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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Moon, loaf and firecracker – 12 French words that actually mean ‘butt’

There are a range of ways to talk about the human behind in France. Here's a list of some of the most common ones.

Moon, loaf and firecracker - 12 French words that actually mean 'butt'
Photo: Bourguiboeuf/Flickr

1. Fesses

Fesses, the French equivalent of 'buttocks', is one of the most common ways to talk about one's behind in France. It's a bit colloquial, but not vulgar. If you were to write a gossip column about the celebs with the best butts out there (not saying that's a good idea), the headline would most likely contain fesses

Fesse only refers to one butt-cheek. So unless you are aiming to be very specific, generally the correct form is the plural fesses; mes fesses – 'my buttocks'.

J'ai mal aux fesses – My butt hurts.

Frapper quelqu'un sur les fesses – To slap someone's butt.

2. Fessier

Le fessier refers to the area around the butt, and it's a bit more formal than fesses.
 
Its plural form, les fessiers, means 'glutes'. To take the magazine example again,  this is the term you would use if you were to write an exercise column.
 
For example, abdo fessier is a common tagline for exercise that involves abs and glutes.

 
 
 
3. Derrière

Derrière means 'behind' as in behind something, but also THE behind (ie a person's buttocks). It's a masculine noun, so it's un derrière, and if you want to say 'falling down on one's butt, it's tomber sur le derrière.

Derrière is neither vulgar nor slang, and this is one you can safely say if you're in a formal setting (though you would probably not be talking about butts in a formal setting in France). 

4. Postérieur 

Postérieur is another way to say 'behind'. It's the opposite of antérieur, which means 'fore'. Postérieur is not vulgar and you can safely use it without shocking those around you.

5. Cul

Cul means 'ass' or 'arse' and is a slang term for one's behind. It's vulgar, but very common.

You could say: J'ai glissé et je suis tombé sur le cul – I slipped and fell on my arse.

Mon cul is also used to say something is rubbish, whereas faux cul (false bottom) means someone is a hypocrite or a phony.

Cul also has a certain blush potential for French learners when you're not saying it but people think you are. The very commonly-used word beaucoup (a lot) if not correctly pronounced sounds to French ears like beau cul (nice ass).

READ ALSO The 9 French words you need to be very, very careful when pronouncing

6. Pétard

Generally, a pétard is a 'firecracker', as in those tiny explosive devices kids sometimes play with that make a lot of noise.

But pétard can also be a slang term for 'butt'. Péter, as you may know, can be a – very colloquial – way of saying 'to fart'. Logically, therefore, un pétard is something that makes a lot of noise, and the thing that pète (blows up). It's definitely not something you would say in front of your grandmother.

7. Boule 

Not to be confused with the sports boules, un boule also can refer to one's 'butt'. The key here is that the butt-version is masculine, while une boule means 'a ball'.

Bouge ton boule ! – Move your ass!

Boule is a slang term mostly used by young people. There is a song called J'aime trop ton boule (I love your ass), which came out in 2007. It's actually a parody, mocking rappers such as Sean Paul's obsession with shaking butts, but it quickly became a top hit in France.

8. Arrière-train

Directly translated as 'behind-train', arrière-train means 'rear' and is a slightly old-fashioned slang term for 'butt'. However this one is often used to talk about the rear end of a car or an actual train, so be aware of the context if you hear this before you assume it's a referral to someone's buttocks.

9. Croupe

Croupe means 'rump' and usually refers to the behind of a horse, but it can also be slang for the human rump. It's similar to derrière and postérieur, but it's more of a slang expression when used on humans. 

There's also croupion, which refers to the 'tail' of a bird, but also can be used as a colloquial slang expression for 'butt'. J'ai mal au croupion – My butt is hurting.

10. Popotin

Popotin is a quirky way to say 'butt'. It's not vulgar, but a common, colloquial slang way of saying postérieur, which originated sometime in the 20th century. Remue-toi le popotin is a nicer way of saying bouges ton cul – move your ass.

11. Miche

Une miche de pain is a loaf of bread. The loaf in question is round and quite big, just like some human posteriors. Les miches sometimes therefore is used to talk about the les fesses. Like most of these expression miche is a slang term, but not a vulgar one.

12. Lune

Lastly, there's lune, 'moon', which is pretty self-explanatory. Voir la lune en plein jour is an old and common French expression that directly translates as 'to see the moon during daytime', but actually means 'to see someone's naked backside'. 

You might be familiar with the English expression 'mooning' as in 'flashing one's butt'. In French, you would say montrer sa lune – showing one's butt.

 

 

 

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Le Havre rules: How to talk about French towns beginning with Le, La or Les

If you're into car racing, French politics or visits to seaside resorts you are likely at some point to need to talk about French towns with a 'Le' in the title. But how you talk about these places involves a slightly unexpected French grammar rule. Here's how it works.

An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre.
An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre. It can be difficult to know what prepositions to use for places like this - so we have explained it for you. (Photo by AFP)

If you’re listening to French chat about any of those topics, at some point you’re likely to hear the names of Mans, Havre and Touquet bandied about.

And this is because French towns that have a ‘Le’ ‘La’ or ‘Les’ in the title lose them when you begin constructing sentences. 

As a general rule, French town, commune and city names do not carry a gender. 

So if you wanted to describe Paris as beautiful, you could write: Paris est belle or Paris est beau. It doesn’t matter what adjectival agreement you use. 

For most towns and cities, you would use à to evoke movement to the place or explain that you are already there, and de to explain that you come from/are coming from that location:

Je vais à Marseille – I am going to Marseille

Je suis à Marseille – I am in Marseille 

Je viens de Marseille – I come from Marseille 

But a select few settlements in France do carry a ‘Le’, a ‘La’ or a ‘Les’ as part of their name. 

In this case the preposition disappears when you begin formulating most sentences, and you structure the sentence as you would any other phrase with a ‘le’, ‘la’ or ‘les’ in it.

Masculine

Le is the most common preposition for two names (probably something to do with the patriarchy) with Le Havre, La Mans, Le Touquet and the town of Le Tampon on the French overseas territory of La Réunion (more on that later)

A good example of this is Le Havre, a city in northern France where former Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, who is tipped to one day run for the French presidency, serves as mayor. 

Edouard Philippe’s twitter profile describes him as the ‘Maire du Havre’, using a masculine preposition

Here we can see that his location is Le Havre, and his Twitter handle is Philippe_LH (for Le Havre) but when he comes to describe his job the Le disappears.

Because Le Havre is masculine, he describes himself as the Maire du Havre rather than the Maire de Havre (Anne Hidalgo, for example would describe herself as the Maire de Paris). 

For place names with ‘Le’ in front of them, you should use prepositions like this:

Ja vais au Touquet – I am going to Le Touquet

Je suis au Touquet – I am in Le Touquet 

Je viens du Touquet – I am from Le Touquet 

Je parle du Touquet – I am talking about Le Touquet

Le Traité du Touquet – the Le Touquet Treaty

Feminine

Some towns carry ‘La’ as part of their name. La Rochelle, the scenic town on the west coast of France known for its great seafood and rugby team, is one such example.

In French ‘à la‘ or ‘de la‘ is allowed, while ‘à le‘ becomes au and ‘de le’ becomes du. So for ‘feminine’ towns such as this, you should use the following prepositions:

Je vais à La Rochelle – I am going to La Rochelle

Je viens de La Rochelle – I am coming from La Rochelle 

Plural

And some places have ‘Les’ in front of their name, like Les Lilas, a commune in the suburbs of Paris. The name of this commune literally translates as ‘The Lilacs’ and was made famous by Serge Gainsbourg’s song Le Poinçonneur des Lilas, about a ticket puncher at the Metro station there. 

When talking about a place with ‘Les’ as part of the name, you must use a plural preposition like so:

Je suis le poinçonneur des Lilas – I am the ticket puncher of Lilas 

Je vais aux Lilas – I am going to Les Lilas

Il est né aux Lilas – He was born in Les Lilas  

Islands 

Islands follow more complicated rules. 

If you are talking about going to one island in particular, you would use à or en. This has nothing to do with gender and is entirely randomised. For example:

Je vais à La Réunion – I am going to La Réunion 

Je vais en Corse – I am going to Corsica 

Generally speaking, when talking about one of the en islands, you would use the following structure to suggest movement from the place: 

Je viens de Corse – I am coming from Corsica 

For the à Islands, you would say:

Je viens de La Réunion – I am coming from La Réunion 

When talking about territories composed of multiple islands, you should use aux.

Je vais aux Maldives – I am going to the Maldives. 

No preposition needed 

There are some phrases in French which don’t require any a preposition at all. This doesn’t change when dealing with ‘Le’ places, such as Le Mans – which is famous for its car-racing track and Motorcycle Grand Prix. Phrases that don’t need a preposition include: 

Je visite Le Mans – I am visiting Le Mans

J’aime Le Mans – I like Le Mans

But for a preposition phrase, the town becomes simply Mans, as in Je vais au Mans.

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