Photo: Velib bike hire in Paris
What is the difference between Verlan
? And what is a voie
verte, what is "X",
or a ZNIEFF
And who were the Yé-Yés
? Answers to these questions and plenty more on this U page of the
dictionary of France..
1) A cheese, better
known in France as Mont d'Or,
though as Vacherin in French-speaking Switzerland. 2) A type of
Manuel . Appointed
Prime Minister of France by President Hollande in 2014. The
appointment of Valls as French PM was an exceptional event, as Valls is
a naturalized French citizen. Spanish by birth, and hailing
Catalonia, Valls came to France as a teenager, and took French
nationality at the age of 20. He was by then already a member of the
French Socialist Party. Appointed minister of the Interior in 2012, he
was promoted to Prime Minister in 2014, to replace the unpopular
Valls was noted, within the
Socialist Party, as a no-nonsense hard-liner of the moderate left. For
this reason he was much criticized as a "liberal" by the left wing
of his own party, and by other parties on the French left. He has been
described in many ways, including "a Sarkozy of the left" or even a
"French Tony Blair" (for his determination to shake up and modernize
the French Socialist Party).
Yet like Hollande and
many other French Socialist leaders of the past, Valls' political
action was limited by a need to reconcile the very different wings of
his electorate and his party.
In late 2016, Valls resigned as Prime Minister in order to
prepare to run as a candidate for the investiture of the Socialist
Party for the 2017 presidential election. Tipped as the front runner
until the first round of the primary, he was surprisingly beaten by the
candidate of the far-left Benoît Hamon. Subsequently, he returned to
his native Barcelona where he formed a new party and stood for mayor.
His party took 6 out of 41 seats, and Valls then backed the
anti-independentist candidate Ada Colau, who was eventually elected as
Délimité de Qualité
quality lable given to certain wines, that do not qualify for the more
prestigions Appellation contrôlée (AOC) status.
: A "vedette"
is a star,
film-star or showbiz personality. Vedettariat is the world of showbiz
or the world of "people", or the condition of being a showbiz
: Le Vélodrome d'Hiver - the former Winter cycling stadium
that once stood near the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It achieved
notoriety in 1942 when the Nazis and used it as a gathering place for
Jews who had been rounded up, prior to their transport to concentration
camps. In July 1995, President Jacques Chirac made a historic speech,
close to the monument marking the former Veld'hiv. In what has come to
be known as Le discours du Veld'hiv, Chirac became the first French
president to formally recognise France's guilt in the deportation of
Jews while under Nazi occupation.
bike hire system
operating in Paris and several other French cities. The system can be a
very cheap way to get round Paris if used
‘correctly’ for short trips,
or a very expensive system if bikes are not quickly returned.
the vineyards of Alsace,
following the German tradition known as
Spätauslese, certain grapes are left on the vine as long as
to increase their sugar content. The resulting wines are rich and
fruity, and suitable for drinking as an aperitif.
: the most high-profile of yacht-races organised in France, the
Globe is a single-handed non-stop round-the-world yacht race, that
takes place every four years. Participants set off from, and return to,
the small port of Les Sables d'Olonne, in the Vendée, on
Atlantic coast. The race is open to monohull yachts up to 60 ft. in
length ("Open 60" class). French yachts make up the majority of
participants in the race, and the Vendée Globe has
won by a French yacht; however in 2001 24-year-old British yachtswoman
Ellen MacArthur caused a sensation when she came in second, having
diverted at one point to go to the assistance of another yacht that was
in difficulty. The race starts in November, and yachts that complete
the gruelling round-the-world journey arrive back in Les Sables
d'Olonne in January or February. Thanks to continually progressing boat
technology, the winning times have fallen dramatically since the race
was first held in 1989-90. Titouan Lamazou, winner of the first
Globe, completed the voyage in 109 days; Vincent Riou, winner in
2004-5, finished in 87 days; indeed, the first 8 competitors in the
2004-05 Vendee Globe beat Lamazou's winning time of 1990. Competitors
in the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe set off from Les Sables
d'Olonne on 9th
November, straight into heavy seas in the Bay of Biscay. The
2016-2017 Challenge was won by skipper Armel Le Cleac'h in record time,
with Welshman Alex Thompson taking second place.
: popular youth slang, or argot,
formed by reversing the syllables of a word. For example, problème
in Verlan is blèmepro. Verlan
is itself a reverse-syllable word, which becomes l'envers
(meaning backwards) when turned round. Streetwise urban youth can
sometimes converse fluently using verlan for many of the key words,
making their argot incomprehensible to the non-initiatied.Versailles, Château de
Magnificent royal château, built by Louis XIV, just to the
les : the
French Green Party, founded in 1984 from the amalgamation of
two ecology parties. The French Green Party has deputies in the
National Assembly, Eurodeputies (MEPs), and also a strong
presence in local government in France, notably in towns or other
authorities where the Greens are allied with the Socialists. As allies
of the Socialists, the Greens even had two ministers in the
first Jospin government from 1997 to 2002, in particular the
most prominent of their leaders, madame Dominique Voynet.
The Greens came to prominence
in the1990s, when "red-green" alliances with the Socialists in
local politics and national politics led to the election of deputies,
of a number of Green mayors, and to the appointment of a number of
Greens as deputy mayors in many French cities, notably including Paris.
After the 2008 municipal elections, the Greens officially controlled 42
municipalities in France; however, their place in the political
landscape of France was weaker than it was a decade earlier, and with
the environmental issue being seized by most of France's mainstream
political parties, the party faced an uncertain future as
a force in French politics. However, under the inspiration of
Daniel Cohn Bendit, the French Greens surged back in the 2009 european
elections, coming third, just a few thousand votes behind the socialist
Party. In 2010 they became EELV - Europe Ecologie Les Verts. However
fracture lines were growing between the movement's militant wing and
its more pragmatic politicians.
After joining the Socialist-Left government following a relatively good
performance in the 2012 general elections, the Greens left the
government after the appointment of Manuel Valls as prime minister. But
tensions in the party were growing stronger all the time. In August
2015 the party's leaders in the Senate and the Assemblée
the party, claiming it had been taken over by the far left. Others
In the December 2015 regional elections, the
Greens took just 6.8% of the vote, half the share the took in the same
elections in 2010.
- Volontariat International en
Entreprise - a popular internship scheme, run by
Ubifrance, the French foreign trade development agency, whereby
graduates can obtain experience by volunteering to work abroad
with French companies or with French trade missions in other countries,
for between 6 months and 2 years.
Plan : The French
homeland security alert
system, first set up in 1978 by the government of Raymond Barre.
The plan can be activated in the event of a serious risk of terrorist
activity, or threat to national security. It has four levels, yellow,
orange, red and scarlet. It was first activated in 1991; more
it was activated at ‘red’ level in 2004 following
the Madrid bombings,
in 2005 after the London bombings, and 2005-6 when violence erupted in
French suburbs. It is most perceptible by the presence of armed police
and soldiers in sensitive locations, such as mainline railway stations,
airports, or major institutional buildings.
Since the terrorist attacks of 2015, the plan Vigipirate has
rolled out full time, with aremed police and military patrolling in
sensitive and busy locations in Paris and other towns and cities.
French road tax disc, obligatory for all motor vehicles from 1956 to
2001. In 2001, to the great joy of French motorists, the "vignette" was
abolished. while it lasted, the cost of an annual vignette varied
according to the horse-power of the vehicle.
Dominique de :
Born 1953. Conservative prime minister of France, 2005-2007.
A former career diplomat, Dominique de Villepin was asked by
Jacques Chirac to form a government in 2005, in order to revive the
flagging fortunes of France's conservatives resulting from the
unpopularity of the Raffarin government. A flamboyant and aristocratic
former diplomat, de Villepin had garnered considerable public support
in France when, as French Foreign Secretary, he had addressed the UN
assembly to roundly oppose the invasion of Iraq by US and coalition
forces in 2003. However, his premiership was not the success that had
been hoped for. Villepin was beset by problems and recriminations. The
worst fiasco came with a 2006 plan to introduce special precarious
job-contracts for young people (Contrats Premier Embauche), a
plan which led to massive unrest, uniting students and labour, and an
ignominious government climb-down.
Right-wing nationalist politician, leader of the sovereignist
Mouvement pour la France (Movement for France) party. An aristocrat
from the Vendée
department of western France, de Villiers was for six years (1987-1993)
a député (member of parliament) for
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's
centre-right UDF party. He was briefly Secretary of State for
communication under Jacques Chirac. Since 1997, he has sat as an
independent ("non-inscrit") member of parliament for
De Villiers benefits from very strong popular support in his fief of
Vendée, and is regularly returned with huge majorities
– which is quite
surprising for a politician of the far right. However it is as leader
of the MPF and as for his action as a local politician that he has
really made his mark.
It was in the 1977 that he first created the
"Cinéscénie" son et lumière historical
reenactment spectacle at le Puy
du Fou, a castle in Vendée; since then, he has transformed
into one of the biggest tourist attractions in France, with the
addition of a permanent historical theme park. In 1988 he was elected
leader of the Vendée county council (Président du
conséil général), a
position that he has held ever since.
Thanks to his aristocratic catholic family
background, and his personal charisma, de Villiers has managed to
achieve a status as the acceptable face of right-wing nationalism,
quite different from that of the other right-wing leaders in
France, such as Jean Marie Le Pen of the National Front. In spite of a
number of brushes with the law following various pronouncements on
Islam and immigration, de Villiers remains popular. His strident
participation in the debate over the European Constitution was
certainly a factor that contributed to French voters' rejection of the
project in the 2005 referendum. However, when competing on a national
stage, de Villiers' real position as a marginal figure in French
politics is more apparent. As a candidate in the 2007 Presidential
Election, he scored just 2.2% of the vote, and even in his
Vendée heartland, only 11.3% of voters chose him in the
celebratory glass of wine, accompanied by canapés and
by a local council or by the organisers or sponsors of an event to a
visiting group or to participants.
de Pays : A
quality label given to wines that have neither an Appellation
nor a VDQS label. Vins de Pays are wines produced in a specific
Délimité de Qualité
An expensive apéritif wine not unlike Amontillado sherry,
exclusively from the Savagnin grape variety in the Jura
vineyards. The most prestigious appellation for Vin Jaune is
Chalon. This wine is made from late harvested grapes, and then left to
mature in casks for at least six years.
bancaire) or postal bank transfer (virement postal).
Firms and administrations owing money to suppliers or reimbursement to
customers may wish to make payment by virement; for this
they will ask for details of the beneficiary's bank account, which must
be provided in the form of a RIB,
One of the world's major communications and entertainment
companies, notably owner of SFR telecommunications, and the
international company Universal Music Group (UMG), one of the
world's four biggest distributors of music. vivendi is quoted on the
Paris stock exchange, and is a CAC 40
second-biggest selling of France’s weekly
‘people’ magazines, Voici is
published by Prisma Presse. It is a glossy magazine featuring the lives
of the stars and other famous people in the news.
: dedicated and surfaced trail for cycles and - depending on the
surface - rollerblades and wheelchairs. A small part of the planned
extensive national network is now in place. See cycling in France.
Voile, port de la : La Voile, as
a issue in modern France, refers to the Muslim veil,
or hijab. The question began to become an issue in the late
1980s and early 1990's, when increasing numbers of girls from Muslim
families began turning up at school wearing Islamic headscarves.
France's state education system is founded on strict principles
(secularism), but the 1904 law on laïcité did
not address the question of the wearing of Islamic headscarves.
Consequently, school principals were dealing with the issue on an ad
hoc basis, and with contradictory jusgements, some tolerating the veil,
others banning it from school. The situation became untenable,
and in March 2004, Parliament passed a law banning the
wearing of 'ostentation signs of religion' in schools, including
Islamic veils, the Jewish kippa and large crosses. Since then, the
controversy has died down, and there has been a fall in the
number of pupils trying to come to school wearing forbidden items.
Parc des -
One of the major Parcs Naturels Régionaux (Regional Nature
France, located in the Auvergne
region of central southern France, and including a vast area
of extinct volcanic uplands.
One of the most popular French mineral waters, and a great
success, Volvic natural mineral water comes from springs in the village
of Volvic, in the Parc des Volcans
regional park (see above) in the Auvergne, north of Clermont Ferrand.
The brand now belongs to Danone, one of France's largest
companies. In 2016, the 15 bottling lines were able to produce up to 7
million bottles a day.
(Madame) : former leader of the French Green Party (see
above, les Verts),
and minister of the environment in the 1997 Socialist government of
: relatively popular pictorial news,
general interest magazine, published each Wednesday. The letters VSD
stand for Vendredi, Samedi, Dimanche, or
Saturday, Sunday’, denoting that this is a magasine for light
entertainment over the weekend.
theme park, located in the Parc des volcans (see above) , in the
Auvergne region of southern France. The park was the brainchild of
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing,
former President of France, and former chairman of the Auvergne
regional council. It includes an Imax cinema and 3D fimls on the
subjects of volcanoes, earthquakes and earth forces.
and Fatuna French
overseas territory, with a population of about 15,000,
located in the middle of the Pacific, between Hawaii and New Zealand.
These Islands have the status of French Overseas Collectivity
(Collectivité d'Outre-Mer), meaning that they are generally
and make their own laws. Until 2003, Wallis & Fatuna was
classed as a TOM, or Territoire d'Outre-Mer.
French-speaking part of Belgium. People from this part of Belgium are
known as les Wallons.
X, Y, Z
: Nickname for the Ecole
Polytechnique de Paris, one of the most prestigious of
: name given
to pop musicians and the pop music generation. The expression was first
coined in the 1960s, and derives from the words "Yeah, yeah, yeah" in
the Beatles' first big French hit, She
loves you, which launched Beatlemania and the pop music
craze on France.
Zénith de Paris,
Le The most prestigious concert hall in Paris for
variety and rock concerts, and also for large political meetings. With
a capacity of over 6000 places, le Zénith de Paris is also
one of the
biggest venues in Paris. Opened in 1984, le Zénith
designed only as a temporary structure, pending the building of another
hall close by. But having proved immensely popular, it has remained in
place ever since. Indeed, its success has led to the building of other
large venues also named "le
Zénith" in a number of provincial capitals,
Clermont Ferrand, Montpellier, Nantes and Strasbourg.
Footballer, captain of the victorious French team in the 1998 world
cup, staged in France. Zidane became something of a national hero after
France's victories in the World Cup and the European cup that followed.
Born into an immigrant family in a poor quarter of Marseille, Zidane,
through his success and captaincy of the national squad, served as an
ideal role model for France's hundreds of thousands of "beurs"
, and as a very visible rebuttal of the racist ideology of
the Front National.
- Zone Naturelle
Floristique et Faunistique -
A natural environment which is of particular
interest on acount of its flora and/or fauna, the French equivalent of
a UK SSSI (Site of Spectial Scientific Interest).
Zone de protection spéciale :
special protection zone, an official classification designating
sensitive areas for wildlife.
- Zone à Urbaniser
Priorité: largescale public housing projects (grands ensembles)
set up in France between 1959 and 1967, to cater for the rapidly
increasing urban population. By the 1990s, the term ZUP had come to be
used in the sense of problem estates or sink estates, though this was
by no means always the case. While some ZUP, such as le
the north-west suburbs of Paris, or les Minguettes, a development
of 9200 apartments in the suburbs of Lyon, were truly problem
estates, others had less problems. Many of the worst ZUPs have been
partly or largely demolished and are in the process of renovation as
more people-friendly environments.
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Dictionary of France, please contact About-France.com. Dictionary
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