Winetasting invitation! + "Allez, zou!"

  1-yellow flowers blue door
If flowers could talk (and who says they can't) then these are shouting ALLEZ ZOU! After oggling this sunshiny plant forever--and owning it, for a time--I broke down and ordered the Helianthus grosseserratus or "sawtooth sunflower" seeds. If you, like me, believe your garden or balcony or windowbox cannot live without this jumble of happiness, then order some seeds like I just did!

And now for some French to keep you in the know:

Allez zou!

    : let's go!, off you go!

from allez! (interjection) and zou (sound) (like shoo!)

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

I was going to write you a story when I realized that today's definitions are as entertaining and inspiring as anything I could cook up for you this morning! (So later I'll tell you about our secret magic wine barrel--the one that grows 300-year-old olive trees and maybe lilacs and figs and ladders to heaven, too! Thank God real life keeps fueling these anecdotes. A writer could not make this stuff up!) 

Now for those definitions I was telling you about. You can listen to them too! Just click on the following links and hurry down to the French words beneath. Allez. Zou!

Sound File: Download MP3 or Wave file and listen to Jean-Marc read all the French text, below (the first is by Wikipédia):

Dans la langue française, zou est une interjection, sûrement d'origine occitane, qui invite à un changement brusque et soudain dans l'attitude. In the French language, "zou" is an interjection, probably of Occitane origine, that invites a swift and sudden change in attitude:

  • Allez zou ! On s'en va. (Come on. Let's go.)
  • Allez zou ! J'achète ce pull-over. (Oh! I'm going to buy this sweater.)

And here's a wonderful definition from

  • Zou!–petit mot d'origine provençale qui appelle à l'action. Il signifie tout simplement « Allez! ». Zou!—a little word of Provençale origin and a call to action. It means, simply, "Go!" 
  • Zou! est le terme rassembleur par excellence; il est le point de départ des petites comme des grandes aventures. Il précède le premier pas de toute initiative. Il indique la volonté de laisser toute la place à l'action et aux résultats. Zou! in the most excellent rallying term; it is the starting point for both little and big adventures. It preceeds the first step in any initiative. It indicates the will to leave everything to the action and to the results. 

Did you enjoy this last definition and find it as cheering as I did? Did you read it a second time, too? May it be just the invitation to begin  your weekend. Allez, zou! Have a good one!

To respond to this post, or to add to it, click here.


Two places to stay in the South of France:

“La Trouvaille”--a true find in Provence!  Affordable vacation rental in this beautiful old stone house in the charming village of Sablet. 

New rental in Provence! La Baume des Pelerins, in Sablet--spacious, comfortable the perfect place to return to after a busy day’s sightseeing, bicycling or hiking.

Remember those "sawtooth sunflowers" I told you about, earlier? They, and we, lived here once upon a time--along with these beautiful plants you see in the photo (all gifts from Malou and Doreen, "the Dirt Divas").

When Caroline and Thomas bought our vineyard, Caroline thoughtfully dug up and sent back some of the plants--the first, "eurphorbia" (I'd heard it was an alternative treatment for that skin cancer, but Caroline urged me NOT to experiment. I listened to her... but wanted the plant, anyway). Caroline also collected seeds from my favorite sawtooth sunflowers (previously dug up at Malou or Doreen's and transplanted in front of our grape vines). But I've somehow misplaced the seeds! (They've got to be here, in a pocket... somewhere. Hence, my recent online order!

The good news is--and the reason for this long-winded introduction--you can soon meet Carolyn and Thomas at their upcoming winetasting (near Nice). I'll be there too and if you ask me, I'll even pass you a few of the sawtooth seeds I've been going on about! I'll put them in my pocket (on second thought maybe that's a bad place, after all?)

Very excited to have received this invitation from Julie and Dan, who are happy to extend it to you, too! Julie and Dan write:

You are cordially invited to a wine tasting on Saturday, 01 February 2014. Domaine Rouge Bleu ( is a Côtes-du-Rhône winery, ideally situated between the revered appellations of Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The wines of Domaine Rouge Bleu–Dentelle, Mistral, and Lunatique – have  garnered accolades from numerous concours events and wine publications, including Wine Spectator, RVF and Guide Hachette.

The proprietors, Caroline Jones and Thomas Bertrand, will lead a tasting of select Rouge Bleu cuvées and vintages and share their philosophy of terroir and their passion for the principles of bio-dynamic farming and natural vinification. Please join Caroline and Thomas at: Le Tire Bouchon 198 Chemin des Comtes de Provence 06650 Le Rouret 06 95 08 74 70 

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Hope to see you there! I won't forget those seeds--and maybe I'll have some others...

Collecting cosmos seeds at Domaine Rouge-Bleu. About to stick them in my pocket. And then forget all about them.

Enjoy this bouquet and have a bright and wonderful weekend. 

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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manger ses mots

Hanging out on the line (c) Kristin Espinasse

Socks on stage, taking a bow in front of the curtains. I have always been a sucker for whimsy. I love French architecture and adore the building blocks of language... 

manger ses mots (mahn-zhay-say-moh)

    : to speak inarticulately, to mumble 

Aha! and you thought manger ses mots (to eat one's words) meant to admit you were wrong. Relax! You're thinking of the English idiom. The French one has a very different meaning. Both, however, paint a colorful scene in the mind's eye. More expressions imagées in today's column, below.

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

The day I quit believing the lie that I was a bad student I fell in love with the French language. I could now relax and absorb all the lessons floating around me--and all the words, too. Idioms were a new and delightful discovery! Expressions such as revenons à nos moutons and faire du lèche-vitrines took hold of my soul, bubbling up through me in delight and possibility.

Certain colloquialisms were so full of quirky imagery. They took me beyond the classroom--to see and perceive the world around me in a new and light-hearted way. That the French referred to window shopping as "licking windows" (or "window licking"--either way is funny!) taught me they had a wonderful sense of humor and a refreshing down-to-earthness behind their mysterious exteriors. The self-depreciating, humane, and humble side of the French is especially apparent in their turns of phrase.

"Elle a des oursins dans la poche," a French friend whispers, and I'm no longer intimidated by the bombshell at the party; instead I'm amused by the new saying I've just learned ("to have sea urchins in one's pocket" = to be a cheapskate). That woman may be a knock-out... but it turns out she's a cheapskate! Tee-hee! The two images are funny (and heartening) when joined together.

Though I still put the French high up on a pedestal, I can now pose my ladder beside it and climb up to reach their outstretched hands, joining them in this language tango. "Etre aux petits oignons?they say, spinning me round and round. "Don't be fooled. We're not perfect! We're just as goofy and clumsy as the rest of the world. We don't take ourselves as seriously as you might think!"

As I fell in love with the French language, getting cozy with the lingo, a funny thing happened: I developed a new appreciation for l'anglais. Suddenly, all the English idioms that once flew off the tip of my tongue--now projected themselves across the technicolor screen of my mind. How colorful English was, too! I'd never quite seen it this way before!

Having developed a theory that the French have a word for everything, and that their expressions are the liveliest, I've come to discover that some idioms are much more interesting in English than in French. Here are just a few examples, you can add your own in the comments box which follows:

Between you and me and the gatepost - There's something adorable about this English expression--yet it translates to hum-drum boring in French: soit dit entre nous = just between us. (You mean that's it? Don't they have a more charming match for this one? At the very least, can't we have a word-for-word equivalent: C'est entre toi et moi et le montant de porte?)

Kiss and Fly (Name of airport drop off zone)
I was taking family to the airport when I noticed the sign above the temporary parking curb. "Kiss and Fly"--how delightful! ...And what a let down to discover the French translation (noted just beneath the sign): Dépose Minute.

To Get One's Knickers in a Twist (To get flustered, agitated)
Personally I don't use this expression (I find the "Keep your hair on!" expression just as funny). Sorry if the "knickers" idiom offends anyone--but you've got to admit that it is one of the more colorful expressions we have in English! Let's see if the French translation does it justice (checking my dictionary now...)

...and the equivalent is (dot-dot-dot) s'emporter. Ba dump bump! To fly off in a rage doesn't quite cut it. Although "to get into a tizzy" is kind of funny! How about we use that one?

*    *    *

Your turn to share your favorite English expressions--the more colorful the better. Are some expressions funnier in English--or, if we search deeply enough, can we find a just-as-humorous French equivalent?


French Vocabulary

revenons à nos moutons = let's get back to the topic
faire du lèche-vitrines = to go window shopping
être aux petits oignons = to be perfect
l'anglais = english    

Hats in St. Tropez (c) Kristin Espinasse
Chapeau! or hats off to you for working on your French a little each day. Please share today's post with a friend who might enjoy the same.

Kristi and Mr Farjon (c) Jean-Marc Espinasse
Photo from 2008. With Mr Farjon, "The Plant Whisperer". 

With an approach that is as charming as it is practical, Espinasse shares her story through the everyday French words and phrases that never seem to make it to American classrooms. Book blurb by Simon and Schuster

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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Today's column is in French and English and is written by Barbara (who tells me, regarding yesterday's story, that the French do have an equivalent expression for "bird bath".... "Une toilette de chat"--"a cat's lick" means to: "se laver d'une façon succinte, au lavabo par exemple," or to wash oneself hastily, at the sink, for example.)

mordre (mohr-druh) verb
1. to bite

se mordre les lèvres = to bite one's lips
mordre la poussière = to bite the dust
mordre à l'appât = to swallow the bait, to be duped
ne savoir y mordre = "to not know where to bite" to not know where to
begin (to understand something)
mordre à quelque chose = to take to something (to warm to a subject)
se mordre la langue d'avoir parlé = to bite one's tongue for having spoken (to regret)

Citation du Jour

Les hommes, c'est comme les chiens, ça mord parce que ça a peur.
Men are like dogs. They bite because they are afraid.
--Jean Anouilh

A Closer Look at French Expressions
by Barbara Barles

Bonjour à tous,

Je vous propose de découvrir la 2ème partie des expressions anatomiques françaises. Cette liste n'est pas exhaustive, mais vous permettra déjà d'être calés sur la question !

Hello everyone,

I invite you to discover part two of expressions having to do with the human body. This list is not exhaustive, but will help you to understand the subject better.

- Avoir deux mains gauches:
"To have two left hands"
= être maladroit (to be clumsy)

- Avoir les dents longues:
"To have long teeth"
= avoir de l'ambition, être prêt à tout pour réussir (to be ambitious, to do anything to succeed)

- Tourner de l'oeil:
"To turn the eye"
= s'évanouir (to pass out)

- S'en mordre les doigts:
"To bite the fingers"
= regretter d'avoir fait ou dit quelque chose (to regret to have done or to have said something)

- Avoir les deux pieds dans le même sabot:
"To have two feet in the same clog"
= être empoté, ne pas se remuer (to be clumsy, to not be able to get a move on things)

- Tourner sa langue sept fois dans sa bouche avant de parler:
"To turn one's tongue seven times in one's mouth before speaking"
= bien réfléchir avant de dire quelque chose (to think twice before saying something)

- Avoir les oreilles qui sifflent:
"To have ears that whistle"
en français, lorsque l'on parle de quelqu'un, on dit qu'il doit avoir les oreilles qui sifflent.
(In French, when we talk about someone, we say that his ears must be whistling.)

- Avoir l'estomac dans les talons:
"To have the stomach in the heels"
= être affamé (to be hungry).

- Taper dans l'oeil:
"To hit the eye"
= Plaire (to be pleasing to the eye).

- Se mettre le doigt dans l'oeil:
"To put the finger in the eye"
= se tromper (to be mistaken)

- Mettre l'eau à la bouche:
"To put water to the mouth"
= donner envie (to make you thirsty for something)

- Ne pas avoir froid aux yeux:
"To not have cold eyes"
= être intrépide, culotté (to be bold, to have nerve)

Barbara Barles is a legal expert based in Toulon, France. She enjoys trying out new recipes on friends and the pleasing "qualité de vie" in her native Provence.

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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Barbara is back with her column "A Look at French Culinary Expressions." Whether you read it in French or in English, ne le ratez pas (don't miss it!)

cuire (kweer) verb
1. to cook


laisser quelqu'un cuire dans son jus = to let someone stew in their juices = to let them deal with their own problems


Jamais l'affamé ne fait trop cuire son pain.
A starving man never overcooks his bread.

A Look at French Culinary Expressions

by Barbara Barles

Puisqu'on dit en français que l'appétit vient en mangeant, et que vous semblez avoir bien digéré les expressions de la semaine dernière, en voici encore quelques-unes en plat de résistance:

In English
Since we say in French "the appetite comes while eating," and as you seem to have digested last week's expressions, here are a few more for the main course:

- Avoir la pêche (ou la frite):
"To have the peach" (or the fry, as in potato):
= être en super forme = to be in great form (to be fit as a

- Ne plus avoir un radis:
"To no longer have a radish"
= ne plus avoir un sou = to be out of money

- Etre le dindon de la farce:
"To be the turkey of the stuffing"
être la victime, la dupe, de quelque chose ou de quelqu'un.
= to be the victim, the dupe, of something or someone

-Ne pas mettre tous ses oeufs dans le même panier:
"To not put all one's eggs in the same basket"
ne pas mettre tous ses espoirs dans la même affaire.
= to not put all one's hopes in the same affair.

- Aller se faire cuire un oeuf:
"To go and cook oneself an egg"
= aller se faire voir, se débrouiller tout seul = "to go and be seen,"
to do something oneself

- Avoir les pieds en compote:
To have the feet in compote (stewed fruit)
(when one's feet feel like jelly)
=avoir très mal aux pieds = to have sore feet

- Se prendre une prune:
"To get oneself a plum"
= prendre une amende, une contravention = to get a ticket, a fine

- Avoir des oursins dans les poches:
To have sea urchins in one's pockets
= être près de ses sous = to be close to one's money (to be tight,

- Faire la soupe à la grimace:
"To make grimace soup"
= être fâché = to be angry

- Etre couvert comme un oignon:
"To be covered like an onion"
= porter plusieurs épaisseurs de vêtements.
= to wear many thick layers of clothes

- Faire le poireau:
"To do the leek" (to be planted somewhere, like a leek)
= attendre = to wait

- Mettre la main à la pâte:
"To put the hand to the dough"
= participer, aider = to participate, to help out

Bon appétit !! Enjoy your meal!!

Read about this French life, and living in Provence: click on the book cover below:


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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Don't miss today's column "Food-Related French Expressions" for an insight into some charming and useful French sayings. Read it in French and/or English.

bouffer (boo-fay) verb
1. to eat
2. to consume
3. to absorb
4. to puff out

Une bagnole qui bouffe beaucoup d'essence = a car that guzzles gas

la bouffe = food (informal)
la malbouffe = bad grub, junkfood

se bouffer le nez = to dispute with someone; to argue
se faire bouffer = to get creamed (defeated, in sports)
se laisser bouffer par son travail = to be swallowed up by one's work
faire bouffer ses cheveux = to add volume/fullness to one's hair
bouffer du curé, du flic... = to be extremely anticlerical, anti-cop

Citation du Jour:

Le basket, c'est bien; parce que, vu l'état de la bouffe actuellement, je ne vois pas ce qui nous reste d'autre qu'un ballon à mettre dans un panier.

Basketball is good; because, having seen the state of food today, I don't know what's left for us to put into a basket other than a ball. --Laurent Ruquier

Food Related French Expressions

by Barbara Barles

Tout le monde sait qu'une des préoccupations majeures des français concerne l'alimentation... ou "la bouffe" comme on dit chez nous!

C'est peut-être pour cette raison qu'il existe en français autant d'expressions relatives à la nourriture et à ce qui se mange en général. Je vous en propose ici quelques-unes. D'autres pourront suivre si vous avez encore faim!

* * * *

Everyone knows that one of the major preoccupations with the French concerns food.... or "la bouffe" as we say here.

It is perhaps for this reason that there are so many French expressions related to food and to what is eaten in general. I propose a few for you here. Others will follow if you are still hungry!

La moutarde me monte au nez:
"The mustard is getting up my nose"
(= I'm beginning to get angry...)

Tomber dans les pommes: "To fall into the apples" = s'évanouir (to pass out)

Se mêler de ses oignons: "To mind one's own onions"
s'occuper de ses affaires, ne pas se mêler de celles des autres = (to mind one's own business, not to get mixed up in other people's business)

Mi figue-mi raisin: "Half fig-half grape"
Se dit de quelque chose, d'un sentiment mitigé, ambigu, moitié bien, moitié mal. / to speak of mixed, ambiguous feelings, half good, half bad also: wry (smile); a half-humorous, wry remark;

Mettre du beurre dans les épinards:
"To put some butter into one's spinach" = améliorer ses revenus, sa situation / to improve one's financial situation

Donner du lard (ou de la confiture) aux cochons:
"To give fat (or jam) to the pigs" = donner quelque chose à quelqu'un qui ne le mérite pas, qui n'est pas
en mesure de l'apprécier. / To give something to someone who does not deserve it, who is not capable of appreciating it.

Mettre de l'eau dans son vin:
"To put water in one's wine" = se radoucir, se modérer. To moderate oneself

Avoir du pain sur la planche:
"To have bread on the cutting board" avoir beaucoup de travail à faire / to have a lot of work to do

En avoir gros sur la patate:
être triste, avoir du chagrin / to be sad, chagrined

Etre soupe au lait:
"To be milk soup" (the image of soupe boiling over from the addition of milk) = se vexer, s'énerver facilement / to be easily irrited, angered, vexed

Chanter comme une patate:
"To sing like a spud" or "To sing like a potato" (to sing badly)

Read stories about this French life, and living in Provence: click on the book cover below:


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