Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Word Of The Week


It's that time of year. The time of year in France when the doorbell rings and it's the factrice (mail delivery woman), or a few of the local pompiers (firefighters) or a member of the local youth football (soccer) league. Each and all of these visitors is "selling" a calendar for next year.

I put selling in quotes because it really is impossible to say no. You scrape up some change and fork it over for your (ugly as sin) calendar. It's a gratuity for the year of service you just received. And, in this very small town where we live, a bribe to ensure you continue to receive good service.

I made that last part up. But really, who wants to be known all around town for being a scrooge and refusing to donate a few euros to your friends and neighbors? I mean, I don't want to take a chance that, should the fire alarm ring, the guys might not respond as fast to the foreigners' place where they don't even buy a freakin' calendar once a year...

The money that you pay for the calendar is called an étrenne. An end-of-the-year gratuity. But this is a recent usage of the word. The word's primary meaning is a present that one receives at the first of the year.


  1. Very different in a big city. The facteur has no idea who you are and don't bother to ring your bell to deliver registered letters or packages. They couldn't care less. On the other hand, they do ring your bell for étrennes and are (probably) surprised because they don't get much!h

  2. Claude, I wondered about that ! We do get very good service from our factrice here, so we don't mind buying the calendar.


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