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French word of the Day: Ma puce

Contrary to what you might think, this doesn't suggest that a person is irritating or a bloodsucker.

French word of the Day: Ma puce
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know ma puce?

It's a very common term of endearment in France.

What does it mean?

Une puce is a flea (as in un marché aux puces – a flea market or vintage market) but calling someone ma puce is actually a nice thing. It's a very common term of affection in France, usually between lovers but it can also be used for family members.

Since fleas are irritating boodsuckers that nobody wants to have around, no-one is quite sure how this came to be a term of affection, although it has been suggested that it's because saying the word makes you pucker up your lips like you're about to kiss someone.


Je t'aime, ma puce – I love you, baby

Je suis tellement désolée, ma puce – I'm so sorry, honey

Ma puce, c'est ridicule, écoute . . . – Sweetie, this is ridiculous, listen . . .

When shouldn't you use it

In 2015 ma puce was one of a number of terms highlighted in a report to the French government on sexism in the workplace.

Ma puce, ma cocotte (sweetie) and ma poulette (chick) were all highlighted in the survey of 15,000 women as being frequently used inappropriately in a professional setting.

So just as you (hopefully) wouldn't call a female colleague sugar-tits in English, keep ma puce out of the office.

If you're being addressed like this, try 

Arrête de m'appeler ma puce, Jean-François – Don't call me baby, Jean-François

READ ALSO 15 of the best French terms of affection

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For members


French Phrase of the Day: Syndrome de la bonne élève

Why being a good pupil can sometimes be … bad.

French Phrase of the Day: Syndrome de la bonne élève

Why do I need to know Syndrome de la bonne élève?

Feeling under-valued at work despite doing everything – and more – asked of you? You may have ‘good student syndrome’.

What does it mean?

Syndrome de la bonne élève – pronounced sin-dromm de la bon ell-evv – translates, as we’ve already hinted, as good student syndrome. 

You may well also see it written as syndrome du bon élève (pronounced sin-dromm doo bon ell-evv) – but this is predominantly a female issue.

It refers to someone in the workplace who tries their hardest to work to the rules, do all the jobs asked of them – and more – and yet is overlooked in favour of co-workers who don’t necessarily put in the same hard graft.

It’s not an official ‘syndrome’, but mental health experts do recognise it in many people – particularly women.

It is a hangover, according to features in magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, from school days when girls are considered to be harder workers and less trouble than their boy counterparts.

Marie Claire labelled it a “destructive perfectionism … which affects the mental health of the women they become, while preventing them from embracing positions of responsibility’.’

Use it like this

Le syndrome de la bonne élève touche essentiellement les femmes dans le monde occidental. – Good student syndrome mainly affects women in the Western world.

Cette question d’éducation est d’autant plus marquante que le syndrome du « bon élève » affecte généralement les femmes – This question of education is all the more striking because “good student” syndrome generally affects women