Ten things (besides bread) that the French call a ‘baguette’

Hi guys, just a quick language observation here:

Did you know that the French word baguette doesn’t just mean a long and delicious piece of bread?

No. It means much more. And I learned this after someone offered me baguettes in a sushi restaurant in Paris, referring to chopsticks.

So imagine my surprise when I actually looked up baguette in a dictionary and found that there are way, way more definitions.

For example, it turns out baguette can mean anything from a drumstick for a drummer to a magic wand for a magician (baguette magique). The Larousse dictionary says d’un coup de baguette magique is “as if by magic”.

And this is only the beginning.

A conductor uses a baguette to lead an orchestra (a baton in English), the side trim on your car is a baguette de protection, and a stick of incense is a baguette d’encens.

If you enjoy using a little French slang, you can call someone’s legs baguettes (tu as vu mes baguettes? Have you seen my legs?)

It isn’t over yet.

Ever seen those people who point a stick to find water… that stick is a baguette too. It’s a baguette de sourcier (or a divining rod in English).

divining rod

You can even say a sentence like “her hair is as straight as baguettes” if it’s really, really straight (elle a les cheveux raides comme des baguettes).

And lastly, if someone “leads with a baguette” (mener à la baguette) it means they lead with an iron fist.

According to my count, that’s ten different things that are called baguettes (they’re all in bold above). There you are.

So what have we learned from this? Not much, admittedly, other than that you could use the word baguette for any stick-shape object and probably get away with it.

Now, I wonder how you’d say: As if by magic, he could eat his French bread with just one chopstick…

If you like these unusual language observations, you will probably like this one: 30 things I didn’t know about the French language until I moved to France.

5 thoughts on “Ten things (besides bread) that the French call a ‘baguette’

  1. Bonjour,
    je dis “bâton d’encens” et non baguette d’encens.
    n’oublions pas les baguettes de tambour
    et pour rire, attention ne pas confondre baguette et braguette (mdr)
    j’aime beaucoup votre site et désolé de ne pas répondre en anglais (7 ans d’allemand) et merci Google pour les traductions
    Bonne journée

  2. I’d like to propose that we should simply abandon our English language (American?) concept that baguette is a word that EQUALS that type of bread. Instead, since every word in every language exists as sort of a cloud of similar meanings, we can easily find that baguette means something more like “stick.”

    That being said, we can applaud the humor inherent in calling a piece of bread a stick!, Then the other meanings you cite simply fall in line with the conceptual cloud that is the French word “baguette.”

    When Americans refer to their car as their “wheels,” they’re not trying to say their car is black and round. It’s a bit more esoteric than that, and it’s similar to calling that bread a baguette.

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