Halloween en Français

Ont un Halloween Heureux! That’s what I’d like to say, since heureux co-mingles nicely with horreur in the ear, but Joyeux Halloween! is probably correct. Meanwhile, you can learn a little here about Halloween in the French style. I hope I’ve given you sufficient vocabulary. Vous serez surpris de voir à quel point beaucoup français vous savez déjà.

Par exemple, ici, c’est le tombeau de Delacroix au cimetière du Père Lachaise.

le tombeau de Delacroix


Halloween is not a French holiday, but they’ve adopted it so les petits enfants can put on classic déguisements and get some bonbons.  Perhaps your jeune fille would like to be a zombie?

C’est le même mot en anglais ou en français.
Dark Child by psyberartist
Dark Child by psyberartist
Halloween is not a French holiday, but they’ve adopted it so les petits enfants can put on classic déguisements and get some bonbons. But the French have their own Day of the Dead, though it is far more somberly celebrated than in Mexico. November 1st is La Toussaint, or All Saint’s Day. Les cimetières are visited and chrysanthèmes left on the graves in magnificent displays praised as worthy of tourist visits.
All Saints Day by Émile Friant


I’ve read that if you are ever invited to an automne dinner by a French family, you should not horrify your hostess by presenting her with a bouquet of chrysanthemums. Since one can find images of this lovely autumnal flower looking cheerful in vases, I can’t attest to the accuracy of this warning. More research is needed.

Bouquet of Chrysantemums by Renoir
Bouquet of Chrysantemums by Renoir
However, I have assured myself that there will be a tarte à la citrouille, perhaps served by the light of un bougie. I saw many delicous recipes on the internet. One called for roasting the pumpkin first. Fascinating.
Pumpkin pie by candlelight. Photo from freshtopia.net
Pumpkin pie by candlelight. Photo from freshtopia.net

Bougie? I searched and found that this “wax candle” comes from Bugia, a town in Algeria with an ancient wax trade. Odd that bougie conjures Boogey(man), though not, in this case, boogie. According to Wikimedia: “The French equivalent of the Bogeyman is le croque-mitaine (“the mitten-biter” or rather “the hand-cruncher”, mitaine means mitt in an informal way).” Isn’t it very Russian to have a diminutive longer than the word? Apparently the Bogeyman is usually a deliberately vague and faceless personification of terror, and the same goes for the French version. There were no illustrations of a demonic figure crunching or munching gloved hands. I went in search of an image from one of those old Hollywood movies with crawling hand searching out a victim to throttle. No luck. I did find a lady in black leather “bondage mittens.” A bit kinky for this post? Then I found this “crime scene” photo. Rather too perfect to be real, and no mittens, but it’s quite striking.

Original photo by JRLibby
Original photo by JRLibby

So if French bougies come from Bugia, wence cometh candles? According to the online Etymology Dictionary: “Old English candel “lamp, lantern, candle,” an early ecclesiastical borrowing from Latin candela “a light, torch, candle made of tallow or wax,” from candere “to shine,” from PIE root *kand- “to glow, to shine, to shoot out light” (cf. Sanskrit cand- “to give light, shine,” candra- “shining, glowing, moon;” Greek kandaros “coal;” Welsh cann “white;” Middle Irish condud “fuel”).”

Vanitas by Pieter Claeszoon
Vanitas by Pieter Claeszoon

And not only that! “Candles were unknown in ancient Greece (where oil lamps sufficed), but common from early times among Romans and Etruscans. Candles on birthday cakes seems to have been originally a German custom. To hold a candle to originally meant “to help in a subordinate capacity,” from the notion of an assistant or apprentice holding a candle for light while the master works. To burn the candle at both ends is recorded from 1730.”

But back to Halloween… There are the usual costume possibilities. Various monstres are as popular there as they are here. Le Diable is always present. Terrifiants fantômes hanter le monde. Paris lays claim to one of the most famous fantômes.
Phantom of the Opera
Phantom of the Opera
In 1884, this fashionable outfit was suggested if you wanted to be une sorcière.
She does not wear a masque, but she does hold un balai.
Elle a deux familiers. Un petit hibou perché sur son chapeau, et un chat noir rideaux ses épaules.
a witch
a witch
Toutefois, ce chat noir beau est beaucoup plus célèbre.
Il est le véritable symbole de la Butte Montmartre et la fin du siècle.
Vampires et autres créatures de la nuit, font leur apparition sur la scène.
Old movie poster
Old movie poster
a bat
a bat
Une autre créature renvoyée par le royaume de la mort est la momie.
Classic cinema poster
Classic cinema poster
Or perhaps, you could design a chapeau avec un lutin, as in this strange illustration.
Man pecked by the goblin of criticism.
Man pecked by the goblin of criticism.
What other French words might you need for a proper Halloween?
Here’s an new one for me: un feu follet for a Jack O’Lantern.
Citroulle préparée pour Halloween by Carol Pasquier.
Citroulle préparée pour Halloween by Carol Pasquier.
Also new and strange is un épouventail is a scarecrow.
Gladys as a Scarecrow from James.lenbinski
Gladys as a Scarecrow from James.lenbinski
For creepiness, we must needs have a creepy crawly critter.
A spider in its web. Photo by Micael Hartl
A spider in its web. Photo by Micael Hartl
And finally, a skeleton.
Most versatile, this mummified couple could be a zombie duo, or Death on a mount.
He holds a link to les catacombs. What better trip to take on Halloween?
Photo by Jebulon
Photo by Jebulon


If you wanted a creepy experience in the era of my novels, you could visit Cabaret du Néant, of nothingness, and be treated to a body dissolving in a coffin. You could enter the coffin yourself, if you chose.

Illustration by W. C. Morrow


For continued creepiness, go to my website and visit les catacombes – just click on this image.

Breaking Elmore Leonard’s First Rule


Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard:
When Chili first came to Miami Beach twelve years ago, they were having one of their off-and-on cold winters: thirty-four degrees the day he met Tommy Carlo for lunch at Vesuvio’s on South Collins and had his leather jacket ripped off. One his wife had given him a year ago for Christmas, before they moved down here.

Tom Adams’ fabulous cover. Click the image for the original trailer.
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.

1984 by George Orwell
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
Thirty years ago, Marseilles lay burning in the sun one day.
A blazing sun upon a fierce August day was no greater rarity in Southern France then that at any other time, before or since. Everything in Marseilles, and about Marseilles, had stared at the fervid sky, and been stared at in return, until a staring habit had become universal there. Strangers were started out of countenance by staring white houses, staring white walls, staring white streets, staring tracts of arid road, staring hills from which verdure was burnt away. The only things that did not seem fixedly staring and glaring were the vines drooping under their load of grapes. These did occasionally wink a little, as the hot air barely moved their faint leaves.

Click to view trailer
All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
To get there you follow Highway 58, going northeast out of the city, and it is a good highway and new. Or was new, that day we went up it. You look up the highway and it is straight for miles, coming at you, with the black line down the center coming at you and at you, black and slick and tarry-shining against the white of the slab, and the heat dazzles up from the white slab so that only the black line is clear, coming at you with the whine of the tires, and if you don’t quit starting at that line and don’t take a few deep breaths and slap yourself hard on the back of the neck you’ll hypnotize yourself and you’ll come to just at the moment when the right front wheel hooks over into the black dirt shoulder off the slab, and you’ll try to jerk her back on but you can’t because the slab is high like a curb, and maybe you’ll try to reach to turn off the ignition just as she starts the dive. But you won’t make it, of course.

And what about endings?

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brönte
“I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.”

The Dead by James Joyce
It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight…. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

Breaking Elmore Leonard’s Rule #3

Elmore Leonard’s RULES are making the rounds again. I can read an Elmore Leonard book with delight, but I dislike every single one of his rules except the last one about leaving out the boring bits. Years back, I wrote a guest post to that effect: Breaking All The Rules for D.V. Berkom’s blog.
Below is the expansion on one of the rules I find the most annoying, perhaps because those who truly find the “said” tag invisible continue to tout it to those who find it screamingly apparent.

Breaking Elmore Leonard’s Rule #3

“Elmore Leonard said never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue,” he said.
“Well, how boring is that?” she said.
“Unobtrusive,” he said.
“Tedious,” she said.
“Concise,” he said. “Invisible.”
“Ha!” she said.
“Did you just use an exclamation point?” he said.
“Shouldn’t that “said” be an “ask”?” she said, wondering about the placement of internal quote marks.
“Just drop the tag,” he said. “Why ask at all?”
“What about rhythm?”
“You know,” she said, “all the words together form a rhythm.”
“Ummm,” he said.
“And tags can be used to vary rhythm,” she said.
“Ummm,” he said. Again.
“How annoying!” she said, wishing he’d just repeat himself. “What about whispering? What about demanding? Cajoling? Yelling and yelping?”
“It should all be clear from context,” he said.
“Ha!” she said.
“That’s two. You get three every 100,000 words. Rule #5,” he said.
“You missed four,” she said.
“Adverbs.” He shuddered visibly.
She could see that if he shuddered, it would probably be visibly. Refusing to be distracted, she stuck to her guns, though using a cliché might break rule #6. “Scolding? Reproving? Admonishing?”
“Only Victorians admonish,” he said.
“So you say,” she said.
“And academics,” he said.
“So dialogue tags can be used to characterize,” she said. It was not a question.
“Ummm,” he said.
“Muttering? Mumbling? Murmuring? Musing? Subtle differences all clear from context? Coaxing? Wheedling? Enticing?”
“Distracting,” he said. “Why clutter the sentence with ornate verbs?”
“Why not clarify the sentence with the exact verb?” she had to ask.
“It should all be clear from context,” he (repeated himself again) said.
“What about sudden changes in emotion—all clear from context?”
“Really, all you need is said,” he said. “Simple. Clean. Unpretentious. All but imperceptible.”
“Years before I heard this rule,” she said, “I read a page and a half of a different bestselling author’s short terse dialogue, that ended with “he said” after every sentence.”
“Every sentence?”
“I mean ghastly,” she said.
“You exaggerate,” he said.
“Chinese water torture,” she said. “No, too subtle,” she said. “Sledge hammer!” she said – using another forbidden exclamation point.
“You used “said” too many times,” he said.
“Have I made my point?” she said.

Peanut Butter Cookies

P.B.C.’s, as he affectionately initializes them, are a favorite of my husband.  It’s the extra peanut butter that makes them so good.  They are a very dense, chewy cookie. These are my own devising, and I’m very proud of how delicious they are.

1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

2 cups good peanut butter, crunchy

1 egg, beaten

Grated rind of one small orange

¼ cup orange juice

1 teaspoon vanilla or vanilla paste

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

!/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350.  Lightly butter a cookie sheet.

Cream together the butter and brown sugar, then cream in the peanut butter.  Add the beaten egg.   Add the flavorings.  Sift in the dry ingredients.  Work with a big spoon or your hands until all the flour is incorporated.

Roll the dough into balls and place on the prepared cookie sheet.  Press the cookies with a flour-dipped fork, making crosshatched patterns.  Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes.  Cool a couple of minutes, and then remove from pan.  Makes about 2 – 4 dozen, depending on how big you make the cookies.


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