A dictionary of France,
including institutions, places, a few significant people (excluding
film stars and "people" people), French specialities, and a selection
of other useful or intriguing expressions....
L’Oréal is France’s and the world’s largest cosmetics and beauty
company. In 2006, it took over the Body Shop in a move that angered
many of the
latter’s customers, since L’Oréal uses animal testing in its
laboratories – a
practice contrary to the Body Shop ethic. L’Oréal is a CAC 40
company. L'Oreal is owned 30% by the
Bettencourt family and 26% by Nestlé. In 2010, chief shareholder
Bettencourt, daughter of the company's founder, was at the
centre of a media frenzy over allegations of tax evasion and political
involving President Sarkozy's Minister for the Budget Eric Woerth.
Born 1940. The Passionaria
of French politics in the last third of the 20th Century. A
Trotskyist, she was the high-profile leader of the left-wing Lutte
(LO) political party for over 30 years, and holds the record for the
number of times she has stood as a candidate in Presidential elections,
six. In 2002, she polled over 5% of the vote.
: Many people in France get passionate about the principle of laïcité
to a degree that their neighbours often find hard to understand. Laïcité
litterally translates as ‘secularism’, and refers
to the principal of
the separation of church and state, and the fact that there is no
established religion in France. Most frequently, the term is nowadays
used in two contexts, on the one hand as a reminder that there is no
place for religious instruction in the state education system, and on
the other to counter the development of Islamic fundamentalism.
It has often been argued that the issue
arouses such heated passions among some of its activists inFrance, that
it is almost a religion in its own right, a form of atheism.
Passions over laïcité
are a heritage of the years of the French Revolution, notably the time
of the Terror, when religion was temporarily outlawed. The principle of
education was established in 1881 by the Jules Ferry
law, and the separation of church and state finally established by law
in 1905. While the Communist party, and other far left
are the most stalwart defenders of laicité
in modern France,
politicians of all parties, both left and right, regularly express
their attachment to the principle. The principle of laïcité
is one that applies to public life, and does not infringe on the
individual's right to practice religion.
Born 1946. Lalonde was the first "green" politician
France to gain a position of influence in French government. President
of the Student Union UNEF during the events of 1968, he later founded
the French branch of Friends of the Earth, and subsequently became a
Greenpeace activist, campaiging against French nuclear tests in the
south Pacific. He was director of campaign for the first green
candidate in a presidential election, René Dumont in 1974,
subsequently ran for president himself. In 1990, he founded the first
successful Green party, called Génération
and was appointed Minister of the environment in the Socialist
government of Edith Cresson, a post he held for just one year.
region in the centre of the south of France, stretching from the Rhone
to the Pyrenees. Capital Montpellier. Languedoc-Roussillon stretches
from the Rhone valley to the Spanish border, and is composed of five
departments, four of them coastal - Gard, Hérault, Aude and
Orientales - and one inland and mountainous, Lozère. See Languedoc guide
: the site
of the most famous paleolithic cave paintings in France, if not in the
world. Lascaux is in the department of the Dordogne.
Discovered in 1940, the cave became a major tourist attra ction, but
was closed in 1963 on account of the damage being done to the 16,000
year old paintings by the presence of so many humans. Twenty years
later, Lascaux II, a faithful reproduction of part of the original
cave, situated 200 metres from it, was opened to the public. The site
was classed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1979.
quarter - the
old student quarter
of Paris situated on the left bank of the Seine, around the
- La Chaine Info
, French 24-hour TV news channel
- a bank - see
(adj Lepéniste): Born 1928. Founder and
long-time leader of the right-wing Front
(FN) (National Front) party. In his youth, le Pen was involved with a
number of extreme right-wing youth movements, and enjoyed a reputation
as a brawler. A lawyer by training, le Pen served with the Foreign
Legion in Algeria during the war for Algerian independence. He was
first elected to the French parliament in 1956, at the age of 28, on a
right-wing populist ticket. In 1972, his rise to national prominence
began after he created the National Front party. Campaigning
anti-immigration and anti-European Union platform, the FN picked up
seats in municipal, regional, parliamentary and European elections. Le
Pen himself was elected to the European parliament in 1984; then in
1986 he was re-elected to the French National Assembly, along with 33
other FN deputies, when proportional representation was (briefly)
introduced into the election process. Since 1994, he has
been reelected to the European Parliament.
most remarkable achievement, however, was in 2002, when, as a candidate
in the Presidential election, he scored 16.86% of the vote, becoming
one of the two candidates to go through to the second round –
lost heavily to Jacques Chirac..
During his turbulent
life, Le Pen has had a number of run-ins with the law, including the
following examples and several more. In 1971 he was found guilty of
"apologies for war crimes". In 1987 he received the first of several
condemnations for inciting racial hatred. In the same year, he caused
outrage by sugggesting that the Auschwitz gas chambers were merely "a
detail of history". In 1991 he was condemned for "banalising crimes
against humanity". In 2008 he was condemned to a suspended
sentence for apologising for war crimes and denying crimes against
Daughter of the above, succeed her father as leader of the Front
National in 2010. Candidate for the French presidential elections of
Since taking over from her father, Marine le Pen has tried to give the
party a softer image, and has seen its popularity grow to new levels.
In 2015 the FN had high hopes of gaining control of at least one French
Department council in the departmental elections; but this failed to
materialize, as many well placed FN candidates were defeated in the
runoffs thanks to the strength of the anti-FN vote.
- the most popular type of modern languages degree course offered in
French universities; students study two foreign languages plus business
Leclerc, centres One
of the biggest of the French
hypermarket chains. The Centres Leclerc
enjoy a reputation for low prices and good quality, and have led many
campaigns in favour of the right of retail distribution chains to
expand their activities, for example by opening up in-store chemists
counters. The group was the first retail distributor to bid for, and
obtain, concessions for motorway service stations in France.
Leclerc, Michel Edouard
Chief executive of the Centres
Leclerc hypermarkets group. See above.
Lefèbvre, Monseigneur Marcel,
1905 - 1991 : Integrist Catholic
of Dakar, Senegal, then bishop of Tulle, France. In 1970
defied the Catholic church in protest against its modernisation, and
the phasing out of mass in Latin, and formed a schismatic
movement, the Society (or Fraternity) of St. Pius X., based
seminary in Switzerland. In 1975, he ordained 13 priests in defiance of
the Vatican, and in 1976 was excluded from the Catholic church.
Thereafter, his supporters took over the St.
Chardonnet church in Paris.
After a number of unsuccessful attempts at conciliation, the Vatican
excommunicated Lefèbvre in 1988. The integrist and
Society of St Pius X still exists, and is now active in some fifty
countries, including the USA and Great Britain. It appears to be a
Bank. La Rive Gauche, or
Left Bank, is traditionally the more popular and bohemian side of Paris.
Though the expression literally includes all the districts of Paris to
the south of the Seine, it is often used in a more
restrictive sense to refer essentially to the Latin Quarter,
or the fifth and sixth arrondissements.
Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur
(National Order of the Legion of Honour) Established in 1802
Napoleon, the Légion d'Honneur is the highest civil
decoration in France. The order is divided into five
grades: Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer),
(Commander), Grand Officier (Grand Officer) and Grand-Croix (Grand
Cross). The Grand Master of the order is the French head of state, i.e.
the President. The award is given to people of exceptional merit in all
walks of life, rather like an OBE or a knighthood in the UK. it cannot
however be awarded to members of parliament
(Députés). People who have
received this award frequently show this - notably on formal occasions
- by wearing a very discreet small red lapel band.
étrangère, La :
the French Foreign Legion. A vestige of the colonial era, the Foreign
Legion was founded in 1831 as a unit for foreign nationals wanting to
enlist in the French army. Originally it was based in Algeria, and its
main function was (along with other regiments) to protect
French colonies . After the Second World War, it is alleged
many ex-SS troopers signed up for the Legion, where discretion was
assured, in order to escape from their past. The Legion had the
reputation, in the past, of being a place where people on the run could
create themselves a new identity.
can apply for French nationality after three years' service, or less if
he has been injured fighting for France.
legion is still mostly formed of foreign nationals, from many different
countries, though the majority of officers are French. The Legion's
headquarters are now in Aubagne, near Marseilles. The Legion is an
active fighting unit in the French Army, and its regiments are
regularly deployed on missions round the world.
French general (parliamentary) elections. These occur every
years, the most recent having taken place in 2007. The
take place on two successive Sundays. If, in the first round, one
candidate obtains an overall majority, representing at least 25% of
potential voters, he or she is elected, and there is no second round.
Otherwise, all candidates who have obtained a score representing at
least 12.5% of voters on the electoral list (not of the votes
actually cast) can go through to the second round. Usually this means
two candidates, sometimes three, and on very rare occasions
Born 1937 Popular film director, best known for his film Un Homme et une Femme (A
Man and a Woman), 1966, which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes (q.v.) and
the Oscar for the best foreign film.
- see Lycée Professionnel
libéralism : To a good proportion of
left-thinking people in France, the words "libéral"
are terms of abhorrance, much in the way that the terms "Communist" or
"Communism" were to Thatcherites in the UK. In this sense of the word, le libéralisme
is seen only to mean free market economic liberalism in its most
extreme form, a type of lawless limitless capitalism in which there are
no checks and balances, an economic system in which the rich exploit
the poor without qualms or restraint.
: La Libération was the liberation of France from Nazi
occupation in 1944.
: Libération, popularlarly referred to a Libé,
is one of the major French national daily papers. It was founded in
1973 by a group of intellectuals, including Jean-Paul Sartre and Serge
July, as a radical left-wing paper in the spirit of the 1968 protest
movement. Originally the paper took no advertising, and was run on
collectivist lines. In the 1990s, the paper moved towards the
centre-left, where it remains to this day; however it has generally
branded itself as being unattached to any party or power, free to voice
its own opinions and criticism. By the early 2000's,
coming up against financial problems, and faced an uncertain future; it
was rescued in 2005 by financier Edouard de Rothschild, but since then
the situation has remained tense; many of the paper's employees,
including July and other leading journalists, have been fired or
resigned in protest against a perceived erosion of editorial
independence. In 2007, the paper had a circulation of 132,000, a fall
of almost 25% in six years.
une : (1)
The standard first degree awarded by French universities. A Licence ès Lettres
corresponds to a B.A., and a Licence ès Sciences
to a B.Sc. See Higher
Education in France
(2) A word meaning a permit, as in Licence équestre
(riding permit, a document attesting that a person is insured for horse
riding) or Licence de
golf (best described as a Golf club membership card).
pour la Protection des
Oiseaux : see LPO.
An upland region in central western France, bordered by
Poitou-Charentes, Centre, Auvergne, Midi-Pyrénées
Capital Limoges. Limousin is made up of three
Corrèze, Creuse and Haute-Vienne. It is the least
region of continental France, and has been in steady population decline
for over a century. It is the French region with the oldest population.
However, the population has shown a slight and unexpected rise since
the start of the 21st century, due to an influx of British and Dutch
residents, attracted by the area's low population density and low house
prices. See Limousin
- Iconic French watch manufacturer, the most spectacular victim of the
collapse of the French watch industry in the early 1970s. In
1973, the Lip factory in Besançon became a symbol of worker
contestation; employees refused to accept the closure of the plant, and
took it over in an act of defiance. Watch production continued for
several weeks, until the plant was stormed by riot police. 100,000
people gathered in Besançon on 29th September, in support of
workers, but eventually the plant was closed down and sold to
businessman Claude Neuschwander. Production started up again, but the
company was unable to compete against cheap eastern imports, and went
into liquidation in 1976. Later, the brand name was bought, and Lip
are again produced - but mostly in China. A few are produced in France,
but not in Besançon.
The standard and popular basic savings account, previously offered only
by the French post office savings bank (Les CCP, comptes
postaux), but now available from most banks. There is a limit on the
amount that a person can place in a Livret A account (in 2008
this is 15,300 €uros), the rate of interst is medium to poor
2008), but interest is tax free.
Savings account for young people
Licence, Maîtrise, Doctorat. The name of the degree structure
since the start of the 21st century by French universities, in
accordance with the European "Bologna" system. At one stage called the
3-5-8 system, on account of the number of years of higher education
required to achieve the various degree qualifications.
1901, see Association loi
La : (Photo
top of page ) The longest river in France, and
the longest surviving "natural" river
in western Europe. Length 1020 km. Rising at over 1300 metres
the Cévennes mountains in the department of
Ardèche, the Loire flows
north as far as Orleans, then westwards to its mouth at Saint Nazaire,
on the Atlantic coast just south of Brittany. The Loire is considered a
"natural" river, on account of the few human-built restrictions to its
natural flow, which varies considerably from season to season. For much
of its lower reaches, the Loire is bordered by stone and earth
built in the 17th century, and imitated later on the other side of the
Atlantic in Louisiana, beside the great Mississippi. Salmon once
thrived in this river and its tributary the Allier; they are currently
being reintroduced. Once a major waterway, the Loire is only properly
navigable today as far as the city of Angers. "La Loire" is also the
name of a French department, number 42, capital St. Etienne.
Photo top of page.
there are some excellent wines produced in the large Loire Valley area,
there are few Loire wines, whites, rosés or pale reds, that
the greatest French wines. "Anjou Rosé" is a good everyday
"Muscadet" and "Gros Plant" from near the mouth of the Loire are dry
white wines that go excellently with seafood. See wine guide for further
The main Paris racecourse (horse racing).
: see L'Oréal
Interceltique de : Celtic music and dance festival
held each year in the Breton port of Lorient..
region located in north east France, bordering Belgium, Luxembourg,
Germany, Champagne-Ardenne, Alsace, and Franche Comté. The
administrative capital of Lorraine is Metz; but the urban area of Nancy
is the region's largest connurbation. Lorraine was formerly a
major industrial region, with large steelworks in the Moselle
valley, and along the German border in the area of Forbach.
The region is made up of four
departments, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse, Moselle and
Like their neighbours in Alsace, the people of
the north of
the region, along the German border, have a regional language of
Germanic origin. Moselle Franconian is closely related to the
Luxembourgish Franconian spoken in Luxembourg. For further
information see Lorraine
Louvre, Palais du : The principal
museum in Paris,
formerly a royal palace, housing one of the world's greatest art
collections. The museum is normally open six days a week, but closed on
Tuesdays. Entry is free on the first Sunday of each month. The Louvre
contains works by virtually all the world’s great masters, as
well as a
large collection of historic artefacts from all continents and all
ages. The most famous item in the Louvre is the Mona Lisa, painted by
Leonardo da Vinci, and known in French as La Joconde.
Louvre group : formerly called Envergure, the
Louvre group is the second largest hotel company in France, owning in
particular the Campanile, Kyriad and
Première classe chains. See also Accor.
In March 2015, the Louvre group was taken over by a chinese
hospitality company Jin Jiang International.
: Ligue pour
la Protection des
Oiseaux - French
national federation of ornithologists, founded in 1912, and the French
equivalent of Britain's RSPB. It has 40,000 members, which is small by
international standards. The LPO is a pressure group for the defence of
birds and their environment.
: Trotskyist political party. See also Laguiller, Arlette
Louis Vuitton – Moët Hennesy. A
large holding company specialising in luxury products, LVMH is the main
or unique shareholder in a range of products including perfume,
jewelery, designer clothes, fine foods, drinks and champagne. Among the
group’s most high profile companies or brands are Christian Dior,
several top brands of champagne,
including Moët & Chandon, Mercier and Krug, Tag Heuer
Guerlain perfumes and cosmetics. It also owns the Sephora chain of
beauty products retail outlets.LVMH is a CAC 40
French high school, covering the last three years of
education (grades 10 to 12). Important lycées also offer
post-baccalaureate classes for selected students. Lycées
students to take the Baccalauréat,
for subsequent entry into higher education; some lycées also
post-baccalaureate levels preparing students for entry into Grandes Ecoles. For more
details see article on secondary
education in France
(also known as LP, formerly LEP): high-school preparing students for
entry into specialised trades. Students in Lycées
to obtain diplomas in their particular specialisation. The basic
diploma is the CAP (Certificat d'aptitude professionnel), the standard
qualification for entry into a number of crafts or trades.
Alternatively they work beyond the CAP for a BEP (Brevet
professionnelles) which can lead on to the a Baccalauréat
professionnel, giving access to higher education. Lycées
are specialised in a particular field, for example Lycée
Lycée du bâtiment, Lycée du bois. Some
are in the state sector, others
are private establishments.
(in English, Lyons)
: the second
city in France, located at the confluence of the rivers Rhône
and Saône, about 130 kilometres south west of Geneva.
metropolitan area 1.8 million inhabitants – greater Lyon
urban area 3
million. Lyon, the capital of the Rhone department, and the
Rhone-Alps region, is particularly important as a
centre, and for its chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Part of the
old city of Lyon is classed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
The most important Parisian railway terminus, the Gare de Lyon is the
departure point for trains serving the whole of south eastern France, a
segment stretching from Mulhouse to Perpignan,
as well as Switzerland and Italy. It is the Paris terminus of the
original and most important TGV route, the TGV
Sud Est. The main building and the great glass vault were
built in 1900, to mark the great French Universal Exhibition of that
des Eaux :
One of France's big water distribution companies, now part of the Suez
in turn part of GDF-Suez.
Photo top of page: the river Loire
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