Accueil, mille-feuille and "bringing the squirrels to their feet"
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Feuille, or leaf, ranked as one of the hardest French words to say in our recent "Most Difficult Words to Pronounce" poll--which, incidently, revealed a lot of enunciation angst among readers. Today, let's take a lesson from this cat... and relax :-)
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TODAY's WORD: écureuil
AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc (sounds like my husband recorded this one in his new vine field. Can you hear the dove cooing? And the cars passing? :-) Download MP3 or Wav
Ecureuil. Savez-vous pronuncer les mots suivants? écureuil, Limeuil, feuille, mille-feuille, sombreuil, fauteuil... Do you know how to pronounce these words: écureuil, Limeuil, feuille, mille-feuille, sombreuil, fauteuil
un écureuil volant = flying squirrel
la cage à ecureuil = jungle jim or climbing frame for kids
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
I love waking up and learning something new, especially after struggling to find my way. Today was no different than any day, and I opened my sleepy eyes and wondered: what is the best use of my time? Where to devote my energy? And, especially, "WHAT MATTERS MOST?"
A nagging inside told me to sit down and concentrate on story-writing ("Thelma, Louise, and The Dashing French Samaritan" is one I've mean meaning to tell you. But I can update you on my kids exploits later). Just when doubts threatened to shake me off my path, a soft voice whispered:
"Let the day unfold..."
Pushing back the bed covers, I fought back the shoulds, woulds, all the while washing my hair, feeding the dogs, and dusting the end tables (it's "Welcome Room Wednesday," part of a new cleaning regimen I've put myself on (focus on one room a day, i.e. "My Room Monday" ... "TV room Tuesday".... I have no idea how to make "kitchen" rhyme with Thursday, but tomorrow is another day. Or I could move the kitchen to Friday, for "Frigo Friday"?)
Frigo, by the way, is the French word for refrigerator which brings me back to why I'm here, typing this note to you: What matters most is not what I can create (stories) or what I should be doing (I never did get those papers put away in the "welcome", or living, room). What matters is sharing what we know with those who are hungry to learn. And one thing I know is this very lively and colorful French expression, one that is bound to make you smile:
"Mettre les écureuils à pieds" = "to fell a tree"
It literally means "to bring the squirrels to their feet." Now there is something we can all chew on today! And I shall chew on it again tomorrow morning, when my mind is amuk with little furry shoulds, woulds, and coulds!
I would have never found this expression if it weren't for you. Maybe you were checking your inbox, wondering "when's Kristi going to send the next word?"
Believe me, I've been wondering the same thing. And it makes me realize what a combined effort this journal is, afterall. And if I have not told you lately, thank you very much for showing up here, whenever you can, to see what it is I have to share with you on any given day. Your attendance has put direction into my day and I ended up writing and researching for this post, which led me to an unexpected aha moment. One of those moments where you realize that something has been staring you in the face for years and yet you never saw it in all its simplicity.
Little does it matter the significance of the thing (in this case the image at the end of this post). What matters is you got out of bed today and let yourself be guided by that still small voice inside. The one that leads to creativity, to learning, and to that aha moment that even the French translate as BING!
(... or is it "bingo" we say? And they say bing? Ah well. That doesn't matter so much :-)
Have a great day and chase those squirrels away.
If you are new to this journal, Bienvenue. I'm so happy to have you with us! You can read my story here.
Photo taken Saturday in Cassis, after my daughter, Thelma--I mean, Jackie--drove us back from Marseilles. I need to update you on all this in a post titled "La Conduite Accompagnée" (assisted driving), which sounds much better and more respectful than "Thelma and Louise". I'm just glad our car stopped short of the drop off the other day....
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L'Ecureuil is also the nickname for the French bank La Caisse d'Epargne. Aha! I see it now... after years and years of passively viewing the logo, the "squirrel" never came into focus for me! And you? Do you see it now?
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety
Oui! Finalement je peux voir l'écureuil dans l'image.
Posted by: Peter | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 12:32 PM
I've always thought the "eui" vowel combination one of the most difficult for English speakers to master. I started to learn French more than 60 years ago and to this day I can remember struggling with it. "U", as in "mur" is another, I think.
Posted by: Mike | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 12:46 PM
I love Mike's comment above that he began learning French over 60 years ago. I began a few months ago, and I'm looking forward to learning it for the rest of my life.
Posted by: Monica | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 12:55 PM
Merci bien, Jean-Marc, pour la leçon de pronunciation. Who knows what 'word' has been popping out of my mouth all these years. Actually, I think I simply avoided saying 'écureuil'.
Posted by: Linda R. | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 01:15 PM
Yes I see the squirrel. The shoulda woulda coulda is already starting in my head and I just let the dogs out and made a latte. It is so easy to drown out my inner creative voice. Thanks for reminding me to listen for it.
Posted by: N vandenberg | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 01:43 PM
When I was a little girl, we had many wild animals in our house. My Dad was a veterinarian and we would care for sick animals, mostly for zoos. At one point, when I was five years old, we had a chimpanzee named Tillie, two lions, eight aardvarks (they are really big and lived in the garage,) and my six-month old baby brother. At a later date we had two flying squirrels. They spent all day at the top of the living room drapes. At some point the evening, they would fly down into the open-topped baby grand piano. After being fed etc. they would climb back up the drapes. Explains a lot, huh?
Love from Nan in boring Florida where, at least, the camellias are in bloom and it is strawberry season.
Posted by: Nan Morrissette | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 01:47 PM
I was listening to the audio file this morning and thought, "easy for you to say Jean-Marc" LOL...good luck with the cleaning regime. I tried almost the exact same thing and had a calendar to mark off "bathroom" on Monday, vacuuming on Tuesday, etc. It fell by the wayside in no time. haha
Posted by: Eileen deCamp | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 01:49 PM
I just love your shoe letter as always!
Posted by: Caroline Stuart-Jervis | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 02:19 PM
That petit écureuil shows up everywhere ;-) felling trees, running banks, and do they eat your garden veggies like some do here?
Posted by: joie in carmel-by-the-sea | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 02:20 PM
Oui, forget the "shoulds" and "woulds" and "could haves". Put them in the poubelle with all the "what ifs"! And looking at that lovely photo of you in Cassis (taken by Thelma?) I think you've succeeded in that! Brava! P.S. to Nan -- what an exciting and enviable childhood you had!
Posted by: Cynthia Gillespie-Smith | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 02:36 PM
Krisin, I hear the doves cooing - sounds just like Jean-Marc was recording in Arizona! And speaking of Jean-Marc - merci Jean-Marc pour le leçon de prononciation sur des mots qui sont très difficile à dire!
Happy Wednesday to you (or almost Thursday by this time!)
Posted by: Beth | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 03:23 PM
Oh, squirrel! I forgot completely about that word. Yes, I'd say it's the hardest next to just about every other French word with some "u" combination. It's my inability to shape my mouth in the pinched ways necessary for French that kept me from learning the language. As I've grown older, though, I no longer let my difficulty in pronouncing French keep me from speaking it.
When I first started seriously working on the language, I obsessed over the grammar (a background in Latin, you know). A couple of years in and making no headway in conversation with natives, a friend clued me in that the French care more that I sound right than my sentence is right. And so now I let every shopkeeper, brasserie server, and random person I stop for directions correct my pronunciation and I take it all in with a smile.
Posted by: Julie Farrar | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 03:34 PM
If we are still adding difficult words to pronounce to the list, may I "king you" and add "le roi"?
Posted by: Diane Scott | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 03:56 PM
I see l'écureui! :)
And that's a beautiful photo of you. You look radiant.
Posted by: Katia | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 04:21 PM
Love the beach at Cassis! Was there many years ago...1980?? maybe but still remember the visit. Rented a pedalo with daughter! Thanks for all your great stories, Kristin.
Posted by: Nancy Milburn | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 04:30 PM
Your posts make me smile when I read them , I no longer have children at home but can feeling sidetracked about everything around me and at times overwhelmed.
Now in Retirement I still can come up with so many reasons not to clean.
We live in northern California on 4 + acre
and have the assortment of animals including flying squirrels they are a joy to watch so petite and graceful. Have a
great day. I will learn French one day.
Posted by: Susan Souza | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 05:49 PM
Love these 2 most recent posts. I spend a couple of weeks in France most falls, and notice that my mouth muscles get in shape while I'm there, then get flabby back here. I want to read through the comments from last time as an exercise for here. I have trouble with all the words listed.
Last night I thought of you because I found a pristine, Cadillac-like, red Illy espresso machine tossed in the trash outside a high-end appliance showroom. Only problem? It takes those hard plastic, disposable espresso cups--one use only.
Then I went on line and watched a 6-minute video from Greece of a man who cuts one open and makes it re-usable!
The dilemma remains: what should a gleaner who wants to leave a small footprint do with this gleaming beauty?
Posted by: Leslie NYC | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 05:51 PM
Really tough to pronounce ...no wonder Frenchmen never understand a word I say.
Lovely photo of you!
Posted by: Mary liz | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 06:09 PM
Well...well..well! Finally a photo of a kitty cat!
She seems to enjoy the sunshine.
Posted by: Marika Ujvari | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 06:48 PM
Since you are a writer you must also be a reader. All that takes a
lot of time away from housekeeping. I attempt to solve this problem
by listening to audio books while I do mindless tasks like laundry,
mopping, etc. Currently I am listening to David McCullough's The
Greater Journey: Americans in Paris which spans the years 1830-1870. You might like it. Joanne, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA
Posted by: Joanne Ablan | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 07:10 PM
Your photo is lovely! Please don't worry too much about the house cleaning ... the same amount of dust will accumulate for the future occupants of Mas Brun two hundred years from now. Thanks, Jean-Marc, for the pronunciation lesson! (I can see the squirrel now that you point it out to me.) Best wishes for all. I always enjoy your writings so much ... mille mercis.
Posted by: Cynthia P. Lewis | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 07:11 PM
yes, see the squirrel right away.
Posted by: phyllis Morton | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 08:01 PM
Our dear Krist,
Another beautiful post from a beautiful lady!(what a terrific picture of you!)
And you reminded me of another sentiment by another great lady,Eleanor Roosevelt:Today is a gift,that's why it's called the present.
I really regret not ditching more housework to do something else that caught my fancy at that moment(usually sitting outdide under God's blue skies and playing with our dogs!)
Too late for yesterday but definitely not too late for today!(and tomorrow!)
THANK YOU !!!
Posted by: Natalia | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 09:04 PM
Thanks for the pronunciation lesson. I'm always eager to learn the correct way of pronounciing difficult French words.
Posted by: Janet Alllen | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 09:55 PM
Love, love love your blog you are so natural and unassuming and it comes through in your words. I have always found mille feuille difficult and loved hearing it pronounced correctly.
Do what I do when the house is in need of a clean up......invite people to dinner and it is amazing what you can achieve in a couple of hours.
Posted by: dianne | Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 11:37 PM
Kristi, Thanks again for your blog. Don't worry about not being able to pronounce words correctly - that's what the French call a charming accent. Revel in it!
Posted by: Christine Cormack | Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 01:17 AM
Posted by: teresa stiffler | Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 01:29 AM
"Like" all your posts!
Posted by: Kay | Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 02:34 AM
Thank you for today's missive, taking us along with you on the path to creativity. Also loved the words, sounds and dove song of Provence from Jean-Marc!
Posted by: Chris Allin | Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 06:25 AM
I think all I heard was that for each part of the word, the -euil or -euille, it's pronounced as just a 'long A' Is that correct, or do I need to get better speakers! fOtA, ecureA, etc?? Feuille sounds like 'fait'.. I'm sure I must be missing a very importance nuance of pronunciation - it just can't be so simple to say 'A' as in 'say' for the endings of these difficult words. Anyone have any corrections or aids for me? Always love your posts, Kristin. And, loved my Amazon 'Recommendations' email I got earlier, with your book as one of the four or five suggestions for me! So neat to see your book being promoted!
Posted by: Judi | Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 07:06 AM
Wow, I had never noticed that before! Haha. I too had never seen more than some lines and curves in that logo. Thanks for pointing it out. :)
Posted by: Julia ~ Falling Off Bicycles | Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 05:12 PM
Thanks for posting. These "euil" words are tough as well as many words in French. How about a post on words that the French have difficulty pronouncing? There must be some sounds difficult for them although it usually comes off as cute to my ears.
Posted by: Chris | Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 06:53 PM
In my blog I always try to encourage readers to relax and let nature happen...stress is no good! Your blog is always inspirational! I just look at your photos, read your words and remember being in Provence with my French sister. Worth it for that and so much more...keep the thoughts coming, please!
Posted by: Patricia Cowan | Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 09:19 PM
After years of following your blogs and reading your books I am prompted to comment today. I know why...Jean-Marc's helpful audio and your graceful photo in front of Cassis where I visited last May along with a dreamy boat ride to the Calanques. Love studying French but am so challenged by many words, even vu and vous. Enjoy hearing the phrases and metaphors too. Wondering if you enjoy cooking (not just cleaning la cuisine)? I suggest Tasty Treats Thursday and then bake your yogurt cake!
Posted by: Connie | Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 11:52 PM
I loved Jean Marc's audio file. I am practicing the pronunciation out loud of all the words as I walk to and from the office to the parking deck, when I'm in the elevator at work (alone I might add), and in my car!
Thank you for asking if we hear the cooing dove and the cars. I don't think I would have picked up on that if you hadn't mentioned it!
Posted by: Tish tyler | Friday, February 13, 2015 at 12:09 AM
Un jour sans Smokey et/ou Breize n'est pas bon! Au moins une phot, s.t.p.!
Posted by: Zoe Willet | Friday, February 13, 2015 at 10:34 PM
I would like your vignettes as you used to do. Your children may not like it but some updating on them and their trials in the real world would be appreciated.
Posted by: carole | Saturday, February 14, 2015 at 01:05 AM
Try following Kristi on Twitter and Instagram. There you will sometimes see updates on Jackie and Max, and even Jean-Marc...and his mother. The old saying, a picture is worth a thousand words, is certainly true!
Posted by: Chris Allin | Saturday, February 14, 2015 at 03:21 AM
And Zoe Willet,
You will find the sweetest Smoky pictures on Twitter and Instagram as well...
Posted by: Chris Allin | Saturday, February 14, 2015 at 03:30 AM
Thank you, Chris. And thanks, everyone, for the interesting and helpful comments. I love reading them--especially on a rainy and cozy morning like today. Enjoy the weekend!
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Saturday, February 14, 2015 at 07:50 AM
P.S. Thank you very much, Carole. I would like to update on the kids more, too, and have been thinking about this. As Chris said, I put photos and updates up at Facebook and Instagram (have you tried this site? I hesitated for years and finally signed up. I just love it!) thanks again for your suggestion and I will keep it in mind.
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Saturday, February 14, 2015 at 07:55 AM
I really love your blog! It is so much fun to read, is helping me learn French, and your photos give me such pleasure. However, as a former teacher, I have one tiny suggestion....Please note that 'a lot' is two separate words.
Posted by: Diane Langmuir | Sunday, February 15, 2015 at 02:25 PM
Thank you, Diane. I mix this up (these words) so often that Im never sure which spelling is correct. Recently, I avoided it all together by substituting *many* :-)
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Monday, February 16, 2015 at 09:55 AM