Le Dernier Mot: It’s Enough to Drive You Potty

Le Dernier Mot: It’s Enough to Drive You Potty

Kristin and her family are peed off by strangers using their garden as a toilet.

Un atout, or advantage, of three generations living under one roof is we help each other out – la reciprocité, as my college anthropology professor called it. My mom, Jules, waters the garden, my husband is Monsieur Fix-it (he calls me La Fée du Logis, for my cleaning/house care), our daughter Jackie, 24, does the grocery shopping, and our son, Max, 27, is our logistics expert, alerting us when our logis is in need of repair. And how could I forget our golden retriever Smokey! At 13, he still patrols the yard, barking when strangers approach.

Recently, following Smokey’s aboiements, Max noticed a wee souci in front of our home: Incredibly, a man was peeing on our leafy hedges! “Mais! Qu’est-ce que tu fais là?” Max demanded. Caught en flagrant délit, the stranger laughed: “J’arrose les plantes.” Then, he zipped his pants and sauntered off with his cohorts. “And what if I came over to your house and ‘watered’ your plants?” Max shouted, his words amounting to a shake of the fist. “Allez! Casse-toi!”

Not three days later, Jean-Marc, having repaired our clothesline, was relaxing in a lawn chair when over his shoulder he heard un ruissellement… only this time it wasn’t Grandma watering the oleanders! But for the thick leafy barrier between him and the urinator, my husband would have been soaked. Angry as he was, it was no use spouting out. It wouldn’t stop the next guy from “watering” our garden. In fact, outdoor miction is so common in France, there’s even a term for it: le pipi sauvage. Wild tinkling can be a real problem, especially in cities: it’s smelly, it soils the streets, and it’s not charming to see it in action. The city of Paris has come up with a few creative solutions, including the uritrottoir (giant sidewalk flower pots which turn pipi into compost) – but for many Parisians this is not a satisfactory answer.

Kristin and her family find le pipi sauvage to be a problem they cannot tolerate © Kristin Espinasse

Walls that pee back © Kristin Espinasse

Walls that Pee Back

Maybe Paris could take a hint from San Francisco or Hamburg, where a special peinture anti-pipi is deterring folks from wetting the walls: at the moment of contact, the urine ricochets back! It’s not a powerful spray (it boomerangs near the feet) but it certainly turns the tables: c’est l’arroseur arrosé!, as my husband says. I wonder if that magic paint comes in spray form? Next time our daughter goes shopping I’ll have her search for it. We’ll see if Mr. Fixit and our logistics expert, Max, can pee-proof our property’s perimeter. If all else fails, we’ll put Grandma on duty. She’ll blow the vandals away with her hose and the help of our robinet.

French Vocabulary

Un atout = a perk, benefit
Le logis = dwelling, abode
La Fée du Logis = “the perfect housewife” (the one who does
the chores…)
Un aboiement = barking
Le souci = worry
Mais, qu’est-ce que tu fais là? = Just what are you doing
J’arrose les plantes = I’m watering the plants
Prendre en flagrant délit = caught in the act, red-handed
Allez! Casse-toi! = Go on! Get out of here!
Un ruisellement = streaming, flow
La miction = urination
Uritrottoir (uriner + trottoir) = urinate + sidewalk
C’est l’arroseur arrosé = it’s the sprinkler that is sprinkled
Le robinet = tap, water faucet

From France Today magazine

Lead photo credit : Smokey the dog relaxes after a security patrol of the garden’s perimeters © Kristin Espinasse

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The American-born author and photographer lives with her French husband, Jean-Marc, and their two children on a vineyard and olive farm near Bandol in Provence. She's the author of "Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France" and runs the French Word-a-Day blog and newsletter.

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  • John Hanson
    2022-11-23 08:16:24
    John Hanson
    Mdme Kristin, A Wissant j'ai vu trois hommes qui baptisaint l'eglise du cillagw et j'en etaiy aussi surpise. Quand j'ai racente cette histoire a mon professeur, i; respondait: Aller au campagne et pipi contre un arbre -- voila la belle vie!: JOHN