All These Little French and American Words…


Two words today for the A to Z Challenge:

*Both are English words.

*Both have a different meaning whether they are used in the USA or in France.

*Both put me in a funny situation when I moved from Paris to the San Francisco Bay Area.



I left lots of things behind when I moved from France. No baby clothes, however. American people adored my one-year-old daughter’s cute French outfits. In the early 90s, American baby clothes seemed a little outdated in comparison to the French ones. I still had to buy some when my second daughter, smaller than her older sister, was born, a few months after my arrival in California. This is when I asked a surprised JC Penney’s saleswoman where I could buy a Body, that I learned the words Bodysuit and Onesie.

The French use the word Body to designate a Baby Bodysuit, sometimes also called a Onesie in the USA.


J’ai laissé beaucoup de choses derrière moi quand j’ai quitté la France. Aucun vêtement de bébé, par contre. Les américains se sont extasiés sur les tenues adorables que ma fille de un an portait. Dans le début des années 90, la mode enfant aux USA était un peu en retard sur la France. J’ai tout de même du acheter quelques vêtements quand ma deuxième fille, plus petite que sa sœur ainée, est née, quelques mois après mon arrivée aux Etats Unis. C’est lorsque j’ai demandé le rayon des Body que j’ai appris les mots Bodysuit et Onesie.

Aux Etats Unis, le vêtement pour bébé que les français appellent un Body s’appelle un Baby Bodysuit ou Onesie.


 baby bodysuits



This is also shortly after moving to California that I learned this new word. I needed a haircut, and after calling for a rendezvous (it will be for the letter R!), I asked a puzzled hairstylist for a brushing. As most Americans I met when English was in my way, she was patient and courteous. Foreigners should never underestimate the universal role of hands and facial expressions. The hairstylist understood what I meant. All went well.

The French call a Blow-Dry a Brushing.


Peu après mon arrivée en Californie je suis allée chez le coiffeur, après avoir pris rendez-vous (ce sera pour la lettre R!) et j’ai demandé une coupe et un brushing. Surprise, mais patiente et courtoise, comme l’ont été tous les américains quand mon anglais se mettait souvent en travers de ma route, la coiffeuse a fait l’effort de me comprendre. Les étrangers ne devraient jamais sous estimer le rôle universel des mains et des expressions du visage. Tout s’est très bien passé.

Aux USA un brushing est un Blow-Dry.


Embed from Getty Images


Do you know of another French or English word starting with the letter B that has a different meaning whether it’s used in France or the USA?

Connaissez-vous un autre mot français ou anglais commençant par la lettre B qui a un sens différent selon qu’il soit utilisé en France ou aux Etats Unis?


Enjoy your weekend!

See you on Monday for the letter C.




  1. Brushing took me by surprise. A bit counter-intuitive. But body… I guess I discovered a whole new world/vocabulary when I had my children.

    • I learned both at the same time, so for me they remain close to each other. Agree that body is only a shorter version of the real word. Still when I asked to buy a body, the reaction was interesting to watch. See you on Monday, Gulara.

  2. I would have never guessed brushing. I kind of saw where you were going with body, but, yeah, onesie.

  3. I live in France, languages can be confusing at times…

    • Thanks for stopping by. I assume you aren’t a French native-speaker? Your point of view can be interesting since I find French quite complex to learn from scratch.
      I love languages and enjoy their transformation as societies evolve. It’s a fact that English, and particularly American English, is now part of the French language, something that was still rare and mostly reserved to the advertisement industry, in the early 1990s. Hope to see you again, maybe with your own words, to add to the discussion?

  4. Bon à savior ! Au cas où j’ai besoin d’un brushing quand je reviendrai en France 🙂 merci !

  5. I’m glad you encountered patient and understanding Americans! These B words were Brilliant today (Brilliant is a word much-used in the UK in not the same way we are used to using it in the USA) Gail at Making Life An Art

  6. I probably should remember something, but all I can think of right now is “basset” which I believe in French means “low to the ground.” Around here, it’s a big hound with long floppy ears … and yes, he IS low to the ground 🙂

  7. So sweet to think of your girls as little fashionistas. I am sure they continue to have your sense of style.

  8. Behind the Story says:

    A brushing makes sense to me, but with all the other meanings for “body,” I was surprised to find out it was a onesie.

    • Thank you, Nicki, for stopping by and commenting. Agree with Body! I was surprised, too, but the saleswoman was even more when I asked to buy one. 😊
      Hope to see you again this month!

  9. you’ve made my evening, Evelyne… 🙂 excellent post, comme d’hab’…
    * * *
    bon dimanche et une semaine formidable… amitiés toulousaines encore ensoleillées… ❤

    • Merci, Mélanie. C’est une série qui durera tout le mois d’avril et je reconnais m’être embarquée sur une route difficile. Il me manque quelques lettres. Comme J par exemple. Alors…
      Toute aide est la bienvenue 😊

  10. You brought back memories of my first visit to a salon in France where no one spoke English and I was not proactive enough to look up essential words in the dictionary in advance. Comme d’habitude, there was a great deal of laughter and hand gestures … and also a good friendship established as I return each year. Now we both know what we’re talking about!

  11. claowue says:

    I found it interesting that here in Germany we use the word body as it’s used in France. I wonder what other words you’ll came up with.

    • Thank you for adding to the conversation. Interesting to know that Body is also used in Germany in the same context. By the way, I also wonder what other words I’ll come up with! At least for a few harder letters.

  12. I’ve never come across ‘brushing’ Evelyne – we would call it a blow-dry too. ‘Body’ was once used here to mean a one piece piece of lingerie – similar to a swimming costume. I would have called the baby outfit a ‘babygro’.

    • Now they spell bodies in French for the baby clothing. You’re right about the piece of lingerie. I forgot about the body trend in the 1980’s. I should have remembered. 😊
      Thank you, Andrea.

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