For a brief period many years ago I was at school in Normandy and at break time we would play billes. Under the strict rules, the winner took the loser's billes, which was a big deal at the time. There were some magic words you had to say before playing that meant either that you were playing the strict rules and the loser would forfeit his billes, or that you were just playing for fun and would keep your billes whatever happened.

I can no longer bring those magic words to mind. One of them may have been dégonflé or possibly dégonfle as in on s'dégonfle, hein, but if so I don't know what we said if we were playing the strict rules.

  • 2
    This WordReference.com Q&A says that "playing for fun" (where you give the marbles back) is jouer dégonflé and playing for keeps (where you keep them) is jouer pour de vrai, but I don't know if those are the magic words you remember. Commented Jan 9, 2020 at 2:27
  • 1
    I am now wondering if the other term was fais gaffe - is that possible?
    – JD2000
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 7:25

1 Answer 1


These rules of marbles go back, for me, a long way and can have more or less significant variations. In my case (say from 1966 to 1972), we had three types of games; the hole, the tick and the eye.

For the hole, a more or less flat corner of land with (of course yes) a hole. We agree between participant the number of marbles to play (3, 5, 100, what we want) and if we play "for real" or "for fake". Only for real the marbles change owners. Then everyone puts their marbles on a starting line and, using a flick made with the thumb and forefinger, you must be the first to put all your marbles in the hole. If we win, we postpone all the marbles in play.

For the tick, it is a kind of shooting from far enough (to be agreed between participants) or one wishes to reach a marble placed on the ground using another marble. The first to hit the goal wins the opponent's goal and marble.

Finally, the eye consists in trying to touch a ball placed on the ground using another marble that is placed near his eye and released to hit the goal. If we hit the marble on the ground, the goal, we win that goal. The game is easy but small gain.

As for "la dégonfle", it is indeed a way of saying that I heard like "jouer à la dégonfle", "...à la dégonflette", etc.

I hope that my answer will suit you and that it will be useful to you.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.