Trombes d’eau

Torrential downpours

I should have known better. It was risky of me to turn off the heat. Positively foolhardy to pack away all my sweaters. I further stacked the deck by going away on a tropical vacation, assuming that when I came back it would be full-on summer. In my defence, last year at this time we were already sweltering in the endless summer that began in May.

The kiss of death this year: I had air conditioning installed.

You know where I’m going here: the rotten weather. We had three days of solid rain on our return from Mauritius. Not just rain but torrential downpours. ‘Trombes d’eau’ as we say in French, referring to the trumpets of water that are released in such a cloudburst.

And it was cold. Freezing in fact. So I turned the heat back on. The solar panels stopped working so I put the water heater back on too. Even broke out a few winter woollies.

Lo and behold, the sun has come out. You can thank me in the comments.

As for ‘les trombes d’eau’, I can thank the rain for inspiring me to post about this expression and finally learning how to spell it. For years, hearing it spoken, I had confused it in mind with ‘trompes’ — elephant trunks.

Easy enough, right? They both spray large quantities of water at you. Ironically, I was further confused by the verb, ‘tromper’ meaning to deceive or fool, so similar to ‘tremper’ which means to soak.

The great thing about word play in a second language is that it keeps you endlessly amused while your mistakes provide entertainment for others.

In actual fact, I learned that ‘trombe’ refers to a sort of whirlwind effect when siphons of rain fall at sea. ‘Trombes d’eau’ is when the skies open up and release a sudden downpour.

But all of that is water under the bridge, as it were. We have had plenty of rain. Now it is time for the sun to shine in all its glory.

Fair warning, however: next week I will turn on the A/C.

Expect snow.


  1. francetaste · June 13, 2019

    I didn’t know trombe was linked to trumpet. I also think of “partir en trombe,” which means to storm off.
    I am hoping for storms this weekend. Send rain here. There’s a bicycle event, and every year somebody parks right in front of our gate, because it’s shady. The music and emcee start blaring at 6 a.m., both Saturday and Sunday. Woe unto anybody else who makes a peep on a weekend morning. And last night, the municipal workers were up until 1 a.m. cutting grass. The entire village hates it–the mayor spends more on the three-day event than on the school budget–but the mayor is a bike nut and a vindictive Napoleon who takes revenge on those who complain about it. Rain, rain, come our way!

    • phildange · June 13, 2019

      You are right, “partir en trombe”, “démarrer en trombe”, “traverser en trombe” un village, all mean very very fast and are all related to the fastness of this windy phenomenon .
      Une trombe may indeed come from “une trompe” (horn) due to its shape or maybe from the Spanish tromba that used to mean the kids toy a top, a whiligig, due to its movement . The top class French dictionary “Le Littré” proposes both possibilities .

    • MELewis · June 13, 2019

      I did not know the expression, ‘partir en trombe’ but it is very visual. I will do a rain dance by turning on the air con (or you could ask Phil to send his Hopi friend…😛) to help your annoying fête get rained out.Your mayor sounds like quite the character — let’s hope he is not re-elected next year!

  2. weggieboy · June 13, 2019

    Same here in the central part of the US. In the past week, I had windows open to sleep comfortably at night, then, in a change in the weather, double quilts to get warm enough to fall asleep!

    • MELewis · June 14, 2019

      Quite the contrast, eh? Hope the kitties are are keeping warm!

      • weggieboy · June 14, 2019

        They are comfortable inside the house. I, on the other hand, get to go out into the highly variable weather!

  3. phildange · June 13, 2019

    I just discovered after reading you that une trombe is the official equivalent on sea of a tornado inland . You see, all my life I always heard that une trombe was a mini-tornado, narrowly localized in a few meters, while a tornado can cover hundreds meters . All people around me think the same, we are all wrong regarding the official scientific meanings but anyway that’s what French people think nowdays .

    • MELewis · June 13, 2019

      Always glad to lead you to new knowledge, Monsieur Phil! I think you are right — there is a commonly held idea about the meaning of French expressions and few of us know or are even curious about what is behind it. I was interested to read about the marine thing but I admit I would have no idea if I hadn’t checked!

  4. pedmar10 · June 13, 2019

    lovely from a distance ::) we had recently one here near Lorient but at sea! Cheers

    • MELewis · June 13, 2019

      Thanks! I sometimes see them over Lake Geneva, or what looks like one. Must be beautiful to witness by the sea.

  5. Al in France · June 13, 2019

    Well, I finally gave in the other night and lit the fire…in JUNE!!! Here in the Poitou-Charentes we have had our fair share of rain and colder weather, yes, and even some ‘trombes d’eau’. I think you must have your air-con on because it’s raining again and a very dizzy 12c right now! Turn it off, please.

    • MELewis · June 13, 2019

      Ha, ha….I did turn it back on today when the sun hit the windows and began heating up the upstairs. Sorry for the bother. Sounds like you are not far from Pedmar10 in Lorient, so you may even see the ‘trombe marine’. Seriously, I do hope the weather soon settles into some kind of ‘normal’ for summer!

  6. Caffe · June 13, 2019

    But today is beautiful, very hot weather. Thanks God!!:)

    • MELewis · June 13, 2019

      Well it is certainly not down to me! 😇 Enjoy!

  7. Suzanne et Pierre · June 13, 2019

    It is always depressing to come back from a nice climate to bad weather. We had the same issue when we came back from Australia. We thought that coming back in mid-April would soon give way to nice weather in Montreal. Unfortunately, spring was very long in coming this year and it is only in the last few days that we have finally gotten warmer temperatures. Hopefully, the weather will get better soon for you.

    • MELewis · June 13, 2019

      It is already better today but tomorrow there may be another storm. Still, the temperatures seem to be back on the rise. I heard from friends that this past winter in Montreal dragged on to a ridiculously late date. At least you missed 6 weeks of it! I always hope for snow when we visit Canada at Christmas but it usually waits until we leave to dump down in January.

  8. Liz · June 13, 2019


    • MELewis · June 14, 2019

      At least if we come to Canada for Christmas, you know there will be no snow before January!

  9. awtytravels · June 13, 2019

    Well now it’s 30C in Northern Italy, after a particularly shitty May! Has the hot hair arrived over in the Hexagon?

    • MELewis · June 14, 2019

      It arrived near us yesterday but has been replaced by cold air coming in on a storm front this morning. Woke to thunder and now it is pouring. Ah, well, maybe it’ll clear up for the weekend? Good to know that you are enjoying seasonal temps in Italy!

  10. Susanne · June 13, 2019

    I feel your pain. We, too, have had beaucoups trombes d’eau (not sure if that’s correct French but consider it for your amusement if not). In fact, it is falling like trumpets as I type. The weeds flourish, the flowers languish but fun with words reins supreme. Wishing you many sunny days ahead with lots of flip flops and sunblock.

    • MELewis · June 14, 2019

      Not sure whether to be comforted or frightened by the knowledge that this unstable weather patterns is global. Thanks for your wishes — may we both enjoy some seasonal hot weather this summer and ‘beaucoup de’ words to play with! 😅

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