Apples, Onions, Chicken Teeth, and Other French Idioms

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern

Pommes (Apples)

Perhaps the most recognizable French idiom to include the juicy red fruit is tomber dans les pommes. Literally, the phrase means “to fall in the apples.” However, the French use this idiom as an expression meaning “to faint.” The most likely origin of this expression comes from the older phrase se pâmer, which was transformed into pommes. In Québec, another expression is used to describe fainting: faire l’étoile de mer. Word-for-word, the expression would mean “to do the starfish” but has become a creative way to express the action of fainting.

Another creative use of apples in the French language is in relation to height. Haut comme trois pommes means “three apples high.” In conversation, it is often used to describe a child’s height (current or past), like the English “knee-high to a grasshopper.” Other variations on this expression also reference height (but all keep the base unit of three apples!). For example, Grand comme trois pommes à genoux. This roughly translates to “Large, like three apples to the knee,” meaning that the person is fairly tall in stature. While the exact origins for this idiom are unknown, one of the most cited early uses is from the creation of The Smurfs (originally a set of French characters titled les Schtroumpfs and designed by Peyo, a Belgian artist). The artist describes the Smurfs as haut comme trois pommes. 

Other Food-Based Idioms

Fromage (cheese) is perhaps one of the most iconic hallmarks of France. Naturally, the dairy product had to make an appearance in at least one idiom! En faire tout un fromage is a French expression used to tell someone they are overreacting to a small deal. Literally meaning, “to make a whole cheese,” the expression is believed to derive from the fact that while milk is easy to produce, cheesemaking is a complex and difficult process. As such, if someone is making a big deal out of something, they are acting as if they are making a whole wheel of cheese, when they are, in fact, just making milk. 

In true French tradition, other types of food (in this case, onions) are also a topic of some idioms. C’est pas tes oignons literally translates to “these are not your onions.” In conversation, however, it is used similarly to “It’s none of your business” in English. This idiom is most often used between close acquaintances in a casual manner. Onions are often linked to idioms dealing with business (affaires), so many assume their close-ish pronunciation lent itself well to some creative idioms. 

Lightning and Chicken Teeth

Another creative French expression follows along the lines of the English “when pigs fly.” The French chose to instead use hens with the expression: Quand les poules auront des dents. The literal translation is “When hens will have teeth,” and is used to mean something like “That will never happen.” Just like in English, this idiom is a fun way to poke at an impossible situation. 

Amour (Love) is also a common subject of idioms. The most notable is un coup de foudre. Literally, the meaning would translate to “a lightning strike,” which is apt to explain the idiom’s hidden meaning: love at first sight. The origins of this expression are, quite simply, the electric feeling often associated with a new-found love. 


For more fun idioms and French expressions, look here

The French Republican Calendar

Written by Jasmine Grace, University intern

Revolution in France

The Inspiration

After the execution of Louis XVI and the proclamation of the First Republic, the French decided they needed a new calendar to go with their revolution. The Gregorian calendar (the one we largely use today) had too many religious elements, they determined, to be appropriate for use in their new Republic. So, they created their own. It was be the French Republican Calendar. 

Pierre-Sylvain inspired this system with a secular calendar he first presented in 1788. The names of the months are inventions of a poet known as Fabre d’Égalantine, and include a mix of French words combined with Greek and Latin roots. 

This new system was to be entirely unassociated with Christianity. The year began on the autumnal equinox, and all months had new names. Additionally, there would be no more Saint’s Days; instead, all 360 days of the regular calendar had their own names. They were all natural features (trees, flowers, fruits, animals, trees) or agricultural tools. 

A New System

France adopted this system in 1793, on October 5 (or 1 Vendémiaire, Year II).  It hadn’t been invented and implemented until that year. However, records were aligned to show that it had begun in 1792, when the First Republic was declared. 

For years, this Republican Calendar was the official calendar of France. It was used to mark the chaos of the Reign of Terror, then the execution of Maximilen Robespierre (10 Thermidor Year III), and eventually, Napoléon’s ascent to Emperor (11 Frimaire, Year XIII). 

After 13 years, The French Revolutionary Calendar retired, per order of Napoléon’s regime. January 1, 1806 marked the official reinstatement of the Gregorian Calendar in France. 

Theft of the Century

Written by Jasmine Grace, University intern

On August 20, 1911, a man walked into the Louvre, and, when no one was looking, hid in a closet. The next morning, he emerged, now wearing the white worker’s smocks that were the uniform of Louvre employees. As it was a Monday, the museum was closed. No visitors were there to see this man enter the Salon Carré, the Renaissance gallery, and take La Joconde (the Mona Lisa) off the wall. 

As he tried to leave the building, he was stopped by a locked door in the stairwell. Anxious to make his escape, he began to disassemble the doorknob. He made little progress before a plumber came down the stairs. The thief took off the glass case from the Mona Lisa, and hid the painting under his shirt. When the plumber found who he believed was one of his co-workers stuck in the stairwell, he happily unlocked the door. 

The thief then disappeared into the streets of Paris. It would be 26 hours until someone even noticed the painting was missing, and over two years until the Mona Lisa returned to her home at the Louvre. 

A Missing Masterpiece

Sounding the Alarm

The guards weren’t worried about the empty space on the wall, as the paintings were periodically removed for photography and maintenance. It wasn’t until a wealthy patron and amateur painter asked where the Mona Lisa was that the guards found the glass in the stairwell, and realized the painting wasn’t in the museum. That evening came the police announcement, followed by a wave of media reports. 

Prior to this series of events, the Mona Lisa wasn’t a particularly famous painting. One of the papers to run the story of the theft actually printed the wrong artwork in their newspaper. But as the story grew bigger and bigger, everyone from Paris to New York would recognize the lost painting. This was happening in a time when newspapers were rapidly gaining in popularity, and news of the theft was sensational. Crowds made long lines outside the Louvre for the first time , all to see the empty space on the wall in the Salon Carré. 

After interviewing all 200 employees of the Louvre, the police offered a 40,000 franc reward for information about the painting, and soon everyone and their neighbor had a tip to give to the police. Conspiracies abounded, and alleged sightings of the Mona Lisa were reported all around the world. None of this information was credible, and for a while, the police had nothing. 

Until police arrested poet Guillaume Apollinaire. He and his secretary had a falling out, and the secretary went to the Paris Journal with information about stolen art. When questioned by police, Apollinaire gave up Pablo Picasso, who returned statues stolen by Apollinaire’s secretary in 1907. But Picasso knew nothing about the Mona Lisa.

A Suspect Emerges 

Vincenzo Peruggia was an Italian living in Paris, and he had worked briefly for a company that cut glass for paintings at the Louvre. Because of this, police had interviewed him the day of the theft, but hadn’t confirmed his ‘alibi’ that he was working elsewhere during the robbery. In reality, the Mona Lisa had been stashed in a trunk in his apartment even while the police interviewed him there. 

Vincenzo Peruggia

He was caught after writing to an Italian antiques dealer indicating he had the painting. The dealer authenticated the piece, then contacted the police. Peruggia was caught, and brought to trial.

Peruggia was heated in court, arguing even with his own lawyer. He claimed a sense of patriotism fueled his anger and the theft. Peruggia was under the impression that Napoleon had looted the Mona Lisa from Italy, and expected to be heralded as a hero for bringing the painting home. However, he was the only one who had taken the painting from where it belonged. The Mona Lisa came to France in 1516 when Da Vinci gifted it to King Francois I. 

However, Peruggia’s patriotism resonated with the jury, earning him only a short prison sentence. 

A Journey Home

The Mona Lisa returned to France after a brief trip around Italy. 120,000 people went to the Louvre to see the painting in its first two days home. Speculation began anew around her mysterious half-smile. 

Today the piece is well protected by guards and bulletproof glass and it sits in its own climate controlled box. It attracts over 8 million visitors annually, all thanks to a world-famous heist. 

Savon de Marseilles: Soap of the Past…and the Future?

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern

A French Treasure 

The South of France is home to many things, but one of its most noteworthy is making a come-back. Savon de Marseille is an oil-based soap that is crafted using ancient methods. Only a few Savonneries (soap factories) near Marseille continue to produce authentic Savon de Marseille. As the French treasure transcends borders in today’s world, it is captivating the world with its unique and positive qualities. 

Artisanal Beauty

Savon de Marseille, as a title, is difficult to obtain for a soap product. Laws to protect its authenticity were passed in 1688, establishing specific guidelines for production. Savon de Marseille undergoes a meticulous two-week production process. A Maître de Savon (Soap Master) oversees this process. 

To create the exquisite soap product, a series of ingredients are combined. Olive and vegetable oils, alkaline ash from sea plants, and Mediterranean Sea-salted water are all blended. This mixture simmers for ten days in ancient cauldrons, before being poured to harden. The soap is then cut into cubes, stamped with its weight, and dried under the sun and mistral winds. These winds are strong, cold, northwestern winds that blows through the Rhône Valley in the winter. There are two major varieties of the famous soap. One is a green soap, which features at least 50% olive oil. The other is white, made of mostly with palm oils. 

One mark of the soap’s authenticity is a fine white power on the surface. This powder is a residue of the sea salt and will dissolve when the soap contacts water. The quality and longevity of the soap is heightened by extended drying and hardening periods. Fresh Savon de Marseille is slimy and moist and will easily come apart. 

Modern-Day Revival

Across the globe, Savon de Marseille is gaining praise for its purity and moisturizing prosperities. It is often hailed as a solution for dry and sensitive skins. For centuries, the French have used Savon de Marseille for washing infants and laundry, as it is one of the purest soaps available. As the soap’s popularity explodes around the globe, its lack of harsh chemical and artificial additives has made it marketable as a natural product. 

Savon de Marseille has also garnered support for its environmentally conscious production. The soap is biodegradable and doesn’t require extensive plastic packaging. As a shift towards environmentally conscious purchasing continues, Savon de Marseille is gaining traction for its artisanal nature. It additionally attracts consumers looking for authentic, and hand-made products. As the world reawakens to the charm and efficacy of this legendary soap, the tradition of Savon de Marseille continues to inspire and delight a global audience, celebrating both natural beauty and conscious living.

Legends and Monsters of West Africa

Written by Jasmine Grace, High School intern

This week, once again we will feature an addition to the Legends + Monsters series, this time focusing on tales from West Africa. There will be fairies from the forests of Nigeria, and a firefly vampire from Togo and Ghana.

The Adze

Togo and Ghana

This vampire originates from the folklore of the Ewe people of Togo and Ghana. In the wild, an Adze is said to be in the form of a firefly. This seemingly innocent insect then sneaks through keyholes, or under doors into people’s houses. Once inside, it selects its victim. Though it prefers to prey upon the innocent, and children, the Adze isn’t very picky. It chooses hastily, sucks the victim’s blood. Those bitten are said to fall sick soon after. But the Adze doesn’t stick around to see. It sneaks back out and flies away, into the darkness of the night. 

If captured, an Adze will take the form of a human, and from this form it can possess people. This curse would negatively affect the victim’s family, or people the victim was jealous of. Some say there is no cure for this possession, but others claim vigorous prayer, or perhaps a certain complex ritual, might expel the Adze. 

A firefly, or an Adze in disguise?

If the ritual is successful or the prayers answered, the Adze will leave the person, and take the form of a hunchbacked, not-quite-human creature. This monster has jet-black skin, and long talons. Now, to truly save the victim, the Adze must be killed while it is in this hideous form. 

Today, some claim this legend would have arisen to explain the mysterious maladies caused by mosquitoes, and other unseen insects. However, the Adze remains very real to many of the Ewe. 



The Aziza

Nigeria and Benin

The Aziza are a species of benevolent fairy said to dwell in anthills and cotton silk trees deep in the forests of Nigeria and Benin. These tiny humanoid creatures give good magic and fortune to those who respect and honor them. It is also said that they gave practical and spiritual knowledge (maybe even the gift of fire) to humanity.

Forests of Nigeria

These ancient and powerful beings were created by Olodumare, a supreme deity of the Yoruba faith. The Aziza were intended to serve as guardians of the forest. To accomplish this, they have powers of healing, elemental control, teleportation, and communication with plants and forest animals. According to some, they also have the ability to shapeshift, so they can move easily through the forest. They are also very strong and tough, although they may appear delicate and fragile. They have smooth, hairless skin that shimmers in the sunlight, and they are far smaller than humans. 

The Aziza continue today to be honored in music, dance, and art, and are often invoked in important ceremonies and rituals, such as rituals and funerals. 

Voices of French: Haitian Creole

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern


Map of Haiti

Haiti: The Western half of the island Hispaniola and the Francophone center of the Caribbean. Haitian Creole, spoken in this nation, is a captivating French dialect. The dialect holds a prominent place in the linguistic landscape of Haiti. As an official language of the country, Creole is an essential means of communication for the Haitian people. Furthermore, the dialect is shaped by historical, cultural, and linguistic influences; it uses unique expressions and idioms that truly make it stand out against other French dialects.

Creole emerged as a distinct language during the nation’s history as a French colony. West African languages, primarily from the Kwa and Bantu language families, fused to become Creole. Meanwhile, French and other European influences also helped shape the foundations of this dialect. Today, Haitian Creole stands as a symbol of resilience, reflecting the rich heritage and diverse heritage of the Haitian people.


As a dialect, Creole possesses its own set of structural and linguistic characteristics that differentiate it from standard French. The rhythm and pronunciation of Haitian Creole are distinct. It possesses a melodic quality that dances through the spoken words. The use of tone and intonation plays a vital role in conveying meaning and emotions, giving life to the language. Additionally, Haitian Creole incorporates a simplified grammar system. This makes it more accessible to a wider range of speakers.

In a written context, Haitian Creole often uses short-hand and phonetic spelling. For example, “Oui” can often be seen as “Wi.” Similarly, “Bonsoir” can be written “Bonswa.” This phonetic spelling stems from the use of French as a colonial language, where the inhabitants were generally simply subjected to verbal French. Often, they were left without a written equivalent. 

Another fascinating aspect of Haitian Creole is its extensive vocabulary. The lexicon showcases the intermingling of various languages. While French serves as the foundation, Haitian Creole is also enriched by African languages, Taino influences, Spanish, English, and even Portuguese. This linguistic convergence allows for a diverse range of expressions and idiomatic phrases that are truly unique. Throughout dozens of phrases in Haitian Creole, the impact of several languages is abundantly clear. 

One of the most unique characteristics of Haitian Creole is that the articles and possessive adjectives are placed after nouns. For example, “the car” translates to “machin la.” With verbs, Haitian Creole uses marker words to denote the tense of a verb. This contrasts with standard French, which changes the verb itself. The word “te,” for example would indicate that the verb is in the past tense, while the word “pral(e)” indicates the future. With the verb “chanter” (to sing), this would mean that “Pierre te chante” is equivalent to Pierre sang, while “Pierre pral chante” would translate to Pierre will sing.

Cultural Impact

Haitian Creole is not only a means of everyday communication. It also serves as a vessel for storytelling, music, and literature. From vibrant folktales and proverbs to the rhythmic beats of Haitian music, the language thrives in artistic expressions. Haitian Creole resonates with the experiences, aspirations, and resilience of the Haitian people. It captures the essence of their identity and cultural heritage.

Bélo, Haitian Composer

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition and appreciation for the importance of Haitian Creole as a symbol of national identity and cultural heritage. Efforts have been made to promote its use in education, literature, and media. Reinforcing the value of this distinct dialect within the broader linguistic landscape of Haiti has also been a priority.

Furthermore, regional variations and local dialects within Haitian Creole add depth and complexity to the language. Variety in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammatical structures can be observed between regions. These variations contribute to the “linguistic tapestry” of Haiti and reflect the cultural diversity present within the country.

The Language of a Vibrant Culture

Haitian Creole is a testament to the power of language as a vehicle for self-expression, cultural preservation, and identity formation. Its fusion of diverse influences, regional variations, and rich vocabulary make it an enchanting and vibrant dialect. As we celebrate the diversity of French dialects worldwide, let us embrace the beauty and significance of Haitian Creole, honoring its place as an integral part of the Haitian cultural mosaic.

Versailles and the Sun King

Written by Jasmine Grace, High School intern

Summer Gardens of Versailles

Summer Gardens of Versailles

Today, Versailles is a gorgeous estate just outside of Paris. The sprawling Palace holds some 2,300 rooms inside, and outside it’s surrounded by seemingly endless gardens. This Palace today is far from modest, but it began as a simple hunting lodge in what used to be an area of wilderness.




Versailles before the Sun King

Old Forests of Versailles

That wilderness was full of pheasants and boars, and being so near to Paris made it a convenient hunting ground for royalty. Louis XIII was particularly fond of the area, and in 1623 built a simple lodge there. Eight years later, he laid the grounds that his son would eventually build Versailles from. 

His son’s first visit to Versailles was in October of 1641. Little Louis was three years old, and was there to escape a smallpox outbreak back home. Years later, he returned to hunt, and fell in love with the place. 

Louis XIV

Louis XIV

Louis XIV


He became king at the age of four, and was nine when civil war broke out. This conflict is known as Le Fronde. The nobles and the Paris Parliament (a powerful court of law) rose against the crown, led by Prime Minister Jules Cardinal Mazarin. 

Louis suffered greatly from this rebellion, and never forgave the nobles for their betrayal. 

In 1663, Mazarin won power, and took young Louis as his pupil. Louis never disputed Mazarin’s power, and even shared his passion for the arts. 



Rise of the Sun King

After Mazarin’s death, Louis XIV seized power. Not just the power of a king, all the power there was to be had. Louis claimed to be God’s representative on Earth, and anyone against him automatically became a sinner. This notion of a divine dictator was his own, and was a break in tradition of monarchs at the time. And with this new style of ruling, he was incredibly successful. He managed every little detail of France, from its courts to its troops. Louis began to call himself the Sun King, because everything in France revolved around him. 

Symbol of the Sun King

Symbol of the Sun King

He even managed to subdue the nobility with a clever trick. This same nobility had previously been quite unruly. They had started eleven civil wars over the past four decades. 

Louis was also a great patron of writers and the arts, and built many monuments throughout France, Versailles among them. Major renovations took place in 1661, and Versailles transformed from a lodge to a grand venue for parties and entertainment. Then in 1682, it became the main residence of the French government and court. 



Versailles Today

The Inside of Versailles

The Inside of Versailles

The Sun King has long since reached the height of his power and his inevitable fall, but Versailles still stands in all its glory. It is no longer a center of government, but for a while it stood as a museum to the glory of France, and since 1979, has been listed as a World Heritage site. 

World of French: Normandy

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern

Normandy, a beautiful region in northern France, proudly showcases a remarkable blend of historical significance, breathtaking landscapes, and cultural treasures. From its Viking origins to the monumental events of D-Day, Normandy stands as a testament to courage, resilience, and human triumph. 

The Founding of Normandy

Statue of Viking Chieftain Rollo

The history of Normandy stretches back to the 10th century when the region was established as a duchy by the Viking chieftain Rollo. Under Rollo’s leadership, the Norsemen settled in the area, mingled with the local population, and created a unique fusion of Norman culture. Throughout history, the Dukes of Normandy played pivotal roles in European politics. One of these included William the Conqueror, who conquered England in 1066, forever altering the course of history (including having an immense French influence on the English language). 





D-Day and the Battle of Normandy

Normandy really made its name in the history books on June 6, 1944, during the infamous D-Day landings. Operation Overlord, as it was codenamed, marked the beginning of the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi occupation during World War II. The sandy beaches of Normandy, codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword, were the place of the heroic sacrifices of Allied forces from the United States, Britain, Canada, and other nations. 

D-Day Landing Beaches

The Battle of Normandy lasted for approximately three months, with fierce battles fought across the Normandy countryside. The Allies faced significant challenges such as hedgerow fighting, fortified German positions, and unpredictable weather conditions. However, their air superiority, combined with effective ground operations and relentless perseverance, gradually weakened German defenses. By August 1944, the Allies successfully broke through German lines and liberated Paris. The Battle of Normandy marked a turning point in the war, as the Allies gained a significant foothold in Western Europe and began their advance toward Germany.

Today, the D-Day landing sites are powerful reminders of the courage and resilience of those who fought in the war. Visiting Normandy allows us to pay homage to the heroes of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. Preserving the D-Day landing sites with great care allows for reflection and remembrance of the sacrifices made by the Allied Forces as they restored freedom across Europe. 

Exploring Normandy’s Cultural Gems

Mont Saint-Michel

Beyond its historical significance, Normandy captivates visitors with its vibrant cultural scene. The region showcases a plethora of architectural marvels, including the majestic Mont Saint-Michel, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and an iconic abbey perched on a rocky island. Art enthusiasts are enticed by the picturesque streets of the charming harbor town of Honfleur and its association with renowned painters such as Claude Monet. The Bayeux Tapestry, a remarkable historical artifact depicting the events leading up to the Norman Conquest, is another must-see treasure in Normandy.

Gastronomy of Normandy 

Known for its apple orchards, Normandy produces an array of delectable apple-based products, including crisp ciders, rich pommeau, and the renowned Calvados brandy. Cheese lovers are in for a treat with Normandy’s iconic Camembert, Pont-l’Évêque, and Livarot cheeses, each with its distinct flavor and character. The region’s coastal location also offers an abundance of fresh seafood, from plump oysters to succulent mussels and flavorful fish. 


Normandy is a region of remarkable historical significance, breathtaking landscapes, vibrant culture, and culinary delights. From Viking origins to the heroic D-Day landings to its architectural marvels and artistic treasures, Normandy exemplifies resilience and the human spirit. The preserved D-Day landing sites serve as powerful reminders of the sacrifices made, while the region’s cultural gems and gastronomy offer a sensory delight for modern tourists. Normandy beckons visitors to immerse themselves in its rich cultural scene, leaving an unforgettable impression of a destination that flawlessly blends history, beauty, culture, and gastronomy.

Another Edition of Francophone Legends and Monsters

Written by Jasmine Grace, High School intern

This edition of Francophone Legends and Monsters will feature creatures from Brittany, France, and Lake Memphremagog in Québec. One is said to be beautiful and wise, yet bloodthirsty and dangerous. The other is mysterious and elusive, yet many have spotted him over the years. 


Brittany, France

These creatures are from the Brittany region in France. Korrigans could be compared to fairies or goblins, or maybe dwarves. These spirits are associated with rivers and wells, and like to live near water. They are generally described as small, perhaps two feet tall. They are said to have wings, which are beautiful and delicate like those of a wasp. While you may be imagining a pretty, gentle creature, they are actually quite dangerous. These devious creatures use their beauty to lure unsuspecting men to their deaths. 

Brittany Coast

However, some seek out korrigans, as they are said to be very wise, and are believed to see the future. In addition to the danger of meeting a korrigan, they can be difficult to find, as they are shapeshifters. 

But regardless of their form, these French sprites are rather mysterious. And despite their beauty and wisdom, they are dangerous and to be avoided.  


Lake Memphremagog

On the border between Québec and Vermont, lies Lake Memphremagog. Memphremagog is relatively shallow at both ends (although its deepest point is well over 350 feet). It is bordered on the West by picturesque mountains, and full of over 20 islands. However, there are rumors of a monster in this lake. His name is Memphré. 

Records of sightings go back to the early 1800s. In some years, there were as many as eight instances where Memphré was spotted. According to a 1997 Sherbrooke University study, there have been 215 well-documented sightings of Memphré. 


In 1961, two fishermen saw what they believed to be Memphré when he swam past their boat. The creature was black, they said, and about 40 feet long. It swam partially submerged under the water. 

Then in 1994, four people in two separate boats spotted a similar, or perhaps the same, creature. It was also black, but these folks thought he was closer to 30 feet long, and they spotted three humps on the creature as he swam through the water. 

Whatever Memphré looks like, many over the years have said they’ve seen some part of him, and most agree that he’s dark-colored and serpent-like. 


Life and Legacy of Marquis de Lafayette

Written by Erin Blais, University Intern


Marquis de Lafayette

Marquis de Lafayette

You may recognize the name Marquis de Lafayette from the sensational play Hamilton. However, long before he was singing on stage, Lafayette was a French aristocrat and military leader who played an integral role in the American Revolutionary War. He was born on September 6, 1757, in Chavaniac, France. Lafayette was orphaned in his teens and inherited a large fortune that allowed him to live a comfortable and privileged life.  



Lafayette in the Colonies

He had always aspired to be a soldier, and in July of 1777 at the age of 19, Lafayette traveled to Philadelphia to fight in the American Revolutionary War. He was appointed Major General in the Continental Army and served under George Washington. It’s said that Lafayette started out as a pushy and determined teenager but eventually gained the respect and love of Washington. In just a few months, Lafayette was living in Washington’s house, and riding next to him in battle. He even had Washington’s own physician tend to him after he was wounded. They became a surrogate father and son to each other, creating a bond that far surpassed the bond of war.  

Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington at Mount Vernon

After achieving military success, Lafayette went back to France in 1779, where he acted as a diplomat to aid in the conversations between the American Colonies and France as the former asked for troops and supplies for the war. He worked closely with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams.  

Lafayette returned to the American Colonies in 1780 and was given command of his own troops in Virginia. He and his troops are remembered for pursuing British Commander Cornwallis, eventually causing his surrender. After that, Lafayette was honored with the nickname “Hero of Two Worlds”.  

After the Revolution

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, written by Marquis de Lafayette

Lafayette returned to France in 1782 as a war hero and honorary citizen of several US states. While in France, he entered the political scene and was elected as a representative to the Estates-General and wrote The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen with help from Thomas Jefferson. He also held the position of Commander of the Guard of Paris. It was in this position that he saved the lives of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette from an invasion in Versailles. He brought them safely to a secure location.    


The Call Back to America

After finally settling down to live the quiet life of a farmer, Lafayette was invited by President James Monroe to travel back to America in 1824. Though he had been out of the political scene for a number of years, he decided to make the trip anyway. A trip that President Monroe said would reinvigorate and reinstall the “spirit of 1776” in the next generation. During this trip, Lafayette visited each of the states (24 at the time) and the grave of George Washington with his son Georges Washington de Lafayette (named after the historic president). He was also the first foreign citizen to address the US House of Representatives.  

Lafayette died on May 20, 1834, and is buried with dirt he collected from Bunker Hill.  

Lafayette Closer to Home

A plaque memorializing Lafayette’s visit to Portsmouth, New Hampshire

On September 1, 1824, Marquis de Lafayette visited Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  The state continues to remember Lafayette with a plaque that marks the location of his visit. It also named Mount Lafayette after him, and celebrates Lafayette Day on May 20 – the anniversary of his death. His name is memorialized and celebrated all over the country with schools, towns, and roads named after him.

On May 20 I encourage you all to think about Lafayette and notice how he continues to live on today, perhaps by watching Hamilton.  I know I will be. 

World of French: New England

Written by Jasmine Grace, High School intern

Boys sitting on the sidewalk in a Canadian neighborhood of Manchester, NH

Today, nearly 2 million New England residents are descendants of those who came to the US in the Great Diaspora, when nearly a third of the population of Québec migrated south to the United States in the years between 1840 and 1930.



The Journey

The majority of the migrants were from large farm families struggling to find jobs or unable to make a profit from their crops. The population of Québec had been steadily growing for decades, and that meant it was difficult for many to find work.

Workers leaving their shift at the mills

They came to the US largely to work in the enormous textile mills, such as those in Lowell, Massachusetts, and Manchester, New Hampshire. The textile industry in New England had been growing, and the influx of French Canadian migrants meant they now had workers to power their factories. 

Not all came to stay. Nearly half returned home with the money they made in New England. And others lived most of their time in the US, but returned to Québec each spring and fall to sough and harvest crops on their farms back home. 

The Daily Life of a French Canadian Mill Worker

Arial view of the textile mills

On the surface, it appeared as though everyone benefited from the migration of French-Canadians to New England. The mills now had the workers they needed, and the migrants had found the employment they were searching for. However, life was difficult for the French-Canadian mill worker. They faced persecution from the Irish, among other groups, and often earned less than other mill workers. They worked long hours at the mill every day, and lived in crowded neighborhoods. 

These ‘Little Canadas’ were populated almost entirely by French-Canadians. They were often very crowded, in tenements owned by the textile companies. However, their inhabitants made the most of their conditions. The neighborhoods often had their own schools, and French language newspapers.

Since Catholicism was a very strong belief shared by nearly all of the migrants, residents of Little Canadas frequently built their own churches. Life revolved around family, work in the mills, and worship. Often after folks built a Church in their area, more French-Canadians would move south to the area. Migration also increased with the establishment of French-Canadian-owned businesses, which in turn contributed to the growth and development of the Little Canada they lived in. 

Manchester, NH today

Although the tide of migration slowed during and after the Great Depression, there are still many in New England today who share French Canadian heritage. One can still feel the influence of their culture  in many of the cities with the old mills, such as in Manchester.

Architecture: Beneath Montréal

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern

What is the RÉSO?

RÉSO Entrance

The RÉSO, which is also referred to as the Underground City, is a network of underground tunnels located in Montréal, Canada. These interconnected tunnels contain shopping centers, restaurants, hotels, and even office buildings! The underground system spans 32 kilometers and is the largest of its kind in the world. Visitors often remark that it feels like a second city under the city of Montreal itself. 



Montréal 1960

Construction of the RÉSO began in the 1960s, when Montreal hosted the World Exposition. Urban architectural planners imaged a space that would connect different parts of the city via underground alleyways. The purpose of this effort was to offer shelter from the harsh winters of Canada and provide reduced street congestion. Originally, the system was designed solely to connect the Expo’s pavilions and buildings. However, over time, the RÉSO grew and became a critical part of the urban landscape in Montreal. 

During construction, the RÉSO proved to be a difficult undertaking. Millions of cubic meters of earth and rock were removed in order to instal pipes and electrical wiring that extended miles under the city. Furthermore, space for buildings and facilities was carved out of the earth, often using explosives and heavy machinery. The tunnels are constructed of concrete that is up to two feet thick in some areas. Lining the concrete are cables that cary water, electricity, and other services throughout the underground complex. Throughout construction, workers were on three shifts a day in order to ensure that the project remained on schedule. 

One of the most difficult components of construction was not the labor, however, but getting people to agree on the viability of the project. Initially, some business owners and contractors were skeptical of the success that could be achieved with this project. Additionally, the size of the project required that dozens of different entities and groups worked in tandem in order to achieve a smooth and flawless execution and aesthetic. Throughout all of this, the RÉSO was completed in 1966, just in time for the World Expo and right on schedule!

Modern RÉSO

In the RÉSO

Today, over 2,000 business thrive in the RÉSO where upwards of 500,000 visitors travel through each day. The business range from high-end fashion outlets to fast-food restaurant chains and movie theaters. Several cultural attractions also found a home in the RÉSO, including the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, the Place des Arts, and the Bell Centre (where the city hockey team plays). 

The tunnels have also been beautified over the decades. Now, visitors are greeted with colorful light displays, mosaic walls, and art pieces. The ceilings sport murals, and sculptures can be found scattered throughout the city. Energy-efficient lighting and green spaces have also been incorporated into the underground city in order bring the natural world into the enclosed space. Many consider the RÉSO not only a city under the Earth, but as a work of art itself. 


The Many Levels of the RÉSO

The RÉSO contributes incredibly to the economic prosperity of Montreal. The underground city creates hundred of thousands of jobs and generates billions of dollars in revenue each year. Millions of visitors pass through the shops and tunnels every year an experience the architectural wonder of the RÉSO. Should you ever find yourself in the city of Montreal, the RÉSO is a critical cultural experience. 

The Life and Art of Claude Monet

Written by Erin Blais – University Intern

Early Life

Claude Monet

Parisian painter Claude Monet changed the direction of the art world with both his talent and influence in the creation of Impressionism.  Born on November 14, 1840, in Paris, Monet was the second son of Claude Adolphe Monet and Louisa Justine Aubree Monet.  While his father wanted Monet to follow his lead and go into the family grocery business, Monet longed for a different life – the life of a painter.  His aunt, an amateur painter herself, was his first supporter and encouraged him to attend art school.  He attended Le Havre Secondary School of the Arts where he had his first success at age 15 when he sold charcoal caricatures on the streets.  


Monet’s Art Style and Impressionism

Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet

As Monet advanced in his art career, he found friends and mentors that introduced him to new mediums and places of inspiration. Among his favorites were the styles of Japanese prints, painting en plein air (outdoors), and nature. His medium of choice was oil paints.

As Monet gained confidence in his work, he developed his unique style. He began to pull away from painting the subject exactly as he saw before him, and instead painted the essence of the subject and how it made him feel. This produced paintings that had small visible brushstrokes, unblended colors, and an emphasis on light and open scenery. This style later became recognized as Impressionism. 

In 1872, Monet created a painting titled Impression, Sunrise.  This was one of the first Impressionism works and it is where the style got its name. It was shown in the first Impressionism exhibit in 1874 where it inspired a new generation of artists.      


Lasting Impact

Just one of the paintings inspired by Monet’s garden

In 1890 Monet purchased a home in Giverny France where he created a lush Asian-inspired water garden, complete with exotic plants, birds, and a pond.  This inspired him to paint one of his most recognizable series of paintings- The Water Lilies.  Throughout his life, Monet painted over 250 water lily paintings, including some that stretched over 6 feet tall. 





Monet’s Garden in Giverny


In 1926 Monet died in his home surrounded by his family.  He was a dedicated painter right up until his death despite having cataracts which affected his vision.  His house in Giverny stands as a museum and memorial to the famous painter and is open to the public. 

Cabane à Sucre: A Québecois Legacy

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern


Traditional Cabane

Beginnings of the Cabane à Sucre

Cabanes à Sucre, or sugar shacks, are small cabins or groups of cabins located in Eastern Canada and Northern New England. In these cabanes, sap collected from maple trees is boiled into maple syrup. This style of production were developed through a combination of Native American and European innovations. For the next century or so, it remained primarily a family-related cottage industry in Québec. The busier period for sugar shacks is from late October to the end of April when maple sap becomes available. Collection efforts occur during the thawing period of early spring when temperatures are ideal for the sugaring process. Sap collection is usually performed during the first two weeks of April, which has become the focus of an annual spring celebration.

Family-run Cabane

Today, many cabanes are commercially operated and offer reception halls and outdoor activities. Most, however, remain family-owned despite their growing size. They even open to the general public during certain months for their “sugaring off” celebrations. 

Traditional “Sugaring Off” Celebrations

At a cabane à sucre, meals traditionally begin with yellow pea soup. Next come savory dishes such as baked ham, omelets, sausages, tourtière, baked beans, cretons, and deep-fried pork rinds. These foods are often cooked with or drizzled in maple syrup. The meal is often the central focus of “Sugaring off” celebrations, as familys and friends gather around for a maple-filled dinner. Beyond eating, activities at sugar shacks vary but can include traditional music and dancing, snowshoeing, and observing the maple syrup-making process. 

The FAC Event

Next Saturday, April 1st, the FAC is hosting a Cabane à Sucre event at the Oscar Barn in Hooksett, New Hampshire. To learn more about the maple farm on site, visit this website. From 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm, there will be a series of presentation on the sugaring process and how the local farm manages their production. Then, from 6:00 to 7:30, there will be a traditional “Sugaring Off” dinner with tons of traditional foods and, of course, an immense amount of maple syrup. From 7:30 to 10:00, the night will finish off with dancing and music from The Reel McCoys. Tickets for the event are now sold out. 

Dialects of African French

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern

Congolese (Kinshasa) French

Kinshasa, Capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Congolese French, also known as Kinshasa French after the capital city, is spoken in the Democratic Republic of Congo and surrounding countries of Central Africa. As the largest Francophone country in the world, the DRC has developed its own dialect and slang throughout their use of French in business, administration, and education. 

There are several structural and linguistic differences between Congolese dialects and standard French. In Congolese French, there is a slower rhythm with a more relaxed pronunciation. Additionally, the Congolese dialect places more emphasis on tone, often using elongated vowel sounds. 

However, even the origins of this dialect are different from traditional French dialects, due to the area’s history as a Belgian colony. Because of this, the Congolese dialect is often considered by linguists an offshoot of Belgian French. One example of an expression derived from Belgian French is the expression “casser le Bic.” In standard Parisian French, le Bic has no translation, however in Belgian French le Bic means ballpoint pen. The expression thus means, literally, “to break the ballpoint pen.” In Congolese French, however, the expression means “to stop going to school.” The use of Casser le Bic is a clear linguistic indication that Congolese French is derived, at least in part, from Belgian French. 

Other unique attributes of the Congolese dialect arise from its mixing with the local languages. The DRC has four official languages, but the most common is Lingala.  Often, French phrases and words are mixed with Lingala phrases.

One common example is “Merci mingi,” which uses the French merci (thank you) and the Lingala mingi (very much). Another cultural saying specific to the Congolese dialect is a Kinshasan euphemism: “avoir un deuxième bureau.” Literally, this would translate to “to have a second office,” but it is used in a figurative manner to mean “having a mistress.” While a Francophone speaking a different dialect may not understand the reference, Congolese French has incorporated the saying into their unique dialect.

Maghreb (Algerian) French

Maghreb French, sometimes referred to as Algerian French, is from the region of North Africa. This French dialect exists across the nations of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia; all former colonies of France. Algeria is the second most populous Francophone nation in the world (in terms of speakers of French). More educated citizens in the region are often bilingual in French and Arabic. 

The influence of Arabic language and culture has become a critical part of Maghreb French. Compared to sub-Saharan dialects, Maghreb French is more similar to Parisian French. One of the most common examples of Maghreb French is the verb kiffer, which is akin to aimer (to like) in Parisian French. This verb is borrowed from the Arabic word kif, which has a similar meaning. Kiffer has become a common Parisian slang word, demonstrating the ability of French dialects to transcend national borders..

Algerian politics recently banned the use of French as an official correspondence. The use of the language is said to remind citizens of their colonial history. As such, the nation is seeking to promote its own local languages as well as English. The ban, coming from the Ministry of Culture, came into effect around April of 2022. 

Dialects and Language

Overall, the French language has many different forms across the world. These are just two of the copious quantities of African French dialects that I will share in later blog posts. Just remember: dialects make a language interesting and unique. We must celebrate diversity and promote dialectical differences.