Friday, 18 March 2011

Paris Peculiar ~ 'Macaroon And Croissant Loonies?'

POSTED IN:  ~ PlacesCuriosities ~ Buildings ~ 6th

Macaroon And Croissant Loonies?

My original question on the Paris Photo Quiz was:

"No.4, OK, but MACL? What's that about"

As I said on the quiz, and just to make it a little trickier, there is more than one way to approach this.

The literal version is interesting but not particularly amusing. Happily, there is a naughty version too! Anyway.

Anyway, to put it in context, you may, if you're the eye-raising type, see these four letters, MACL, generally in a fancy little plaque, up high on the ground floor wall (OK, first floor USAers) on certain more imposing buildings in a couple of the central city quarters. But what do they mean?

We're back in the 18th century and you're right if you doubted my Macaroon And Croissant Loonies interpretation of the abbreviation. In fact, in those days, the concept of insurance was well developed in the maritime world and was starting to be developed to allow people to protect their buildings against disasters such as... fire.

I'd like to know if insurance against flooding was also an option, given the regular Seine uprisings, which occured roughly every 25 years apparently.

So some houses were starting to advertise, or just show off about the fact that they were, indeed, insured against fire, and stuck plaques up to this effect. 'MACL' stands for Maison Assurée Contre l'Incendie, or house insured against fire.

As I said, we're deep in the times of Louis XVI before the 1789 Revolution, and whilst the King is struggling not to lose his head, wifey Marie-Antoinette is no longer the most popular of queens either.

Revolutionary Sans-Culotte wags decided that MACL would be better interpreted as 'Marie-Antoinette Cocufie Louis', or Marie-Antoinette cheats on (cuckolds) Louis. Sans-Culotte is a derogatory aristocratic term for the revolutionaries who couldn't afford the flouncy knickers worn by the the upper-crust, meaning literally 'without pantaloons'.

But the story doesn't end there. During the restauration of the monarchy between 1814 and 1830, another meaning is invented for these four functional letters: 'Mes Amis, Chassons Louis' (my friends, let's kick out Louis), with the last of the Louis kings, the 18th, being the brunt of the joke this time.

Keep your eyes peeled for other fascinating plaques on the walls of the city (and here on Paris If You Please) and let me know what you find - there's quite a few if you look.

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* I run Photo and Curios Weeks and Tours in Paris, and also manage a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. I write an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, run a Meetup group for Paris lovers, and even contribute to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what I get up to out there...

© 2011 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, comments and requests are always welcome! J

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