Merde alors!

Une mouche à merde

Une mouche à merde

Shit happens, as the saying goes. And for whatever reason, it happens a lot in France.

I noticed this on the first day I arrived in Paris. Walked straight off the plane in search of les toilettes. When I finally found them (‘toilettes’ are always plural in French), it was too late. Not for me – thankfully, I was able to hold it. But someone else, presumably multiple others, had got there first. Shit. Lots of it.

Took my first stroll around town to admire the Eiffel Tower. Walked straight into a steaming mass of dog do. I scraped the merde de chien off my ruined shoes and spent the next several months in Paris with my eyes cast down, avoiding sidewalk art.

Got to my new home, opened the fridge and gasped. It smelled like something had died. Mais non! It was just the cheese, happily ripening. Camembert, in particular, always smells like a dirty diaper.

When we moved to the country near Lyon some years later, I flung open the windows of my new home one sunny day and breathed deeply, enjoying the fresh air. Then noticed something a little off. No, very off. Seemed the farmer next door had just taken delivery of this:

Also, manure happens

Also, manure happens

Le fumier. Manure. For the rest of the summer, the farmer spread it, our dog rolled in it and the flies it attracted invaded our home. After a few days, I didn’t even smell it anymore.

Shit is everywhere. In fact, shit is life. And guess what? I like the fact that we live in a world that isn’t completely asepticized. Where food still bears the traces of its origins. Where eggshells have a few flecks of excrement and a bit of feather stuck on.

Merde was probably the first ‘gros mot‘ I learned in French. So it is dear to my heart.

In France, shit is associated with luck. When you want to say ‘break a leg’ in French, it’s ‘Je te dis merde.’ (Literally: ‘I say you shit’.)

Another oft-heard expression is: ‘On est dans la merde’ (‘We’re in deep shit’). Happens so often, it seems to be the norm. And of course, you know the story of the Gallic rooster.

Since I posted about turning my home into a no fly zone, it seems les mouches have been exacting revenge by multiplying in droves. It may have something to do with the fact that the farmer down the road has been spraying his fields all week.

Merde alors!


  1. davidprosser · July 29, 2014

    I hope you have a merde free week Mel.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • MELewis · July 31, 2014

      I have 2 dogs and it’s been pouring rain so no chance of that, David! Bises xx

  2. Food,Photography & France · July 30, 2014

    Since all but one of the three farmers in our hamlet have retired, we have less cattle and less flies. Our biggest discovery, with regard to shit, in France was fly shit. We had never ever seen it before, but cream lampshades display it brilliantly:)

    • MELewis · July 30, 2014

      Ah, the discoveries one makes in France! Guess that’s where the expression, ‘a mere fly speck of a town’ comes from. Time to change the lampshades?

  3. aimeecartier · July 30, 2014

    I remember once when I was going to the Universite in Montpellier and having an especially- I’m disgusted with this place kind of day. I was standing in line at the post office when the woman’s dog (ahead of me in line) pooped right there on the spot, on the floor of the post office. Needless to say it added to the already dramatic expletives going off in my mind that day! It still makes me giggle thinking about it now though.

    • MELewis · July 31, 2014

      OMG. Please tell me she picked it up!

      • aimeecartier · July 31, 2014

        Haha! God I hope so! I honestly cannot remember! I know I didn’t! 😉

  4. Patty · July 31, 2014

    Wow! I guess you could say “Shit Happens” and really mean it! I’ve heard that about the French and their dogs (not cleaning up the doo doo). That would definitely not fly here. It’s very politically incorrect to let your dog dump and not pick up! God help you if you don’t have your plastic milk bag tied to the leash when Fido does his business. I’m sure we have shit cops who would report us in an instant if we didn’t bend over and scoop it up immediately! I remember going to the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto once and smelling the variety of shit there; pig shit, cow shit, sheep shit. I can still tell (smell) the difference…

    • MELewis · August 1, 2014

      Wow, Patty, you are quite the connaisseur in the poop department. I just know it all stinks to high heaven. We don’t have pick-up after your pet laws in most of France, just in a few big cities like Paris and Lyon. So mostly it’s up to each individual’s civic sense, which is unreliable at best. On the other hand, we also don’t have the PC police watching our every move, which is a nicer way to live. Cheers!

  5. · August 1, 2014

    Made me giggle; thanks for that!

  6. Pingback: Poopville | FranceSays
  7. Mélanie · August 28, 2014

    LOL of the LOL!!! 🙂 😀 😉

  8. Pingback: Maires de France: The Great Debate – FranceSays

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