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.)
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.