Pétanque is reputed to have been invented in 1907 in the village of La Ciotat near Marseille. The name is derived from the term pés tanqués, which in the Franco-Provençal dialect means "stuck feet", because in Pétanque the feet have to remain fixed together within a (small) circle. Pétanque has become so popular that the term Jeu de Boules (game of balls) is often used to refer to it, even though Pétanque is only one of several variants of boules. Many French villages have a special stadium for the game called a Boulodrome.
In recent years we too have taken to the Jeu de Boules in a big way, and a crack team of retired accountants from Much Wenlock is said to be hot favourite for the next World Championships.
I am indebted to an anonymous correspondent who has informed me that the French, always eager to express their affection for Anglo-Saxons and their admiration for our sporting prowess, have paid us a pretty compliment by adopting an English name for one of the accessories used for the game, the thin mat which often needs to be laid down at Boulodromes when the heavy rain so common in the south of France causes the pitch to become too wet for play and may cause pés tanqués. This useful piece of kit comes in sections which are zipped together to cover the entire area, and they call the whole thing a complete Boul’-sheet.