Terminology – What is a mène (end)?

A mène (pronounced like the English word “men”) is the petanque equivalent of a round in boxing or an inning in baseball. Roughly speaking, a mene consists of three activities – throwing out the jack, throwing the boules, and the agreement of points.

The official FIPJP rules do not define the word mène. A good explanation is provided by the 1971 Canadian Petanque Federation rules booklet–

When all of the players have played all of their boules, we say that they have played a mène. A game is composed of whatever number of mènes is necessary for one of the teams to score a winning number of points.

The French word mène, when used as a verb, means to lead, to go to, to take to, to conduct.

Cette porte mène à la cave.
This door leads to the cellar.
This door goes to the cellar.
This door takes you to the cellar.

When mène is used as a noun— la mène— the most literal English translation is probably “a direction”, as in—

This door is the way to the cellar.
This door is the direction to the cellar.

The FIPJP rules are designed for tournaments in which players play back and forth on marked rectangular lanes. During one mène they play in one direction. During the next mène they play in the other direction.

The FIPJP’s English version of the the rules translates mène as “end“. The most likely reason for this choice of words is that it is borrowed from curling terminology. The World Curling Federation defines “end” as “A portion of a curling game that is completed when each team has thrown eight stones and/or the score has been decided.” Despite this precedent, the choice of “end” as a translation of mène is unfortunate. Very few people are familiar with curling technical terminology. Using “end” this way isn’t idiomatic English, and it leads to such unfortunate locutions as “the end of the end”.

A case can be made for translating mène into English as frame. “Frame” is used, for instance, in American bowling and in bocce. (See Mario Pagnoni’s The Joy of Bocce, 4th edition, p. 34).

Round” (as in: a round of drinks, a round in a boxing match) is probably the most natural English translation of mène, and many Anglophone petanque players refer to mènes as “rounds”.

In our opinion, the best way to deal with the word mène is to treat it as a petanque technical term and not to translate it at all. Every sport has its own specialized terminology for the subdivisions of a game. Tennis has sets, baseball has innings, boxing has rounds, football has quarters, bowling has frames. Why shouldn’t petanque have mènes? We can make one concession to English-language spelling conventions— we can omit the accent on the è and write simply “mene“.

When does a mene start and finish?

There are two situations in which it is important to know the precise definitions of the start and end of a mene.

  1. In time-limited games, when you hear the whistle (bell, whatever) signaling the end of the time-limit. At that point you may need to decide whether the last mene in progress has finished, or whether a new mene has begun yet.
  2. When a player arrives late. A late-arriving player cannot join the game while the current mene is in progress. He must wait until the start of the next mene before he can join the game.

Note that the FIPJP rules say nothing about when a mene finishes. In the FIPJP rules, the only important concept is when a mene starts. The FIPJP rules say that a mene starts with the successful throw of a live jack. The word “successful” here is important. Suppose Bob throws the jack, but he throws it too far, and before he can throw it again the time-limit is announced. The mene is NOT considered to have begun because the jack has not yet been thrown successfully.

Competition organizers, or national federations, may have their own special rules about when a mene starts and ends during time-limited games. Popular choices include—

  1. A mene is considered to start after the first boule of the mene has been thrown.
  2. A mene is considered to start after the last boule of the previous mene has been thrown.
  3. A mene is considered to start after the points have been decided, at the end of the previous mene.

The bottom line is that if you are playing a time-limited game in a competition, you need to find out what the rules are for that competition.


2 thoughts on “Terminology – What is a mène (end)?

  1. Many thanks to Jules Lenoir for his very interesting and well-expressed entry on “What is a mène?”.

    I’m a freelance translator from Ireland, but based in Marseille, the world capital of pétanque, just round the corner from La Ciotat, where the game (or at least its modern version) is said to have been invented. I do a lot of French to English translation concerning pétanque, and I’m often faced precisely with the problem of translating “mène”. I know what mène means (apun my word!! 😉 but it’s true that translating it as “end” or as “round” causes confusion.

    I agree that, theoretically, “frame” (as in billiards, pool or snooker) would be a good translation of “mène”.

    Or, taking inspiration from “frame”, perhaps we could say “circle” for “mène”, referring to the circle that is marked or placed on the ground at the beginning of each “mène” (just as the physical frame is placed on the table when starting a frame of billiards, etc.).

    Similarly, “hand” (as said in card games) is a close equivalent of “mène”.

    Also, in some ways, it would be good to translate it as “game”, as in tennis, as opposed to “set” and “match”. In this case:

    • “game” would correspond to “mène”,
    • “set” would correspond to “partie” (the stage that is won when one side reaches 13 points), and
    • “match” would correspond to a “match” or “rencontre” (or whatever it’s called in French – see below ##) that consists of a number of “parties” or “sets” (often 3 “parties” in this part of the world, unless otherwise stipulated).

    But of course, the word “game” can also cause confusion, too!

    So, for mène – partie – match (##), we could say:

    • circle (or frame or hand) – game – match
    • circle (or frame or hand or game) – set – match

    There’s no simple solution!
    In written translation into English, depending on the context, etc., I sometimes have to “cop out” (#) by writing “end” in inverted commas, or else “mène” followed by “end” in brackets/parentheses.

    # cop out: in British & Irish English, this means to avoid facing a difficulty squarely; we could also refer to ducking a question, dodging a question, or dodging an issue – I’m never sure whether Americans use such terms!)

    ## Please correct me if I’m wrong, but, as far as I know, strangely enough, there is no official or specific “technical” term in French for a match between two individuals or teams (e.g., corresponding to a match in tennis, consisting of several sets). French people often say “rencontre” (=encounter), etc. for a match, but I can’t think of any really specific term, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard the word “match” being used in French in the context of pétanque, whereas it is used in French vocabulary of soccer football and other sports.

    “Curiouser and curiouser!” 😉

    Peter McCavana (Marseille)

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