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 Mystery: carousel / tiovivo / manège


Word Mysteries are where words in languages that I know don’t correspond to each other at all despite those languages often sharing lexical histories. These words are both mystifying (why are they different?) and annoying (why must you be different?!).

It wasn't this carousel

It wasn’t this one

I was recently killing time in a park when the sound of laughing children drew my attention. My general stance on anyone under seven years old is “No,” but if there are kids in my general vicinity who are having fun, I kind of enjoy listening to them playing. There were a few riding around on a carousel and my first thought was that I don’t think I’ve ever ridden one. My second was that I should take a picture of the happy brats, but I reconsidered (it’s generally not a good idea to photograph strangers’ children).

Left to my own devices, I started to muse on carousels in general and remembered that there are so many fun ways to refer to them in my brain. Bring on the Mystery!

EN → carousel — a merry-go-round (:a revolving machine with model horses or other animals on which people ride for amusement.) ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from French carrousel (: a tilting match).

ES tiovivo — Recreo de feria que consiste en varios asientos colocados en un círculo giratorio. [Carnival ride which consists of various seats arranged in a rotating circle.] ORIGIN In doubt, but the popularly cited legend is that Esteban Fernández, the owner of one of these rides apparently died and, as he was being carried to the cemetery, he jumped out of the coffin shouting, “Alive! I’m alive!” [«¡Vivo! ¡Estoy vivo!»]  Fernández was called «Tío Vivo» [Alive Guy] ever after and the association of the nickname eventually became synonymous with the product he rented out.

FR manège — Exercices de dressage que l’on fait faire à un cheval. [Training exercises for horses. 1st of many definitions, the 3rd of which is the carnival ride.] ORIGIN Italian maneggio (: riding stables)

There is no question of Spanish winning today’s competition, but the American in me must mention that I’d never heard of “dressage” prior to Ann Romney’s horse being in the news. Until I started researching this post, I thought it meant “stupid horse thing.”


Author: le cul en rows

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

5 thoughts on “Word Mystery: carousel / tiovivo / manège

  1. I love carousels – they are so pretty and old-fashioned. I never realised that there were so many of them in Paris until I moved here…(Suzanne)

    • They really are all over the place, aren’t they? I can’t think of a single (permanent) one in any place I’ve ever lived. Both sides of this (Parisian over abundance, dearth everywhere else) are odd to me.

      • Yes, they are everywhere and most of them are quite different looking and interesting. I am with you that it is strange that they are so prevalent in France and almost non-existent in other places. I have been meaning to do a post on them but haven’t had time to go around and take a few pictures. Will do so soon…

  2. The Hotel Monteleone has its famed Carousel Bar, which literally looks like a carousel but has bar seats rather than horses and it slowly, slowly rotates. Fortunately, no kids are allowed on it, at least what I could tell.

    There’s a permanent carousel in Central Park, but I think most of the other carousels have been dismantled and sent to amusement parks here in the US. Philadelphia used to have one in Fairmount Park, but I’m pretty sure that’s been moved to a children’s museum that is also in the park.

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