled by their open hearts and love for you. I wonder if anyone else is hooked on the COMMENTS SECTION as I am. Their thoughts have raised my spirts and filled my heart with love and joy... I LOVE ALL OF YOU !!!!!



Susan Strick

thank you, dear kristin....
As a singing teacher, i've worked with folks a lot about "performance anxiety" . in a workshop i call "taming the wild nervebeast" i introduce myself as well qualified to teach this because i have experienced this kind of fear in so many arenas! your sharing about this experience touches me deeply and i hope you won't mind if i share your discovery of the bliss of the moment -- "the divine drop of distilled life" -- with my students. in all my reading and thinking about this, i have not encountered this aspect so clearly and well expressed.

Jules Greer

Kristi Darling,

I would also like to put my two-bits in on the date of your next excursion into the world of speaking in Paris. I know at the moment the woman in Paris opened up to you in the famous bookstore and invited you to speak you and she probably jumped at the first open date that came is where I differ....why can't you set this up for the very end of APRIL OR THE FIRST WEEK OF MAY - they weather would be so much nicer and I'll bet alot of your friends might show up from FWAD for this later date.
I know I don't want to come in March..I froze last March at your vineyard. Perhaps I could step out of my fear zone and introduce you at the beginning of your talk.
That would be a kick wouldn't it....ha-ha.



I will polish my boots and bring my hat and poncho.

Kristine, dallas

I one day hope to be in the presence of two amazing women that I don't really know~ Kristen and Jules. Kristen~ your fear of public speaking should be quashed as you have already showed NO FEAR in choosing your life in France. That in itself tells me you have all that you need. Regardless, Congratulations on becoming a sought after speaker...I look forward to hearing you speak, sooner than later.

XO to you and your Mom!


Best idea I've heard all day: Jules to intro Kristin on her speaking tour!! (Yes, I have already decided your one speech on the 2010 calendar MUST become a tour!) The only problem with this plan...would Jules actually give up the mic if she gets to speak first??! :)

Rebecc in NYC


Nobody has commented on Kristin's great observation of living life AFTER a major stressor in life as opposed to living THROUGH it. I use to do this too. "Oh, I'll be fine when all of this is over." Then I started to realize I was always delaying my enjoyment of life for a better, more suitable time which has yet to come! lol

Melody in California


Kristin, I know the anxiety that you were facing. I was a teacher and never had a problem speaking in my classroom, but when speaking in front of my peers, I was a wreak and my voice would crack. I remember one time when I was speaking to an Italian group and I had to say our Mayors name, a very simple Italian name and I stumbled over it so badly. If I had been more relaxed, I could have said that Italian names are so hard to pronounce, but give me any Finnish name and I could pronounce it without any difficulty.
I have gotten better and when I am relaxed I can do a really excellent job, and have been asked on many occasions to read inspirational readings. That is not to say that I could get up in front of 200 people and not be frantic.
When speaking with another teacher who reads your blog, she also has trouble with public speaking but doesn't have any problem in a classroom full of students.

Congratulations to you and Jules is one terrific Mom and coach!

JacquelineBrisbane (Oz)

Not having had the benefit of a formal education Alexis de Tocqueville escaped my notice util today.Thank you for bringing him to our notice! What a wealth of discoveries in this man's work, written at only 25 years of age (if Wikipedia is correct!). The contradiction of slavery combined with democracy, the concept of 'soft despotism', wow, such moderns ideas. I'm yet to find out the context of your quote, whose false ideas was he talking about? I hope for an answer from the well of knowledge from my fellow FWAD fans; pending a visit to my local library. Thank you Kristin for bringing us all together in our love of language, knowledge, and our fellow humans.


Speaking as a shy mouse who said next to nothing in front of any group for the first quarter century of life -- BRAVO on this joyous discovery, K!! Forced to learn to speak bravely, I did develop into a happily hammy college teacher, storyteller and stand-up comic, someone who -- tho' still shy in many ways 40 years later -- loves to please an audience. Here's to many jolly decades of public speaking pleasure for you and those who hear you, Madame E!!

with a hug,


Denise L.

Shakespeare & Co AND Tocqueville in the same session - most excellent! I was thrilled to see the photo (because I, too, made it there in quick time once I landed in Paris). That will be a nice, intimate gathering - I have no doubt it will go very well.

As for Tocqueville, I agree with the comment that he was way before his time. I have brought both Tocqueville and Beaumont to my political sociology students via a paper on the early roots of the subject. They are always amazed (and not a little confused!).

Cheers -

Jacqui McCargar

Hi Kristi,
I knew you could do it! And thanks for the sage advice about decisions that you gave me as we sat chatting at the picnic table out front, eating tomato and olive tapenade tart!

Stacy Lund

There is joy in my heart, Kristi, sharing in and knowing what a true accomplishment this is! You have transformed your fear into a lovely butterfly, allowing you to open your wings and share more of your beauty with more of the world. You are an inspiration! Grateful you have such an amazing mom (Thanks Jules!) to support your flight!


Kristin, I'm so glad you've discovered the joy and perpetual reward of public speaking. And kudos to you for setting up your Shakespeare and Company talk! Even if you haven't fully conquored your fears, you've definitely started on the road to taming them.

Kip Ingham

Dear Kristi,

The important thing about public speaking is to know what you are talking about and to be prepared. You are smart and beautiful and now you have experience and confidence so nothing can hold you go girl! I am really proud of you to be able to do something that I dread doing! I am really impressed by all these comments by your readers; you have such a nice and educated fan club. When they write in this column, I wish they would state where they are from as youreceive mail from all over the world.

Dad in Sun Valley, Idaho

Jules Greer








Thank you Mom and Dad, for your messages. You have made my day. Love to Marsha.


"Une idée fausse, mais claire et précise, aura toujours plus de puissance dans le monde qu'une idée vraie mais complexe."

Straight translation:
An idea - false, but clear and precise - will always have more power in the world than an idea that is true but complex.

Paraphrased translation:
A clear misconception is more powerful than the complex reality.

Alex Ash

Bearing any other unforeseen circumstances, I'll be at the March reading! This time I'll introduce myself! See you then! (Jules, I think you should come, even if it IS March!)

Alice Halliday

Just wanted to say how brave of you to conquor your fears. You will never look back now. I did laugh about your fainting from fear on your previous attempts! So touched by the comment from your Dad and your Mother's writing is always full of energy and excitement! Well done. I was hailed from the window of Shakespeare & Co by my great travelling companion where she was sleeping among the books - she from Kenya, me from UK.
Alice Halliday, Chichester

PS so loved the puppy photos which have winged their way worldwide.

Jaclyn Wesolowski

Translating today's sentence...let's see how I do!

Une idée fausse, mais claire et précise, aura toujours plus de puissance dans le monde qu'une idée vraie mais complexe.

Translates to:
A misconception, but clear and precise, always has more potency in the world than a true but complex idea.

JacquelineBrisbane (Oz)

Since reading this beautiful thread, way back in October; 2 exiting things relating to this post just occured! I must share:
1/ I saw Julie and Julia, a gorgeous, humane and funny film and spotted Shakespeare & co!
2/ Peter Carey has just released a new book (always an event)Parrot and Olivier; which is based on Alexis de Tocq's travels!
Jacqueline de Brisbane

JacquelineBrisbane (Oz)

Correction on the above:
Peter Carey's new book is Parrot and Olivier in America.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)