Friday, April 22, 2011


From the window of superb modiste-chapelier Novalande in the charming
Normandie port village, Honfleur.  photo Carol E. Cass

There's a citation in French attributed to Mark Twain floating around on the Net that for the life of me I cannot find in his work to authenticate:  Il y a trois choses qu'une femme est capable de réaliser avec rien: un chapeau, une salade et une scène de ménage. 

Roughly translated: There are three things that only a woman is able to make out of nothing: a hat, a salad and a domestic argument.

That sounds like Mark Twain, but is it really? The Web site proffers the quotation comes from Twain's Contes Choisis, i.e., Selected Stories. I've skimmed through the book twice without finding the citation. A third and careful reading I will have to forego, having misplaced that volume. Can anyone be of help?

un chapelier, -ière:  hatter, hatmaker
un modiste:  milliner (a person who makes or sells women's hats)
une salade:  a lettuce, a salad; also a muddle or tangled confusion
raconter des salades:  to spin yarns, to tell stories
égarer:  to mislay (here) ; to mislead, to lead astray

©2011 P.B. Lecron


  1. Hi, I'm a couple years late, but I was looking this up myself. According to the book 20,000 Quips & Quotes by Evan Esar it's:

    “There are three things a woman can make out of almost anything--a salad, a hat and a quarrel.” -John Barrymore