Saturday, February 25, 2012


Une litote:  an ironical understatement in which a thought is disguised in such a way that one must guess its meaning, thus giving it more significance than if it were simply and straightforwardly expressed; e.g., an affirmative that is expressed by the negative of its contrary. If the rhetorical device were applied to the plastic arts, then it would neatly fit into the suitcases carried by the fantasmagorique figures of French sculpture Bruno Catalano. Van Gogh, in part, is represented here on a sidewalk in the Normandie port town of Honfleur.

une litote:  a litotes
un sous entendu:  an understatement
fantasmagorique:  phantasmagoric

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


 Proverbe Breton:  Quand les mouettes ont pied, il est temps de virer.  When the seagulls wade, it's time to turn.

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, February 19, 2012


A winter morning's sulky training on the beach of Cabourg, a small resort town between Caen and Deauville in Basse-Normandie. Photo courtesy of Marianne Lecron.

trot:  allure of a horse which is faster than walking but slower than a gallop
au trot:  lively or with speed; on the trot
le trot attelé:  trotting with a sulky
un sulky:  a sulky
une course au trot attelé:  a harness race
une course hippique:  a horse race

©2012 P.B. Lecron


Easy-to-eat yogurt merchandised in easy-to-get-hooked-on-collecting glazed terra cotta pots. The French are not big milk drinkers but eat lots and lots of yogurt, averaging a hefty 21 kilograms per person per year. The second largest group of yogurt consumers in Europe, just behind Germans.

le yaourt:  yogurt
yaourt aux fruits:  fruit yogurt
yaourt nature:  plain yogurt
yaourt au lait entier:  whole milk yogurt
yaourt glacé:  frozen yogurt
terre cuite:  terra cotta
une glaçure:  a glaze

Pédaler dans le yaourt:  To get nowhere fast

For the easy, fun and famous French kids' yogurt cake recipe which uses the yogurt pot as a measure, click here. 

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Franz Kafka's famous vegetarian quote translated into French:  "Maintenant je peux vous observer en paix; je ne vous mange plus."  Now I can look at you in peace; I don't eat you anymore. According to his friend Max Brod, Kafka said this while looking at fish in the Berlin aquarium in 1913. 

Estimates are that slightly less than 2 percent of the French population is vegetarian, although there seems to be a growing market for vegetarian and even vegan style tourism and cooking lessons

le végétarisme:  vegetarianismeating practice that excludes consumption of animal flesh
le flexitarisme:  essentially a vegetarian diet in which animal products are occasionally eaten
le pescetarisme or pesco-végétarisme:  an otherwise vegetarian diet except that it includes fish and seafood
le crudivorisme:  eating discipline of vegetarians who only eat uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts, cereals, grains and oils
le véganisme:  term applied to those who beyond being vegetarian, avoid using any product of animal origin (e.g. wool or fur) or which has been tested on animals
l'agar-agar:  agar, a gelatin substitute derived from seaweed and used to thicken food

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


"L'amour est un je-ne-sais-quoi, qui vient je-ne-sais-où, et qui finit je-ne-sais-quand." -- Mlle Madeleine de Scudéry, the celebrated "precieuse." (1607-1701). Love is a I-don't-know-what, which comes from I-don't-know-where, and which ends I-don't-know-when. 

A woman's movement of wit and subtlety
La Préciosité, a French 17th-century lifestyle of extreme refinement in art, music, manners and especially language, had at its heart Mlle Scudéry, an aristocratic feminist who idealized love but refused the "tyranny" of marriage and remained single all of her life. Credited with inventing extraordinary neologisms and brillant turns of phrases that even revolutionized the French language, the rather closed circle of femmes précieuses  frequented one another's literary salons to discuss and comment poetry and novels of galanterie and amour in conversations enlivened by artistic plays on words. Satirized as complicated and affected by Molière in Les Précieuses Ridicules (1659), Mlle Scudéry, aka Sapho, was nonetheless the very first woman of letters to receive the Académie Française prize for eloquence.

un langage recherché:  a refined choice of words characterized by the desire to create a certain effect
la préciosité:  preciousness; in the derogatory sense, an exaggerated concern with elegant or refined behavior, language or manners
la galanterie:  gallantry, polite attention or respect given by men to women
l'amour:  love
un roman:  a novel
un bel esprit:  a person with a fine and gifted mind

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Friday, February 10, 2012


Oscar Wilde called the Victorian era's adulation of the Bard of Avon "bardolatry." Susceptible Frenchmen simply pronounce the homophone, "Shakespeare, j'expire." No Freudian enigmas intended--these people are mostly Latin at heart.

Image credit via Creative Commons.
©2012 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, February 5, 2012


A restored vintage landau, circa 1910-20,  parked in front of an antique dealer in Nancy. The wooden baby carriage's peony motif, in a trompe l'oeil imitating marqueterie, is in the style of the Art Nouveau ébéniste and furniture designer Louis Majorelle (1859-1926), Ecole de Nancy. 

By the by: the latest demographic survey shows that the French birthrate is currently at 2.1 children per woman, the highest of European nations. Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques (INSEE)

Walking astride an expectant mother with a toddler in hand I overheard: "Mais non, le bébé ne porte pas de chaussures--il ne peut pas me faire mal quand il donne des coups de pied!"  No, the baby isn't wearing shoes--he can't hurt me when he kicks!

un ébéniste:  a highly skilled furniture maker and artisan, who working with thin sheets of precious woods, is talented in the decorative art of veneering
un placage:  a veneer
une marqueterie:  a marquetry, i.e., an inlaid work made from small pieces of colored wood or other materials, used primarily for the decoration of furniture
un landau:  a pram, baby carriage
un coup de pied:  a kick
au fait:  by the by

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Friday, February 3, 2012


Testée et approuvée. Tested and approved, this nifty late model Tefal crêpe pan is all that's left to show for the crêpes made in my kitchen. Yesterday, February 2, le Chandeleur, marked the New Year's first round of traditional crêpe making in France. (The next will be on mardi gras.)  Le Chandeleur is a  fête de crêpes linked to Christmas. It was originally a pagan festival,  fête des chandelles or festival of candles. Since the 14th century the day has been associated with the Christian celebration of the presentation of the baby Jesus at the temple and the purification of Mary.

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Bas relief of angelots musiciens on a lintel above a door in Pézenas.

©2012 P.B. Lecron