petite anglaise

August 23, 2005

name calling

Filed under: misc — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:03 pm

Finding a suitable name to describe the man in my life is proving almost as difficult as finding a name I approve of to refer to certain parts of my anatomy.

The word “boyfriend” makes me feel as though I have time travelled back to being sixteen again, with all the enthusiastic ineptitude/dry humping that teen relationships evoke. This couldn’t be further from our reality: he is divorced with two children, I have a daughter, and we are both on the wrong side of thirty. The French equivalent “mon petit ami” is even worse. My little friend? I don’t think so. It sounds like something that lives in one’s trousers. “Mon copain”, on the other hand, is a bit too matey and casual for my liking. It can be used to mean any male friend, not just Mr Right.

I encountered a similar problem with Mr Frog, exacerbated by the fact that we had chosen to have a baby out of wedlock. I often found myself referring to him in conversation as “Tadpole’s dad” (“son papa”), which eerily foreshadowed the events which were to follow, as it carries with it, to my mind, an implication of separation. Her father. Not my anything.

Often, if an acquaintance or a stranger made the assumption that Mr Frog was actually “mon mari”, I chose to go with the flow and let them go on thinking we were married. It just seemed easier that way. Although I do recall a heated exchange with my mother once on that subject. She was lamenting the fact that she didn’t know how to refer to Mr Frog when talking to her friends. Exasperated, I retorted that I was hardly about to get hitched just to make her life easier by putting her out of her semantic misery.

“Partner”, which I find somehow cold and clinical in English, aside from any same sex relationship undertones, doesn’t really have a French equivalent. Living together, or co-habiting, is known as “concubinage” in French, a choice of vocabulary which I personally feel uncomfortable with, conjuring up as it does images of courtesans, kept women and secondary wives.

Feeling thoroughly let down by both French and English, I tended to refer to Mr Frog quite simply by his Christian name, relying on context to fill in any blanks people might have.

I intend to do the same with my new man, at least until we get around to tying the knot. But this doesn’t seem fitting on the internet, so you’ll just have to make do with “my Lover” for now. With a capital “L”.

Now that particular thorny subject has been put to bed, all that remains is to resolve the anatomical question.

Answers in my box, please.


  1. Well that, um, single entendre would suggest that you don’t really need an answer…

    I have no great suggestions. I quite like the simplicity of “bits”. It’s not sexy, but then I’m not one for dirty talk. Or you could go for oldfashioned and obscure, with “quim”. Which I’ve always thought sounds rather pretty.

    Comment by Scroobious — August 23, 2005 @ 12:28 pm

  2. I like these really antiquated “darling”. Because there is enough irony and distance while at the end expressing something dear and deep…

    Comment by schuey — August 23, 2005 @ 12:37 pm

  3. Sorry you can’t come up with anything better than the annoyingly arch ‘my Lover’.

    Comment by Parkin Pig — August 23, 2005 @ 12:59 pm

  4. annoyingly arch?

    I challenge you all to find a name then. But no ‘grand français’ or ‘Mr Toad’ type suggestions please. He is British, after all.

    Comment by petite — August 23, 2005 @ 1:03 pm

  5. Before my dear husband became my dear husband, I used to go with “mon amoureux”. A word, I’m ashamed to say, I stole to one of my exes… But I like its old-fashioned undertones.
    It wouldn’t really translate into English, though, as Lover would mean ‘Amant’ too.

    Come to think of it, even now my dear husband has become my dear husband, I still call him “mon amoureux”…

    Comment by V. — August 23, 2005 @ 1:11 pm

  6. If he’s British then surely the Beefeater is the only name that will do (all puns intended – sorry!)

    Comment by Mavis — August 23, 2005 @ 1:12 pm

  7. I can’t believe PA would have ever asked her readers to come up with a list of words to describe her “bits”?

    There are plenty. May I suggest you use the word that feels right at the time?

    Comment by Germain — August 23, 2005 @ 1:21 pm

  8. Frangipani. For the Bits that is not the Squeeze ;-)

    Comment by Greavsie — August 23, 2005 @ 1:25 pm

  9. I think you should say “my lov-AIRE”, with a suitably lascivious French-style inflection…

    Comment by mike — August 23, 2005 @ 1:56 pm

  10. Germain – in my defence I will say that I wasn’t seriously inviting suggestions, it was just a rather mischievous jeu de mots

    Comment by petite — August 23, 2005 @ 2:27 pm

  11. Damn. And there I was putting my collection together to share with you and your readers.

    I’ll keep it safe. It may come in handy one day.

    Comment by Germain — August 23, 2005 @ 2:38 pm

  12. ah well, I wouldn’t want any work you have put in to go to waste however..

    Comment by petite — August 23, 2005 @ 2:53 pm

  13. I’ll post it elsewhere and publish the link. Wouldn’t want to lower the tone here.

    Comment by Germain — August 23, 2005 @ 3:09 pm

  14. guess the capitals do good.. implying nothing but only “the object of writing”

    Comment by hera — August 23, 2005 @ 3:30 pm

  15. How about the good old mon Choux ok the english translation doesn’t look good. Then of course you have the old word that my god mother (80+) uses, is Fancy man but then that can sound camp these days.. the buttom line is that the French have better words for Love than the english…

    Comment by Andy — August 23, 2005 @ 3:43 pm

  16. The ‘annoyingly arch’ bit was just to get you going and it worked!
    Ton Jules s’appelle Jim, n’est-ce pas?

    Comment by Parkin Pig — August 23, 2005 @ 3:53 pm

  17. In French I quite like “conjoint” which implies a long-term comitted relationship, in most cases a marriage, but doesn’t mean any paperwork has necessarily been signed.

    I use “partner” in English. It’s not perfect but it’ll have to do.

    Comment by Amélie — August 23, 2005 @ 4:15 pm

  18. Er, why don’t you just call him “Mr Right”?

    Comment by Cornelia — August 23, 2005 @ 4:23 pm

  19. I quite like V.’s suggestion… and everything sounds sexier in French anyway, so “mon amoreux” seems parfait. Sexy, endearing, affectionate and not at all patronizing, either. And I suspect it’s all in HOW you say it when you’re speaking it out loud – tone of voice and so forth.

    Here on the blog you might resort to abbreviating, as is common with IM-ing. So “Love of my life” becomes LOML. Or whatever you prefer. We’ll know who you mean.

    Comment by Lisa — August 23, 2005 @ 4:35 pm

  20. Hmm.. how about just L’un.. or, L’un J’aime. :)

    Comment by theinsider — August 23, 2005 @ 4:58 pm

  21. I had thought that the Lover would be called “Mr Prince” (after the frog, you found the prince)…
    As for denomations for the love of my life, I say “mon amoureux” in french, as it contains amour, but in German (I live in Berlin) “mein Freund” (my friend), which does not at all sound as beautiful.

    Comment by mélanie — August 23, 2005 @ 5:13 pm

  22. And what’s wrong with “Sir”?

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — August 23, 2005 @ 5:19 pm

  23. I quite like “chap”. For him, not an anatomical detail.

    Comment by lisa — August 23, 2005 @ 5:43 pm

  24. Since “my Lover” is accurate in what it does and does not connotate, but it a little too personal and mildly indicative of sweating and grunting, possibly you could just drop the “r,” referring to him as “my Love.”

    For the purposes of the blog, anyway, this could work well. In French, you’re on your own; I can barely speak for myself in simple terms, much less leap these hurdles of subtlety…

    Comment by Thomas W. Bickle — August 23, 2005 @ 5:56 pm

  25. Because I am in the same boat, I have lingered over this topic a little.

    I’ve settled on Partner when referring to or introducing. It is so utilitarian, but all relationships are partnerships of a sort anyway.

    Both of our mothers stumble over how to introduce us to their friends. It is VERY awkward. Our parents see that we’re too old to be called boyfriend/girlfriend – so what is the answer?

    If anyone came up with something that had exactly the right ring to it, it would be diminished to trite by the end of the week.

    There is no answer.

    Comment by kathryn — August 23, 2005 @ 5:58 pm

  26. ‘Monsieur’ perhaps? Then it could be a nod to ‘Mr Right’ (but not quite so trite), and to the ‘Sir’ that Jim . . . suggested? requested? =)

    Comment by emily — August 23, 2005 @ 6:51 pm

  27. since Firefox appears to disagree with my post, for the record, the above was preceded with a ‘Monsieur’ . . . sorry about that.

    Comment by emily — August 23, 2005 @ 6:54 pm

  28. The question is, is Lover British, or English? (Or Scottish, Welsh, Irish?) Almost anyone can claim to be British these days.

    Comment by Keith — August 23, 2005 @ 7:50 pm

  29. Sir is English. But I’m not entirely sure what difference that will make?

    Comment by petite — August 23, 2005 @ 7:58 pm

  30. I’m comfortable with “conjoint,” though (correct me if I’m wrong) I think it implies living together. In English, I generally call my Mr Frog “the guy I’m shacked up with.”

    But “Mr Right” sounds about right.

    Comment by Isabella — August 23, 2005 @ 8:20 pm

  31. Funny – I have stumbled over this same issue many times myself.

    When I first started dating (seeing? going out with?) my Dutch-speaking wife we were young enough that ‘girlfriend’ was quite sufficient. However, after many years of cohabitation and monogamy (I hope!) it seemed to sound too ‘teen’ & I started to try out the alternatives only to find, like you, that they all carry unfortunate or inaccurate connotations. In the end I just used her first name and let people assume what they will. I found that in Europe people tended to assume we were cohabiting and in North America they tended to assume we were married.

    Then we got married and had a baby last year. Now I find it quite uncomfortable to say ‘wife’ for some reason…it just seems inadequate to convey ‘friend, lover, & mother of my child’.


    Wonderful blog btw – you write with a beautiful clarity.

    Comment by Canuski — August 23, 2005 @ 8:23 pm

  32. I agree that “my Lover” does call to mind the act rather than the emotions. I like “Mr. Right.”

    Comment by Bluegrass Mama — August 23, 2005 @ 8:43 pm

  33. How about just letting it go….no worries. Sleep on it. Just before you drift off to sleep ask yourself what other name could I use for him? (Perhaps inspiration will come to you in the form of a dream?)

    But…..XY, mon conjoint, my partner, my significant other, my studmuffin…..the ying to my yang, mon homme, mon beau….might be of use to you?

    Comment by Kiora — August 23, 2005 @ 9:47 pm

  34. Lover works just fine. It is difficult to use certain names after a certain – ehem’ age. Boyfriend is the worst, although I wouldn’t necessarity know right now. I also like how people sort of cringe whenever a person say’s “lover” out loud. Dis-comfort can be fun!!

    Comment by Lucy — August 23, 2005 @ 10:01 pm

  35. Just being nosey, and it limits the possibilities? Frog being peculiar to the French etc.

    Comment by Keith — August 23, 2005 @ 10:26 pm

  36. I quite like “Rosbif”, although “Sir” will do just fine.

    Just read your Expatica post “Schizophrenic”. You took the words RIGHT OUT OF MY MOUTH. Or, I should say, right off my word.doc, as I recently composed a similar post. After returning from yet another month at the sea with the French fam, I realized that they’ll never quite “get me”. Fortunately, their Golden Boy Grenouille does….but he’s a rare bird.

    Comment by Francaise de coeur — August 23, 2005 @ 11:13 pm

  37. In Scotland, at least around Aberdeen, they use the expression ‘bidiein’ for cohabitants – not quite right for you just yet – but it does have a ‘ring’ to it:

    “Och, and here’s John, he’s ma bidiein hen.’

    In the US he might be your ‘Main squeeze’ or perhaps just ‘Squeeze’.

    With ‘partner’ I would need to qualify it with the prefix ‘life’ – and that takes the romance out of it, if it were ever there.

    Is it too early in your relationship to call him your ‘soul mate’ – Danielle is definately mine, but I would dream of telling anyone except her (so keep that under your bonnet).

    ‘Better half’ (or ‘Other half’) seems a little weak – but at least (with the former) there is a tacit compliment and endearment in there somewhere.

    ‘The man in my life’ may seem a bit clingy? or perhaps just a mouth full?

    Comment by GriffMG — August 23, 2005 @ 11:52 pm

  38. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the “Lover” appellation too. But have no alternatives. We need a new word, people!

    I’ve seen S.O. (Significant Other) used out in Blogland but that’s a bit formal. I refer to “mine” on the blog as the BF (the Big Fella), or “Big” (like out of Sex and the City).

    Comment by anxious — August 23, 2005 @ 11:53 pm

  39. continued…

    For you just now, I might pick ‘beloved’, an ex used that for me for a while, but it seems a bit twee.

    In female company you might try ‘my man’ or even ‘MY man!’ depending on how insecure you feel.

    If he has them, you might try ‘my chisled features’ – but now I’m drifting off the point, I’ll be suggesting ‘my dimpled one’ or ‘my one with tha fine ar*e’ next!

    I once made the mistake of saying to a shop assistant “nah, she’s with me”, when I should have said (proudly) “It’s alright, I’m lucky enough to be with…”

    I guess the whole thing is to indicate a relationship, without a clingy, twee or pathetic term of sicklyness.

    Go with ‘smelly’ and you’ll be alright (he is a bloke after all).

    Good luck to you.

    Comment by GriffMG — August 23, 2005 @ 11:54 pm

  40. OK. “Mr Right” seems to be the much favoured consensus, but Jim, “Sir” is just too gay. Or not?

    Comment by Germain — August 24, 2005 @ 12:41 am

  41. Given the way you drool, I suppose Mr. Right lends the best possibilities for future irony.

    As for bits, I call mine my punani (that’s Pooo-naah-neee). Can’t touch this.

    Comment by nardac — August 24, 2005 @ 2:06 am

  42. God I hate the word “conjoint”, just as “concubin” it sounds soooo paper-like, I would only use it if the police ask me to fill a form or something, totally un-glamourous. I quite like the word “fiance” in french, (“mon fiance” donc) even though – and especially- when it is not true…I think it is second degree enough that everyone knows what you are talking about and it does not sound silly either.

    Comment by Miss Pink — August 24, 2005 @ 3:35 am

  43. How about using “Powermower” a Southern way of pronouncing “paramour”.

    Comment by jean May — August 24, 2005 @ 5:12 am

  44. I find the name “lover” a bit pretentious, as if it was all sex and nothing else……and I don’t think thats the case.

    Partner, concubine etc that all founds so official and
    boyfriend, friend etc so young. Better half, other half sounds clingy. Beloved, I thought that was only used for the dead !

    Of course you could just use his name ….. wouldn’t that be simpler…………….

    I use “mon amour” for my husband and when son came along I use “mon grand amour” for the husband and “mon petit amour” for my son.

    I think the above suggestion of “mon amoureux” to be the cutest as this covers so such. Something that you could use here, in real life , infront of your mother and above all infront of tadpole.

    Comment by P in France — August 24, 2005 @ 7:29 am

  45. *wiping some drool off her keyboard*

    Right, well, by popular demand it looks like I will have to call my love(r)

    Sir Powermower Rosbif Studmuffin Beefeater

    …or not.

    Comment by petite — August 24, 2005 @ 9:20 am

  46. It begs the question can one person be everything?

    Comment by Java — August 24, 2005 @ 9:39 am

  47. Yes, every time I use the word “boyfriend” I want to cringe. I use “foster boyfriend” mentally meaning something that’s not vacuous, but temporary, since I have a commitment phobia that means I have trouble considering this anything but a temporary arrangement, until he moves on to a more permanent home. On the blog, he is “My Teutonic friend (MTF)”

    Since moving back to Britain I’ve noticed that everyone says partner, and you’re right, it’s waaay too clinical. MTF reliably informs me that saying “my friend” instead of “a friend” in German communicates everything that everyone needs to know. In public, I stick with saying his name and if anyone is rude enough to ask “who’s that?” I’ll say “someone I am seeing.”

    I’m a coward.

    Comment by EasyJetsetter — August 24, 2005 @ 10:34 am

  48. Sir Powermower Rosbif Studmuffin Beefeater, esq. Really classy, in that English-knight-moonlighting-as-lawyer sort of way. I think it may even deserve its own .doc on your desktop, for quick and easy pasting into new entries.

    Comment by ludivine — August 24, 2005 @ 1:12 pm

  49. For David, pre-marriage I referred to him as “my other half” in english, but alas, “mon autre moitié” sounds horrendously sappy. I think you may just be better off using two not-so-related terms, depending on the language that applies.

    Comment by kim — August 24, 2005 @ 1:30 pm

  50. Hmmm… I wrestled with this for many years with my (now ex-) partner. Boy/girlfriend was fine for a while, but when you hit 30 with two kids it’s extremely naff. Never did settle it and compromised on “partner” – which we both hated.

    However, along the way as well as coming up with many of the possibilities already suggested by others, somebody suggested to us “POSSLQ” pronounced possle-queue. Allegedly this is a US Army acronym from Vietnam days when many GIs had live-in Vietnamese girlfriends. In true military fashion they were termed “Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters”.

    Not sure I believe it – for a start it should be Poossle Queue – but it’s different!

    Comment by Sturat — August 24, 2005 @ 2:51 pm

  51. i have a question, what does it mean when a french guy says, “your face is very ‘gentille'”?

    Comment by didi — August 24, 2005 @ 3:31 pm

  52. bonjour, petite — i have been reading and enjoying your blog for a long time now, and this is my first post. speaking as a gay man, this topic strikes near and dear to me, because i’ve never been happy with any of the terms available. when meeting people, my partner and i tend to use, er, partner, but basically it sounds too business-y for me. for awhile i used “paramour”, because it’s a great word that doesn’t get used much any more.

    also, for what it’s worth, i’m fairly certain that “POSSLQ” was an early acronym for “Persons Of Same Sex Sharing Living Quarters”, because my partner/paramour and i joked about it for awhile when it surfaced.

    i vote that you use whatever you feel is appropriate at the time you need it. “paramour” wouldn’t work in some mixed company, but at other times it has a slightly naughty tone to it that gets great reactions.

    Comment by frank — August 24, 2005 @ 3:59 pm

  53. I don’t like ‘partner’, too politically correct. Post thirty, ‘boyfriend’ is wrong. I refer to my other half as ‘my bloke’. Not classy in the least, but I don’t care. I think your use of ‘Lover’ is just fine, and so suitable for your ‘new relationship bloom’.

    Can I just pick you up on something? You refer to ‘at least until we get around to tying the knot.’

    Fast work – I like your style :)

    Comment by stressqueen — August 24, 2005 @ 5:46 pm

  54. Good grief, I had no idea that 30 was the dividing line where I could no longer have a boyfriend! This could be a problem!

    When I lived in York (England), loads of people said partner and it really annnoyed me, as it sounded like people were trying to be overly PC and non-gendered, and it was used for people who weren’t even living together, which confused me more.

    My dad refuses to call anyone’s non-spousal lover boyfriend/girlfriend and simply says “friend” which is probably the reason “partner” also makes me crazy – feels like a refusal to call it what it is!

    How about “chuck”? It took a long time for me to understand why my Shefffield friend kept calling me “chuck” when my name wasn’t Charles.

    Good luck, Petite, I’m sure you’ll think of something!

    Comment by crumpet2001 — August 24, 2005 @ 7:43 pm

  55. Companion, both in French and English. And when you’re a little drunk you can go with mon chéri

    Comment by julie — August 24, 2005 @ 9:38 pm

  56. How about “Mr.Blog”. I’m new to your blog, but in looking at back postings, it seems like you met the “Lover” through your blog. Plus, your ex-lover/Tadpole’s papa you call Mr.Frog. Mr.Frog (because he’s French)/Mr.Blog (since you met him through your site), plus they rhyme! Just think about it! It’s so cute, you have to go with it!

    Comment by filmgal30 — August 24, 2005 @ 11:50 pm

  57. I personally favor, and have used, “my man,” as suggested somewhere above. Good when referring to him in conversation, not so good for introductions.

    Comment by Tess — August 25, 2005 @ 4:10 am

  58. “In the US he might be your ‘Main squeeze’ or perhaps just ‘Squeeze’.”

    Maybe ironically!

    Comment by janna — August 25, 2005 @ 6:02 am

  59. You’re too confining…
    In Spanish we say “Carino” or the one I care for.
    It’s less obvious than “Mi Querido”, or “Mi Amor”, which sounds more like something Hef would say.

    Then again, if you want to totally jump the pond, most women here say “Luv-ah” after a Carrie Bradshaw relationship…

    Comment by Mica — August 25, 2005 @ 3:49 pm

  60. **ATTN: Didi**

    I’d hasard to say when someone says your face is “gentil” (un visage) they’re telling you quite simply that you have a kind face…a face/expression that exudes kindness. Do you see? It’s a compliment! Hope that helped? ;)

    Comment by Kiora — August 25, 2005 @ 6:27 pm

  61. In Québec, we refer to our “lovers” as “nos chums”. Ya, not a whole lot better than petite amie or copain, etc., but what makes it different for me is that “chum” (while also being a unisex term, unusual in French) is reserved for just that kind of relationship, a special friend, whereas these other labels refer to, well, des copains et des petites amies.

    An interesting question. Good luck in your search.

    Comment by Ian — August 26, 2005 @ 4:53 pm

  62. I agree with some of your annoyingly arch ( :-) readers who suggested there must be better names you could give your “Lovaire” here, in your blog. (How you introduce him in the analog world is a different problem.) “Tadpole” is such a wonderfully creative appellation for your daughter. Please, please give us an equally great name for your new man.

    I call mine “Jack” on my blog, and sometimes in real life, too. Though many details are fabricated, the story of how I came to give him that nickname is true. I think it suits his personality.

    I hope that some day soon you will give us a new name for yours. Something that allows us to conjure an image of him; of his personality. But choose carefully, because it sounds like once you’ve christened him with a new blog nickname, you’ll be “stuck” with it for a long, long time.

    Comment by Postmodern Sass — August 27, 2005 @ 6:08 pm

  63. Hi, first time tho’ I’ve been reading for three months. Why don’t you ask that articulate young man of yours with the expanding waistline whether he’d like to be known as Jim Bloggs? Does he have parents in Yorkshire too?
    Thrilled to hear about Tadpole as we have a one year old granddaughter growing up bilingual in Mexico. Hope to move there from France (with great regrets) to help with her britanisisation.
    Good luck to you all including Mr Frog.
    Grannie D

    Comment by Diana Stevens — August 27, 2005 @ 6:24 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: