Monday, February 07, 2005

French Word A Day (link)

Okay, time to brush up on French.
I love this.

bouder (boo-day) verb
 1. to pout or sulk

la bouderie (f) = sulkiness, (fit of the) sulks
un boudoir = a ladyfinger (finger-shaped cookie, cake)

bouder quelqu'un = to refuse to have anything to do with someone
avoir des succès de boudoir = to be successful with women

La bouderie en amour est comme le sel ; il n'en faut pas trop.
Sulkiness in love is like salt; you mustn't have too much.

A Day in a French Life...

"Do you want me to take the kids to school?" I say, sure that my
husband will do it, seeing he is almost finished shaving.
"Si tu peux le faire, ce sera bien. If you can do it, that would be

Somewhere between registering his mousse-covered cheeks and hearing
his request, it occurs to me that he is going somewhere.

"Ou tu vas? Where are you going?"
"En tournée."*
"Prospecting where?"
"In St. Raphael."
"St Raphael?"

My mind fills with visions of the foamy sea, sandy beaches, beachfront
cafés and brasseries, the boardwalk, the marché, the glamorous Belle
Epoque architecture... Suddenly a pulsion* overcomes me. The pulsion
to pout.

"I didn't know you were going prospecting today..."
"Well, do you want to come with me?"
"I can't come with you. I have work to do."
"That's what I thought."
I abruptly leave the bathroom; in my wake, a piercing silence.

In 1994 the only conseil* Jean-Marc's ailing grandmother gave us
before we married was to "ne pas bouder -- to not pout." I had to look
the word up just as soon as I returned from her modest apartment in
Lyon to our studio in Marseilles, not quite sure I wanted to ask my
husband-to-be what it meant.

"Germaine" as she was called, was a tough woman who saw the collapse
of a family fortune. In Morocco, after the war, she peddled house
linens from her Estafette (a converted military supply vehicle) to
support four children. When her husband, a prisoner of war, returned
from la guerre,* Germaine continued to "wear the pants," selling her
linens door-to-door, while her husband went seaside to cast out
horrific war images along with his fishing line.

Our first encounter had me watching the once-authoritarian-now-frail
woman eat the eyes right out of the fish on the plate before her.
Apart from her advice to "not sulk" she taught me where all those
forks, knives and spoons belong on the French table, at once
thoughtful about her bourgeoisie upbringing, and méprisante* of it.

From "bouder" comes the noun "boudoir," which originally meant "a
place to sulk in."  Though the dictionary says that a boudoir is "un
petit salon de dame"* -- it is really nothing more fancy or exciting
than a pouting room.

I return to my sulking place, and continue to work and sniff.
"We'll leave in 10 minutes?" my husband says, popping his head in from
the hall.
"I didn't say I was going."
"Well, if you change your mind, know that I am leaving in ten

I continue to "faire la tête" or "be in the sulks" while my husband
prepares for his surely glamorous tor-nay* along the French Riviera.

Pecking at my faded keyboard, staring into the hospital-room-white
screen, I obsess about his freedom with an enthusiasm reserved for a
sour, steam iron-yielding housewife:

"Mr. Espinasse goes to the sunny Riviera. Mr. Espinasse would like the
plat du jour. Mr. Espinasse has a rendez-vous. Would Mr. Espinasse
like champagne with his foie gras?"

My boo-fest is short-lived and I know that, in reality, my husband is
lugging 18-kilo boxes of wine from one cave* to another, navigating
medieval one-way roads trying to find parking in an obscure French
village, weaving in and out of traffic, struggling to get to the
basketball court in time to pick up our son at the end of the day. I
know that for lunch he will probably stop at a grimy roadside
service-station and pick up one of those preservative-rich salmon
(salmonella?) sandwiches and a bitter cup of instant coffee.

Meanwhile I will be lugging words from brain to faded key board. To my
left, a café-au-lait. Before me, the adventure of my choice, if I will
but find the words to transport me there.

"Do you know what the word 'boudoir' means?" I say, out of breath,
catching up to my husband who is loading cases of wine into the
"Comment? What's that?"
"Boo-dwaar. It's French."
"No. I don't know that word. What does it mean?" he says, opening the
car door for me.
"Nothing much."

Boudoir: a noun better used to represent sunshine-yellow, dainty
sponge cakes,* than dark, fleeting moods. Bouder, a verb to flee,
whether by hopping into your husband's Citroën, or by taking a similar
break from the train-train* of daily life.

References: une pulsion (f) = an impulse; un conseil (m) = a piece of
advice; la guerre (f) = war; méprisante = contemptuous, scornful; un
petit salon de dame (m) = a woman's sitting room; tor-nay
(pronunciation for tournée (f) = a sales round); une cave (f) =
cellar; a miniature oval sponge cake in French is also a "boudoir"; le
train-train (m) = routine


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