Posts Tagged ‘France’



LANGUAGE HAS ALWAYS INTERESTED ME. A little bit of etymology can be fun and fascinating, so I thought I would share a recent discovery here. When I was a young lad, I went into the city — and on the streets of Glasgow, I heard a full-grown man being called “a wee fanny” for the first time.

It is clearly derogatory to call someone a “fanny”; no-one wants to be a fanny (even though it is unclear exactly what it is). Add to that the distinction that, on occasion, a person might be said to be acting like a fanny.

I also remember reading Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five” books, and sniggering because a character in the book was called “Aunt Fanny”. The fact that Fanny could be a person’s actual, real, Christian name was a source of great mirth to all youngsters. I recently discovered that the publishers of Blyton’s other books have replaced all the Fanny references with “Franny”!

Equally factual and funny is that North Americans call their bottoms “Fannies”. What’s all this “fanny business”?

It is is everyday common use, so I wondered where it came from — and I think I have found out where it all started: France.

The modern version of Pétanque originated in 1907 in La Ciotat, a town in the Provence region of the South of France. Petanque is a version of Boules; in Boules, players run and throw a ball, but in Pétanque, the ball is thrown from a stationary player.  It is an incredibly popular game, especially in France. The idea is for players to take turns to throw a metal ball from a distance. The winner is the boule measured as nearest the small wooden ball (cochonnet). Each score is tallied, and the first to reach 13 is the winner of the game.

[Poster of Pétanque fanny 13-nil]The legend is that, between the world wars, in France’s Savoy region, a waitress called Fanny at the Café de Grand-Lemps, was so kind-hearted that she would allow customers who had lost a game without scoring a single point to kiss her on the cheek as a consolation prize. One day the Mayor lost 13-0 and went to Fanny for the kiss on the cheek – but instead she spun round, whipped up her skirts, and offered the cheeks of her bottom!  The Mayor went ahead and kissed her bum cheeks, and ever since then this has been the tradition.

Because her name was Fanny, anyone losing a game without scoring a single point, was called a “Fanny”. Here’s an excerpt from wikipedia on the subject:

To fanny (mettre fanny in French)- To beat one’s opponents 13 to 0. The figure of a bare-bottomed lass named Fanny is ubiquitous in Provence wherever pétanque is played. It is traditional that when a player loses 13 to 0 it is said that “il est fanny” (he’s a fanny) or “il a fait fanny” (he made fanny), and that he has to kiss the bottom of a girl called Fanny. Since there is rarely an obliging Fanny’s behind handy, there is usually a substitute picture, woodcarving or pottery so that Fanny’s bottom is available. More often, the team which made “fanny” has to offer a beverage to the winning team (see the French popular expression “Fanny paie à boire !”).

To technical fanny – To beat one’s opponents by scoring 13 consecutive points without the opposition scoring anymore but having already scored. For example a team could score 12 points and the opposition could then score all 13 points and win the game with a technical fanny.

So if you get beat 13 – nil, you have to kiss a wooden bottom.  You are called “a fanny”, and as such, you have to buy a round of drinks for the winners/ everyone.

Suddenly, I understood better how the term is used as a light-hearted but derogatory term.  It’s a loser who’s lost big time.

I can see how North Americans would call buttocks, “Fannies” now — as well as references such as “ass-kissing”, “Kiss My Ass”, and desperately trying to find an “arse-covering solution” to a competitive situation one is losing. It’s not merely about losing, it’s the humiliation of scoring zero points.




[Picture of Handmade Album cover art ]Handmade is the album I’ve been getting into lately. It’s by French-Moroccan singer, Hindi Zahra, and it’s really good.  Don’t fret; she sings in English most of the time. This album has sold very well in France, Belgium and Sweden, but it has not been marketed here in the UK for some reason.

I find that rather annoying; I really think she’d do well — and what a relief to have something else on the car radio for a change.

From the reviews I’ve read, she’s really good live.  She is a good song-writer and self-taught multi-instrumentalist. She lives in Paris, so she’s pretty cool all-round.

[Picture of Hindi Zahra]Last year it won the Prix Constantin for Best Album, and earlier this year it won the Victoires de la Musique award for the best World music album.

She sings in D major and its relative minor key, B minor as her default key.  Kiss & Thrills and Stand Up are in A minor, and Music (which reminds me of Blur’s Boys who like Girls who like Boys in terms of chord progression) is in G major.

Probably my favourite (apart from Music, is Set Me Free — which is a weird sort of Bluegrass thing. She could easily duet with Richard Hawley on Don’t Forget — or it could be covered by Norah or Corinne; it’s THAT laid-back!

The album works on levels — I have grown fond of the album as background to work or even dinner parties — but as soon as I put on headphones, I experienced all the little twists and nuances she’s put in.

It’s deeper than it at first seems — and she manages to blend Frenchness with Moroccanness, touches of reggae, funk, African, it’s hard to describe, but it is NOT hard to get into; at the end of the day it is pop. Only GOOD pop — not Eurovision and not the crap we’re told to buy here in the UK just now.


Why not check her out and maybe treat someone to the album for a Christmas gift this year? You can buy it Here.

[Embedded video from of Stand Up by Hindi Zahra]




It must be something to do with getting old, but I don’t mind the accordion! I guess a lot of people would say that it was typically French — but that’s not how I see it.

Remember, I am Scottish — and I guess I have always taken the instrument first as the core of a traditional ceilidh (no, you don’t dance about to bagpipes)! Then I got into guaguancó and son for a while, and in my mind this extended the accordion to Latin America — Cuba,  Mexico, Argentina and the rest over there. Wonderful music!

It really was only after all this that I became conscious of the accordion in any European sense!   Even at that it probably began with Austrian or German Bier Keller music, and as far as I know, it was the Italians who brought it to Paris (just like they did with their cooking years before)!

I know my father was introduced to the button accordion by an Italian ex-Prisoner-of-War, and I spent a very long and rather wonderful summer in Paris a great many years ago — which is where I came across Bal-Musette for the first time.  Heck, I even busked and blagged with a band for nearly a month, doing weddings and baptisms.  But then again,  I have always been up for a challenge! LOL! Dangerous Dave indeed!

Anyway, cutting to the chase, I came across some Bal-Musette on youtube and HAD to share this wonderful music!

Now, come ON, isn’t that just sooo good.  Just be there — a warm evening, just after sunset and dinner with a good bottle of red… perfect music for families.  You can always hit the clubs for your raves later!