étage (floor, storey, level)

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In France, the floors are numbered differently, so that the Noble Floor, which is the 2ème étage, is what we would call the 3rd floor in the US. For the ground floor, which the Americans call floor 1, the French have a separate term: rez-de-chaussée.

This can be confusing

Rez-de-Chaussee (Lower Ground Floor) Level with the Ground
Entresol (Ground Floor) – Mezzanine above the ground floor
1er Etage (1st Floor) – 2nd Floor The floor above the ground floor
2me Etage (2nd Floor) – 3rd Floor The Nobel Floor where the wealthy people might live l’étage noble

In France this distinction is between:
2ème étage (3rd Floor): The Noble Floor, high above ground, perhaps with a balcony overlooking the street
(far removed from the dirty plebeian street level)
Rez-de-Chaussee (1st Floor-Ground Floor) “floor-of-carriageway” or “floor-of-roadway”
(right down on the dirty street)

In France, there are two distinct names for storeys in buildings which have two “ground floors” at different levels (on two opposite faces, usually). The lower one is called rez-de-chaussée (lit. “adjacent to the road”), the upper one is rez-de-jardin (lit. “adjacent to the garden”).

The highest floors may have better views, but they are risky, since elevators were only introduced in Paris in the 1870s, and even today in 2012 are still generally tiny, retrofitted, and, as we know from an early experience, highly unreliable.
the 6th floor of a big balcony with a view but one that is not-quite-as-big-and not-quite-as-easy-to-reach as l’étage noble. The highest floor — small dormer windows in the 7th floor, usually — are the maid’s quarters, now often transformed into high-priced but still-small student rooms or studios or added by staircase to the 6th floor “penthouses.”



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