All These Little French and American Words…

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge


When I had the idea of a series , based on these little French and American words that have a different meaning, whether they’re used in France or in the USA, I knew it would be more challenging than my 2015 French Idioms Series.

Although my French blogger friend Lectrice en Campagne, an expert in American fiction and also in language, forwarded me several valuable sources of information, we both couldn’t find a French or American word for a few letters.

As of today I still miss five words for the letters K, Q, U, X and Z.

Unless I find one or you jump to the rescue, I’ve decided to offer a French and American Idiom in place of a word for these letters.


So today one French and one American Idioms for the letter




This French expression would take its origins in the Middle Ages when people from the lower conditions were called ‘vilains.’

Some believed that the expression is related to the fact that the vilains poked each other around for fun, triggering sometimes more violent fights.

Others say that the expression simply means that the vilains, unlike those from the higher society, used their hands and fists instead of weapons when they had to fight.

Lastly, the expression would go back to the jeu de paume, the ancestor of tennis. The vilains didn’t have money to buy a racket to play the game and used their hands. Thanks to Wikipedia, you can read here about this old French game.

In any case, Jeux de mains had a distinct connection to the vilains.

Nowadays this expression is used to warn children who start games that have the potential to switch to violence. It is fairly frequent in France to address children as vilain or vilaine when they misbehave.

In addition this expression carries an erotic meaning when used between adults where jeux de mains imply caresses. The rest remains private…


Si vous faites quelque chose just in the nick of time, vous vous êtes débrouillés pour le faire juste à temps, à la dernière limite. In  extremis, si vous voulez.



If you know of a French or English word starting with the letter J that has a different meaning whether it’s used in France or the USA, please go ahead.

Si vous connaissez un mot français ou anglais commençant par la lettre H ayant un sens différent selon qu’il soit utilisé en France ou aux Etats Unis, faites le savoir, s’il vous plait.


See you tomorrow with two idiomatic expressions for the letter K, unless you have a suggestion.


  1. I can see your difficulty with K. Almost all the words have identical meanings in French and (UK) English, according to a good dictionary. I did find that kick in French is part of a motorcycle. I’m enjoying these. @suesconsideredt from Sue’s Trifles
    and Sue’s words and pictures

  2. Superbe challenge, bravo pour ces articles !

    • Merci pour l’encouragement. Certaines lettres sont vraiment faciles avec des tonnes de mots. D’autres, par contre…
      Si vous avez des mots à suggérer, allez-y! Merci encore.

  3. Bev Broughton says:

    I admire your resolve…carry on!

    • Oh thank you, Bev. I like challenges in general. I must say that I knew this one would be tricky at some point. But who doesn’t try doesn’t know, right?
      Thank you anyway for your visit. Hope all is well for you.

  4. I was going to suggest Knight (in shining armor) as a K-word that could lead to Armor, but I think the french and the english definition of armor is largely the same. In any case, I’m enjoying this series, so go where you like 🙂

  5. The definition of both words are the same, you’re right, but the words are diffferent. Knight is chevalier in French and armor is armure. Nevertheless I appreciate your support. Fortunately I’ll be able to return to my initial goal as soon as the dreadful letter K is behind me. By the time I reach the letter Q, maybe I or someone else will have a brilliant idea. In any case, thanks for reading and commenting.

  6. As k-day approaches soon: There might be a difference in the use of the words “kit” and then there’s the word “kiosk”/”kiosque ” which looked nearly the same. But I don’t know if there’s in French/English another meaning as for the German “Kiosk”…

  7. Great background stories to these words, Evelyne. Another great post!

    • Thank you, Gulara. As I said, some letters, regardless of the challenge, are always a little more difficult. So thanks for supporting my efforts. See you later!

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