mener a la baguette

Cowering under the authority... of Time. Photo of les tournesols taken in our front yard.

mener à la baguette (meuh-nay ah-lah baa-get) expression

    : to boss around, to rule with a rod of iron (or with an iron hand or fist).

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words:
Download MP3 file
Mener à la baguette. C'est sa femme qui le mène à la baguette.
To order around. It's his wife that bosses him around.

A Day in a French Life...

Role Reversal

Lately, I am having fun playing editor... and it only recently occurred to me that I might exercise some of this new-found authority -- and order some of these writers around! So when French Word-A-Day subscriber Gary recently proposed a story on Pétanque,* I could just feel my power-craving pea brain bubble with ideas on how to boss this latest pigiste* around.
"500 words max," I snapped, in my best imitation of Publishing Giantess.
"And send me a two-line bio!" I barked, with an "Ah, freelancers these days!" shrug and a "You really gotta spell things out!" shake of the head.
On receiving Gary's article, I might have made suffer the customary 3 - 6 months' response wait that I once had to endure ... back when I spent my days desperately sending out query letters to every magazine from "Jewish Woman" to "Home and Garden" to  "Car and Driver" (never mind my Evangelical roots, never mind that I have no green thumb, lead foot, or ink brain -- or so it seemed... by the lack of response that I was getting).
And I might've sent back a standard, pre-written rejection notice to Gary:  "Dear Writer, Thank you for your query. At this time we are unable to... "

...only, it occurred to me, I wouldn't then have the chance to "le mener à la baguette" or boss him around a bit!
As for being authoritarian, I might have held my newest freelancer to some sort of starched editorial calendar. "Pétanque! It is an essay on Pétanque that you are proposing?" Did you not follow publishing guidelines? Did you not read the last 6 years or 751 archived editions just to get a feel for this French word journal (or "Diary of a Ditzy, Displaced near the Drôme Desert Rat")?!" I might've illustrated my point, with some sort of dramatic editor meltdown in which I stub out my cigarette, stand up, yank off my editor's visor and throw it to the ground before pointing out the Exit sign over the door. Out! Get outta here! And take your Pétanque proposal with you!
Only, these days, it's not as if I had some sort of editorial calendar keeping me on track... à vrai dire,* I hardly know just what the theme will be... on the morning of publication. This current essay is oh so very case in point. I had set out to post Gary's article, and, instead, took a trip down Nostalgia lane. Re all those query letters and attempts at journal publication, I never did get that newspaper column that I had hoped for, never did become a regular contributor at (Name That Glossy Magazine). Instead, I set up shop here, in Cyberspace.
As I sit here, today, trying on my new editorial hat, thinking up more orders to shout at Gary, I fancy myself in charge of the glossy New Yorker or the "papery" Le Monde. But life has a way of leveling the newly-puffed ego, and I eventually got around to reading that bio that I asked Gary for...
That's when I learned that my imagined intern, my freshwater freelancer... is, in fact, author of a classic textbook on statistics. Yowch! (And, to think, I had debated sending Gary a "sample bio" just in case he didn't understand what a two-line biography was. (Kicking myself, kicking myself, kicking myself...)

*   *   *
Comments, corrections--and stories of your own--are always welcome and appreciated in the comments box.

Check back Friday for Gary's article on Pétanque... You'll meet partner-in-crime, Tim, and a few other characters, too! Meantime, won't you order some of our Domaine Rouge-Bleu Rosé (a favorite of Gary's and Tim's) to drink while enjoying a game of Pétanque? My husband (resident winemaker, whoop your behind boulist) always has a glass of "rosado" (Provençal for rosé? It's your guess!) when he plays.

In New York, order our rosé wine here:
Union Square Wines and Spirits, 140 Fourth Avenue, New York, NY. Tel : (212) 675-8100

For other locations, check here.


Words in a French Life Post note: In a funny twist of faith (et c'est le cas de le dire!*) a Jewish/Christian journal did eventually pay for one of my spiritual (or rather "spirited") vignettes. I was so excited at selling one of my first pieces of writing... that I overlooked the fact that the author's name, listed at the top of the article, was not my own (Zut! I had yet to see my name in print...). You can read the article, which became a chapter ("Attendre," To Wait For) in my book.

~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~
la pétanque =
a game of bowls (boules) played in the South of France... and elsewhere!; le/la pigiste (m,f) = journalist; à vrai dire = to tell you the truth; et c'est le cas de le dire = and one could surely say that!; zut! = darn!

Language learning software
Music: Francis Cabrel
Film: Avenue Montaigne -- starring Cécile De France

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Am looking forward to reading Gary's article on pétanque since I overheard his and Tim's preliminary story from Bédoin.

We were happy to meet these two gentlemen at Domaine Rouge-Bleu.

Linda R.

Quelle belle photo - comme toujours. Montana's sunflowers are still weeks away from blooming.
I will look forward to Friday's edition of pétanque - à la prochaine.


Jens: we enjoyed meeting you, too! Bonjour à Vanita and to your son (Braise misses his company!).

Linda R.: enjoy the up-n-coming Montana sunflowers! Send us a photo!

Derek Hodkin

One appreciates that although a French life has been yours for some time . . how I detest the Americanism of 'gee, what a cute yard' from a young American visitor when I was so proud of my couple of acres of English garden and although so French your picture today of a large sun-flower should never have to grow and turn it's face in a YARD! but that is how it is but a little sad - for me at least.!!

Jim Herlan

In today's idiom, you write "sa femme lui mène à la baguette." But shouldn't "him" be a direct object of the verb? It seems to me that the sentence should be "sa femme le mène à la baguette." What do you think? Just wondering...


I am finally reading your post in a timely fashion.
First, my sunflowers are not doing well and dying too soon. I have had very little time to enjoy them. I next a Provence fix, but I won't be there until next year.
The Avignon committee, of New Haven Sister Cities in CT is planning a pétanque party in September. We are now learning the rules., Does anybody know the custom of kissing the "Fanny" or some other "thing" for the loosing team?
We will of course be serving rosé wine and probably white and red - for those who are not into rosé. It should be a fun time for all and since New Haven has many Italian families who play bocce, we hope to teach them about the french pétanque.


Hi Kristin - You are so funny. I have the best time reading your thoughts and words.

Someone once said that writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. So show us the way, chief! You've got a good thing going here with your mix of zany and informative.

Kathleen: I don't want to be a spoiler for Gary's post but I can tell you that kissing the fanny (originally a french girl named Fanny, I believe) is the punishment for losing a game without scoring a single point. Sometimes there will be a fake fanny near the court and the loser/s in the shut-out have to kiss it.

See Kristin! Zany yet informative!

Shannon, Alexandria, VA


As always, I really enjoy your posts. I especially appreciated your effort today when you provided a citation for where we could find the corresponding word/story in your book. It really does help!! Thank you!!

There was a story a while back about Jean-Marc, who you mistook once upon a time for someone famous, and I regret that I was at work, and your book was at home, so by the time I returned in the evening, I couldn't remember which word to look up to read the story.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that citing words to look up in your book is helpful, and fun!! Merci!


Jim, Kristin -

Not to get to heavy into grammar and cause brain shut-down but for the verb "mener" - (in this instance: "to boss around") - does it maybe take "lui" because "around" is a proposition? Thereby calling for the I.O. pronoun instead of the D.O. pronoun??


Jim & Karen: I'm afraid I've made a mistake. It should be "qui le mène à la baguette". I'll go and fix that now. Thank you!

Shannon: You can read about that particular episode in the Intro to "Words in a French Life". Thanks for remembering it!

Kathleen: I was thinking the same about our sunflowers... before chalking it off to "the summer days flying by."

Derek: I should have said "vine"yard :-) Enjoy your garden.

Jules Greer


WOW!!! Kristi - what a quote -what a photo!

I guess I am now going to start a little record of your own 'personal quotes' along with the photo. Your words and photo made my mind spin with all kinds of thoughts. The little seeds in the sunflower are dropping like tears onto the golden rocks of 'Rouge-Bleu' as they recall the trials Jean-Marc overcame under the Provence sun.

I am so impressed and in awe of your writing, I just can't figure out how you come up with story after amusing story.

I guess you have just turned yourself loose and embraced your freedom - it certainly shows in todays post. I just loved your story and the courage you show in revealing the true workings of your precious mind.

I remain your #1 FAN...




Dear Kristin,

Chez nous, ce sont les chat qui me menent a la baguette. I will never forget this expression. Truly..a study from Sussex university said so, that cats boss us around. Check it out!

I can never see enough tournesols...they are absolutely adorable.

Haha to your attempts at playing editor and so cute. I was going to send you a story but cannot take rejection : )

Cannot believe that you come up with your posts spontaneously...they are sooo perfect.

Lovely Mercredi a vous and xoxo


Kristin - still confused because "mener à la baquette" uses "à" which does take the I.O. pronouns (of which "lui" is one) - doesn't it. (How exciting is THIS?)

I still have so much to learn - Quelle surprise!

Maybe you could add a grammarian to your new staff. He/she could answer the French 101 questions that pertain to your posts!! Kind of like Ask Jeeves - only Ask Jacques??


Kristin, I cannot speak authoritatively to the "le" versus "lui" grammatical question. I can say, however, that "lui mene a la baguette" sounds a lot closer to what I remember hearing the French say.

I agree with your mother who says it is a pure joy to read story after amusing story that "reveal the true workings of your precious mind."

Re: petanque...I wish I were able to post a picture I took, back in the day of b&w 35 mm photography, that now hangs in my parents' living room. It is a study in scepticism as 3 senior parisiens lean in to inspect the measurement, by their 4th companion, of the boule lying closest to the "cochon."

Jules Greer

Hi Tom,

I am now VERY CURIOUS about your photo - you could always take a photo of it hanging on your Mom and Dad's wall. If you do - please send it to me or Kristi - we are crazy about all things that portray "French Cool". Maybe I could try and paint your treasure.



dorothy dufour

Ah, petanque! We called it boche, and it was our favourite family game, though not in Quebec, where I did hear of it from a sister -in-law. She said it was played with a steel
"cochon" but ours was wooden. We had endless fun when our kids were young adults, and we sipped our homemade blackberry wine en meme temps.

Your sunflower is so beautiful. Ours aren't blooming yet. Loved your editorial fantasy.

In Quebec the villageoise were SO CLEAN!
Grand menage was done twice a year, with
great seriousness. EVerything was washed, including ceilings. One sister-in-law was what I called "poison clean". Some of it rubbed off on me, and when we returned to BC I attacked my mother's cupboards wuth zeal.
She was a dreamy eyed unilingual type who would much rather read than clean, and she called it "grand fromage" - I don't know if it was tongue in cheek or in error.


Mom: I borrowed your narrative voice for my story today. I miss your story-telling so much. This brings me to Dorothy's note....

Dorothy: keep your stories coming! I loved reading about your mom and her expression for spring cleaning: Grand fromage!

Karen: great idea re grammarian. I'm thinking of Newforest. (Newforest, when you get to read this... in a few days time, please hear this: I am thinking of you! Get some rest and take good care).

Tom (merci!) and Karen: Jean-Marc says we can say both "lui" and "le" for the example sentence. I still have my doubts but who'm I to argue?


I wish I had endless hours to read and reread your stories and the comments that result, but life gets in the way all too often. I love everything you say because of the way you write it and still wish your mother would adopt me (if only for a short time).


I of course enjoyed today's post immensely! And have used it as an excuse to introduce many friends to the joys of french-word-a-day. My colleagues immediately responded that they saw no reason why having written books should give me a pass on being bossed around. They intend to continue doing so. As an author I learned long ago to at least listen closely to the editor even if i wasn't always mener a la baguette. Tim and I are looking forward to Friday's blog with great anticipation.

Jens: nice to be in contact again. what a lovely time we had on a beautiful afternoon in Provence.

nadine goodban

Bonjour K : Chaque fois que je vous lis je me dis que c'est votre meilleur article. Mais aujourd'hui, avec "mener à la baguette" et le nouveau journaliste, c'est vraiment le bouquet !!!
BRAVA, chère Kristin, et très bonne continuation.

Jennifer in OR

Agreeing with Jules - the title of the sunflower picture is brilliant.


Gary: Well, hello there!

We returned to Copenhagen 4 days ago after 3 wonderful weeks in Vaucluse. The visit at Domaine Rouge-Bleu was really one of the highlights of our visit this year.

I hope you've received Kristin's photo of Jean-Marc with the merry gentlemen from US and DK. Please say bonjour to Tim and to vôtre épouses.


My son has been bugging me to buy some kind of new computer "accessoire" that will miraculously (what computers do is still a miracle to me) transform my old 35 mm slides and negatives into digital photos that I will be able to catalogue and manage on my desk top. Maybe getting this picture to you is the inspiration I need to make that $100 investment and (eventually) transmit that precious moment to you.



I would love to see this photo, too! Listen to your son.


Kelley Ray

Love your words/phrases as well as the magnificent photographs.

One problem...does anyone else have trouble linking to Jean-Marc's blog?


Just a note in praise of Jean-Marc's Rouge-Bleu rose: I've already downed one bottle myself and shared another with friends. I know they all would still have oohed and aahed at the fabulous taste even if I hadn't been bragging, "I met the winemaker, and I adore his witty wife's writing." :)


So, arrette! no more beating yourself up for not being the literary giant you thought you would accomplished far more! You followed your dream, went to France, fell in love with the culture, un homme francais, had two wonderful children, did get to write, started a winery and last but not least have a wayward dog!

Diane W. Young

Jens,Shouldn't it be "vos epouses"?

Kristin - How did the term yellow journalist originate? Is there a term "pigist jaune" in French? I have reached the age where, as a "femme" I cannot mener mon mari a baguete unless he wants to go that way. Here in Florida we have a neighbor with large sunflowers every year but I've never looked closely at the blossom. Next time I go by there, I will inspect it to see if he has the vrai tournesol.

Pat Cargill

Lovely sunflower photo. Found a packet of sunflower seeds I forgot to plant so will do so tomorrow and hope the birds or whatever do not eat them. My Grand-mere Mollie used to grow huge sunflowers on the edges of her vegie gardens. Today, July 16, was her birth date. Je t'aime, chere Mollie! Tourjours dans mon coeur.


Diane: You are absolutely right. First I'd written épouse (thinking of Gary's wife) but then I changed it to plural because of Tim and his wife (who were also present) but forgot to change 'vôtre' accordingly....



I'm SOOO glad that you didn't have much luck becoming a regular in a newspaper or being published in those "glossy magazines", because we might not be enjoying you now online! And for some reason, receiving you in my inbox makes it seem more personal. That doesn't seem to make sense, but there it is!

I love your posts, and the comments of Jules, and of all of the others! Merci, merci, merci!


Hi Kristi & JM! Thanks for the delightful suggestion...just ordered a case of rosé and a bottle of your Mistral. Darryl, at Cork, offered high praise of your wines. I'm so excited to try them! Especially after being enticed by Evelyn’s enchanting description. Joy to you both! Stacy


Loved this one! As a amateur of the game myself, allow me to add a few remarks and a caution. First, the Provençal word pétanque is a corruption of the original term for the game, pieds tanques, that is, feet together (not, pied ancré as you indicate). Perhaps I overlooked it in your charming story, but pétanque was actually developed or invented in La Ciotat around 1910 from the much older game of jeu provencale. Forms of the latter game had been played since before Roman times. But, remember that no matter how friendly and convivial is pétanque, it is nevertheless and always a game of incentive cheating! Finally, for maximum cultural effect, the game should always be played while drinking pastis.



As a freelancer with a little over 12 years experience, more than 600 published articles and two local history books to my name, this post made me smile and nod along in complete understanding. I have so been there, done that. Still doing it.
Although I don't always have time to comment, I do so much enjoy reading your work and viewing your photos. I'm glad you've found your webhome-sweet-webhome. ~kate


Hi Diane. I've never heard the term "yellow journalist" or "pigist jaune". Can anyone help here?

Mille mercis for the interesting comments and kind words!


I missed quite a few newsletters when I was in hospital... I'm catching up.

I think I understand the feeling / opinion expressed by Derek Hodkin about the word "yard".

Meaning of "yard" in GB English, and what the word is associated with:
- yard = 0.9m
- courtyard = cour (area surrounded by walls or buildings)
- graveyard = cimetière
- vineyard = vignoble
- the builder's yard = dépôt de matériaux de construction

None of these "yards" is a "garden" as such, in the way Derek feels about his own garden, whatever size a garden may be. (BTW, Derek, how do you manage 2 acres of garden!?)

Anyway, I do feel like you, Derek, about the use of the word "yard" which in my mind is not related to what I feel about a "garden", but... "c'est un américanisme"! Kristin must have typed the word 'yard' quite spontaneously, even if she's been living in France for many years. I think I read in one of her newsletters she's recently started to get on with "gardening"... so, be patient and don't be offended by the fact her sunflowers grow in... 'a yard'! The more picturesque and loving word "jardin / garden" will surely, one day, come quite naturally.

Il y a "les fleurs sauvages" (wild flowers), "les fleurs champêtres" (field flowers)... Some unwanted "mauvaises herbes" (weeds) might have very delicate flowers and settle among "les fleurs du jardin" -> the flowers you grow with love and delight in your own... "garden".

Kristin, I have just read what you suggested regarding Grammar. I'll send you something concerning "lui" (not "le / "la") used with "mener à la baguette" - won't do that right now, but please, remind me about it if I forget!

george  samaras

je suis un greck et je voulais voir la baguete je parle le francais larabe le greck lespagnol et langlais jetais en france en 1980 et je visiter paris pusieurs fois jaime paris

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)