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: Band-Aid / tirita / pansement / plaster


Every Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages I speak.

Biking a lot means cuts and bruises. Many of the trails I’m riding are in the woods, so scrapes are something I’m having to deal with a lot more than usual. That’s why I picked up these totally cool looking scrape-cover-uppers at the store and thought, “Hmmm. Pansement‘s a weird word. I wonder what the story is there.” And now I give you the story.


EN → Band-Aid® (adhesive bandage) — an adhesive bandage with a gauze pad in the center, used to cover minor wounds. ORIGIN This product aids someone in bandaging themselves. Previous to this invention, bandaging was done by a second party.

ES → tirita®Tira adhesiva por una cara, en cuyo centro tiene un apósito esterilizado que se coloca sobre heridas pequeñas para protegerlas. [Adhesive strip on one side with a sterile pad in the center which is placed over small wounds to protect them.] ORIGIN Appears to be a portmanteau of tira adhesiva sanitaria [sterile adhesive strip]. A Catalan entrepreneur (visca Catalunya!) started selling a version of the American product in 1954.

FR → pansementEnsemble des éléments appliqués sur une plaie pour la protéger de l’infection et pour favoriser sa cicatrisation. [Combination of things applied to a wound to protect it from infection and promote healing.] ORIGIN From panser [to take care of].

Interesting trio today. The French is the only one of the three that wasn’t a registered trademark that passed into common usage. The English one actually made me think and realize something I’d never considered. The Catalan one made me happy because some dude blatantly copied something a clumsy American housewife invented and made a mint. I’m giving him the win for being an opportunist.

Sing something

When Spanish children are injured, the common thing to say to them is this little rhyme

Sana sana, culito de rana, si no sanas hoy, sanaras mañana.

[Healing, healing, little frog’s butt, if it doesn’t heal today, it’ll heal tomorrow.]

My sister was embarrassed fairly recently when some Latin American people she knows laughed at her, saying that the correct words are “colita de rana” [frog’s tail], but they’re totally wrong. The point of the song is to distract children from the pain by saying something silly and, most importantly, frogs don’t have tails. Not even the ones called “tailed frogs.”

UPDATE: As expatlingo commented, the British do indeed use “sticking plaster” instead of Band-Aid. This is because the Band-Aid was invented in the US and we wouldn’t share with them! Nah, I’m just kidding. It’s because the Brits used gauze that had been treated in a light plaster mix to protect wounds. When moistened, it would stick around the wound. Think of a plaster cast, but more flexible and less sanitary. “Plaster” comes from the Greek emplastron [daub, salve].

Author: le cul en rows

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

5 thoughts on “Word Mystery: Band-Aid / tirita / pansement / plaster

  1. What about the odd British English word for it: plaster? I’d like to read some word sleuthing on this one!

  2. The reason we in Latin-America don’t say ‘culito’ is because for most of the peoples here that word can mean more than just ‘butt’. We tend to be a bit more strict when it comes to verbal “etiquette”. Don’t know about a Spaniard’s ears but for an American «culito» is something you just don’t say to a child. Now that I think about it, we use many words for ‘culito’ but ‘culito’. It’s so rare in our use.

    • Is it vulgar to say “culito” in LatAm? In English, it’s the difference between “butt” and “ass.” The former is perfectly fine to say to a child and even for a child to say amongst “polite company” (generally older people). In castellano, “culito” is like “butt.”

      Still, the point of frogs not having tails weighs heavily in the favor of “culito.”

tell me something good

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s