French word of the day: Paumé

French word of the day: Paumé
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
If you like exploring places off the beaten track, this French expression is for you.

Why do I need to know paumé?

Because it's common and handy, especially if you like to travel around France.

What does it mean?

Paumé means 'lost', but it is slightly different to perdu, the more common French term for 'lost'.

The meaning of paumé changes depending on whether you are talking about une personne paumé (a lost person) or un endroit paumé (a lost place).

In the first instance, paumé indicates someone being 'lost' in a psychological sense, that they are 'disoriented' or even 'detached from reality'. It can be after a long journey or if someone has lost their way, either literally (like in a forest) or in figuratively (in life). Other alternatives are 'clueless' or helpless'. 

Un endroit paumé is a place that is 'isolated' in the sense that it is 'godforsaken' or 'abandoned'. 

In France you will often hear paumé used about remote villages and towns that are cut off from the modern world and have bad or even non-existing internet access – the kind of place young people typically want to get away from.

It can be pretty pejorative and sometimes people will talk about ce trou paumé – this godforsaken hole.

But it can also mean 'off the beaten track', like visiting a un coin paumé 'an unfrequented corner'.

Use it like this

C'était un long voyage, je suis un peu paumé. – It was a long journey, I'm a bit disoriented.

Il est complètement paumé, in le sait plus où il est. – He's totally lost, he has no idea where he is.

Le village de mon père est dans une région complètement paumée. Il n'y a que des vaches. – My father's village is in a completely empty region. There's nothing but cows.

Nous étions dans un coin totalement paumé, je pense que personne n'y était allé avant nous. – We were at a totally off-the-beaten-track spot, I think no one had been there before us.

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