Shutters "en pagaille" in Bagnols-en-Forêt (Var, France)
une pagaille (pah-geye) noune, feminine
1. a mess, shambles, chaos
Hear the word pagaille: Download pagaille.wav
quelle pagaille! = what a mess!
mettre la pagaille = to mess things up
Citation du Jour:
Il vaut mieux avancer dans la pagaille que piétiner dans l'ordre.
It is better to advance with the mess than to trudge through order.--Claude Fitoussi
A Day in a French Life...
At a villa in Marseille, in the hostess's bathroom, I am delighted to find a stack of women's magazines. I decided a while back that the French women I like most, those with whom I suspect I will find true camaraderie, are the gals that read in the le petit coin.* More specifically, the gals that don't bother to hide the fact that they read in the bathroom, that don't, say, before a dinner party, snap up the magazines, hiding evidence as they go about tidying the W.C.* Finding an Elle, a Redoute catalogue or Femme Actuelle* is always a heartening experience.
Typically it is beauty or intelligence that intimidates. While I am awed by those things, order and meticulousness (in others) frighten me most. A composed, well-mannered French woman can make me feel mal à l'aise,* as they say in France.
So I admit that I find myself rejoicing when I come across what I can only describe as "French slips," those moments when a French woman's guard is down--and the blips and bloopers that ensue--are what truly disarm me about les Françaises.*
A woman "of a certain age" passes me on the autoroute.* The driver exudes chic: tinted sunglasses, bien coiffée,* silk scarf flowing in the wind. I smell a hint of Hermès as she whizzes by my little Hyundai. There is just one pépin* in her well-composed image: the 12-pack of PQ* on the window ledge of her Renault sedan. She is apparently on her way back from the market with a whole carload of cheap pink toilet paper, in view of everyone. "Quelle image!"* I think, as I watch her drive by, lips glossed, eyebrows arched, papier toilette* in tow.
At a pottery boutique in a nearby village I ring the bell before stepping into the shop. "Il y a quelqu'un? " (Anyone in?), I say. A frazzled Frenchwoman appears. Her shirt is on inside out; the ragged seams scream out her gaffe. "Ah! I'm not the only one," I think to myself. Just a week earlier I had discovered, during a photo session at a wedding, sales tags (including the bright red markdown price) jutting from my blouse. The picture of grace.
The French lady in line at SuperU* turns and I see that the button of her skirt has popped off. Three or four strings now hang where once there used to be a faux tortoise-shell closure. I notice she has a run in her stockings as well. A two-for-one French blooper.
It is not that I gloat in some sort of one-upwomanship at these humbling predicaments of other women, only that I relate well to such style mishaps and, in relating, feel more secure.
On a trip back to the states a few years ago, I exited a bathroom stall in New York's JFK International airport to find a woman washing her hands. For a moment I hoped she might mistake me for a Frenchwoman, that my time spent in France might have me exuding that je-ne-sais-quoi a real French woman possesses.
"Excuse me," the lady said, addressing me via the mirror.
She wants to ask me something about France, I remember thinking. She must have a question about Paris, some tip she wants to know. Perhaps I look like a journalist, a jet-setter. I am delirious with the alter ego possibilities.
"Oui? I mean, Yes?" I answer.
Instead of asking a question she points into the mirror. I follow the tip of her finger to the trail of toilet paper coming from the stall behind me. Then I realize, to my horror, that the trail reaches me, climbs my leg and disappears into my jacket. My overenthusiastic approach to paper-lining the
toilet seat has literally caught up to me.
I hope the incident was disarming to her, comforting even, and that any latent feelings of insecurity she might have had were effectively zapped, at my toilet-paper-trailing expense.
Vive la pagaille!*
References: le petit coin (m) = the toilet room (bathroom); le W.C. (m) = the Water Closet (toilet room); Elle = She (magazine title); Femme Actuelle = Today's Woman (magazine title); mal à l'aise = ill-at-ease; Françaises (f pl) = Frenchwomen; autoroute (f) = freeway; bien coiffé/e = with a nice hairstyle; le pépin (m) = hitch (literally, a seed); PQ (slang) (m) = toilet paper; Quelle image! = What a sight!; papier toilette (m) = toilet paper; SuperU = a grocery store; Vive la pagaille! = Here's to chaos!
Dictionary of French Slang and Colloquial Expressions lists approximately 4,500 common slang words and colloquial expressions. Entries include grammatical information, the definition in English, a sentence or phrase to illustrate usage, and an English translation of the example and, where applicable, a corresponding English slang expression. Each entry also identifies the word or phrase by type: student or youth slang, political slang, literary slang, and criminal and drug-related slang.