General Question

Mtl_zack's avatar

Why in french is a live chicken called "un poule" and a chicken that you eta called "un poulet"?

Asked by Mtl_zack (6738 points ) January 31st, 2009
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

9 Answers

TitsMcGhee's avatar

The distinction is that “un poulet” is something cut.

Jamspoon's avatar

Like fillet but not millet…

Although I could very well be wrong and probably shouldn’t have bothered, because after considering it: grains are harvested, which involves cutting. Oh dear.

And further, millet, is quite very possibly most probably not French, though even that fact precludes me.

dynamicduo's avatar

I believe it’s related to the fact that the best tasting chickens are the young ones, whereas the older ones are best left alive to lay eggs. Thus one would eat a baby chicken, une poulet, versus an older chicken, une poule.

The French Wikipedia page on poulet supports my theory. Traditionnellement en France, le poulet est abattu entre quarante et soixante-dix jours. Translation: Traditionally in France, poulet are killed between 40 and 70 days [of life].

More proof, from the French article for Poule, Une poule est le plus souvent la repr├ęsentante adulte femelle de plusieurs esp├Ęces de galliformes, en particulier la poule domestique. C’est la femelle du coq. Translation: A poule is the adult female of many species of chickens, in particular the domestic chicken. It’s the female equivalent of the rooster.

Harp's avatar

“Poule” is too tough too eat without long stewing. It’s featured in stews and soups, like the traditional “Poule au pot” and is used for making chicken stock, “fond de volaille”, where you wouldn’t have anything to gain by using the more expensive “poulet”

says the vegetarian

MrItty's avatar

Same reason a live bovine is called a “cow” and a dead one is called “beef”.

Harp's avatar

It really is, as @dynamicduo says, a question of the age of the bird. At French markets you will see poules lying right alongside poulets. The suffix ”-et” is a diminuative in French, so you’re effectively saying “little hen”.

dynamicduo's avatar

It’s more analogous to veal and beef than cow and beef. Like Harp says, poules aren’t used the same as poulets are in cooking. The meat is tough and needs a long time cooking in a stew or sauce.

Brome's avatar

“Poule” is a specific word for the female animal (a hen if you prefer). “Coq” is the name for the male. And “poulet” is a generic term, more often used when speaking of the meat of the animal destined for food, since it’s hard to tell its sex once it’s cooked and in your plate.

Fun trivia: “poulets” is also the word that French use for “cops”.

TheBot's avatar

“Poulet” is the pre-adult male, not quite a “Coq”, but definitely not a “Poussin” (chick) or a “Coquelet” anymore. Castrate the “Poulet” before it grows into a “Coq”, and it becomes a “Chapon”, which is bigger and has a more tender meat than the coq.

The female counterpart of the “Poulet” is the “Poulette”. Let it grow, it eventually becomes an adult “Poule”. But spay it before adulthood, and it grows into a “Poularde”, a bigger, more tender “Poule”.

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