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French word of the day: Paumé

If you like exploring places off the beaten track, this French expression is for you.

French word of the day: Paumé
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

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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For members


French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Being patronised by a Frenchman? Roll out this phrase.

French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Why do I need to know ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines?

Because someone might be trying to take you for a fool.

What does it mean?

Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines – pronounced ne me pren pah pour un lapan de see sem-enn – translates as ‘don’t take me for a six-week-old rabbit’, and is a go-to phrase to warn people not to mistake you for a fool, someone who doesn’t understand what’s going on.

The podcast Hit West from French regional newspaper Ouest-France suggests that the ‘six weeks’ comes from the age a rabbit is weaned at, and must therefore be ready to survive on its own.

And why a rabbit at all? Well no-one really seems very sure. Rabbits don’t get a good rap in the French language though, to stand someone up is poser un lapin in French.

English-language metaphor equivalents may be, “I didn’t come down in the last shower”, “I wasn’t born yesterday”, or, as Line of Duty’s DCI Hastings might say, “I didn’t float up the Lagan in a bubble”.

Use it like this

Honestly, keep it simple. If someone’s speaking to you in a patronising manner, simply say: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines.

Ouest France suggests that this is the ‘more elegant’ way to request that people don’t take you for a fool. It’s not offensive, but it might be a little old-fashioned. 


You can use the more basic version of this phrase – Ne me prends pas pour une idiote (don’t take me for a fool) or the slightly more punchy Ne me prends pas pour un con (don’t take me for a moron).