Photo: President Mitterrand in 1981
Who is Marianne
And what is the MEDEF
? And where exactly is the Midi ? Or who reads
Monde? Answers to these and many other questions
in this "M" section of the dictionary of France..
M 6 -
The sixth French TV channel; a commercial channel, M6 is more
youth oriented, innovative and and cheeky than the main channels.
magazine sold on the streets of French cities by the homeless (SDF) and unemployed. Vendors get to
keep at least 1€ from the cover price of 2 €. The
French equivalent of
Britain's "Big Issue" or Germany's "Asphalt", Macadam is affiliated to
the International Network of Street Papers.
President of France since 2017. Born 1977, Emmanuel Macron came into the public eye when in 2014 he was
appointed economic advisor to President François Hollande. At
the start of his career Macron was a senior civil servant in the
Inspectorate of Finances at the Ministry of the Economy. He then joined
Rothschilds investment bank. In 2012 he joined President
Hollande's team of advisers, and later in 2014 was appointed to the
post of Minister of the Economy in the first Valls administration.
His profile as a former investment banker did not go down well with the
left wing of Hollande's government, and nor did his liberalising
economic policies. His economic reform package that came in in 2015,
and is known as the Loi Macron, included rolling back restrictions on
Sunday trading, opening up the intercity bus and coach market to
private competition, and attacking restrictive practices in France's
regulated professions (legal professions, pharmacists, bailiffs
In 2015 he founded his own political movement (not a party) called En Marche (perhaps best translated as Just do it) and subsequently announced that he was standing for the presidency as an anti-system independent in the 2017 Presidential elections.
Initially seen as an outsider, Macron surged into the limelight
as the potential frontrunner following the "Penelopegate" scandal that
derailed the campaign of the previous frontrunner François Fillon.
Fillon was accused of having given well paid but fictitious jobs to his
wife Penelope over a period of eight years – an accusation that
whether true or not was enough to seriously damage his claim to be a
Mr. Clean in politics. With Fillon out of the way, Macron surged to
victory, beating Marine Le Pen in the second round, to become, aged 39,
the youngest French head of state since Napoleon.
Alain : Born 1946. Former minister, Alain Madelin was
renowned as the most strident defender of economic liberalism in
France, during the early 1990s, at a time when "liberalism"
was still the "L" word, even for many French conservatives. A
right-wing activist during his student days, virulently
anti-Socialist, Madelin later joined Giscard
d'Estaing's centre-right UDF party. He held a number of ministerial
portfolios, eventually being appointed Minister of Finance and the
Economy by prime minister Edouard Balladur
in 1995; Balladur however sacked him after three months, judging
Madelin too liberal. In
reality, Madelin was ahead of his times, and many of his economic ideas
- aimed at freeing up the French economy - have since been put in
place. In 1997, he became president of the Parti Républicain
which he later renamed Démocratie
Libérale (DL): in 2003 DL merged with the
conservative UMP party. Madelin retired from politics in 2007.
People from North Africa,
notably from the former French colonies or protectorates of Algeria,
Morrocco, and Tunisia.
French national censuses do not include questions about
ethnicity, but it is estimated that about 5% of the population of
modern Frence (some 3 million people) are partly or fully of Maghreban
Cours. French motor racing
circuit, near Nevers in the Nièvre department, some 250 km
south of Paris,
formerly site of French Formula 1 Grand Prix races.
: large insurance cooperative (friendly society), only open
to active or retired employees of the French state education service.
The MAIF was reputed to offer very competitive insurance rates; today
it is particularly appreciated as an honest insurer and one which pays
up quite fast when a claim is made. Since 1988 the Maif has a
subsidiary called Filia Maif which is open to anyone. The MAIF brands
itself as a "militant insurer" based on values of solidarity and
friendship, offering an alternative to for-profit insurance
companies run by large financial corporations.
: Mayor, the chief executive of a Commune, or municipality. Amont the
many functions of French mayors are that of officiating at
marriages. Mayors are elected for a six-year term in office, by
municipal councillors, following a municipal election. The person
chosen is generally the leader of the "list" which gained the majority
of seats on the council following the election.
Municipal offices, building housing the main administrative
office or offices (depending on the size) of a commune or a town.
Mairies are responsible for the management of local services and local
administrative formalities, such as the registration of births, deaths
de Conférences: tenured
lecturer or senior lecturer.
: Old type of masters degree, generally obtained following
the successful completion of four years of higher education. Following
reform of the higher education system in France
in the early 2000s, and adoption of the European "Bologna"
system, the maîtrise was phased out, and replaced by a new
master's qualification, known as the "Master" (pronounced
: The original brand of French hypermarket. The first
Mammouth opened in 1969, the last one closed in 1996.
short for Manifestation. See
in its most
widespread usage, marc is a high alcohol spirit produced from the
residues left after fruit has been pressed to produce other drinks,
such as wine or cider. The commonest form of marc is marc de raison, a
strong clear spirit prodced from the post-fermentation of pressed
grapes. Like Cognac and other digestifs, marc is traditionally drunk as
a digestif at the end of a long meal. A small glass of marc is offened
referred to as a "pousse-café".
Georges : (1920 - 1997) First secretary of the
French Communist Party (PCF) from 1972 to 1994. Marchais was
very much a mainstream politician in France; when he took over the
party, it was the biggest political party of the left in rench
politics, and attracted the votes of about 20% of the French
electorate. In the ensuing years, the PCF was overtaken by the rise of
the new Socialist Party, led by François Mitterrand,
Marchais could do little or nothing to stop the decline. Though he
admitted that the French Communist Party had been "stalinist" in its
past, he did little to modernise it. A member of the French parliament
from 1973 to 1997, and also MEP from 1979 to 1989 (See cumul des mandats), he was never a
minister, in spite of the Communists' participation in the Left wing
union (Union de la Gauche)
government from 1982 to1984.
libre: On the stock exchange, French small caps
noire: literally black tide. Expression used to describe
marine or coastal oil spillages leading to serious pollution of the
1. Marianne is to France
what Britannia is to Britain,
an allegorical female icon symbolic of the nation. The bust of
Marianne, often capped with the revolutionary Phrygian bonnet, adorns
many town halls and official buildings. Marianne is supposed to be the
incarnation of the spirit of the French Revolution, which is still seen
(rightly or wrongly) as being the defining moment in the development of
the modern French nation. The image of Marianne has featured
almost permanently on French postage stamps (definitive issues), as
well as on many coins. In recent years, top models and film stars have
posed as models for official sculptures of Marianne. They include
Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, Laetitia Casta
and Evelyne Thomas.
2. The name of a weekly newsmagazine
founded in 1997. Marianne presents itself as being a magazine of the
"radical centre", uncompromisingly opposed to both the
left-wing "neo-gauchisme" and the right-wing "neo-libéralisme"
Marseillaise is the French national anthem. Written by a little known
soldier-poet called Rouget de Lisle, it was originally, in 1792, a
battle song for the French Rhine armies. It was adopted as national
anthem on July 14th 1795.
Martinique : French
overseas department, situated in the
Central : large area of uplands, covering central
southern France from the Rhone to the western coastal plains. it
includes most of the regions
of the Auvergne
and the Limousin, and parts of Rhone-Alpes, Aquitaine,
Large parts of the Massif Central are sparsely populated, notably the
Cantal, the Creuse, the Aveyron, and Lozère departments, and
the Haute Loire. With just 15 inhabitants per km², the
department, which includes the uplands of the Aubrac and part of the
Causses, is the most sparsely populated department in metropolitan
: First postgraduate degree, awarded after five years of
higher education. the Master replaced the Maîtrise (see
following the LMD reform of higher
education in the early 2000s
See under Classes
Hôtel de : Official Paris residence
French Prime Minister. The
word "Matignon" is often used, in
the same way as "Downing Street" is used in Britain, to
designate the Prime Minister's office.
Pierre (born 1928). French
socialist politician, Prime Minister from 1981 to 1984, at the start of
the first Mitterrand presidency. A stalwart
Socialist, Mauroy was Mitterrand's first prime minister, and led the
government in the early years of the presidency, when policies were
most left-wing, and included a programme of nationalisation (at a time
when other nations were doing the reverse), a lowering of the
retirement age, and the reduction of the working week to 39 hours. As
well as playing a major role in the Socialist party from its creation
in 1969, he was mayor of the city of Lille
from 1973 to 2001, and also the city's Député,
classic example of cumul des
1st : Le Premier Mai, La Journée du Travail
Labour Day, a public holiday in France, when trade unions traditionally
organise parades through French towns and cities.
May 8th Le
Huit Mai: VE Day. Anniversary of the signing of the Armistice at the
end of World War II in europe. A public holiday in France.
: Mazarine Pingeot born 1974 - A French writer,
daughter of François Mitterrand.
In 1994, the magazine Paris Match revealed that
President François Mitterrand had for 20 years hidden the
fact that he
had a daughter, through an extramarital liaison. The "Mazarine affair",
which might have cause the downfall of senior politicians in many
countries, cused little more than the raising of a few eyebrows in
Doctor approved by the French health service. Most doctors
working in France are "conventionnés".
See health care in France.
de garde : Duty doctor, duty physician.
In most French towns, the doctor/s who is/are on call at
nights and during the weekend, when most other doctors' surgeries are
closed. See health care
Jacques : (1928 - 1998)
Long-serving mayor of Nice (1966-1990), and son of a previous mayor of
the city. The Medecin family dominated politics in Nice for over half a
century, like a family of local princes. His career came to a
stuttering end in the late 1980s, following the first of a series of
indictments for improprieties in the management of local
affairs, including corruption and tax fraud. He fled to
in 1990, but was extradited in 1994, and spent two years in prison. On
release, he returned to Uruguay,
where he died two years later.
sans Frontières, MSF - Doctors
without borders -
Major French medical NGO, providing medical assistance
worldwide, notably in times of war and famine. Founded by
Bernard Kouchner, currently
(2009) French Foreign Secretary.
Mouvement des Entreprises
de France: The French Employers' organisation, which in
1998 replaced the earlier CNPF
(Conseil National du Patronat Français). It is the French
Britain's CBI. Also referred to sometimes as le Patronat
(litterally "the bosses"), the MEDEF is one of the partenaires
sociaux, representing employers in discussions or
negotiations with trade unions and/or the government.
de la République: the
equivalent of the U.K’s Ombudsman, an independent arbitrator
is to solve conflicts between induviduals and the state. Individual
citizens wishing to use the services of the Médiateur cannot
directly, but must do so by first contacting their local M.P. (Député).
wines. The Médoc, the region south of the Gironde
estuary to the north west
is the home of many of France's
most prestigious wines. Among the famous appellations produced in this
area are Saint Estèphe, Margaux, Saint Julien and Pauillac.
more details see Wines
Bruno - French right-wing
politician, and MEP (1989 - 1999), who broke away from Jean-Marie Le
Pen's National Front party in 1998 to form his own MNR, Mouvement
National Républicain, party. He retired from
jour : the
day's special menu in a resturant, usually offered at a discount rate
compared to other comparable dishes.
- One of France's six national parks, located in the high Alps, on the
verte - A millennium project to mark the "Paris
meridian" - slightly different from the Greenwich
meridian - by the planting of a line of trees, from Dunkerque on the
North Sea to Prats de Mollho on the Spanish border.
Pierre (1916 - 2007) : Prime
minister of France 1972 - 1974 under President Pompidou. A historic
figure of the Gaullist movement, and former colonial administrator,
Messmer was de Gaulle's second-closest adviser. On
the traditionalist wing of the Gaullist movement, he was Minister of
the Armies at the time of the Algerian war of independence.
First opened in 1900, the Paris Metro (or Métropolitain) is
subway system or underground railway system. Most of the network within
central Paris is underground, though there are some aerial sections,
notably on routes 2 and 6. It is linked with the city's suburban rapid
transit system, the RER. The Paris Metro is Europe's second most-used
urban subway system after the Moscow underground. Most routes use
standard gauge steel rail tracks, though five of the routes operate
with rubber-tyred rolling stock, running on concrete tracks. These are
considerably quieter than the traditional trains used on other routes.
The most recent route, line 14, opened in 1998 and known as the
"Météor", uses driverless trains.
Metropolitan France Continental
France, Corsica and smaller coastal islands.
: Mutuelle Générale de l'Education Nationale :
the health insurance mutual, for employees of the
state education system in France.
One of France's older and biggest companies, a CAC
40 company, and the world's major tyre manufacturers (20% of
the world market). Michelin is based in Clermont Ferrand (Auvergne),
where it has a large research facility. Michelin has been responsible
for many innovations in the history of the motor type, including the
invention of the radial tyre (standard on modern
vehicles) . Michelin also publish very popular maps of France
and tourist guides.
: Litterally speaking, Midi means midday, but the word has come also to
designate the south of France,
i.e. the part over which the sun stands at midday,
when seen from a northern perspective. As a spatial concept, the word Midi
is very vague, and there is no
specific point at which a traveller from
the north enters the Midi.
For some it is a small area, just including the Mediterranean coastal
plain and its direct hinterland, a region characterised by
mediterranean climate and vegetation. For others it
is anywhere south of the level of Valence,
or even south of a line betwen Lyon
The word is included in the name of the region Midi
(see below), which thus has a strong claim to be considered as part of
the Midi. Alternatively, the Midi is perceived as
equivalent to the historic area of Occitania,
the southern half of France where people spoke dialects of Occitanian
French rather than dialects of the standard French of the Ile
Libre : Regional daily newspaper
founded in 1944 in Montpellier, and distributed throughout the
Languedoc region and the department of the Aveyron. Part of the
Sud-Ouest news group since 2001. See longer article on Newspapers in France.
: was in terms of surface, the largest of France's administrative
Covering eight departments, the Midi Pyrenees, capital
Toulouse, stretches from the Pyrenees to the Massif Central. It is
largely rural and agricultural. In 2016 it was merged with neighbouring
Languedoc Roussillon to form the new region of Occitanie.
Town in the Aveyron department, on the river Tarn,
and site of the new Viaduc
de Millau on the A75
: A round cheese, made in the area of Lille in the north of France. Its
orange colour is the result of the addition of natural coloring. The
cheese was originally made as a French variation of the Dutch Edam
cheese, to which it is very similar.
A first generation computerised videotext system, the Minitel briefly
put France into the position of world leader in videotext access.
Launched in 1982, the Minitel system rapidly entered the majority of
French households and offices thanks to a masterly government policy of
offering the basic terminals free to all telephone subscribers. Several
years before the Internet explosion, the Minitel offered French
telephone subscribers free access to a range of information services,
including national telephone directories; it also offered a number of
pay-per-view services, receipts from which were designed to help pay
back the investment in the system. However, the success of the
Minitel was also instrumental in slowing down France's uptake of the
Internet. While the government remained keen to protect and promote
this French technological success in the face of competition from a
foreign system, many Minitel service providers also had a good reason
to defend the system too. Provision of information via the Minitel,
charged by the second, rapidly became seen as a lucrative
activity (notably for the "Minitel rose" sites) -
far more so than via Internet, where most general information
is provided free of charge to the viewer. This economic disincentive
meant that many major French providers of Information, such as the SNCF,
were reluctant to replace, or even complement, slow but
profit-making Minitel services by faster free Internet
services - thus delaying French uptake of the Internet.
Minitel services were completely phased out in
Rose. Name given
collectively to the large number of soft-porn or erotic minitel
chatlines that blossomed in the 1990's
The generic name of the most famous family of French jet fighter
planes, manufactured by the Dassault
Aviation company . The first production Mirages, the Mirage III,
entered service in 1961 with the French Air Force; the latest variant,
the Mirage 2000, first entered service in 1987. Numerous upgrades of
the Mirage 2000 have since been developed for French and other air
The most famous of the winds to blow over France, the Mistral
is the north wind that regularly blows down the Rhone valley, south of
Lyon, usually bringing cold weather with clear skies to Provence. The
Mistral is usually due either to northwest winds coming in off the
Atlantic, or cold winds coming over from Central Europe. See Climate and weather.
Mistral 2 )
after the wind, the luxurious express train that used to run daily from
1950 to 1982 between Paris and Nice. The train was first class only,
had its own special rolling-stock, and included such sophistications as
hostesses, a hardressing salon, and a secretarial service. The train
was withdrawn in 1982, following the introduction of TGV services to
François (adj. Mittérandiste)
(1916 - 1996) : Françoisz Mitterrand was the
serving French president under the Fifth Republic. Mitterrand,
a Socialist, served two full terms in office, from 1981 to 1995. He was
also the oldest president of the Fifth republic, leaving the job at the
age of 78. History will judge how successful Mitterrand was; adulated
by his supporters, he was much maligned by his political opponents; but
for the second period of both his terms, he was obliged to appoint a
Prime Minister from the conservative opposition (leading to a state of "cohabitation"
(q.v.)), following mid-term rejections of his socialist
administrations. He will perhaps be remembered as an indecisive
president; from 1981 to 1983, he oversaw left-wing policies, including
the nationalisation of some banks and other major companies; but from
1983 onwards, this policy went into reverse, and from then on state
companies were progressively privatized. He did much to free France
from the tight constrictions of the Gaullist state, abolishing the
death penalty and removing state control of the media; but he was party
to a notorious act of international piracy, the sinking of the
Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in the harbour at Auckland, New
Zealand, in which a Greenpeace activist was killed.
Reelected in 1988, he pledged to follow a policy
that was neither too left, nor too right. Known as the "ni-ni" policy
("neither nor" policy), this was frequently interpreted as being
tantamount to no policy at all, and led to a crushing defeat for the
Socialists in the 1993 general elections, as France's economic
français, le : The French
socio-economic system, which for a long time was seen by the majority
of people in France, of all political persuasions, as being more
caring, more egalitarian, and preferable to the other major
western socio-economic system, known to the French as le
modèle anglo-saxon (and considered too libéral)..
However, since the start of the 21st century, the shine has come off
the concept of le modèle français,
as a result of France's
major social problems, including ethnic tensions (see les Banlieues)
and unemployment, and economic problems.
Démocrate : Centrist social-democratic political party formed
from the remains of the old UDF by former minister and presidential
candidate François Bayrou, in 2007.
Monde, Le .
The leading French quality daily national newpaper,
filling in France a role occupied in the UK by the Times and the
Guardian . Politically left of centre, it is a newspaper of informed
discussion and debate on current affairs, economics, politics and
social issues, and is the newpaper of the Establishment, the "paper of
reference", read by large numbers of decisiion makers, notably in the
civil service. It is published in Paris, and comes out every
evening. Monde de
l'éducation : Education supplement of the daily newspaper Le
Monde; the nearest French
equivalent to the Times Educational Supplement.
Diplomatique, le . Monthly
supplement of Le Monde, devoted to critical analysis of political and
economic issues. Though read by people of all shades of opinion in the
French establishment and higher echelons of public service, le Monde
Diplomatique, the paper, which defines itself as a "paper of opinion",
is distinctly anti-neoliberal, and as such a firm critic of unbridled
economic liberalism and consumerism. The paper is published worldwide,
in 71 editions and 27 languages, and is seen to represent a certain
French view, refusing subservience to the hegemony of American though
and policy in the fields of social and economic affairs.
- Long-established chain of city-centre supermarkets /
department stores, present in most French cities and large towns. the
chain currently belongs to the Casino retail group,.
Blanc, tunnel du : Road tunnel under Mont Blanc, in the
French alps, linking France and Italy. The tunnel is a vital
transalpine link, and was opened in 1965. In 1999, it was closed
following a major fire, in which 56 people lost their lives. It has
since reopened, following major improvements to safety systems
Mountain in the French Alps, near Chamonix. The
highest peak in France and in Western Europe, altitude 4807 metres. The
Mont Blanc range has the distinction of being home to the only real
glacier in Western Europe, the Mer de Glace. The
peak of Mont Blanc is on the Franco-Italian border ….(See
Blanc, tunnel du)
Saint Michel - One of France's major tourist
sites, and a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Mont St. Michel is a
mediaeval abbey perched on a rock jutting up in the middle of the sand
flats and shallow water of a large bay on the north coast of France,
One of the famous cheeses of the Franche Comté
region, Mont d'Or, also known as Vacherin,
is a cheese that was traditionally only available in winter and spring.
See under Cheeses.
Regional newspaper covering the Massif Central area of central southern
France. Published in Clermont Ferrand.
- small hill in the north of Paris,
site of the Sacré Coeur basilica, and narrow streets reputed
capital's artists' quarter.
Gare - One of the main railway termini in Paris,
serving much of central western France. the Gare Montparnasse is the
Paris terminus for all western TGV lines. See rail travel in France
Morvan : northern
spur of the Central Massif, between the Loire and the Seine, in the
region of Burgundy. Highest point, le Haut Folin (901 metres). The
Morvan is a Regional Natural Park (Parc
naturel Régional, q.v.).
pour la France - MPF
: Right-wing political party, considered rather more respectable than
National . Though defending many of the
same values as the FN, the RPF recuses the term 'nationalist',
- or 'sovereignist'. The MPF derives an aura of respectability from its
leader, Philippe de Villiers,
the aristocratic and popular President of the General Council of the
Vendée department, formerly a member of the UDF party, and a
in the second Chirac
government. Thanks to various electoral alliances, and to its
popularity in the Vendée region, the MPF has been
maintain a presence in national and European parliaments, currently
having two Députés in the National Assembly. The
MPF is a very
conservative party standing for traditional Christian values; though
Eurosceptic, it does not call for France's withdrawal from the EU.
élections. Local elections taking
six years, to elect a mayor and municipal council for each of France's
strong rind-washed soft cheese from the
Vosges mountains in Eastern
France. Munster is definitely not a cheese for those who do not
like strong tasting varieties. More
details under Cheeses.
Mutual society, cooperative, particularly in the
field of insurance, banking or health cover.
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