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Entries from December 2010

boussole

I Heart Chairs (c) Kristin Espinasse
Today's word might as well be motley or hodgepodge or pastiche or...

la boussole (boo-sol) noun, feminine

  : compass  

synonym: la tête (head)
perdre la boussole = to lose one's head; to go haywire, bonkers 

Listen: Hear Jean-Marc pronounce the word "boussole": Download boussole.wav

Vivre sans but, c'est naviguer sans boussole. Living without an aim is like sailing without a compass. --John Ruskin

French christmas music French Christmas Music: "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". Order CD here. Also available: Amazon Gift Cards: take the guessing out of gift-giving! Order a gift card.

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

A French Floozie--make that a Language Tarte

Bonjour to any new readers who may just be tuning in. My name is Kristin and I am the ex desert rat who selects these thrice-weekly French words, words that have been described as everything from "obscure" to "absurd", but then—so is lifelife which forms the bucolic backdrop of these in theme with the "absurd" word stories. 

Because this site's "about" page is somewhat outdated (the first draft was written in 2002, three years after these letters began—via the Pony Express—which is as cool a synonym as I can find for "snail mail"), as I was saying, given that the blog's bio page is a little behind-the-times, it was hinted to me that it would be une bonne chose to update it from time to time.  Here, today, is one of those times....

That Magnetic Pull
In a nutshell or, as the French would say, bref, from Phoenix—and all the way to France—I followed that inner magnetic pull (you do know it, don't you?), that invisible claw that hooks the hearts of smart cookies and language tarts (me voilà, that's me, the latter).

Do not be misled, the fact that I love words does not make me the darling of higher ed. I'm hardly street smart. But I've an inner compass and can follow 'une carte' of the heart. So far it got me to France, and don't that make me a smart tarte?

Some are curious as to just what I do for a living (dare I say dream?) and yet... I never dreamed, as a kid perched among the leaves of a mesquite tree, the desert floor stretch out beneath me, no, I never imagined I'd be a writer, one who turns dreams into written things.

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Additional info: I love bikes... or the idea of bikes. That's Jean-Marc and me, above...

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... and I love to take pictures of bikes -- chairs too....

Voilà, or at Pat said recently, in the comments section, wa la! Which reminds me, I love to read your words and stories, so please don't hesitate to leave a message, here in the Coin Commentaires.
 

French Vocabulary

bonjour = hello

une bonne chose = a good thing

bref = briefly

me voilà = that's me

la tarte = pie

voilà = so there you have it

 

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More Gift Ideas....

France Magazine subscription

Easy French Reader: A fun and easy new way to quickly acquire or enhance basic reading skills

In film:  Paris Je T'aime Paris I love You.

Shalimar Shalimar Eau de Parfum by Guerlain. Introduced in 1925. Fragrance notes: an alluring, classic fragrance of exotic florals and vanilla. Order here.

 

 

 

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Smokey The Bandit... more photos coming soon.

Still reading? And I thought I was the only one who made it this far down in the newsletter... Good! So, do you want to see the previous about page update? Here's even more about this "thrice-weekly" letter and its characters... in this post from last summer.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
 
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une histoire à dormir debout

Sainte Cécile (c) Kristin Espinasse
Potential pied-à-terre.... if only in one's dreams! Read on, in today's fictional foray.

une histoire à dormir debout

    : a tall tale

The origin of the term "une histoire à dormir debout" comes from Olden Times--from the early days of aviation when navigators, or nap-igators, needed to stay awake during a wearisome round-the-world voyage. In those days, each pilot was assigned his or her own storyteller, whose job it was to keep the would-be slumberer conscious, this, via a phantasmagoric fictional account designed to do for a snoozer what caffeine (Starbucks was not yet invented) could not. Those storytellers who failed in their mission were not executed outright, but went down, vraisemblablement, with the pilot and the doomed vessel, er... aircraft.

(For another tall tale, read on, in today's story column.)


French christmas music French Christmas Music: "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". Order CD here. 


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

"A Tall Tale in under 199 words"

How is it, it recently occurred to me, that I have never mentioned that we live in a tree?

Mais évidemment! Of all the yellow-bellied yarns about life on a grape farm, I have left out the most original fact: where it is we live—and in an arbre at that!

Fallen acorns at my feet, I stand beneath our towering oak tree, shaking my head tsk-tskedly. I've said so much but of all I've said... not a mention of our tree or of the tree life we have led!

I stare up at our teetering house, perched high on the tree's limbs and spread throughout. I gaze at our front door (part of a trunk—one that's been cored!). I am wondering about forgetfulness... the older I get and the thoughts are more but the memory is less. Oh, it's not such a bad thing. For in the absence of recall I might spin a story, however short, however tall.
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 :: Comments Box ::
Talk about today's word or stories here, in the comments box.

***

Belgium flyer Meet Jean-Marc... in Belgium, December 10th, 11th, and 12th!  He'll be at the Salon des Vins et Métiers de Bouche(Centre Sportif de Soumagne, Tel 04 377 98 11)

 

French Vocabulary

le pied-à-terre = second residence

vraisemblablement = most likely

Mais évidemment = Why, yes! (why hasn't it occurred to me!)

un arbre = tree

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
 
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enfance

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"Frozen"... or the "permanent press" cycle in Provence. 

enfance (on fance) noun, feminine

    : childhood

Expression: vivre une enfance heureuse = to live a happy childhood. Audio file and many more expressions, here.

French christmas musicFrench Christmas Music: "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". Order CD here.


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

An Olive Harvest and The Fruits of Memory

Jean-Marc and I are picking olives. The sun is beginning to set out to the west, where leafless vines in a field recline under the weight of winter. We are standing along the dirt driveway that leads home. Our dogs are wrestling on the rocky path and every now and then their roughhousing is halted by breathy barks on either wrestler's part.

Hey-oh! Calmos! Jean-Marc calls, when the dogs whip past the backs of our legs and it's all we can do to grab on to the olives-laden branches or be knocked down by the bent backs of our knees!

As I drop olives the color of ripe raisins into a half-filled sack, I am thinking that it would be nice to have orange trees, too! Wouldn't oranges and purple olives go well together? I could just smell it now. There's something so Mediterranean about it... and yet it is the desert that wanders through my mind....

Though my hands continue to harvest olives, I am far far away... somewhere in the Southwest, in the Valley of the Sun. I can smell the citrus grove and see the puckered peels that cling to the fruit. I can see where the sparrows have snacked, leaving the oranges gaping from the attack.

Alone in the forgotten field, I am afraid, but the sunny scent of citrus fruit and the delicious adventure through the orchard emboldens me—as witnessed by the scrapes on my eight-year-old knees. Beyond the tortured trees, I can just perceive the back of a trailer park. Our mobile home is the last on the row, in the single-wide zone. 

To one side of the trailer park ran the Black Canyon Freeway, but to the other side, beyond the oranges, there was a vast wash where Palo Verdes flanked the dry creek bed. Therein was my childhood Never Never Land.  When the wash, or creek bed, was full I would sit on the banks and hunt indefatigably for guppies. And when it was dry, or nearly so, I would venture down its cluttered center, like Christopher Columbus in my own desert jungle. Here and there the banks were littered with beer cans and "skin" magazines. I guessed other adventurers had gone before me; I hoped they'd gone on, at least....

Frightened now, I would hightail it out and over to the open field beyond. There, I would stare up in the distance to Shaw Butte. In summertime the little mountain (some call it a "hill") was lit by the fireworks that seemed to fall upon it. My sister and I would climb to the top of the tin shed which butted our trailer and watch the sparkling Fourth of July show, a pint-size patriotism growing from within, as yet unbeknown to us. 

Back down at the field, past the wash, I remember kneeling down on the sweet-scented earth and studying a green patch. As the monsoon season and rains had just passed, the earth was soft enough for me to quench my curiosity. I tugged at the leaves, which resembled parsley, and out popped a carrot! 

Gnarled and thin, it didn't look like the carrots at the supermarket, but I recognized it as one and the same. Just to be sure, I dusted off the clumps of earth and sunk my teeth in. I felt the rush of rustic life course through my veins... as I feel it now... as my teeth sink into an plump purple olive! The taste is not sweet, but bitter. So unlike my memories.

Soon these olives will be crushed and lose their bitter taste. As for an Arizona childhood, what I'd give to return to such a magical time and place.
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French Vocabulary

Hey-oh! Calmos! = Hey there! Calm down!
le raisin = grape

 

 

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I miss my family back home... meantime, here's a French family that adopted me back in 92'. (I recently wrote about Baptiste, here.) Click to enlarge photo.

Passion of joan of arc Last night I watched, and was mesmerized by, The Passion of Joan of Arc (a silent film that was lost (to a fire) until a copy of the film was miraculously found -- in the janitor's office of a Norwegian mental institution). Joan of Arc and Maria Falconetti are two people I will line up to meet in Heaven. Read the reviews, here. Bilingual subtitles (to the screen images of this silent film) make this a great way to learn French!

 

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Somewhere south of Grenoble, on the way home from Laurence and Philippe's.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
 
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pouet pouet

Window in Bollene (c) Kristin Espinasse
Breast Cancer Awareness Day is everyday. Read on—and honk!

VARDA Gift for a Francophile or Moviephile!
4 Films including "La Pointe Courte", "Le bonheur", "Vagabonde" and "Cleo from 5-7" (a drama about a young woman who wanders around Paris while waiting for the results of a biopsy.) Order it here.
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pouet pouet (poohet poohet) onomatopoetic

    : beep! beep!, honk honk (klaxon, honk)

also spelled pouet-pouet
...and the expression pouet pouet camembert. Would anyone like to translate it, here?

 

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

I started a prayer list this week after learning that yet another friend has cancer. 

Je suis navrée, very sorry, if the following video is not to your taste, or goût, but it sure does have its effect! So pouet-pouet! honk-honk! listen in: do not forget to breast examine; there is the daily monthly check up (à faire soi-même, and also the yearly (or every otherly) visit to the physician!

The following zany video, titled "Pouet-Pouet" for French audiences, is a blaring reminder about le cancer du sein. Share it with a friend and click here to view the campaign klaxonnant if you are reading this letter via email. 

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::
Have something to say? Say it here! Feel free to share awarness tips, resources—and prayer requests of your own in the comments box
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French Vocabulary

je suis navré(e) = I am very sorry

le goût = taste

à faire soi-même = to do oneself

pouet-pouet! = beep-beep!

le cancer du sein = breast cancer

klaxonnant = honking 

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
 
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice


preservatif

Grand vin
Random photo, by Jean-Marc, taken with his camera-phone

préservatif (preh sair vah teef) noun, masculine

    : contraceptive, condom  => synonym: capote
 

 

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

When Max returned from school waving a stamp-size packet containing a... well a... that is a... contraceptive device, I held my breath until he explained: "...every kid got one—they were handing them out at school." OK, so it was sex ed day for 7th graders.  I could almost deal with that without hyperventilating.

But when my daughter returned home, two years later (last week) with the same "hand-out", well, enough was enough was enough!   

So that's it! I thought, the school has taken matters into their own hands, as if we parents were going to chicken out of our parental "Birds and Bees" duty!

On second thought... chickens, birds, bees — good the school's straightening out things, which is more than she can say, this here chickadee.

***

As for the throes of passion, for which such a device exists, I shared some supplementary instructions with my teenagers (information such as one might find on a carton of milk): "best after marriage". Well, it was worth a try.

 
:: Le Coin Commentaires ::
Your thoughts are welcome here, in the comments box

 

 

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
 
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice