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Word of the day: Paname

Word of the day: Paname
This word refers to a place, but probably not the one you’re thinking of.

Why do I need to know Paname?

Because if you don’t know what it means it could lead to some confusing conversations.

What does it mean?

Ville lumière, Cité de l’amour, capitale de la mode… the French expressions which refer to Paris are endless, just like the rest of the world’s fascination with the city. But while the above terms speak for themselves, the French capital has another nickname which requires more of an explanation.

The first time you heard somebody say they were going to ‘Paname’, you may have been imagining long haul flights and scorching temperatures. But it’s not the French word for the small, Central American nation – in French, Panama is spelled the same as in English – it is in fact a very common French nickname for Paris.

According to Le Figaro, the name owes its existence to a scandal which rocked the Third Republic in 1892. Over 100 members of parliament were accused of accepting bribes from a French company involved in a failed attempt to build a Panama Canal.

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This supposedly lead people outside of the capital to begin referring to these disgraced politicians as “panamistes”, before extending the insult to Parisians in general. The same people then began calling Paris itself “Paname”.

Over the years, the term has softened into a term of endearment. According to Claude Duneton in Le Figaro, this began with soldiers in the First World War who dreamed of “seeing Paname again”. The nickname then became common through the cabarets and music halls of the 1920s and 1930s.

People still use it to this day. It is also present in pop culture. Paname is the name of a song by Léo Ferré, and has more recently featured in a song by the rapper Médine.

Use it like this

Je rêve d’habiter à Paname – I dream of living in Paris.

Elle a quitté Paname quand elle avait dix-huit ans – She left Paris when she was eighteen.


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