Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Plaster cast studies of hands at the Musée Rodin Meudon and Balzac's monk's cloak, below, is the spookiest A French Education will ever get, even on the eve of All Saints' Day--All Hallow Even-- Halloween, or as the French call it la veille de Toussaint.

qui donne la chair de poule:  which gives goosebumps (literally which gives chicken skin)
sinistre:  spooky
quelquechose qui fait froid dans le dos:  something which makes the back cold (literally); spooky

On Halloween in France: The Vandal Had the French Touch, click here.

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Monday, October 29, 2012


This birthplace plaque in Nancy caught my attention, first of all because I hadn't realized that "mauvais" which translates to "bad" was a surname, and secondly because it's rare to see an 18th-century school teacher honored in this way. Virginie Mauvais was the daughter of a "constitutional priest," i.e., a priest who during the French Revolution took oath to the new constitution and became a paid clerical agent of the state. (The constitutional clerical arrangement existed from 1790 until 1801 when Napoléon Bonaparte and Pope Pie VII signed an agreement ending it.) 

Virginie as an adult studied, earned diplomas, became a teacher and opened a school for young girls, then later worked in Nancy's budding public schools. Dedicating her life to combatting ignorance and poverty, she developed a modern reading method through which both children and adults could learn to read in six weeks. After her retirement and upon the advice of a former student, she invested in the Portuguese railways system and made a fortune, a part of which she legged to the city of Nancy to build three-story hospital which included a floor for children's surgery. 

une institutrice, un instituteur:  a primary school teacher (feminine, masculine)
une méthode d'apprentissage de la lecture:  a reading learning method
une bienfaitrice, un bienfaiteur:  a benefactress, a benefactor
un bienfait:  an act of generosity

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Learn French with Pompon
No theatrics here; French cat Pompon earnestly illustrates today's expression: il a le diable au corps. He has the devil in him.

tenter le diable:  tempt fate; court disaster
comme un diable dans l'eau bénite:  like a devil in holy water (literally); like a cat on a hot tin roof

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Friday, October 26, 2012


Learn more French with Pompon
Sacré de Birmanie Pompon stretches out to give meaning to the French expression, "Il est long comme un jour sans pain."  He is long like a day without bread. It can either mean something is very long in physical length, or (not in Pompon's case) endlessly boring.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Here's a French children's ditty or comptine fit for the season:

En automne, tout m'étonne.
En hiver, j'espère.
Au printemps, j'apprends.
L'été: j'aurais tout oublié!

In autumn, all amazes me.
In winter, I hope.
At spring, I learn.
Summer: I will have forgotten everything!

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Maman les p'tits bateaux
Qui vont sur l'eau
Ont-ils des jambes?

Mais oui mon gros bêta
S'ils n'en avaient pas
Ils ne march'raient pas!

Here's the translation of the refrain of the very popular French nursery song, Les Petits Bateaux:

Mamma the little boats
That go on water
Do they have legs?

Why yes my silly goose
If they didn't 
They wouldn't run!

Click here to listen to the tune.

marcher:  to walk; to run (as a motor); to function
un gros bêta:  a silly goose
un port de plaisance:  a marina
un bateau de plaisance:  a pleasure vessel, a yacht
une comptine:  a nursery rhyme, a bedtime song

Photo taken a few years ago at the port de plaisance, or river port, on the Moselle, in the city of Nancy.

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Monday, October 22, 2012


Gathering wild mushrooms is a pleasant and fairly popular activity in France, so much so that whenever one has a doubt about whether a mushroom is comestible, one can simply take it to any drugstore where its identification is offered as a free and friendly service by pharmacists. These bonnets look to me to be of the mostly non-comestible mycena genus of mushrooms, but I'm no expert. 

un champignon:  a mushroom; a fungus
une ville-champignon:  a boom town

Appuyer sur le champignon:  to step on the gas pedal; to accelerate

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Born of the powerful family of Florentine mécènes, she was the niece of a pope, a Machiavellian queen of France and an ardent believer in astrology. When Catherine de Médici (1519-1589) learned from her astrologer that she would die near Saint-Germain, she took the prediction to heart and thereafter avoided all places having the name Saint-Germain. Some fifteen years later when taken ill and on her death bed at the Château de Blois, a priest was hastily summoned to perform extreme unction. After giving her the last rites, she asked him his name.  "Julien de Saint-Germain," he replied. "Alors, je suis perdue!" she answered, appalled.

un mécène:  a patron of the arts; sponsor
perdu(e):  lost

Gisant or recumbent effigy of Catherine de Médici at the Basilique Saint-Denis.

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Friday, October 19, 2012


French cat Pompon is at it again, this time illustrating a play on words:  l'avenir appartient à celui qui se lèche tôt.  Get it?

L'avenir appartient à celui qui se lève tôt:  The future belongs to those who rise early.

se lever:  to get oneself up
se lécher: to lick oneself

©2012 P.B.Lecron

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Tout est bien qui finit bien
After months of restauration, last year's fire damage at Ladurée on the Champs Elysées is officially a thing of the past; the store's sumptuous macaron counter is back in place, and identical to the way it was before.

photo courtesy of Marianne Lecron

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


The temptation to use today's title was too great; plus I'm sure French learners will be delighted to spike their conversation with the lively but benign expression of surprise or admiration,  "La vache!"

The winged bull representing Saint Luke and symbolizing all at the same time spiritual force, tranquility and sacrifice, is posed on the parvis of the Basilique Saint-Epvre, Nancy.

La vache:  Holy cow! Gee!
C'est vache:  It's mean.
Il est vache:  He's mean.

une vache: a cow
vache:  (slang adjective) nasty, mean
un parvis:  a square in front of a church

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, October 14, 2012


When night falls, lights positioned on the inside of the neo-gothic Basilique Saint-Epvre in Nancy are turned on to illuminate the stained glass windows, making them visible from the outside. Unexpectedly dramatic for evening stollers.

un(e) promeneur (-euse):  a stroller (person)
apparaître:  to appear

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Famous French cat Pompon is unequivocal about today's expression:
Tout le monde a des yeux et des oreilles; mais tout le monde n'a pas de discernement. --Madeleine de Puisieux,  Les Caractères (1751)

Everyone has eyes and ears; but not everyone has discernment.

©2012 P.B. Lecron


Quand la poire est mûre, il faut qu'elle tombe: literally, when the pear is ripe, it has to fall; meaning that when things get to a certain point, they have to explode or come to an end.

Tip:  pick pears early and let ripen off the tree!

Wrought-iron decorative ensign at the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles, Rouen.

Monday, October 8, 2012


What a surprise! Friends just sent me these photos taken the other day outside of the Louvre, next to the Jardin des Tuileries. The company responsible for maintaining the gardens and lawns of the Louvre now uses goats to keep the grass tidy in the steep ditch that runs along the periphery of the park. The small, long-haired goats are a breed found on France's western coasts. Called  les chèvres des fossés, their number has dwindled over the years to only a few hundred. Also known as la vache des pauvres, the poor people's cow, these milk-producing goats, typically belonged to people who did not own grazing land. Property owners would allow them to tether the goats on difficult and rough terrains to crop the grass. 
Photos by John Desjardin

Où la chèvre est attachée, il faut qu'elle broute.
Goats have to graze where they are tethered. This is an expression of resignation to one's situation; when necessity obliges, one must accept the circumstances in which one finds oneself.

brouter:  to graze on, to graze
attacher:  to fasten, to attach, to tie up
le gazon:  grass
la pelouse:  lawn
une fossé:  a ditch
tondre:  to mow

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, October 7, 2012


J'ai un chat dans la gorge!
Cool cat Pompon engages a houseguest to illustrate another French expression.
 "I have a cat in my throat!" Anglophones, however, usually say "frog."

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, October 6, 2012


It's free, amazing, and I send all of my visiting friends and family to see it: Raoul Dufy's La Fée de l'Electricité (The Electricity Fairy), a panoramic depiction of the history of electricity. Painted for the electricity pavillon at the 1937 International Exposition, the work was ordered and financed by Electricté de France (EDF). EDF later donated the immense mural to the city of Paris, where it is on display at the city's Musée d'Art Moderne, without charge.

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Friday, October 5, 2012


Pompon, a French Education's mascot, with a little help from a friend. 
Steve Jobs, one year already.

Le chat a neuf vies:  cats have nive lives

un pouvoir surnaturel:  a supernatural power
vénérer:  to venerate; to worship
survivre:  to survive
les anciennes croyances:  ancient beliefs

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Toe pad is the word: le coussinet
French cat Pompon sleeps with gusto, putting his best foot forward.

faire de son mieux:  to do one's best; to put one's best foot forward

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Statue of Napoléon atop the Colonne de la Grande Armée, at Wimille near Boulogne-sur-Mer. It was here that Napoléon had amassed 150,000 troops for two years waiting to attack England. In 1805, after realizing that he lacked naval supremacy, he abandonned the plan. The statue is positioned so that Napoléon's back is turned toward England.

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Pompon, French Birman who has just turned two, has no qualms about drinking tap water, and in fact has put his all into prepping for today's photo session. The expression "wet behind the ears" can be translated to French as "c'est un petit jeunot"  (it's a young lad), or "manquer de 'l'expérience" (to lack experience).

jeune:  young
un jeunot:  a young lad
l'eau du robinet:  tap water

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Monday, October 1, 2012


Kif-kif is an amusing alliteration of the Maghrib word "kif" which means "like" or "same." French soldiers returning from North Africa introduced it to France during the 19th century. Kif-kif bourricot, which means "it's all the same to the donkey," became a popular and lilting variation of kif-kif. This resigned pack animal, tethered outside of a panoramic restaurant and souvenir shop at the Grand Ballon in the Vosges Mountains, knows what it means.

un bourricot:  a small donkey
un âne:  a donkey, an ass; a fool
kif-kif:  it's all the same
pareil (-le):  same

Recommended reading
Les Mémoires d'un Âne (Memoirs of a Donkey) by the Comtesse de Ségur

©2012 P.B. Lecron