Previous month:
December 2010
Next month:
February 2011

Entries from January 2011

beurre de cacahuètes

le beurre de cacahuètes (bur deuh kaka wet)

    : peanut butter

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word, and phrase: Download MP3


A Day in a FRENCH DOG'S Life...
by Smokey "R" Dokey & Mama Braise


 (Note: The English-French side-by-side translation to the following story is available! Click here to see it.)

Smokey: Parce qu'elle nous quitte... je vais manger tout son beurre de cacahuètes! Et voilà. Tant pis pour elle! Ça lui apprendra de se séparer de moi!!!

MamaBraise: Smokey-Chou, si tu souhaites la revanche tu es mal tombé... car elle voyage dans le pays du beurre de cacahouète! 


 Smokey: Que ça me donne envie!


(Mama Braise compte les boîtes pour bien vérifier qu'elles sont toutes là.)


Braise (à gauche): Fais attention, Smokey. Il en reste douze! Fais très attention à toi!

Smokey: Qui? Moi? Mais regarde mon air innocent!


Smokey: Hum...



Smokey: Et si je les ré-ammènage. Elle ne sera pas au courant... s'il en manque... non je ne lui ferais pas ça. J'suis fidèle!


Smokey:  Elle me manque déjà et elle n'est toujours pas partie!

Braise: Fiston, la verité c'est que tu as hâte d'entamer la première boîte! Ne sois pas hypocrite.


Maman Braise: ces trois là... c'est pour moi!

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections and comments are welcome in the comments box. Click here. P.S.: what is your very favorite brand of beurre de cacahuètes? 

* Dual-language story: Don't miss the English version of the story: click here.


Full Disclosure Statement: The peanut butter company appearing in these photos did not contact Smokey or Braise or any member of the Espinasse family. No peanut butter perks, privileges, pennies, or prizes were promised. The beurre de cacahuètes pictured above was a gift from the importers of our Domaine Rouge-Bleu wine. (Thanks again to Tim and Phyllis of French Country Wines!)

Feel like reading another story or learning a few more French words? Check out the French Word-A-Day archives, here.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.


Trompe-l'oeil (c) Kristin Espinasse

Picture of a "fools the eye" or "trompe-l'oeil" taken in the medieval village of Les Arcs-sur-Argens (Var, France).  

revivre (reuh veevreuh)

    : to live again

Listen to 13-year-old Jackie pronounce these French words (Download MP3 file

Aimer, c'est mourir en soi pour revivre en autrui. 
Love is to die to self so as to live again in others. --Honoré d'Urfé

Newforest (whom many of you know from the comments section) notes: I think "mourir en soi" means the same as "mourir à soi-même", which implies -> not to live for oneself any more, and to become free to give one's life to others, to put other people's happiness first. 


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

Guts & Gratitude

When Mom viewed Saturday's edition of Cinéma Vérité, she was transported back to France, to 2003, when, after breaking her hanche, she came to our village to recuperate. But once she arrived here to heal her hip, she began to notice a pain in her breast.... 

In the letter below, Mom recounts how she spent the hours leading up to her mastectomy. The idea of the surgery greatly troubled her and when the fear of the unknown became paralyzing she shot up... and proceeded to move every limb in her body in order to shake off the numbing unknown. Next, she flew out the door for a last-minute périple around the medieval village. What "unknowns" that troubled her heart were replaced by the "knowns" that had gotten her this far: namely, a community of caring villagers who had been there for her and her broken hip and who would be there for her even after this. 

Reviewing the snapshots of her former stomping grounds, Jules was overcome with gratitude: 

Darling Kristi,

You have flooded my entire being with memories of Les Arcs this morning. I used to run up those very stairs several times a day and night. I first started my voyage ascending in my trusty 'walker', then my cane, and finally achieved my freedom to practically fly up the cobblestone pathway to the castle above the night before my cancer surgery.

I remember that cool brisk evening. I was running all over the village, down to the train station, back up around the mountain to your neighborhood, back down through the village, across the bridge and up to the castle.

I was in another body that night, running from my fear, it was like I had a new body full of strength I didn't know I possessed... it was the longest night of my life. As I have said before of Les Arcs "It takes a village", they were my village and my family and without Les Arcs I would never be the person I am today.




Reading Mom's words, I can picture her in her straw fedora and borrowed hiking boots. I see her racing around in the dark night, stopping, par ici et par là, to look into the brightly lit households as the villagers, who poured another cup of mint tea (how many Moroccan families had taken her in and filled her with sweets?) or glasses of wine. I know she swept past her dear friend E's "home", no more than a cubbyhole at the back of a garage, where a mattress and empty beer bottles were evidence of her only comforts. Those, and her raggedy, gentle-natured dog.

Mom was a spirit that night, passing imperceptibly through the village, mentally tucking in all her friends before she tucked her own self in high up in a one-room loft, on loan from a friend. There, she slept peacefully... on no other than "Peace Street".

In Marseilles the next day nurses rolled Jules away on a stretcher. I stood outside the elevator, staring down at my Mom, who propped her head up and smiled back at me. The doors were closing and the nurses had asked me to step back please.

Mom winked at me. "I'm ready!" Mom chirped, to the French nurses, who looked at her bemusedly. "Roll me in! Praise God. I'm ready!"

That night the villagers drank their tea and their wine, depending on which household you peered into. And I like to think that they raised their glasses and toasted the free-spirited woman. Mom was no longer outside their windows looking in, but that doesn't mean that she wasn't busy blessing them.


Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections are welcome and to post a comment, click here.


Mom's departure 8.14.03 008
My beautiful mom, Jules, after the surgery in 2003.

Mom's departure 8.14.03 003
She didn't know it then, but another mastectomy awaited her in Mexico (the bad news). As for the good news: her husband was waiting for her. I cannot wait to see John and to thank him for all he has done to take care of my mom. I am only sorry it took this many years to express my gratitude.

Note: Mom celebrated her 5-year "all's clear" mark and is doing great! 

French Vocabulary

la hanche = hip

le périple = tour, journey

par ici et par là = here and there


Claras war
I could not put this book down!  I have packed it in my carry-on, to take to my mom. It has nothing to do with cancer, but everything to do with courage and today's verb, revivre! Order a copy here.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

malgré les circonstances

 Look closely and you will see the man in the reflection. I'm looking closely too.

malgré les circonstances (mal gray lay sir cohn stahns)

    : in spite of circumstances

(No sound file today)

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
La Vie en Prose

Looking back one day 
I will

malgré les circonstances
I wrote 

It shook outside
I shook inside
and yet

I typed

    or, malgré tout,

        ... I tried to.

Le Coin Commentaires
To leave a comment, click here


 Stakes in the heart (of Provence). In other hearts... take a minute to read Newforest's poem in French, in response to the "respirer" story. Click here to view it.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.


Merry Minou (c) Kristin Espinasse
Respirez! Breathe in! And let out all your cares. Photo of a merry minou taken in Nyons.

respirer (reh spee ray) verb

    : to breathe

synonym : souffler

Note: I'm running behind schedule this morning... any terms and expressions related to "respirer" are most appreciated in the comments box only: click here.

Audio File and Example : listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words (Download MP3):

Pour bien vous détendre, il faut respirer profondément.
To relax, you must breathe deeply.

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

H20 and Hieroglyphics

In the corner of the room sits a small, opened suitcase. There are one, two, three books inside - stories I promised she would like. As soon as I can, I'll add my notebook, my eyeglasses, and my tooth guard. (Les dents, elles grinçaient encore hier soir, et je me suis réveillée dans la nuit en train de grignoter mon appareil dentaire!)

A few small piles are stacked beside the valise: jeans... "and bring your white skirt and shorts..." Mom suggested. "Tennies and flip flops...". Check check check. Check check. I will not pack too much... just this one carry-on. No more!

More than a scientific method of packing, I need a scientific method of relaxing. Jules has a tip on that one too, it amounts to these four words of wisdom: "Relax Within I Am."

I know who "I Am" is and I Am is not me... I am simply to break down these words and repeat, as following:

Re ("breathe in!" Mom instructs.)

lax ("breathe out...")

With ("breathe in!")

in ("breathe out...")

I ("in!")

Am ("out... ... ...")

I try this for a time until I begin to notice how my eyes won't stop watering. It is distracting and purpose-defeating (the goal of the exercise being to clear the mind!) to have to reach up and dry my temples and the tips of my ears each time. These are not tears; the water streaming from my eyes, down past my temples, oreilles, and onto my pillow, must be all that extra oxygen that I am breathing in. Or have I got that backwards?: water contains oxygen... No wonder I can't relax when all of the oxygen is leaking out of the corners of my eyes!

I decide to abandon the exercise. I notice that, malgré tout, peace and a certain stillness has encompassed the room. I look slowly over to the window, below which un étendoir steals the patch of sun shining there. On the drying rack I spy Max's basketball maillot, un torchon, some threadbare chaussettes... will I need socks in Mexico?


I breathe in! Above the drying rack I stare at the heart on the window. It is for my daughter. I had drawn it in the steam that had gathered there as I aired out the room this morning. We'd passed a restless night: she, whimpering non-stop from a stomachache and nausea, and I, listening helplessly to her suffering. 

The next morning I threw open the windows. "A little fresh air will do you good!" I explained. On opening the windows the glass quickly fogged up and I reached over and drew the heart. "For you," I pointed out, carving the letter "J" in the center. I signed "Mommy" in cursive, in the lower right slope of the coeur.

The rounded heart and letters had an unexpected exponential effect: my daughter perked right up! "Thank you, Mommy!"

The doodled heart might have been a sackful of her favorite candies or a life-size teddy bear. Her eyes shone in delight.

I sat beside Jackie, shaking my head about those backwards letters: I hadn't anticipated their changing direction... on closing the window... but the effect was not lost and I sat there basking in my patient's appreciation. The gesture had not taken a lot of thought... it had been more of an impulse. 


So much for methodology. In spite of any efforts I'd stumbled onto the tranquil moment and there rested, quietly, gazing at the coeur's reversed letters, or the hieroglyphics of the heart.

 Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections are most helpful and comments are the best return on these stories! To leave a message on the blog, click here

French Vocabulary (coming soon, please check back... meantime enjoy this poem by Newforest: many of you enjoy Newforest's commentary in the "Coin Commentaires" . Enjoy this poem, in French, in response to today's story.):

Sur le carreau d'une fenêtre,
dans la buée,
un doigt trace un coeur
pour J
♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥

Message en gouttelettes,
Perles d'amour maternel, 
Larmes d'eau de rose
dans la buée du carreau.
♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥

Larmes hiéroglyphiques,
remède magique
pour le mal au coeur de Jackie
maintenant toute ravie.
♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥

Un coeur sur le carreau de la fenêtre
un langage à l'envers qui dit:
♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥ 
Un soupir de bien-être
Oh! Thank you Mommy!


Newforest included this vocabulary guide... to help you with your translation :-)

-> le carreau = tile (ceramic)
Here, carreau (/ vitre) = pane (for a window)
le carreau de la fenêtre = the windowpane

-> la buée = steam, condensation, mist, blur (on your glasses, on a window)

-> tracer = to draw (lines)

-> un doigt = a finger

-> gouttelettes = tiny drops, droplets

-> Perles = pearls

-> amour maternel = maternal love

-> Larmes = tears

-> mal au coeur = stomach pain that makes you feel sick, nauseous. (avoir mal au coeur)
Emotionally speaking, it's what you feel in a sad/hearbreaking situation.

-> toute - here, it has the meaning of completely, thoroughly

-> ravi(e) = delighted, overjoyed

-> à l'envers = upside down, backward, inside out ... You read the newsletter, so you can guess the right expression in French

-> Un soupir = a sigh

-> bien-être = well-being



window (c) Kristin Espinasse

What would you name this one? Could you get away with this kind of window whimsy in your own neighborhood? Click here to leave a comment.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

la veuve de la vendange

Winter Cabanon (c) Kristin Espinasse
Photo of a modern cabanon with its carpet of white mustard flowers. Don't you just want to lose yourself in it?

la veuve de la vendange (lah vuv deuh lah von danzh)

    : crush widoww

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

I learned a new term last fall, while guiding yet another enthusiastic and brave bénévole out to the vine fields to help my husband, Chief Grape, with the work load.

"Yeah," said Eugenia, sympathetically, as she sped-walked (we wouldn't want to keep the Wine Chief waiting!) beside me in well-worn jeans and a grape-stained tee. "There is even a term for it!" 

It must have been in the way I looked: a little desperate? And I hadn't meant to show any evidence of exasperation. After all, the harvest and its flurry were over... and yet we were still soliciting helping hands (including Eugenia's) for tying up any harvest loose ends. 

"The harvest just keeps on going... and going... and going... At first it was two weeks, then four, then six. We began this harvest eight weeks ago!" I explained to our latest helper, as we dashed out to the field, buckets and scissors in hand. (I would leave Eugenia with Jean-Marc and our other volunteer, Jeffrey, in time to run back to the kitchen and stare into the fridge, wondering just what to throw together for an impromptu guest lunch. I didn't dare serve last night's noodles: a collection of scraped-from-the-kids'-plates pasta... fit for a close-knit family, but nowhere near appropriate for our volunteers! 

Huffing and puffing our way out to the field farthest from the house, Eugenia disclosed to me the well-known term used in the wine industry. "They call women like you "Crush Widows"!

Crush Widows! It was one of those "Aha! moments". So I was not alone in this very lonely state: the grape harvest: when vintners disappear from their wives and from the home and can be found somewhere out in the field or in the "cave" for the remains of the day. 

But what Eugenia didn't tell me was that Crush Widows don't suddenly lose their status—and regain their lost Love—after the grape crush. No! They wear their vine veils on into winter.... when their husbands are busy juggling the sales of their wine, the accounting, the bottling, the PR, and the pruning of their vines!
Pulling into the driveway last night I stopped in front of the cellar and lowered my window. I was lucky to find Jean-Marc outside and not lost to the depths of his cave

"Want to eat early tonight?" I had in mind a movie on T.V., one we could watch after an early meal... 
"I'll be at the vintners' meet-up. Remember?"
"Oh... that's right! (How I managed each time to forget...) Do you want us to wait for you for dinner?"
"I don't know when I'll be back..."
Voilà, une petite illustration of the term Crush Widow, which could well be a song by Ani DiFranco. I'd love to sing it now, with a feisty French accent!

This morning I woke up and checked the pan on the stove. His portion of rumsteak aux champignons was still waiting for him. I imagined Chief Grape had filled up on crackers, olives, and nuts during last night's vigneron meeting. This was all he needed to do! Join another Cercle de Vignerons!!!

Just then, my inner "Fairness Mediator" cleared her throat in time to remind me of the thousands of hours that I had given to starting up a website and filling it with stories. I remembered the day when Jean-Marc marched up to my computer and mumbled something about all my time being thrown into cyberspace... and for what benefit?!
I could be patient with Chief Grape. I could learn, as he eventually had to, to allow another's dream, and to do so encouragingly. And for what benefit? As Ani says, for the joy it brings.
Corrections are appreciated and comments are "one of those joys that writing brings". Click here to leave a message on the blog.

Jean-Marc & Kristi (c) Sophie Roussel Bourreli
He loves me. He loves those grapes. He loves me. He loves those grapes!

French Vocabulary

bénévole = volunteer
la cave = wine cellar
le rumsteak = round or rump steak
le vigneron = wine maker 
aux champignons = with mushrooms
cercle de vignerons = wine society

Audio file: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: (Click here to download MP3 file). Tip: can't hear the audio file? Try changing browsers (from Chrome to Firefox or...) or updating your audio software.

On les appelle "Les Veuves de la Vendange", ces femmes qui "perdent" leur mari chaque année en septembre, pendant le ramassage des raisins. We call them "Crush Widows", these women who "lose" their husbands each year, in September, during the grape harvest.

Name This Photo (That's Smokey, taken one year ago... when there was snow).
When you shop at Amazon, entering the story via any of the links below, your purchases help to support this free word journal - at no extra cost to you! Thanks for keeping this in mind. Here are some on my picks:
The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It
,,, The Widow Clicquot. Highly recommended! Both Jean-Marc and I loved this book, and took turned yanking it out of each other's hands during summer vacation. Click to see the reviews.
Kissing Bench
A cozy kissing bench for the garden. I'm looking for one of these in France, meantime, for US readers, you can get one at Amazon!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

la terre

Pictured: the perfect parcelle for a Sunday nap. And how did you spend your Dimanche

 la terre (ter) noun, feminine 

    : soil, land ; earth; property; clay

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these words:
Download MP3 file

Je m'allonge sur la terre pour contempler le ciel.
I lie on the ground to contemplate the sky.

terre à terre = matter of fact
redescendre/revenir sur terre = to come down to earth
sous terre = underground
la terre cuite = terra-cotta
travailler la terre = to work the land
sur la terre comme au ciel = on earth as it is in heaven 


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

Field of Dreams

Lying on a parcel of freshly turned earth, I look from side to side: just rocks and dirt. I wish the ground would stay this way. How neat and tidy things are out here in nature's own home!

It is dust that drove me out of the house... and yet dirt--from whence dust issues--is somehow clean and serene.

Stretched out on my back, I think about spring, when the weeds will shoot up. It won't be so neat then. Then again, this may turn into a field of poppies... might we help it along with a few seeds? Or will last year's poppies return, automatically?

Les coquelicots... my thoughts now wander to Flanders Fields. How the mind shoots from one chose to another.... then to Lily, who is buried here, at the end of this parcel.

I lie still sur la terre and feel the cool earth come over me, one dust particle at a time....

I look up to the oak tree which towers over Lily and me.  
"You ought to take a nap outside, under that tree." If only mom could see me... bundled up here, in wool socks, a knitted cap, and a coat lined with fleece. 

"Just lie under that tree and look up to the sky. Magnifique!"
I do as Mom says and begin to feel my cares slipping away.  

The land on which I lie is one level down from the vineyard. It once held fruit trees... which became diseased, then a kitchen garden... and a few sunflowers (how I'd toiled in vain. Dragging the garden hose all the way out to the field... and how I'd stared, stunned to see the radish seeds up and march off indefinitely... thanks to an army of ants who saw an opportunity.) 

And here is where Jean-Marc planted four small olive trees, one of the gifts he gave me on my birthday. I reach up and grab the label from the sapling towering above me. (How a sapling towers when you lie beneath!) The label notes the life span of an olivier: 2000 years....

My eyes run up the dirt wall which rises behind me, until they reach the blue sky at the edge of the turf. I remember the fresh hoof tracks I'd seen and I begin to imagine a herd of sangliers charging towards this drop off, beneath which I rest. Will they stop in their tracks... or will they fly over me? I squint, when next a whooshing sound has my eyes widening.... a flock of birds flies over! I listen to the rush of thrushes. How to describe the sound of so many wings batting? It would take poetry.

I stand up and dust myself off. Nothing poetic about that. I gaze at the field as one would an old friend: with a reverent we must see each other more often. Yes, we must make the time and see each other again.

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections are most welcome and comments are most enjoyed! Thanks for leaving a message, here.

French Vocabulary

le coquelicot = poppy

la chose = thing

sur la terre = on the ground

magnifique = magnificent


Herm Sharron Karen Bob

From left to right: Herm, Sharron, Karen, and Bob. You may recognize the names "Herm" and "Karen" from the comments box. These two organized the first word-a-day meetup in Phoenix! Four people showed up... if you count Herm's and Karen's spouses... and isn't that a start? :-)

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.


Along the steep zigzagging path to the sea in Sicily, we stopped to peer in to this tiny chapel. The doors were locked but we stole glances all the same.
colombe (ko lohmb) noun, feminine

    : dove

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

 (Continued from the previous story: "Switch-back")

On New Year's Day I was walking along a steep and slippery path to the sea, one very much like life itself: get past the obstacles--both real and perceived--and cross the finish line in victory! You might wonder just what reward awaits on the other side of the broken ribbon... but, consider: Life is not a race and the prize may just lie in the act of taking it all in stride, at a peaceful pace.  

Currently I strode, in panic mode, behind my husband of 16 years. I wanted serenity and I knew, by instinct, that Peace is what happens when you give in and quit fighting life's current. For the first ten years in France, I'd swum against the stream, it is only recently... since following my husband's dream... that I've begun to float. 

"Ça va Mon Amour?" Everything okay, Love? There were two ways to answer the question; similarly, there are two ways to face the new year: by caving in (to fear) or by venturing out (by faith).

I ventured a "Tout va bien!" and, voilà, we swiftly rounded an uncertain switchback, and landed on the seashore. 

As soon as my husband's feet hit sea level, he was off! Scrambling over the giant rocks beneath the seawall to kiss the salty waters beyond (in the end, he opted for a splash-on-the-face "bath" and not full immersion!).

I was still standing in the road when a foot-dragging dog limped past me. The dog seemed to live in the modest house at the back of the parking lot, which faced the sea. My eyes followed the crippled creature to an empty, industrial lot, farther on where thousands of birds were gathering.

Amid the commotion, a figure began to appear from within the frenzy of feathers. It was a man! The man, of a certain age, was holding a 20 liter bucket in each hand, the source of so much excitement on the part of the birds.

I followed in the dog's tracks... drawn to the stranger's simple act of charity. Why would a man lug such a heavy burden, then stand still as an altar... only to risk being capsized by a hungry flock of seed thieves?

The answer was written on the stranger's face: for the joy in giving!

I leave you with photos of "Antonio" and his dog "Lupo". And who said there is no prize at the finish line? I do believe this man and his dog and "their" birds of peace were the reward for following the path of life, for trying--one step forward, two back... to take fears and doubts in stride.


 Le Coin Commentaires / Comments Corner
Corrections and comments are most welcome. Click here to leave a message.


Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: 
Click to Download the MP3 file

L'homme était en train de nourrir les colombes.
The man was feeding the doves. 

Please help me to resolve a technical issue by trying out the audio feature, above, and then giving feedback on the following question (those reading via email may need to click over to the blog to see the question and to vote)? To comment on this question, thanks for using the comments box (click here).





Look closely and you will see the man in the photo, above...


I thought they were pigeons... but Antonio pointed out the colombes....


Yes -- doves!


Sweet Lupo...


What a lovely man and dog -- and a flock of fans to prove it!


Do you have a minute to read the story "Tourterelle" or "turtledove": it's short--under 200 words... and you'll learn the French word for "lovebird"! Click here.

 Exercises in French PhonicsExercises in French Phonics is " a great book for learning French pronunciation", "useful and practical", "high quality material, good value for your money" --Amazon customer reviews. Order a copy here.


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

epingle a cheveux

Ionian Sea (c) Kristin Espinasse 
Jean-Marc and the Ionian sea in Sicily... where the saline breeze draws you to the salty waters, pleadingly. 

épingle à cheveux (ay pehngl ah sheuh veuh) n.f.

    hairpin bend (road, path); switchback

Audio: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: Download MP3 file

Le chemin de terre qui mène vers la mer descend en épingle à cheveux.
The dirt path that leads to the sea descends (in a series of) hairpin turns. 

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

 (Continued from part one: "Peur Bleue: A Morbid Fear".)

The miles-long footpath on which Jean-Marc and I were treading, from a Sicilian city down to the shores of its sea, changed from urban, to industrial, to earthy. I was anxious about crossing through the dark, graffitifed tunnel, when a sudden spell of terror, born of an overactive imagination coupled with every macabre news headline that I had ever read, had me freezing in my foot-tracks!

The idea of turning back was quickly factored out: just look at Jean-Marc, l'homme de la nature! He was so completely in his element, taken up with the salty breeze—pulled forth by the foamy claws of the sea! (I just knew he was looking forward to swimming in the winter waters below. A New Year's Day "bath" is a tradition for a true Marseillais.) 

But just when I let my spirit lift, we came out of the tunnel and face to face with a group of idle youths.... (Idle Youths = Tourist Abuse! in my news-headline-hazy head.) 

I watched my husband, who nodded an international greeting to the group, but my own neck was so stiff with suspicion that it couldn't manage the same salutation.

The group was seated on a rock wall, the other side of which plunged to the shoreline below. As we drew near I listened to their voices, which were foreign to me: not Italian, not French, not Spanish were they speaking. The headlines roared once again in my mind as we approached the strangers, who jostled one another, smiling and having a good time.

Tout va bien, I thought, reassuringly, there are women in the group, and they are all just having fun and acting carefree. But then so were Charles Manson and his "family"...! 

The grassy path we were now sharing was a switchback, hairpin turns from here to the sea. I studied the modern-day hippies. The only way to access the sea was via the switchback where the group sat, threateningly, according to my mind's graphic cinema, which reeled, helter skelter, with headline horror stories.   

 (Read the next and final installment here...)

Le Coin Commentaires / Comments Corner
Corrections, comments, and stories of your own are welcome. Click here to post a comment to the blog. 

French Vocabulary
l'homme de la nature = refers to an out-doorsy, Mister Nature type
tout va bien = everything's all right

Trivia: Today's word "épingle" appeared briefly, in only one of the 1100 French Word-A-Day word editions. Discover it here.

We'll soon meet a character from this Sicilian city... so don't go anywhere and do check back on Friday. .

  Kristin & Smokey

Meantime... "The Continuing Education of Smokey-Doodle" (pictured here at 8 months):

Today's lesson: French Fashion!

No, Smokey dear, these are not to be worn in your mouth. These boots, that have trod upon thousands of Gallic grapes (I can understand your attraction to their sweetness...), yes, these cleat-covered caoutchoucs are to be worn as head ornaments. Voilà, Smokey-Doll. Now, your turn.... hold your head up high and don't let those fashion victims in the capitol intimidate you! It's all about creativity! And the best-dressed dog wins le prix!

Feel like learning a few more words... or seeing a few more pictures of France? Check out the French Word Archives, here!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

peur bleue

Door in Sicily (c) Kristin Espinasse
The French have a colorful word for what we scaredy cats feel. Read on. Photo of Italian door taken in Aciereale, Sicily. Get out and take some photos or keep a point and shoot camera on hand, at all times, and never miss a shot!

une peur bleue (per bleuh)

    : a morbid fear 

(also, in French expressions including color, see "l'heure bleu")

Audio File
: listen to the following words: Download MP3

Je connais des gens qui ont une peur bleue des serpents, des araignées, et des rats. Et vous? C'est quoi votre peur bleue? I know people who are frightened to death of snakes, spiders, and rats. And you? What scares the daylights out of you?

Pronounce It Perfectly in French with Audio CDs

avoir une peur bleue = to be scared stiff
faire une peur bleue à quelqu'un = to put the fear of God into someone


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

The rain in Catania, Sicily had us changing our plans: forget a periple through the vine-dotted hinterland—, we might take our chances and follow that patch of open sky.... 

In a rented Fiat Panda, Jean-Marc drove toward the clear coastline, and we hoped the industrial zone that we were currently passing through would break, just as the clouds had, and it did. We coasted into the city of Acireale, our eyes filling with history as it draped itself across the façades of the Baroque bâtiments.

A New Year's day parade was underway and we weaved in and out of the Catanian crowds, like fish in the Ionian sea just below, and when the sea breeze wafted past we followed our noses out of la piazza, past a dozen churches and chapels....

"Ça te dit de marcher jusqu'à la mer?" Jean-Marc proposed, pointing up to the street sign, which indicated a footpath to the sea.

I am not so adventurous as my husband, but it is a new year!: a good time to shake off one's lazy ways and a good time to put other's wishes before one's own. 

Halfway down the isolated path, doubts began to creep in. Strangely, there was no one else around—unless you counted the ghosts of graffiti. And where there are graffiti there are gangs, are there not?! I thought about the industrial zone we had passed through earlier... industrial zones where delinquents roam!

Stop imagining the worst! I cautioned my mind, which was ever jumping to conclusions, thanks to the news reports that had fed it over the years!

Still, I began to panic. What if a couple of drug-hungry hooligans were hidden at the end of the painted tunnel through which we walked? Switchblades came to mind. My heart thumped and, fast as that, my mind was off and running... with all of the sensational headlines that I had ever read! The macabre news came back to haunt me. It was for this very reason that I had to stop reading the newspapers last year, when the collective shock value of so much bad news had begun its debilitating effect until it seemed safer to stay in ... than to venture out.

It is thanks to almost daily telephone calls to my mom, Jules, that I am reminded of all of the good in this world, despite so much tragedy. Though my mom spends a lot of time in her room, when she does get out the door... to the Mexican streets beyond, she is shaking hands and kissing faces and smiling at the locals—and wondering why she doesn't get out and dance with life more often.
"But Mom!", I always warn her, "you should be careful where you go!" Nevertheless, by the end of our conversation, I have listened to yet another lively story of love: or what happens when you reach out and literally touch someone. 

During last night's call we shared our sadness about the horrible tragedy: the shootings that took place this past weekend in our former home state of Arizona. And yet, Jules reminds me, you've got to trust others, despite it all. We cannot live in fear, which only perpetuates more of the same.

The antidote to this peur bleue, or "blue fear", may just be a red badge, or un emblème rouge: the courage to face our fears, to continue to count on and be counted upon by others, and to trust that it is, after all, a beautiful life.


(Read part two of this story, here.)

To post a comment on this story or on today's word, click here.

French Vocabulary

le bâtiment = building

la piazza = Italian for square (village square)

Ça te dit de marcher jusqu'à la mer? = Are you up for a walk to the sea?


Graffiti and all, it's still a beautiful life! Photo taken in Aciereale, Sicily, Italy. 

Smokey (pictured here as  a pup) recommends the story "Mémère"--about his own mom and the funny French term of endearment that they gave her as a pup! Click here.


Bien dire magazine Keep up your French with Bien Dire (magazine subscription). A 52-page magazine to improve your French that you'll enjoy reading! Full of interesting articles on France and French culture, Bien-dire helps you understand what it is to be French order here.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.


Sicily (c) Kristin Espinasse
These purple Sicilian cauliflowers were mentioned in the previous story, about a gluttonous gal...

anagramme (ana gram) noun, masculine

 : an anagram is "a reversing [a reordering, rearrangement, or transposition] of letters of a word or a group of words in order to extract a meaning or a new word." (French definition follows...) 

Audio FileDownload MP3

Un anagramme c'est un "renversement de lettres" d'un mot ou d'un groupe de mots pour en extraire un sens ou un mot nouveau. -Wikipedia


 police - picole  (to "picoler" is to booze)

aube - beau

soigneur - guérison

imaginer - migraine

Did you notice how, for certain words, the new meaning is not so disconnected from the original? The aube, or "dawn" is indeed beau! To soigner, or treat, would indeed lead to la guérison, or "recovery". And to imaginer too much may lead to a migraine! Some wordsmiths swear by the wisdom in anagrams and did you know that writers and artists often use anagrams to come up with a nom de plume, or pseudo (thus Jim Morrison is "Mr Mojo Risin" in the song "L.A. Woman"....)

But the fun really kicks in when you put your own name on the line.... as I do in the following example (it'll be your turn next, so stop snickering!)

Using an internet anagram server created by wordsmith Anu Garg, I typed in the following 13 letters: "kristin ingham" (my maiden name)  

... next, I waited for the wisdom, or sagesse, that would certainly be inherent in the rearrangement of all 13 letters. Here's what I learned about myself:

Hang Miniskirt

Looking at the above words, I can hardly make out the letters of my name, but there, indeed, are all 13 of them! As for the "wise message".... well, let's just say that miniskirts no longer hang the same way these 43-year-old days--or that it's high time to "hang miniskirt".

A Sinking Mirth

(Do you see my name in the above letters? Oh well, "A Sinking Mirth" must equal "when 'happy laughter' drowns", which would explain why I still find it hard to tell a joke in French. 

Rash Timing Kin : this clearly refers to my tendency to precipitate toward the family buffet.   

Mash Irking Nit: this was, in fact, a childhood pastime while walking home from baseball practice: mashing all those irking nits. Yipes, I meant gnats!!! It was gnats--and not nits!--that I mashed!

Nevertheless, continuing on this theme, two other anagrams are proposed, incredible all the letters in my name are found here:

Harm Skiing Nit: whether they fly or ski... makes no difference! 

Ah Smirking Nit: (the one's that got away)

Moving on, the thirteen letters in "Kristin Ingham" also spell:

Gamin Hits Rink

This would refer to my 9th year, when I won a blue ribbon in ice skating! (Winning entailed the letting go of the guard rail... and knocking over my two pint-size competitors in the process.) 

Margins Hit Ink : Yes! (the writer in me likes it). 

And, conversely, all 13 letters, rearranged again, spell:

Harm Siting Ink : agreed: ink should move across the page... or else!

Ranting. Him Ski!

For how many years did I suck my thumb in self pity whilst my husband soared down the slopes in Serre Chevalier? Sucking one's thumb is still proving to be easier than learning to skier.

Iran Might Sink

Gosh! No wonder those cute Persian boyfriends fled from me! 


Well, you learned more about me than you may ever have wanted to know! And now it is your turn to feed the letters of your name into the Internet Anagram Server... and to let us know a few truths about your own nitpicky self.

Share your results, or your feedback, in the comments box!

 Wisdom from Smokey, photos, and French homonyms! at the end of this edition...

Continue reading "anagramme" »

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.