un petit mot


Old French "pointu" boats (c) Kristin Espinasse
Gone fishing. Home now. And so good to be back at work, putting words down on the blank page and watching a story come to life. Read today's slice o'life... and learn a trick or two!

  Capture plein écran 27072011 100956 Mas la Monaque - rent this beautifully restored 17-century farmhouse! Click here for photos and availability.

une astuce (ahss tooce)

    : tip, trick (or "recipe" for solving a problem)

les astuces du métier = the tricks of the trade

Audio File : Download MP3 or listen to Wav file

Pour éviter les piqures de guêpes, un vieux truc [ou astuce] de viticulteurs: pincer le bout de la langue entre les dents tant que l'insecte menace. Cela créée une légère tension corporelle qui le gêne, s'il vient à se poser sur la peau.

To avoid wasp stings, an old tip [or trick] from winegrowers: pinch the tip of the tongue between the teeth for as long as the insect threatens. This creates a light corporal tension that bothers [the wasps], if they come to land on the skin.


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

Uninvited Guests Guêpes

My family and I are seated around our picnic table, swatting at les gûepes that hover over lunch. I stare into my plate: no barbequed meats (the usual object of a wasp's lust)--just vegetables and eggs via a panfried omelette de courgettes.

It soon becomes difficult to eat as more wasps come hovering and, when our arms fly up and flail some more, eating turns into an aggravating chore.

"Tiens," our thirteen-year-old offers, wiggling her tongue. "Mettez vos langues comme ça." With that Jackie places the tip of her tongue between her upper and lower front teeth... and bites down.

Nodding her head, our daughter invites us to mimic her and, easily led souls that we are, Max, Jean-Marc, and I follow suit, biting down on our own tongues. 

Next, several slurry, inquisitive "Comme thahs?" exit our oral cavities as we attempt to speak through clenched teeth.

Jackie nods her head, slurs a mixture of English and French: "Yeth, comme thah". If our family were already guilty of Franglais, we were now adding a new slobbery dimension to our language crimes.

Tongues held tightly between teeth, we wait anxiously for the next invader to arrive. If Jackie's trick, or astuce, works... the wasps will fly off on arrival. The theory is that the tongue-in-teeth position creates an offensive, high-pitched vibration (undetected by the human oreille... positively piercing to the wasp's ear... hang on a minute -- do wasps have ears? Bon, bref....)

As with all sensational stunts, just as soon as the soon-to-be impressed audience arrives the subject balks. In this case, we four tongue-clamped characters are the audience, the balking subject being the NowhereToBeSeen pests.

In the seconds that intervene, Max, Jackie, Jean-Marc and I sit staring at each other, tongues protruding. "On n'a pas l'air un peu con comme thah?" Max voices our collective suspicion. "Don't we look a little ridiculous like this?"

Braise (brez) and Smokey, who are lying on the flower bed beyond, crushing the fragrant belles de nuit, look up, hoping to see something out of the ordinary, but, hélas, nothing unusual about the quartet of tongue-pressed persons with whom they share this circus, or "grape farm".

When another wasp-less moment passes, a light goes on in one of our brains:

"Thah marche!" Max declares. Then, extricating his tongue from between his teeth so that we can better understand his epiphany, our son repeats, "Ça marche!"

Only, as with every sensational stunt, the stinger-tailed artists appear in time to collect their accolades. And, in this way, we are once again surrounded by those annoying insects, who now interpret the flailing and swatting arms as high praise, or applaudissements. And, after that, as with all brilliant productions, it's encore and encore! Never mind how hard we try to boo the annoying actors off stage.


Le Coin Commentaires

Corrections, comments, or stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box.


Capture plein écran 22082011 095958 Book Notes: I've ordered Sarah's Key and am awaiting its arrival! Click here to order a copy for yourself.


French Vocabulary

une guêpe = wasp

    => read more about guêpes in this story "affolement", in which Chief Grape's eye swells up like a cluster of raisins!

une omelette de courgettes = zucchini omelette

tiens = look here

mettez vos langues comme ça = put your tongues like this

une astuce = trick, tip

une oreille = ear

bon, bref = well, anyway...

On n'a pas l'air un peu con comme thah (ça)? = don't we look a little dumb like this?

les belles de nuit (fleurs) = Marvel of Peru (flowers)

hélas = alas

ça marche! = it works!

un applaudissement = applause

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A couple of tongue-lolling characters from today's story. Braise (pronounced "brez" like "Pez") is on the right. That's her son Smokey, left. 

  P1020013 Read on! Learn about la ruade, or kick in the pants, I received when helping my daughter at the horse stables. Click here for the short story and photos of the French horses!

We're playing a lot of board games this summer. And you? Here's a French one:


Mille Bornes. First published in 1962, Mille Bornes (pronounced "meel born," French for "milestones") is an auto-racing card game whose object, for each team of two players, is to be the first to complete a series of 1,000-mile trips.

Jean de florette And in French film, these two come highly recommended (favorites of Jean-Marc!). Click here to see the reviews.

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.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Bill Facker

Welcome back Kristin! I'm certain you will be overwhelmed by a hearty hooray from all those who love your writing .. such as myself. Aloha, Bill Facker

gail bingenheimer

L'on reste toujours un peu enfant.
A litte bit of the child always remains in us.
C'est une explication quasi-convaincante mais qui laisse à désirer.
That explanation is almost convincing, but it leaves something to be desired.

Teresa Engebretsen

Bon retour, Kristin! Thanks for the funny story. I could just imagine all of you at the table biting your tongues... makes it a little difficult to eat, though.
I have read Sarah's Key and it is excellent. The movie just started playing here and I look forward to seeing it. Kristen Scott Thomas stars.
Keep the stories and photos coming! S'il te plaît!


I am going to have to try that "astuce"!

Bill in St. Paul

It's nice to have you back, Kristin. It looks like Smokey is trying ward off les guepe, too by trying Jackie's astuce. We used to play Mille Bornes when I was growing up, but looking at the date it was first published I must have been in my teens. Seeing J-M's recommended French films reminded me of my Community Ed French teacher who "taught" us French by taking the class to her house to watch Jean de Florette - she didn't teach the next semester.


What happened to the Wav file?

Pat Cargill

Kristen, hilarious beginning to the week. Thanks for the laugh!


Bring a hand-held, battery operated Dustbuster or similar appliance to your next picnic. Scoop up the first wasps to arrive, and you will have many minutes of peace, before you have to scoop up additional visitors. Just leave the device outside when the meal is over, and eventually, the wasps will crawl out by themselves, a bit dazed, but OK. This works well with insects who get trapped indoors as well.

Eileen deCamp

Welcome back Kristin! Looks like Smokey is trying Jackie's trick too!

Julie F in St. Louis, MO

Welcome back. It was not fun when I returned from France but didn't even have your stories and pictures to prolong my leaving. Can't wait for the photos of your trip.


I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall during THAT lunch! Hysterical!
Welcome back!


I told my husband about the tongue biting and he looked at me like I was crazy. I guess that it lasts only as long as you do it. Maybe Smokey had better luck.

Gordon Precious

"dimention" - incorrect spelling (If our family was already guilty of Franglais, we were now adding a new slobbery dimention to our language crimes.) Probably, you meant, "dimension", although I thought maybe you were using a "play on words", inferring that you all were suffering from momentary "dimentia" - but I see that it is spelled, "dementia". Complicated, this English, no matter how you try to use it.
Thanks for your wonderful lessons and photos.

Pat Cargill

To Mary: hilarious wasp catching imagery! Tres clever, Dear! "Dust-bustin' critters!

Janine Cortell

Bonjour Kristin:
I will definitely try to tongue biting technique. It was great fun to read this entry. Regarding Jean de Florette et Manon des Sources, they are also my favorites.
I have been in love with Pagnol since it was in college and have read his complete works.
I also have these fabulous films on DVD and watch them at least once a year.
Cheers, janine


welcome back from your congé (which might be a good word for the blog some day, uniquely french). i will try the wasp trick tonight on those who have not yet been seduced into my traps.


Salut Kristin: Tu nous manques. Vous-êtes-vous bien amusés et bien reposés pendant vos vacances?
Merci pour le tuyau. That was such a funny astuce that I learned today. I will try that next time we go for a picnic.


un applaudissements = applause

Faute de frappe, Un applaudissement, il n'y a pas de S à la fin de applaudissement.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for the warm "welcome back" and for the helpful edits and also the feedback on Sarah's Key!

Bill and Kathleen, I had to laugh when reviewing the photo of Smokey: he sure looks to be trying out the tongue-in-teeth 'astuce'.

Millie, Thank you very much for "le tuyau" -- I had been looking for a synonym for "astuce" (besides "truc"). "Le tuyau" is a wonderful addition to our vocabulary! (P.S.: you asked about our trip -- yes, we had a wonderful time in the southern Alps, near Briançon; picked wild strawberries, ate fondue (with cèpes), and caught up with long-time friends. Smokey and Braise we're happy to stay home, in the care of a family with children).

Gary, I agree: "congé" will make a good future word-of-the-day!

Mary, merci for the dustbuster tip. I like the idea of not killing the insects :-)

Alain, on my way now to upload the wave file. I tried to yesterday but had a little difficulty.

Amy Kortuem

Welcome back, Kristin. And thanks for the wasp-be-gone tip! Much better than screaming and screeching and slapping and waving and running, like I usually do whenever one threatens.

Wish I'd have known this trick on Saturday when I played my harp at an outdoor wedding...a bee kept buzzing my left hand and it wasn't like I could stop playing and take off...


Bonjour Kristin,

It's glorious in San Francisco today - I read Sarah's Key this weekend in one sitting... you'll love it.



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