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 – placing the circle and throwing the jack, throwing the boules, and the agreement of points.

The most literal English translation for the French noun mène is “direction”, as in— During a mène the teams play in one direction, and then during the next mène they play in the other direction.[1] The English version of the FIPJP rules translates mène as “end”, borrowing from curling terminology in which an “end” is defined as “A portion of a curling game that is completed when each team has thrown eight stones and/or the score has been decided.” Compare this to the explanation in 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 FIPJP’s choice of “end”, however, is regrettable. Very few people are familiar with curling terminology, and using “end” this way 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 necessary to know the precise definitions of the start or the end of a mene.

  1. 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.
     
  2. 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 

Note that answers to these two questions are NOT related, and are NOT to be found in the same set of rules.

Regarding the first situation, the FIPJP rules say that a mene starts with the successful throw (or placement) of the jack. The word “successful” here is important. Suppose that Bob throws the jack, but he throws it too far, and then the time-limit is announced. The mene is NOT considered to have begun because the jack has not yet been thrown (or placed) successfully.

The second situation does not involve the FIPJP rules of petanque at all. It is part of the rules for conducting time-limited games. These rules are set by the organizers of the competition, and different competitions may have different rules. 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.

[1] 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.”

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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.

    Notes:
    # 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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