Posts Tagged ‘French vocabulary’

C’est les Soldes !

June 27, 2012
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“Soldes: Day One / ‘I remain Zen.'”
This funny illustration of the first day of “Les Soldes” was created by my friend Flavie Solignac, one of the many fine and talented people who I somehow have the good fortune to be surrounded with.
You can check out more of Flavie’s work here.


C’est les soldes! 
– The sales are on!
les soldes the sales
tout petit – really small; really little; tiny
un tout petit budget – a tight budget
fringues – (familiar) threads, as in “clothes” (a more dated translation would be “glad rags”)
la période de soldes – sales period
une vitrine – store window
se bagarrer – (familiar) to duke it out, to fight
une bagarre – (familiar) a fight
une bonne affaire – good deal, bargain
faire la queue – to line up
un long moment – a good long while
vous encaisser – ring up your purchase(s), or ring your purchase(s) up for you (“encaisser quelqu’un” means to ring up a purchase for someone)
se fringuer – (familiar) to deck yourself out, to dress up
électromenager – (plural) electrical domestic or household appliances
un bon rapport qualité-prix – good value for money
faire du lèche-vitrinewindow shop (literally “to lick the store windows”)
une queue – lineup
la caisse – the cash register
faire des économies – to cut corners, to save money
la première démarquethe first markdown ; “les soldes” in France generally involve several markdowns, with bigger discounts as you go along

******


It’s the first day of the summer soldes in Paris!

I’m on a tout petit budget at the moment and therefore not really in the market for new fringues, so I had completely forgotten about the upcoming période des soldes until I was walking home last night and passed a few vitrines that had already put up their signage in anticipation of The Big Day.

If my experience with last year’s soldes is any indication, tonight after work, I imagine, women will be flocking to the likes of BHV, Printemps, Maje, and various other boutiques to se bagarrer over les bonnes affaires, and snatch up the choice items they’ve been carefully staking out over the last few weeks. If you’re planning on joining the fray, prepare yourself to faire la queue un long moment with other impatient shoppers, though if you’re lucky, there’ll be extra staff on hand to vous encaisser. After all, whether you’re looking to se fringuer or just pick up some électroménager, the période des soldes is always a good opportunity to get un bon rapport qualité-prix.

If you’re curious about how “the sales” work in France (they’re government-regulated!), I wrote a lengthy post on them last year, explaining the whole, complicated process.

As for me, I think I’ll just faire du lèche-vitrine and avoid the long queues at the caisses. I’m hoping to do a little travelling come fall, so I need to faire des économies.  Of course, that said, it’s only the première démarque—we’ll see how long my resolve lasts!

Happy shopping!

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Of Maïs and Men

May 24, 2012

Moulard Duck Foie Gras with Pickled Pear. From the Wikpedia Commons. Photo by Luigi Anzivino.


les souris
– mice
maïs – corn; pronounced “mah-eese”
24h sur 24 (spoken aloud as “vingt-quatre heures sur vingt-quatre” or “vingt-quatre sur vingt-quatre“) – 24/7 
(in French, they say “twenty-four hours out of twenty-four”, instead of “twenty-four/seven”)
foie gras – foie gras is a traditional French delicacy made from the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened; literally translated, it means “fat liver”
gavage – force-feeding
bricolé(e) – thrown together, cobbled together, tinkered with (familiar); from the verb “bricoler”


******

The first time I met my friend Dave, he told me he’d been living in Paris for two years.

“Wow, your French must be really good by now,” I remarked enviously, still not feeling quite up to the task of speaking French 24h sur 24.

“Not really,” he replied. “Actually, you can get by quite well in Paris without speaking much French at all.”

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Do You Hear the People Sing?

May 5, 2012

“Foreigners, don’t leave us alone with the French!” © 2010 Anne Petitfils
A strong opposition to immigration is one of the defining tenets of the Front National, the French far right,
a position which is met with much criticism from French socialists. Marine Le Pen, the party’s leader, sent shockwaves through the nation two weeks ago when she walked away with an unprecedented 17.9% of the national vote in the first round of this year’s presidential elections, although in the end it was
Nicolas Sarkozy (27.18%) and François Hollande (28.63%) who moved on to the second round.


une fête – a festival, a celebration, a party
un jour ferié – statutory holiday, civic holiday, public holiday, bank holiday
muguet – Lily of the Valley
faire le pont – literally “to make a bridge” (bridge a gap); an idiomatic expression used to describe the common French practice of taking a vacation day in between a statutory holiday and the weekend, thereby creating an extra-long weekend
le premier mai – the first of May
le syndicat – (trade) union
un ouvrier – a worker (historically, this term was used to refer to tradespeople or factory workers)
la classe ouvrière – the working class
une manifestation – a protest, a rally
le Palais d’Élysée – Élysée Palace, the official residence of the French president
Monsieur le Président – the proper way to address the French president, in the same way that English-speakers say “Mr. President”
le vrai travail – real work
la gauche – the left
un defilé – a parade, a march
le defilé syndical – the union parade
la crise – French shorthand for the current economic crisis or the recession
“travail, famille, patrie” – work, family, fatherland
l’extrême droite – the far right
le Front National – The National Front, the far-right political party in France. Their current leader is Marine Le Pen.
l’UMP – Union for a Popular Movement, the French political right. Nicolas Sarkozy, the current French president, is their leader.
le Parti Socialist – The Socialist Party, the French political left. François Hollande, current presidential contender, is their leader.

**********

“Do you hear the people sing, singing the song of angry men?
It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again.”
                      – “Les Misérables”, The Musical, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg


This past Tuesday was May 1, otherwise known as La Fête du Travail (better known in English-speaking countries as “Labour Day” but literally translated as “The Festival of Work[ers]”). It’s hard to believe that it’s been two whole years since I first learned all about this nationwide jour ferié and its various traditions, like offering friends and family a small bouquet of muguet or taking an extra day off work to faire le pont. The last time I wrote about le premier mai, it seemed to me like just one of many random holidays that made the month of May in France seem like one long drawn-out vacation. What with it falling smack dab in between the two rounds of this year’s French presidential elections, however, the day took on a far more serious and political tone than many have seen in recent memory.

You see, in addition to being a great opportunity to take a long weekend trip somewhere, I’ve recently learned that, at its core, la Fête du Travail is meant to celebrate workers and workers’ rights. In Paris, the various big syndicats have a long-standing tradition of getting together to organize a big rally every year on this day, with the intention of uniting les ouvriers and reminding them of the importance of the holiday’s origins, of what their predecessors fought for, and of the fact that there are still battles that need to be fought today. It’s something of a sacred day to the unions, a day that has always traditionally belonged to la classe ouvrière. This year, as usual, the syndicats were on track to organize a giant manifestation at Denfert-Rochereau in the south of Paris, culminating in a grand march to La Bastille.

As a teenager, a high school field trip to watch the musical “Les Misérables” was my first introduction to French history, so it feels vaguely surreal to now be in Paris and witnessing strikes and marches happening along the very same city streets, carrying on the tradition of Victor Hugo’s famous unwashed poor.


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Impasse Sarkozy

April 22, 2012
“Sarkozy Impasse, Former President of the French Republic, 2007 – 2012”
This clever mock street sign/political commentary blended in so well with the mise-en-scene
on a Saint-Germain street that we almost walked right by it without even noticing.


une impasse
– dead-end, cul-de-sac; also, a deadlock
le premier tour
 – the first round
la Présidentielle – short for “l’élection présidentielle”, the presidential election
les infos
– the news
un sondage – poll
le/la candidat(e) 
le deuxième tour – the second round
les élections – elections

le Front National – the name of the far-right political party in France
un étranger (une étrangère) – a foreigner
un pays
region (can also mean “country”); in France, people will refer to the region where they were born, grew up, or where their family comes from as their “pays”
un bulletin de vote – ballot
une soirée d’élection – election party
le mode de scrutin – electoral system 

******

Today is the premier tour* of la Présidentielle and all over France, people are heading to the ballot boxes to decide who will be the two main candidates battling it out for the presidency in the second (and final) round of voting on May 6th. For weeks now, les infos have been full of nothing but election talk and sondages, all trying to predict which candidat will come out on top. Political debates rage hotly over tables in cafés and brasseries around the city, and the streets are papered with paraphernalia, the unnerving eyes of far-right leader Marine Le Pen staring eerily out from campaign posters (when they haven’t been gouged out or defaced by those who take exception to her extreme anti-immigration stance, that is).  Not all the political posters come from “official” sources. Some politically-minded citizens have found creative ways to share their views, like this clever mock “street sign” I spotted in the Saint-Germain neighbourhood while walking one day with my friend Jean-Laurent.

For an expat, it’s a really interesting time to be in the city, watching all the various goings-on. At the moment, it looks as if current president Nicolas Sarkozy and left-wing candidate François Hollande are the favourites to move on to the deuxième tour of les élections, although some would say that it’s too early to discount Le Pen and the Front National, who have made somewhat worrying gains in popularity in the wake of the economic crisis. As an étrangère on French soil, I can only hope that this isn’t actually the case.

Paris itself feels strangely quiet and deserted this weekend. A large portion of my circle of friends has left the city, hopping on trains and heading back to their pays to do their civic duty and cast their bulletin de vote.**  Others are taking advantage of the occasion to throw a soirée d’élection, getting together with friends over a bottle of wine to watch the results come in.

What will be the final decision?  All of France waits with bated breath to find out.

* The Frenchmode de scrutin”, or electoral system, involves two rounds of voting to determine who will be president. In the first round, people choose from among several candidates. The two forerunners then move on to a second round of voting, where the people then vote on which of the two will be elected to presidential office.

** It’s not uncommon for people from other regions in France to move to Paris without officially changing their residence, as this involves a certain amount of paperwork and administrative red tape. As a result, when election time rolls around, they have to return to their “area of residence” in order to vote.

Paris sous la pluie

August 8, 2011

la pluierain
le temps – weather
Paris sous la pluieParis in the rain
jour après jour day after day
maudite damned; la maudite pluie – damned rain
un orage – a storm; a thunderstorm
un parapluie – umbrella
la météo – the weather report
trempé(e) – soaked; soaking wet
C’est pas normal ! – It’s not normally like this, it isn’t usually like this; This isn’t normal
Qu’est-ce qu’on peut faire ? C’est comme ça. – What can you do? It’s just how it is.
il pleut des cordes – it’s raining cats and dogs (literally “it’s raining ropes”)

******

I snapped this photo back in December, but I might as well have taken it yesterday, given the temps we’ve been having lately. Springtime here was unseasonably warm and gloriously sunny, but ever since we officially hit “summer”, jour après jour, it feels like there’s been nothing but la maudite pluie. After a month of almost daily orages, even when la météo predicts that it’ll be nice out, I don’t dare leave the house without my parapluie, for fear I’ll end up completely trempée.

C’est pas normal !” my French friends keep saying, clucking their tongues in disapproval and shaking their heads reproachfully at the sky. “The weather in July is usually so much better than this.”

Oh well, qu’est-ce qu’on peut faire ? C’est comme ça.  Even sous la pluie, Paris is still beautiful, and although picnics might be off the table for now (pun intended), there are always the city’s many museums, art galleries and ornate covered passages available for frittering away a rainy afternoon.

And every cloud has a silver lining: When il pleut des cordes and I’m stuck indoors, it’s an effective cosmic kick in the pants to finally start sorting through the literally hundreds and hundreds of photos that I’ve taken since I got here…  hence the photo from December, which I now get to share with you!

Paris souvenir vendors are well-prepared for the inclement weather.

Going Once, Going Twice… Soldes!

July 24, 2011


un trois quart
a three-quarter (in this case, a three-quarter length coat)
la période de soldessales period
faire les magasins – to go shopping or tour the stores; literally translated: “to do the stores”
les soldes the sales
les soldes d’été – the summer sales
les soldes d’hiver – the winter sales
une foire d’empoigne – free-for-all
une bonne affaire – good deal
faire des folies dans les magasins – to go on a shopping spree
les riches – the rich, the wealthy
(la) première démarque – first markdown
(la) deuxième démarque – second markdown
(la) troisème démarque – third markdown
(la) dernière démarque
soldé(e)
– on sale
faire les soldes – to shop the sales
j’ai fait un peu les soldes – I shopped the sales a little
se faire plaisir – to treat oneself; (nous faire plaisir – to treat ourselves)
la crise
 – literally “the crisis”; French shorthand for the current economic crisis 

******

Last Saturday, the sales started,” my friend Julien wrote me last January. “I bought two suits, four shirts and ties, a coat (un trois quart) and a pair of shoes to be even more elegant than I was.”

J’ai besoin d’un nouveau paire de baskets et quelques trucs pour l’été,” my friend Anne mentioned to me last month, while we were waiting in line for an event at the Palais Brongniart. “Mais j’attends les soldes.” (“I need a new pair of sneakers and some things for the summer, but I’m waiting for the sales.”)

Santa’s not the only one who’s making his list and checking it twice. Parisians do it too and not just at Christmas. That’s because twice a year, every January and June, it’s the période de soldes in France and all over Paris, savvy shoppers in search of a bargain get out their wish lists, put on their comfiest shoes and brave the crowds to faire les magasins.

Unlike in North America, sales in France are strictly legislated. (For a culture known for its love of flaunting the rules, I am discovering, the French sure have a lot of them.)  Stores in France are not allowed to hold sales anytime they want. Instead, they are limited to two annual designated “sales periods” that are known as les soldes: five weeks beginning the last Wednesday in June for the soldes d’été, and five weeks beginning the second Wednesday in January for the soldes d’hiver.* If you’re Canadian, it’s the equivalent of five solid weeks of Boxing Day sales. If you’re American, it’s like five weeks of Black Friday.

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Et si on faisait le trajet ensemble ?

July 15, 2011

Concorde métro station


le trajet
– commute
ensemble – together
Et si on faisait le trajet ensemble ? – What if we made the commute together?

******

I’m in love with this little film, posted in the Francophilia Gazette yesterday, which simultaneously depicts a commute happening in Paris with one happening in New York. The fact that Tolbiac, the first métro station that appears in the Paris “half”, is right in my neighbourhood makes it seem even more special.


Whether you’re waking up on this side of the ocean to a café crème and a fresh croissant, or on the other side of the Atlantic to a cup of Timmy’s and a toasted bagel with cream cheese, it’s somehow comforting to know that morning commutes remain universal.

Et si on faisait le trajet ensemble ?  I’ll be thinking of all of you back home when I make mine on Monday morning!

Happy Fête Nationale!

July 14, 2011


la fête nationale – the national celebration, France’s “Independence Day”; known in the English-speaking world as “Bastille Day”
le 14 juillet
 – the 14th of July (the French national holiday)
les soldes – the sales
je pars en week-end – I’m going away for the weekend

******

Happy 14 juillet everybody!  I’m currently working on a new post about the summer soldes that I’ll be publishing soon, but for those of you who are new to The Vanishing Point and interested in learning more about this French national holiday, be sure to check out last year’s posts, Le Bal des pompiers and La Fête nationale.

I’ll be catching the fireworks display tonight at the Eiffel Tower, one of my favourite summer events in this beautiful city, then je pars en week-end to the seaside town of Deauville. I can’t wait to hit the beach!

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Frisbee on the Champ de Mars and a Little Canadian Cheer To Go

July 7, 2011


le feu
traffic light
une fontainefountain
un quai – quay
le métro – subway
La Défense – the ultra-modern business district just outside of Paris
comme la guerre – like going to war, like going to battle
passe Navigo – the Paris transit pass
se retrouver – to meet up; literally “to find each other (again)”; unlike English, in French, the verb “to meet” (se rencontrer) is used only in the context of a first meeting/introduction, while verbs used in relation to “meeting up” are se retrouver, se rejoindre (literally, “to join each other”) or se voir (to see each other)
une crêperie – a restaurant that specializes in crêpes
un couloir – corridor, hallway
le changement – change, transfer; in this context, refers to changing trains, or transferring between the different subway lines
les gars – (familiar) the guys
haut – (adj) high
cinq – five
mot à mot – word for word, literal
Tope là ! – High five!
le boulevard périphérique – the large highway that encircles Paris proper, dividing the city from its surrounding suburbs
Wi-Fi – Wi-Fi; although this word is spelled exactly the same way in French, don’t make the mistake of pronouncing it the same way over here, or people will stare at you blankly; in French, it’s pronounced “Wee-Fee”!
la pelouse –grass, lawn
un repos – rest, break
le spectacle exagéré – the overblown spectacle
Comme elle était belle ! – How beautiful it was!; It was so beautiful!

******

Last Monday I went out for drinks at The Great Canadian Pub and said goodbye to Dylan, one of my very first friends in Paris.  After an eventful year abroad, topped off by a two-month whirlwind tour of Europe, he was back in Paris for one night only before heading home to Vancouver.

On my way to the pub, I hurried across the busy intersection at Saint-Michel against the light with the rest of the locals, while hesitant tourists waiting for le feu to change looked on in confusion. I barely glanced up as I zipped past the gorgeous fontaine Saint-Michel, surrounded by its usual gaggle of ardent admirers, ooh-ing, aah-ing and taking pictures for posterity. I sprinted along the quai des Grands Augustins, dodging wide-eyed sightseers along the way, and beelined straight for the pub, where I slid breathlessly into the open chair at the table where my friends were waiting.

The evening passed in a pleasant haze of buffalo chicken wings and Canadian draft beer (both rare finds in Paris), and as I sat around joking with the circle of people who, over the past year, had become my good friends, I remembered my first experience at The Great Canadian Pub, and how very different—and scary—the city had seemed to me back then.

That night, I went home and dug up the entry I had started to write about that evening, so long ago. I had always intended to finish it and post the story, but I never seemed to find the right time.

This seems like the perfect occasion.



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Keep Off The Grass

June 20, 2011

la France (proper noun, feminine) – France; in the French language, countries are typically preceded by their defining article (i.e. “le Canada”, “la Bolivie”)
la pelouse
(noun, feminine) – the grass; the lawn

le terroir – (noun, masculine) land; soil; terrain
le(s) produit(s) du terroir
– (noun, masculine) regional product(s)*
le brie – (noun, masculine) Brie cheese
la Brie – (proper noun, feminine) the region of Brie, in France; note that this is distinguished from the cheese by the change in gender, that is, the cheese is masculine and the region is feminine
le chèvre – (noun, masculine) goat’s cheese
la chèvre – (noun, feminine) a goat; note that this is distinguished from the cheese by the change in gender, that is, the cheese is masculine and the animal is feminine
un(e) gourmand(e) – (noun, masculine/feminine) a foodie; someone who is fond of good food

les flics(noun, masculine; slang) the cops
interdite – (adj) prohibited, forbidden
une abeille – (noun, feminine) a bee
un repos – (noun, masculine) rest; time off
la Mairie de Paris – Paris City Hall
le gazon
– (noun, masculine) grass; turf; lawn
hivernal – (adj) winter
autorisée – (adj) authorized
déjeuner sur l’herbe – to have a picnic lunch on the grass (literally “to lunch on the grass”)

******

Mangez sur l’herbe
Dépêchez-vous
Un jour ou l’autre
l’herbe mangera sur vous
-Jacques Prévert

(“Hurry up, picnic on the grass; one of these days, the grass will picnic on you.”)


La France
is famous around the world for its many luxury exports and high-end products. Most of us at some point or another have probably already encountered its produits du terroir without even realizing it: champagne from France’s Champagne region, for example; or Dijon mustard, named after the city of Dijon; or perhaps a glass of Bordeaux wine from – you guessed it – Bordeaux.  There are, of course, its many cheeses: Camembert, from Normandy, Brie from the region of Brie, and (a personal favourite) countless varieties of chèvre, just to name a few. For the gourmands out there, there’s caviar and foie gras, and to satisfy the fashionistas, a long tradition of haute couture, world-renowned fashion houses like Chanel, Hermès and Louis Vuitton… and the ever-ubiquitous sac Longchamps, the go-to “It” bag that seems to accompany every American tourist home.

Yes, France has no end of premium luxury products of which it can boast. But as I discovered shortly after moving here, it also has one precious commodity that you’ll never read about in the tourist brochures or find listed with the AOC, a commodity so sacrosanct that it is protected fiercely everywhere in Paris by local edict, by chain-link fences and other physical barriers designed to ensure its security, by intimidating signage that prohibits the public from tampering with it, and, if that isn’t enough to discourage the common riffraff from interfering with this national treasure, by les flics, who are quick to put a stop to any shenanigans on the part of heretic tourists who may have wandered into its sacred midst.

I am, of course, talking about the grass, or as the French call it, la pelouse.

“Keep Off The Grass”

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