Le Puy du Fou
luh pwee dew FOO. Click below to hear this.
Or something like that. Un puy is a mountain, or a hill, or a high place. It’s common in place names, which isn’t surprising since the terrain goes up and down, up and down.
One might have thought that le puy had something to do with holes in the ground, instead of high places. Un puits, after all, is a well, and is pronounced exactly the same way. They had me fooled, anyway. I figured it was another Old French word. Wrong.
You’ll never guess the real origin of le puy: it’s the Latin podium, which means a pedestal or a little hill (basically a pile of dirt).
And what about le fou? In modern French, that’s a crazy person or a fool (le fou du roi is the king’s jester).
But–another surprise!–this one has nothing to do with insanity, unless you think it’s a crazy project of riding bicycles up hill and down dale for twenty-odd days in order to win a T-shirt. Le fou is a very old word for a beech tree, from the Latin fagus. That word was replaced in the French language hundreds of years ago, by the modern word le hêtre (pronounced luh AY-truh).
And why do we care about this place anyway? Because it’s where the 2011 Tour de France was kicked off. The teams were presented there. It’s an amusement park, of all the odd places, not a town. Does it have beech trees, or a hill? That I don’t know. But I can tell you that pronouncing it without stumbling is an uphill project all the way.
By the way, if you love Le Tour de France, become a fan of the Spk Frnch Facebook page and read the posts there by my cousin Brad Zuke. He’s sending a daily post about the route for the day’s étape stage, with photos. Enjoy!
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