French word of the Day: Ma puce

French word of the Day: Ma puce
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Contrary to what you might think, this doesn't suggest that a person is irritating or a bloodsucker.

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.


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See also on The Local:

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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