La montagne faisait un à-pic.
lah maw-tah-nyuh fuh-zay uh nah-PEEK. Click below to hear this.*
The mountain made a sheer cliff.
You get two versions of this word à-pic. Without the hyphen, it’s a two-part adverb describing how the mountain falls or rises: straight down, or straight up. You can say, for example, La montagne tombe à pic, which means The mountain slopes precipitously.
As a noun, the word is hyphenated, and it’s invariable. That means that there’s no plural form. If the mountain is full of them, you say des à-pic.
So un à-pic can be a sheer drop, or a vertical climb. Whether you are in danger from falling rocks or of falling over the edge, you could be in trouble. Want to hear a story?
It was the summer of 1968. Except that we were in Norway, where it wasn’t summer anymore. It was September, and winter was well on its way. We rented a car in Bergen, a little Norwegian model (I can’t even remember what make it was), and drove four days north. We were bound and determined to see a glacier, up close and personal.
We threaded our way through the mountains, crossing fjords on the last ferry of the season. We were going to have to drive back by a different route. And then it happened: we got a flat tire.
Oh, no! This story is a cliffhanger! To be continued tomorrow!
*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file: