Rats in Paris? No, just ‘big field mice’: Councillor sparks mirth

A councillor has sparked mockery online after suggesting that rats in the city should be renamed and are simple ‘waste control assistants’

Three rats in Paris against a railing
Paris has a rat infestation problem, but the councillor said she prefers to call them 'surmulots'
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A councillor in Paris has sparked mirth online after suggesting that rats in the city be considered as ‘big field mice’ and celebrated for their contribution to rubbish control.

Green councillor Douchka Markovic was speaking at a Conseil de Paris event on July 7, when she was asked about the well-known rat problem in the capital by Paul Hatte (Les Republicains, centre-right-wing).

She responded that she prefers to use the term ‘surmulot’ to describe the animals as it has “fewer negative connotations”, she said.

The word ‘surmulot’ in French loosely translates as ‘big field mouse’ (the words sur, meaning ‘over’ or large, as in ‘oversize’; and mulot, meaning field mouse or mole), but is in reality just another kind of rodent.

This comment provoked laughter in the crowd, but the rest of her answer also prompted mirth.

She said: “[They are] our waste control assistants. We must firstly note the role played by the animals on a daily basis in the sewers, with the evacuation of several hundred tons of waste and the unblocking of pipes.”

She called for more ways to manage the rat population in Paris such as closing up holes that enable the animals to enter older buildings, rather than looking for “lethal methods” of extermination.

Ms Markovic’s ‘renaming’ of rats as ‘surmulot’ also prompted mockery on social media.

One user wrote: “Here’s an ‘over-chair’ (surchaise),” with a photo of a bench.

Another said: “Here’s an over-cat (surchat)”, with a photo of a tiger.

One joked: “To avoid any stigmatising discrimination, the film Ratatouille will be renamed Surmulotatouille.”

While another asked: “So in Paris we no longer say ‘traffic jam’ but rather ‘over-traffic’. Do I have that right?”

Yet another posted a famous photo of the group of musicians known as the ‘Rat Pack’, calling them “The Surmulot Pack”.

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