Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures

Word Enemy: ménage


Word Enemies are words that cause me problems because they’re bastards. Specifically because they either exist in two or more languages I speak and have different meanings in each or because they have multiple meanings which aren’t necessarily obvious to a non-native speaker.

Everyone knows what a ménage à trois is. At least all Americans do and I’m not sure why. I took French for five years in school and lived en famille twice and I certainly didn’t learn the phrase there. Also, since my parents didn’t love me, I never had cable TV so this was clearly something I learned “on the streets,” though my streets were all well-tended and predominantly used by mid-price foreign vehicles.

I bring this up because the first time I heard “Mon manège à moi” I thought the title was “Mon ménage à moi,” which made no sense. “My [something sexual] to me/myself”? Of course, now I’m a total expert in all kinds of ménage-related business because the word comes from the Latin for “house.”

If you’re moving house, that’s déménagement. If you’re cleaning house, that’s faire le ménage. If you’re watching a popular French comedy about different couples and the problems they have, that’s “Scènes de ménages.” (They just had their 2000th episode. Two thousandth. It’s très popular.)


Learn something

Just because you think you know what a word means, you’re not always right. My dictionary lists ten primary definitions for ménage and more than a dozen idiomatic expressions related to ménage and that’s before getting into different forms with prefixes and suffixes. Fais gaffe lest ye make a gaffe yourself.


Author: le cul en rows

I'm an American Spaniard, living in France. I like to tell stories.

2 thoughts on “Word Enemy: ménage

  1. “Word bastards” = hilarious. I do think the only French words I pronounce correctly are Menage a toi. not sure what that says about me…and sorry, I don’t have the little things on top of my vowels.

    • Don’t sell yourself short: surely you can say “voulez-vous coucher avec moi?” as well!

      Perhaps I should rename the whole category Word Bastards. Then I could include a lot more things and also be more true to myself. Things that confound me are either bastards or magic.

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