How good is your French?

Nude by French painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Good, fair, or rather shoddy? I will let you judge.
To start with, try to pronounce the following French tongue twister:

Natacha n’attacha pas son chat qui s’échappa.
(Natasha did not tie up her cat which escaped.)
Not easy, even for a Frenchman…

Mastering a foreign language (especially French) is no small achievement. It is an arduous and frustrating process that can easily take a few years. And when you finally think that you can ride the French bull, you are suddenly confronted with a slew of peculiar expressions that leave you totally bewildered.

So, out of sheer compassion, I will try to shed some light on some common French expressions that only make sense to the snail-eating crowd.

Les carottes sont cuites – the carrots are cooked (the jig is up)
Poser un lapin – to drop a rabbit (to stand someone up)
C’est la fin des haricots – it is the end of the beans (it’s all over)
Tomber dans les pommes – to drop in the apples (to faint, to pass out)
Raconter des salades – to tell salads (to tell stories, to lie)
Avoir les portugaises ensablées – to have sand in your oysters (to hear poorly)
Donner sa langue au chat – to give one’s tongue to the cat (to give up trying to guess something)
Prendre son pied – to grab your own foot (to greatly enjoy, to reach orgasm)
Faire les 400 coups – to do the four hundred tricks (to raise hell)
Triste comme une femme sans fesses – as sad as a woman without buttocks
Un coeur d’artichaut – to have an artichoke’s heart (to be hopelessly romantic)
Un mouchodrome – a fly landing strip (a bald person)
Elle a de la conversation – she has conversation (she is a well-endowed)

Does it make sense?  Mais bien sûr…

Now, don’t utter a French word unless you are absolutely sure of what it means… and how to pronounce it. For instance, “un bras” is not a brassiere, it is an arm. So, don’t put your “bras” in your mouth.

As a general rule (but not always), when a word ends with a consonant, the last consonant is not pronounced.

Often mispronounced words:

 Bon appétit (the last “t” is never pronounced)
Coup de grâce (pronounced “coo de grass” and definitely not coo de graa)
Sauvignon blanc (the “c” in “blanc” is silent)
Déjà vu (not déjà voo)
Cul de sac (silent “l” in cul – and surprise, the last “c” in “sac” is pronounced)
Double entendre (never use this horrible saying in France if you don’t want to be laughed at; it doesn’t mean anything)

Hoping that this little tutorial was helpful, I wish you mesdames et messieurs, une excellente journée”.


Fabled, friendly Lamorinda

Jackie Hackett

It is said that “Travel broadens the mind” so, always wishing to be enlightened, yesterday, accompanied by my mate, I journeyed to fabled Lamorinda.

For those of you not quite familiar with that word, it is the portmanteau from 3 adjacent cities:  LafayetteMoraga , and Orinda. From Marin, it is a rather tortuous expedition, but nothing is too hard for a true believer.

The first thing that you should know about the Lamorinda Pétanque Club is that it is a very welcoming place. Just show up with your boules and very soon you will be included in a game. This has a lot to do with delightful Jackie Hackett; if I am not mistaken, she is the president of the club and she is endowed with a great personality. She always warmly greets newcomers and makes them feel immediately comfortable. She is an excellent player to boot.

Lamorinda, I believe, attracts many people by the caliber of its players. Many people will travel rather long distances for the privilege of measuring with worthwhile competitors, particularly shooters. Among those, Brennan, Pete Hackett, Eric Thiebault, Max, Sebastian, Antoine Lofaro, and a few more that I am not familiar with.

Did I forget to mention Ann Krilanovich? She was there, also shooting her heart away.

I came to Lamorinda to play a few games, but my !%&#*$ back did not allow me to proceed as intended. After two rounds I had to quit. But I still had the opportunity to play with Brennan and Pete Hackett and it was quite an experience. Both are great shooters and a joy to play with. In a game where I teamed up with a certain Ken (?) and Tamara paired with Pete, Pete scored many direct hits that blew the cochonnet to a great distance. There were at least 4 or 5 occasions when the cochonnet ended up about 20 meters from the starting circle and when we labored to finish the round.

Pete, like his wife Jackie, is also a very pleasant and industrious fellow. Since (like many Tamalous) he is also afflicted with a troublesome back, he came up with a little trick to pick up a wooden cochonnet and a plastic circle with a magnet. It is a great idea that I will definitely adopt and use whenever I am playing.

As I previously said, pétanque is a sport, but it is also a great occasion to keep in touch and socialize with your friends. You don’t even have to play; just show up and enjoy the companionship… and many do.

After quitting the game, I managed to take a few quick shots that you can view in the album called “Lamorinda”. Due to the harsh lighting conditions, they are not great but reflect the atmosphere of the event.

It was a great day, and since I still have a lot to learn, I will do my best to return.

Thank you again Jackie and Pete for your warm embrace.


Watch the pictures in “My photos

Erratum: Thank you to Gilbert Sonet for setting me straight. Pascal Gravier is the President of the Lamorinda club and Jackie is the secretary. My apologies to both for this error.


Are kisses making a comeback?

With the pandemic showing signs of ebbing, will kisses and hugs soon return? It is a little early to tell, but I am confident that they will be back very soon, especially among the Centennials. After a year of forced abstinence, the lads and lassies are eager to resume lips-locking.

Some people, especially the Silent Generation, are not in such a hurry and might resume full smooching at a later date. They would rather start with a “baisemain” which might be less hazardous (but no less thrilling) than a kiss.

I am in favor of preserving the French habit of kissing the hands of ladies. After all one must start somewhere. Sacha Guitry

If you agree, keep in mind that the baisemain needs to be executed correctly to be well received. No prior sanitizing or slobbering on the extended hand. A short inclination of the bust and a butterfly kiss on the offered extremity is the way to do it. To be proper, the gesture has to be short and elegant. If you are not too confident, you might want to practice with your siter, mother or grandma…

But what about kissing between strangers? It is a little more complicated… A protocol might have to be established and endorsed by both parties before restarting this activity…

-Bonjour mademoiselle, can I kiss you?
-Well… maybe after showing me proof of vaccination…
-All right, here it is. Can I also see yours?
-Of course… then can I check your body temperature?
-It is moving up, but yes… can I also check your pulse?
-Yes, and it also seems to be rising…
-I am delighted to hear this…

Then, “Que la fête commence” (Let the festivities begin).

For the faint-hearted, a prudent kissing technique could be “kiss blowing”. Long dormant, almost forgotten, this practice might become popular again. It is quick, easy, and sanitary, and you can do some mass-kissing whenever needed.

After our last draught, you might long to be kissed again. If the urge is overwhelming you could wear a badge saying something like “kisses wanted”. I am pretty sure that eventually, you will find some candidates.

Speaking for myself, if you want to exchange kisses with me, send me a recent picture and a brief resumé detailing your reasons and qualifications. An impartial jury will decide if you fit the bill.