Municiple flowers, blue shutters, Valréas, Vaucluse, hanging flower pot, France (c) Kristin Espinasse www.french-word-a-day.com
Municipal flower pot in Valréas.

jojo (zho zho) adjective

    : short for "joli(e)", pretty

 Audio file (not available today... désolée!)


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

I followed Madame's directions and ended up at the medieval church, looking up at those "magnifiques fronts", the faces of which were almost as long as my own. Staring up at the church's eaves, where sculpted eyes stared back at me, I searched for God knows what: familiarity? unity?

My eyes scoured the stone faces but, try as I might, I could not "connect" or feel the warmth that had left me back at the little placette, where I had said mes au revoirs. Madame with the soft white curls and sentimental scarf  had surely returned to the room behind the window of white hearts. Why had she sent me here? Why were these sour faces so sweet to her?

I hurried back to the farmers' market to pick up a few bricoles before leaving the town of Valréas. Walking along I was awed by the municipal flower pots which lined the polished streets, punctuating every corner. The bright red blooms tumbled over, flowing almost to the cobbled ground. A little girl, no more that three, tousled her mother's hair as the latter knelt down to tie the toddler's shoes. The girl's fingers were light as feathers, little birds in her mother's silky hair. "Ça suffit, chérie," the mother said, standing up in time to fix her disheveled locks. I smiled at mère et fille as the two turned down the street, the sound of church bells behind them. It was eleven a.m.

"Quel joli sourire!" exclaimed the butcher, as I strode past his stand. I stopped, feeling both embarrassed and obliged... I wondered whether we needed some bacon, after all? I took my place in line.

"Yes! A very pretty smile!" repeated the butcher. There was no way I would leave now, and so I stood, awkwardly so. Relief came when the butcher turned his attention to the frail lady in the front of me. "And you, too! What a lovely smile you have!"

"Oh, no. I do not have good teeth," the woman said, apologetically. "Non, je ne suis plus jojo!" She turned, focusing her pale blue eyes on me. "But it is good to smile! Life is hard enough..." she said, gently. With that, everybody in line nodded and clucked their tongues in commiseration. I wondered about the various hardships beneath all those clucking tongues. Was it lost love? Bad health? A job loss?

Next, a man in a wheelchair arrived and took his place in line behind me. Collective hardships were forgotten as tongues abruptly quit clucking. All eyes focused on the butcher, who broke the silence.

"Debout!" "Stand up!" he roared, pointing his knife at the man in the chaise roulante.  

For one surreal moment I stood frozen. If I'd had a pair of earmuffs I would have thrown them over the man's oreilles, sparing him the butcher's words, which seemed to amount to one big and very bad joke.

I turned to greet the man in the wheelchair. His face was handsome or, to borrow a new word I'd just learned from Madame, "jojo". Yes, he was a joli homme or, rather, un bel homme with caramel brown hair and eyes the color of marrons

"Je vous dis, DEBOUT!" the butcher thundered, becoming even more animated.

The moments that followed were awkward, made almost unbearable by the bel homme's silence. Suddenly, his face lit up. "Cher ami," he said to his friend, "I haven't walked in 25 years... and it isn't your half-witted hollering that's going to make a difference now!"

The two men exchanged friendly bonjours and soon it was back to business. "What can I get you today, mon grand?" he said to his friend in the wheelchair. With that, the butcher winked at me as I stood marveling at the locals and their camaraderie.

Le Coin Commentaires

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French Vocabulary

magnifique = magnificent

le front = face (of statue, building)

la placette = small "place" or (village) square 

mes au revoirs = my goodbyes

une bricole = a thing

ça suffit, chérie = that's enough, dear one

mère et fille = mother and daughter

quel joli sourire = what a pretty smile

non, je ne suis plus jojo = no, I am no longer pretty

debout! = stand up!

une chaise roulante = wheelchair

une oreille = ear

le marron = chestnut

je vous dis debout! = I tell you, stand!

cher ami = dear friend

mon grand = big boy, dear

golden retrievers, girl, chrysanthemum, bamboo, roseaux, canne de provence (c) Kristin Espinasse www.french-word-a-day.com

Our Jackie, with Braise (left) and Braise's son Smokey

pumpkin, climbing vine, Virginia Creeper, vigne vièrge, chrysanthemum, golden retriever, dog, wooden chair, deck (c) Kristin Espinasse www.french-word-a-day.com
Smokey "R" Dokey

pumpkin, chrysanthemum, golden retriever, dog, old grape vine, deck, France, Vaucluse, vineyard (c) Kristin Espinasse www.french-word-a-day.com
                           Thank you, Kathy and Ron, for the mum and for the pumpkin!

Un, Deux, Trois: First French Rhymes:
...a collection of 25 traditional nursery rhymes for children. 

French Exambusters Study Cards:
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I Know How To CookThe bible of French home cooking, Je Sais Cuisiner, has sold over 6 million copies since it was first published in 1932. It is a household must-have, and a well-thumbed copy can be found in kitchens throughout France. Its author, Ginette Mathiot, published more than 30 recipe books in her lifetime, and this is her magnum opus. It's now available for the first time in English as I Know How to Cook. With more than 1,400 easy-to-follow recipes for every occasion, it is an authoritative compendium of every classic French dish, from croque monsieur to cassoulet. 


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Bill in St. Paul

Great story, Kristin, even if to us the butcher sounded a little harsh but apparently the dialogue between the butcher and the l'homme sur la chaise roulante has been going on for years.

I think Braise and Smokey are confiding in Jackie what a hard time they had during the grape harvest because they were not allowed to help. I think in Smokey's second picture he wants to be used as the model for the carving of the pumpkin.

Georgia Catasca

I love tour philosophy,Kristin. The harsh butcher and the man in wheelchair was very spirited with his answer to the butcher

I look forward to your "word of the day. The new word for me- jojo-what fun

I will send you a picture of our "Madelleine" A big white dog.

You are FRENCH now. I am from Corrales, New Mexico- sand and all.



Quite lovely and so well written is this short short story! Thank you.


What wonderful stories you have been sharing, and the fall photos with family (including the furry ones) are wonderful! Merci!

Suzanne, Monroe Township, NJ

A lovely story today. I love the image of the child's fingers in her mother's hair. And your experience at la marche in Valreas reminds me of the exchanges I have overheard at la marche in Vaison. At first you think there is an argument or challenge but it's just two friends giving each other a hard time. Followed by hugs, kisses and much joking and laughing.

I like the photo of Jackie with the dogs. And a new word! Jojo.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
Lovely story! I love the new word "jojo". What great friends the men must be!
The pictures of Jackie and the dogs are great!


Re-reading this newsletter after lunch, sipping a strong cup of coffee, and thinking about these medieval faces ... probably thin and long (?) sculpted with big eyes - and curly hair? Local historical figures? Saints?

"Jojo", le mot du jour, really made me smile - mainly because I was far from expecting the frail old lady with bad teeth to use it!

The charming cascades of fushias and busy lizzies in Valreas are magnificent! They look as if they will keep blooming cheerfully for a few more weeks! Wonderful!
Kristin, I also love the glorious Autumn colours of your Parthenocissus ("Vigne vierge").. and I'm wondering whether I see light green leaves of 'Morning Glory' (???) still growing into the foliage -maybe.
Beautiful goldy colour of your pot of little chrysanthemums. What a brilliant display to accompany your "grosse citrouille" (large pumpkin)! Halloween is surely in the air...
Composition and colours of your last photo are most attractive.

I am still in the South West part of France at the moment, as I had to postpone my return to England via Ryanair. All is well and I am taking advantage of the cancellation of my flight (rebooked now for next week, at Ryanair's expenses) - but, I do not like "les grèves" (the strikes), specially in big cities. The chaotic political scenes, the effects and after effects of the strikes are not adding a pleasant note to the ideal image of France. Fortunately, there are a few valuable aspects that survive quite well, in spite of "le deficit national" & beyond the inevitable "malaise politique et social". I heard enough about "le bouclier fiscal" (is it "tax cap?) and all the political jargon! An afternoon in Biarritz will do us good.

In this time of worries, restrictions, frustrations and financial troubles, Thank Goodness for people's smiles, for their friendliness and "esprit de camaraderie" as portrayed in this newsletter and the previous one.

Un grand grand merci!

Erin in Atlanta

Love the story!

Braise always looks happy and content to sit by peacefully while Smokey is the mischievous (youthful)inspector who MUST inspect EVERYTHING in sight. They are so adorable...I just love that Smokey to pieces.

Janine Cortell

Merci Kristin:
Quelle jolie histoire. Je pense que tu voulais dire "eaves" et le sourire est maculin que ce soit une femme ou un homme:)
Bonne journee et bonne contunation comme on dit souvent. Janine a Port Townsend

Christine in Salt Lake City

Wonderful story and writing! I would love to see all the dialogue written in French.

Sunny and 70 here in the mountain west today

Sandy Maberly

I always find it amusing how the French love to display a little bit of "acting" and shock factor in front of an audience. They seem to like to get people worked up, so to speak, and possibly initiate some spirited conversation as a result. I've found my French friends to have a very playful sense of humor, (when you get to know them), that they won't necessarily display to strangers. Thanks, Kristi, for this insight into the culture that one otherwise rarely gets to see.

Denise in the Pacific Northwest

What a great new word - jojo! When I first saw it, it brought to mind images of bad, greasy fried potatoes one can buy in many American food stores. :) It was nice to see its meaning in context. And love, love, love those municipal flower pots.

Also great to see Braise and Smokey! What a cutie Smokey turned into, and ever curious. Please give them scrunches from me.

All the best -


Dear Kristen, As Always! Today's story is wonderful! So enjoyed the continuation of your adventure and your descriptions which brought us to be standing right there beside you.
Loved the photos!
Jackie is tres jolie! And wow!Certainly has your golden locks!
MERCI for bringing a smile to my morning!
Bon journee!

Jan in Colorado

Newforest's entry about the strikes brought back memories of May 1968 when I was working in a factory in France. For a brief time, I worked in my boss' hotel room because strikers had closed the plant with threats of violence. Such turbulent times and history seems to be repeating itself, albeit for different reasons. This too shall pass...

BTW, I thought the picture of Jackie was you, Kristin, until I read the caption. There's a striking resemblance and a fortuitous one for Jackie! Tres jojo!

Geary Arceneaux

Enjoyed your story. Well told.

Just returned from two weeks in Madrid, Cordoba, Granada, and Seville. The last three were new to me. So interesting to see the interwoven and overlayed strands of Christian, Jewish and Islamic history. The struggle between the desert religions is very manifest there.

Return trip was marred by flight problems due to the French general strike. The strike seems to disregard the lives of innocent travelers. The French leaders responsible should think about that.


Pat Cargill

Thanks for a lovely continuation of your wanderings and observations in Valreas. It is interesting to hear these snippets of French life which I would not be aware of in my travels. You bring the life of the country to us in the most interesting stories.

Love the pictures of Jackie and dogs. So sweet seeing her surrounded by their loving adoration. And Smokey...well, what can I say? It has all been said so I'll just add, Smokey - je t'aime, toujours! Braise and Smokey make quite the pair. Tres photogenic.

Everyday I more and more appreciate my dog Maxie, a peppy slightly wild and wanting to sneak out the gate and roam, miniature schnauzer. Her adoration is a great comfort and blessing. (The feeling is mutual.)

Happy weekend from a sunny, breezy and cool 60's Virginia.


Thanks for "la fin" of the story. Maybe the lady wanted you to see the all of the flowers and the people of the village, especially the people.
Love the pictures of Jackie, Braise and Smokey. It seems like your dogs love to smell the flowers. We should all stop to smell the flowers.

Jennifer in OR

Beautiful story! I call my daughter Josephine "JoJo" and now I can tell her what it means in French!

lou bogue

Bonjour to all, miss those break times at the picnic table, every thing back to normal, except in my head, mind still in France, My best to you and yours. Lou, my e-mail address has been change to: [email protected]. no more [email protected], my idenity was stolen a week before I came over to London, lost all my contacts and e-mails, quite a hassle.Au revior

cynthia caughey

Your stories are always wonderful but I especially loved your autumn photos. Reminds me of my days growing up and our autumn traditions. Love it all. Cynthia in the French Alps


You might like to say something about the significance of chrysanthemums to the French (& Italians & Spanish & Japanese etc.). My French friend Laurence was presented with a pot of mums on Nov 1st (her 40th birthday) by her Dutch mother-in-law, in front of all Laurence's friends and relations. The intake of breath was audible, and the mother-in-law had no idea why. It was left to me (English) to explain to her just what a huge faux pas she had committed.

Tami Still

Smokey and Braise always bring a smile to my face - thank you for sharing them with all of us! Your column continues to make me yearn to retire to the south of France! Sigh!


Salut Kristin,

As I was sipping my morning coffee Sunday, browsing through a Bonjour Paris e-mail article on coffee, I’m thinking this author is coping Kristin’s writing style! I scrolled back to the beginning of the article and, hello, it was your article! Your unique characteristic style of writing came through loud and clear. C’est un très bon article!

À bientôt



Jojo is my new word! When I am flea marketing in France, EVERYTHING is tres joile. I willhave to try out jojo on my next adventure.


Ginette Mazloum

Great story! I very much enjoy the pictures of Smokey and Braise.
One suggestion : instead of joli(e) homme say bel homme. A man
doesn't want to be called joli

Denise in the Pacific Northwest


Sue's comment about mums, as well as a lack of Monday's story, leads me to speculate that maybe you are dealing with a loss of some kind? If so, my thoughts are with you and the entire clan.

If I'm way off base - then I hope to "see" you, via a new story, here very soon!


Salut Denise and tout le monde,

I got an e-mail from Kristin last week. She said she was going on a "harvest break" and would be back in a few of weeks.

à bientôt

Denise in the Pacific Northwest

Mille merci, Herm. Much better than a loss. :)

julia Frey


thought someone should point out that jojo's homonym means just the reverse! I cut and paste from le Grand Robert:

jojo (affreux) [afʀøʒoʒo] n. m.
ÉTYM. V. 1970; du nom du personnage d'une bande dessinée, du prénom Jojo, de Georges.

Fam. Enfant insupportable. « Les garçons coursent les filles (…) “À l'attaque !” hurlent les affreux jojos groupés en bande, déboulant dans la cour » (l'Express, 22 mars 1980, p. 132).
— Par ext. Personne qui s'exprime sans ménagements, passe pour un « enfant terrible ».
citation: (…) affreux jojos, fils de milliardaires jouant à la guerre dans le parc familial.
Michel Déon, les Vingt Ans du jeune homme vert, p. 20.

all best,

Julia Frey

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Julia,
Glad you pointed out the flip side of jojo! Good to know. This is one of those words Ill be more comfortable leaving to the French to use!

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