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Humorous mission vocabulary

Thanks to Jason Curtis, Sophie Lellouche, Daniel Hicken, and numerous others for their contributions and corrections, particularly to my errors in judgment of humor.

*Starred terms are no longer current mission terminology, and current missionaries should let them rest in peace.


Someone whom you teach, once he stops trying to teach you.

l'ami éternel

See le livre d'or.

les Amish

Even if you've never churned butter, that's what French (and Spaniards) who've seen the badly translated film Witness will think you do all day.

les «Apes»*

People who really like les statistiques, except yours.


Why les bleus don't understand non-members and why members don't understand les gris.

la baguette

Manna from heaven consumed with zeal, passion, and gratitude.

la banlieue

Not, definitely not Paris.

le bât(iment)

Place where les chiens hold choir practice just for you.


What les amis in la campagne do at le mangez-vous up until five minutes before les statistiques are due.

le bidet

French device for cleaning the nether regions of the anatomy, awfully useful for checking for leaks in inner tubes and washing socks.

le billet

1) Your key to the city.
2) What you forgot to save le fric for.

le bleu

1) Someone who asks God to «blesser avec la mort» ("injure with death") the family you just met, instead of invoking Him to `«les bénir avec l'amour» ("bless them with love"). Taken from the blue-clad French Army cadets.
2) A particular cheese that only a few missionaries learn to enjoy.

la boîte aux lettres (also: la boîte à lettres)

See vide.


An English intruder into the vocabulary... see la boîte aux lettres.

le bouddhisme

The affiliation of choice of those young French people who want to believe in being nice to people without the trouble of believing in Dieu.

la Bretagne

See la pluie.


Watching les chiffres more closely than les assistants in hopes of displacing them.

le "buck sheet"*

1) (Originally) Le sommaire des chiffres; the scoreboard for "bucking".
2) (Later) L'annuaire de la mission. Still fodder for les commerages.


Old affectionate appellation for President Jones used by Sister Jones and all the missionaries (but not in public).

le buzzer bât(iment)

In good French, this would be le bât(iment) à sonnettes, and like un serpent à sonnette, it can be deadly. See Interphone.

le cafard

1) Friendly creature with whom you share le lit, la douche, and les Larry's.
2) Something everyone you meet has.

la campagne

Possibly defined as the limits of civilization, but that depends how you define civilization.

la carte de séjour

The administrative Holy Grail of every missionary—a passe-partout which you get from la préfecture one week after you're sent home.

la carte orange

1) Ticket to a magical land where everyone has 1% body fat and speaks French, except the first part.
2) Unit of currency equal to everything left in your account at Crédit Lyonnais.

le casque

Even though no Frenchman has ever seen one, use it for la tête anyway.

le cassoulet

The French answer to Spam (though vastly more edible). Avoid the duck-based variety, unless you like living in a swamp.

Ch'ais pas, moi.

Typical answer to "How do you feel about 'x'?"

la chasse d'eau

Curious attachment designed to render irreparable the porcelain device which isn't le bidet.

Cher Jean.

Nemesis of all French missionaries, especially les gris.

le chien

Nemesis of all French missionaries, no exceptions.

les chiffres

Numbers which the French seem to help keep to their literal definition of "single digits".

la CIA

Pronounced "say-ee-ah". Something most missionaries didn't know they belonged to.

le concubinage

1) A common French legal status.
2) A surprisingly common French objection to la loi de chasteté.

le contacting

How to get to know countless French people who just don't have the time.

le contrôleur

Who everyone on buses and trains thinks you are, and why they might be less than eager to talk to you.

le cours d'anglais

Doesn't matter that you've only been in France a day, it's your turn to do it.

le couscous

An exotic way not to tell your parents that you're out of money.

Crédit Lyonnais

Where to get funds for la carte orange and les Larry's.

la crêpe

One half of the Breton national diet.

la crotte

Weapon of le chien and indicator to let you know that you're on le trottoir.

le CRS

Bringing law and order to Trappes, Sarcelles, or a banlieue near you.

défense d'afficher

Though our sources say that this is French, we ourselves are unable to independently verify it.

défense d'uriner

A sign that you wouldn't think would be necessary, and yet somehow is.


It doesn't matter who you are, if you are un missionnaire, chances are about 100% that you are doing it to some French person.

deux euros

The successor to «dix francs», though it hardly rolls off the tongue as well.


An entity some French seem to possess (as in «mon»), though they act as if they had never heard of it.

«Je vais vous dire une chose...»

Preface to a detailed exposition of one's ignorance regarding a multitude of things. Usually more than une chose is detailed.

les "dirty cookies"*

A variation of le molar-off which they usually followed, consisting of the consumption of a large bag of disgustingly gross animal crackers with which one could only drink water. Makes you wonder about the sanity of Paris missionaries, n'est-ce pas?

dix francs

What you used to be able to get anything for in le Métro. See: deux Euros.

Oh, mais ça, c'est dommage.

A punctuational phrase of les françaises, particularly those who have le cafard.


See les gris.

Ed's (Europa Distribution)

How to get by on more than les Larry's.


See déranger.


You and some other guy you've never seen before in your life.


Source of undying confusion among old Frenchmen, who had to be reminded before to convert old Francs to new Francs, even though the change took place back in the 1970s. (1 old franc became 1 new centîme.)

C'est pas évident.

A mantra used by those who practice le chômage to avoid enlightenment.

la famille en or

1) In reference to la télé, what every family wants to be.
2) In reference to l'œuvre, what it seems no family wants to be.

la fête des Rois

A cool French holiday, that's best celebrated only once a year...even if you don't get la fève.

la fève

The fastest way to ascend to aristocracy. See la fête des Rois.


One syllable (rhymes with snack). A cool way to spend le jour de préparation in Paris. Where to get...well...everything (just about).


Title all French members call Elders by, despite persistent insistence to the contrary.

le fric

Not the Happy Valley expletive, but rather one of the more powerful motivational speakers in France.

la galette

1) The other half of the Breton national diet. Site of la fève.
2) A cookie that's so good that the French only serve them to guests and never eat them themselves.

la gare

1) Another place where people think you are les contrôleurs.
2) Where to use, purchase, and render homage to la carte orange.

la généalogie

The second thing any French person knows about les Mormons.

la grève

A cool way to really get to know the great outdoors of Paris.

The Gripper*

Old affectionate term for President Griffin, who served long before the birth of all current missionaries.

les gris

People who know more jokes about airplanes than you'd think possible.

le groc* (aussi, "la groque", "grock")

1) Pre-"frick" "frick" (ca. late 1970's).
2) No-bake oatmeal cookie (ca. late 1970's).

le HLM

Pronounced "Ah, shell 'em", and not bad advice, indeed. Where no one has the elusive deux euros.

INTERDIT aux colporteurs, représentants, etc.

1. (French definition) This applies to les missionnaires.
2. (your papa's definition) This does not apply to les missionnaires.


Where missionaries shop and one of a chain of related stores named on the same theme... Bricomarché, Ecomarché, Statiomarché, Vêtimarché, etc.


Method to do le porte-à-porte très, très rapide.

le jour de préparation/congé

Laundry, letters, and lugging groceries; followed by hoops or more culturally refined exploration of the great city itself.

le lait

Yummm...boy, do I love Tetra-Briks and UHT.


The state of missionaries who have met Cher Jean.

les Larry's

Cornflakes which sustain French missionaries when les baguettes get too expensive.

Lazy Creatures

Stuff you study, or the person(s) you study with, every morning.


Another way to avoid les Larry's.

le livre d'or

Comes in two varieties:
1) brimming with names of people who can't remember who you are
2) vide.


A competitor with Ungaro for Elders' attention.

le Macdo

Where missionaries generally don't eat, and where the French think you always eat.

le machin

Something, but I don't remember what.

le mangez-vous

A rendez-vous with dinner, quite often excessively long, as per French eating habits.

la méthode de l'engagement*

Patented way to make the Gospel palatable to the French, whose patent ran out in 2004.

le métro

1) Where les contrôleurs hang out.
2) Source of a mysterious ailment which makes it impossible to raise the corners of your mouth. (Note: this is also true of the Washington DC subway system, which is curiously enough also called "Metro".)

le minitel

The most useful device known to man....a perfect way to get that address that your contact forgot to give you.

la mobylette

A brand of lawn mower French teenagers wear between their legs to get around on, noted for sonic booms.

le molar-off*

Ritual practice involving 50 Lu «Granola» cookies and a liter of lait, with more apostate lines of authority than all of Christianity.

la Normandie

See la pluie.


A very useful adjective, particularly for describing spending hours riding in la pluie to that rendez-vous in la campagne which is inevitably raté.

le Nutella

Food of the Gods. A very good complement to les baguettes or les crêpes.

«Oh là là!»

A common reaction to Lou or Ungaro.

«Ow har yieu?»

The first English sentence eager children will practice on you with unwavering gusto.

le païen

1) What you don't want to have constituting the other half of l'équipe.
2) What you don't want to have constituting your half of l'équipe, either.

le papa

Someone who ostensibly knows how to go everywhere le bleu doesn't.

le pâté

OK, so this is the REAL French answer to Spam (not to be confused with the next two items).

les pâtes (singular: la pâte)

What missionaries always eat who don't have mangez-vous and what they sometimes eat when they do.

la pâtisserie

Source of great joy...another place to get rid of deux euros.

«Personne n'est là!»

The classical French dilemma between le nihilisme and l'existentialisme comes to a door near you.

la plaque

1) Object of great value to les enfants who won't keep les mimines off yours.
2) How missionaries remember who they are.

la pluie

Though it falls on the just and the unjust, the just get wetter in la Bretagne and la Normandie.

la polygamie

The first thing any French person knows about les Mormons.

le porte-à-porte

An excellent way to get to know what the French think about les TJ.

la Poste

1) Useful means of sending things.
2) Less useful means of receiving things.
3) See la grève.

la préfecture

1) 99.9% of the time: Where you don't get la carte de séjour.
2) 00.1% of the time: Where you do get la carte de séjour, but wind up paying in French S&H Green Stamps which you can only get from swarthy men in smoke-filled tabacs.
3) 100.0% of the time: Purgatory.

le prez (le président)

All-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful. Keeps les «apes» under control.

le quai

1) Something from whose bordure you éloignez yourself.
2) Where to practice le contacting à vingt-cinq secondes.


The Belgian-French way of fighting the cultural imperialism of le Macdo.


An omnipresent oral question mark, right?

la raclette

Best eaten without le chien sur la table.


Verb, past participle: raté. What happens to rendez-vous all too often. Usage: "We pedalled 23 kilometers to get to our rendez-vous in Bled-lès-Nulle-Part, and wouldn't you know it...Raté!"

le réfugié

A person with a truly insurmountable objection.

«Je regrette, c'est gentil...»

Common Swiss answer to a door approach.

le renard argenté* (The Silver Fox*)

A/k/a "Hebe". Affectionate name for President Thompson.

le rendez-vous

Called a discussion, charla, etc. in other missions.

le RER

A quick way to avoid Paris.

le rond-point

1) The revolutionary French discovery to replace le feu.
2) Where to spend two hours on le vélo à la Chevy Chase.

(le) salut

Despite being the most common greeting in France, something few French seem to take interest in.

le scoring

Victory for le chien.

la secte

What many French think that every non-Catholic religious organization is, corresponds to "cult".


1) How to go from ville to ville.
2) See la grève.

ma soeur

What many French like to call LDS nuns.

les statistiques

See les chiffres.


What to say to le chien.

le télé

Electronic picture box and source of all which is evil and unclad.

les TJ (les Témoins de Jéhovah)

Who many French think that our non-Catholic religious organization is.
Common French answer to a door approach: «Vous êtes les Jéhovahs?»

36 15 (trente-six quinze)

The French equivalent of 1(900). Best advice: look the other way.

le trottoir

A place where people drive and park, distinguished from la rue by les crottes.

le truc

Something else that I can't remember what it is.


A brand of perfume, which is something no Elder knows.

le vélo

The sole means of transportation outside of the Paris area.

le verlan

L'argot for advanced students.


Permanent state of missionaries' mailboxes who haven't yet met "the one".

la viennoise

First thing you should use your deux euros on at la pâtisserie.

la vierge

1) What les bleus think Nephi's brothers hit him with...adding much interest to le rendez-vous.
2) (Capitalized.) Whom the French venerate from time to time.

la ville

Everywhere that isn't la campagne.

un bon vin blanc

1) Mystic incantation to practice nasal vowels on.
2) What Intermarché tries to sell missionaries every day through the mail.


Apparently, a very complicated grammatical construction in French rivalling le passé subjonctif, often misinterpreted as "Please ignore the next sentence."

le VTT

The only kind of vélo for missionaries in the know.

«Wad tie me zit?»

Another sentence from the best-selling L'Anglais pour les Gosses.

le YOP

Nectar of the Gods, goes well with cereal.

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