une ficelle


If a chocolate trough existed, it might be behind these doors.

mangeoire (mahn-zhwar) noun, feminine

  1.  trough, manger (animals) ; feeding dish (birds)
  2.  crèche (Christ child's crib)

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Audio File Hear today's French word and proverb: Download mp3 or Wav

           Cheval affamé nettoie sa mangeoire.
            A starving horse cleans its trough.

In music: 21 Christmas Songs in French and English.

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

Reading to my Francophone children in their native tongue is a humbling, sometimes humiliating experience. Not only for the "pause pronunciation"—child-issued breaks in which I must stop reading in order to repeat a French word that I have tripped up on—but also for the words that I still do not know: both French... and in English.

Thankfully, not all "readings" are cause for reprimand. De temps en temps, there are eye-opening moments when suddenly, more than a word making sense, the world seems to take on new meaning as well.

It was while reading a chapter called "The birth..." or "La naissance de Jésus" to my daughter that I felt a lump in my throat and a sting in my eyes. An English word with which I've had but a yearly encounter—usually during the holiday season—suddenly defined itself as its French counterpart moved up my vocal chords and exited in a French chorus of sound and meaning. The text preceding the word (indicated between asterisks, below) only served to set the dramatic stage:

Là, dans la saleté et entre les animaux, elle mit son bébé au monde. Puis elle l'enveloppa chaudement et, comme il n'y avait pas de berceau, elle le déposa dans *une mangeoire* pour qu'il puisse dormir...

("There, in the filth and between the animals, she brought her baby into the world. Then she wrapped him warmly and, as there was no cradle, she put him down in a *feeding trough* so that he could sleep.")

Replacing the word "manger" with "feeding trough", its equivalent, gives the account an even more heartrending effect; "manger" is poetic, while "feeding trough" effectively evokes the brutal bed that was the only resting place for the delicate newborn.

                                        *     *     *

As for those instances of humiliation—whether in fumbling through French text before a ten-year-old... or in the stories that I have lived and that will never be told—my mind now calls up a peaceful bergerie, wherein an unspoiled baby would come to suffer all humility; this, instead of me.



French Vocabulary

de temps en temps = from time to time; La Naissance de Jésus = The Birth of Jesus (from the book "Grande Bible Pour Les Enfants," Chantecler edition); la bergerie (f) = shelter (sheepfold)


French Word-A-Day: Summer 2009 Stories The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: "This heartbreaking story by a uniquely gifted writer is about transforming pain into creativity, human despair into literary miracle." —Elie Wiesel

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

Jim in RI

Perceptive as always.

Debbie in Tennessee


Bill in St. Paul

Joyeux anniversaire encore, Kristin.

Candy Witt

Quelle belle surprise d'avoir un FWaD email ce matin! Merci! Et merci pour le message dedans. J'espere que tu passes une bonne journee (ton anniversaire!) dans AZ. Hola Jules! Como estas? I hope you have a grand day as well in your little corner of the world remembering the joyous event of your daughter's birth.

Jules Greer




Lynette Simser

Joyeux anniversiare, Kristin!


Recieve blessings and my very best wishes for you.
Merry Christmas and a better 2010!!!
Andrea @ Austin, TX


Happy Birthday Kristin! +7C this morning in southwestern Newfoundland. I love this global warming.

Renee in LA

Kristin - I had the same reaction when I read your phrase - so THAT'S what a manger is! Never knew what it meant in English. Now I know! Merry Christmas!

Les frères Christian de Louisville  KY  USA

Joyeux anniversaire et AD MULTOS ANNOS


Kristin, I didn't know we shared a birthday. I'm afraid I've seen a few more than you, however. Merci, for the post "la mangeoire." I never get tired of the story and every year I find something new to preach on. This year I discovered that at each angelic visitation surrounding the advent an angel said, "Don't be afraid!" There were four sermons right there. To Zacharias, "Don't be afraid, God answers prayer." To Mary, "Don't be afraid, I've given you the grace you need to be faithful." To Joseph, "Don't be afraid, courageously fulfill the purpose for life I've given you." To the shepherds, "Don't be afraid, when you expect the worst, good news is really great news to rejoice about."
Joyeux Anniversaire and Joyeux Noel.

Marjan Shahkarami

Happy Birthday Kristin. May your day be filled with laughter and celebrations. Peace and love.... Marjan

Maria Cochrane

How encouraging to read that you are sharing with your daughter the wonder of Christ's choosing to suffer the humility and punishment we deserve.
And thank you Tom above for the 4 different ways God tells us not to fear....all 4 apply to us and many more can be drawn from the Fear Not. Without Christ we would have LOTS to fear. But God with us makes all the difference.

Christine Jackson

Lovely story, Kristin. Thank you.

Jacqui McCargar

It makes me wonder...maybe "manger" in English is what became of the French "mangeoire" ?? Sunny and fairly cold in Northern California..39 degrees

Gwyn Ganjeau

Joyeux Anniversaire, Kristen! I'm glad you were born.

In the 40's (the temp, not me :), drizzly, and a puffy, tender gray here in Seattle.


Dad and Marsha

Joyeux Anniversaire Kristi!

We love you,
Dad and Marsha (la belle-mere)


Thanks, Kristin for sharing your thoughts, and Tom, for the wonderful reminders of God's desire that we fear not.

It's snowing gently and continuously in Woodstock, IL. The temperature is hanging around 27 degrees.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Joyeux Noël

Michael Armstrong

Oh, Kristin, that is a perfect thought and a beautiful memory for the season. Few English speakers, even us francophiles who know "mangeoir", make the connection of the word "manger" to the brutish reality of the feeding trough in the rough stable into which the newborn Jesus was placed "with great humility." Merci. Bonne anniversaire, joyeux Noël, et bonne et heureuse année.

dorothy dufour

Joyeuse Anniversaire!
Are you Capricorn or Sagittarius??

Many things are better said in French. My favourite is when a guest isn't in to helping,
and grabbing a dishtowel (before dishwashers) they say derisivly, "Elle fait sa visite!".

In Abbotsord BC it's SUNNY 4 degrees C.

Enjoy your holiday.


Martha Prescher

Kristin: I found your blog 2 months ago. I like all your stories, but this one especially so. It must make you happy that so many people from all over the world enjoy what you do.Blessing to you and your family and Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday.
Also, I bought a bottle of 2007 Mistral that Jean Marc mentioned in his blog. We are going to open it Christmas Eve and will let you know how we liked it. It is 31 degrees here in Bloomington IL and threatening freezing rain for Christmas Eve. I hope not!


I love today's essay!


Fred Caswell

De mon coeur, joyeux anniversaire, chere amie!

Maintenant je ne peux dire j'ai deux temps de ans que tu! (Forgive any and all errors en francais).

Fred, (also in Rhode Island, Jim)

Shandy Burton

Happy Birthday, Kristin!! I hope you have a wonderful day. Also, Merry Christmas to you and your family! : )

Roger Anderson


Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday!

You caught the essence and message of the Christmas story in very few words.

I remember the beauty of the deserts of the southwest after having taken a National Science Foundation summer course in desert biology there once at ASU which involved field trips south and north. How about some photos from the desert while you are visiting?

Roger Anderson

Annette Heath

Joyeux anniversaire mon amie. I loved your words about humiliation (we have all known it, ne-est-pas?) You can view the new year with great joy for all you bring to us, and for the joy your wonderful family brings to you. I love hearing about each of them, and I am certainly coming to love your dear Mother, Jules.

Annette Heath

Je suis desole. I misspelled n'est pas. May the Espinasse family enjoy the happiest of Christmases and the very best new year ever.

Patty Beynet

Happy Birthday, sweet Kristin. It was not great having a birthday within a week of Christmas as a child (mine is 3 days after).Everyone seemed to forget! Now I am grateful for all birthdays! We are in LA enjoying the sun and beaches with our son. Patty

Jules Greer

Dearest Friends,

Kristi just called, they all drove back to Phoenix from Palm Springs this afternoon.
Of course mostly we talked about "you" the commenter's here. All of you made Kristi's birthday special this year - never in her entire life has she received so many "Happy Birthday's." You must always remember that you are the one's that give Kristi the energy and inspiration to move forward each day with French-Word-A-Day. Kristi asked me to give you her "Hello's and XOXO'S as the computer at Heidi's is tied up with everyone else...Jean-Marc running his wine business, Max and Jackie emailing all of their friends in France. The cop's pulled them over for speeding two hours out of Phoenix...the poor guy came to the passenger side, so you know once Kristi's had him in her gaze and surrounded by her words he didn't have a chance. She said he had the sweetest face, (she sounds like me now).

Sweet dreams to everyone - Santa is coming soon....





Happiest of Birthdays to you. I am so intrigued about your faith and have been for some time as it filters into your writing and communication in a beautiful and personal way. Perhaps I should ask Jules? I am flummoxed with the combination of the lovely free spirit and close connection with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. You seem to live an authentic life, one with many diverse facets, while staying true to a core of values and beliefs from your religious upbringing? I would love to hear more.

It is very cold here in Maine. Temps in the single digits and it will be a white Christmas for certain. Jules, I have crafted a Christmas tree from drift wood collected along the Atlantic shore I think you would enjoy. Shall try to email you a photo.


Dear Kristin,
In a world in which thoughtful people (or at least those who see themselves as such) so often deride God, His Son, and those who trust in Him, your understated yet unashamed words were a Christmas gift to me. "Instead of me," indeed. Here on a crisp (35, no snow) North Carolina night, I'm thankful with you for so great a salvation.

Helen Mudge

Happpy Birthday Kristin - from Afrique du Sud, where the sun is shining on our beaches, and everyone enjoying our summer holidays! I have been following your posts for ages, thoroughly enjoying every single one of them. I wish you, and your family a very happy Christmas, and all the best for 2010. With love, Helen x

Jules Greer

Dearest Suzan,

After spending over an hour trying to get this $#%! computer to come on, I finally just laid my hands on the keyboard and turned it over to God. As you can see my prayers were answered. I am so touched by your thought that I would love your photo of the driftwood, I would adore a photo. This will brighten my Christmas, I am a little more than sad this week not being with all of my kids. Thank you for thinking of me.

[email protected]



Suzan Backer

You got it Jules. Stay tuned. Coming your way.

XOXO S. Did you get the song I sent you through Kristin's email?

Jeanne Robinson

Dearest Kristin,

Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, and a very Happy New Year to you and yours.

I so enjoyed reading this post. My husband and I are small business owners, and we and our employees are Christian. Last night we held our company Christmas party, and I shared with him the wonderful insight you received as you fully grasped the meaning of the tremendous sacrifice our Lord made when he left His throne in Heaven to be born in a stable and laid in a feeding trough. The wife of one of our men shared that when she teaches the story of Christ's birth with her very young Sunday school class, knowing they would stumble over words such as manger or trough, she calls it "the cow's dish."

Tonight I'm taking your post to show to my Pastor at our mid-week service. I know he will find it as lovely as I did.

Jeanne in Damascus, Oregon where it is in the mid-40's and has stopped raining!

PS Merry Christmas Jules. You must be a wonderful mom because you've raised another wonderful mom.

Eileen deCamp

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone! I enjoyed this post so much! Thanks Kristin!
We are finally able to get out on the roads after our 24 inch snowfall last Saturday!
Cold and 28 here in Charlottesville, VA


Happy Birthday, Kristin!

Jules and Susan . . . my mother once had a driftwood creche made by my drifter (at the time) brother, with ROCKS for nativity figures! Joseph "stood" and leaned slightly over Mary. She was "kneeling" before a rock manger on which a little stone lay, the infant Jesus. There were shepherd rocks and an angel rock, and you could tell at a glance exactly what you were seeing!

He, my brother, had been collecting them for months from a riverbed near the shack where he lived. He has since gone on to become a renowned silversmith, and my mother has gone on to live with the risen Christ, but I think of that creche . . . truth and reality shine through that night, even in driftwood and stone.

Kerry from Tucson in Oklahoma


What a touching story Kerry! Thank you--and merci to everyone for each and every lovely word. What a gift you are to me and my family, and to all of us here :-)

Anita Cook

Well done. :)

Suzanne Walsh

...and 'amen' to all these beautiful comments & to all a Go d Night.

kisses & hugs,
(from high up in the Catskills NY State--4 degrees F tonite & a beautiful almost-full blue moon shining over the snow & towering spruce trees)


I love your blog! It is a great pleasure, every post.
New year greetings to you from Jerusalem.

pit 37

My coder is trying to persuade me to move to .net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because of the costs. But he's tryiong none the less. I've been using Movable-type on several websites for about a year and am anxious about switching to another platform. I have heard very good things about blogengine.net. Is there a way I can transfer all my wordpress content into it? Any kind of help would be really appreciated!|

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