Terminology – Origin of the word “carreau”

I’ve often wondered about the origin of the word “carreau”.

In petanque, the word carreau refers to the perfect shot, when the thrown boule makes a direct hit on the target boule, knocking the target boule away and exactly taking its place.

Outside of petanque, in everyday French, le carreau means “the square”. It can also be used to refer to square things such as window panes and floor tiles. It can also by extension be used to refer to tiled floors and to floors in general. Laisser quelqu’un sur le carreau is to lay somebody out on the floor, to deck him.

AS_de_carreau_bouleCarreau can also refer to the diamonds in a deck of cards. Hence the name of the famous bronze boule from La Boule Intégrale, the AC — AS de carreau, Ace of diamonds.

Hence also the name of one of the designs in Obut’s Tatou line of leisure boules— the “Card Carreau”.

For a long time I could not make the connection between a square or a tile and a petanque carreau . Then I re-found the collection of Petanque Terminology that Jeff Widen (of the Detroit Petanque Club) had assembled.

The origin of the term is thought to have come from the fighting expression “rester carreau” – “to remain on the spot, to be laid out cold.” “Le carreau” means the “floor” (usually only applied to one that is either tiled or paved).

The idea, I take it, is that when you rester carreau (“stay on the floor”) you drop like a rock to the floor and stay there. Which is what a thrown petanque boule does when it makes a carreau.


4 thoughts on “Terminology – Origin of the word “carreau”

  1. There is also a French expression that says ‘tomber sur le carreau’. Literally in English ‘to fall on a tile, the ground’. In better English: to fall dead on the ground. So, a ‘carreau’ in petanque is a boule that remains ‘dead’ at the spot where it hit another boule.

    • In French ‘tirer’ has two meanings: to pull and to shoot. Why to shoot? It comes from to pull the trigger of a rifle. And that’s shooting!

      In Dutch ‘to pull’ is ‘trekken’. And ‘to shoot’ is ‘schieten’. But the Flemish petanque players follow the French meaning of ‘tirer’ and they say ‘trekken’ if they want to shoot a boule. In The Netherlands we don’t say that, we say always ‘schieten’. Or, sometimes, a Dutch kind of corruption of the French ‘tirer’: ‘tireren’.

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