From consulting a number of online English dictionaries, "chez" means "in the home of" or "at the home of" in French. So, for example, "Chez Panisse" translates to "at the home of Panisse".

But, as far as I can tell, everyone treats it to mean "the house of" without any leading preposition. For example, if that's where you were going to dinner, I don't think anyone would say, "We're going Chez Panisse tonight".

If that's the normal English usage, why does every English dictionary define it as "at the home of"? If that were the case, wouldn't "We're going to Chez Panisse," read like "We're going to at the home of Panisse"?

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    "Chez Panisse" is the name of a restaurant. Names get treated differently. If "In and Out" was the name of a restaurant, we'd say "We're going to eat at In and Out", even though we'd never say "We're eating at in my house tonight". – Peter Shor Apr 26 '16 at 23:56
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    "Chez" isn't really a word in US English. Aside from people who speak French, most know it only as a part of a name for a (presumably fancy French) restaurant, and interpret it to mean, roughly, "house of". You can complain all you want, but these are the facts. – Hot Licks Apr 27 '16 at 0:09
  • To English speakers (who don't know French), chez is roughly equivalent to maison. – bib Apr 27 '16 at 0:45
  • I agree with @HotLicks -- chez is not used in English (British English in my case). People are free to insert French/Swahili/Urdu words into an English sentence wherever they want, but it doesn't magically transform them into English words. – TonyK Sep 26 '16 at 19:27
  • Such expressions are used by native English speakers to each other in Ottawa, where there is a lot of French spoken, and almost certainly in Montreal (I am referring only to native English speakers), simply because it is more economical than saying to the home of or something similar, and there is no danger of being misunderstood. – David Handelman Sep 26 '16 at 21:08

I think it may depend on the education/reading level of the speaker. In English, there is nothing wrong with saying "We're having dinner chez the Bakers tonight," or even "... dinner chez Baker", and those usages are the one I come across the most. It wouldn't make sense to say "We're having dinner at chez the Bakers' tonight," when the chez would be redundant.

I've never heard anyone use it with a preposition at all, in fact, though I'll take your word for the fact that some do.

If they use the preposition "to", then they don't understand what "chez" is supposed to be doing in the sentence. "We're going to chez the Baker's tonight," again makes chez redundant.

I suppose some could say, "We're having dinner chez the Baker's house," when house would be redundant. Again, I've never heard it misused that way, but I grant that it probably happens.

If your friends happen to have the surname "Panisse", then there would be nothing wrong with saying "We're going chez Panisse tonight." In my other examples, I avoid using the word "go" because it's ambiguous: it refers both to a future tense construction, as in "I'm going to stay right here", and to travel, as in "Where are you going?" "We're going to the bowling alley."

If you'd like to edit your question to avoid the verb "to go" and proper nouns with the word "Chez" in them, it might result in fewer sidebars. On the other hand, it might result in the question becoming moot, also.

If you have other examples of cases you've observed where the speaker clearly meant "the house of...", as in (for example), "I just watched chez Bakers burn down," meaning, "I watched the Bakers' house burn down", that might help. But in my experience, the dictionaries are correct, and the speaker (in the case of the usage in this last example) would be mistaken.

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    jaxter, do you really know people who say things like "We're having dinner chez the Bakers tonight"? As in, "Pretentious, moi?" I would run a mile. – TonyK Sep 26 '16 at 19:06
  • @jaxter I might be tempted to slap someone across the face if they ever said that. – William Sep 26 '16 at 19:40
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    @William have you never shopped chez Target? – phoog Sep 26 '16 at 19:49
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    @TonyK Well, no more pretentious than using the word, "moi", but among friends who know the meaning, it is self-deprecating, as if to suggest that they know they're pretentious, and they know that makes them slightly abrasive, and they know people make fun of them for it. They're signalling of all this with the choice of "chez". So, it's not really about the simple expectation of hospitality somewhere. It's about making fun of yourself. Everyone understands that they're not actually a character in a 1930's movie, after all. But you can always pretend that you are. – jaxter Sep 26 '16 at 22:32
  • @TonyK (Better get your sneakers on...) To answer your question, I do know people who use the word "chez", but it's reserved for close friends, and mostly those who also speak some French, and are a bit Francophile. I happen to be half-Belgian, so I'm not as uncomfortable with cross-cultural adoption/pollination as most Americans. Europeans are a little more forgiving / indulgent. I think phoog makes a good point, though - it's usually because it's (fake) pretentious that people do it. – jaxter Sep 26 '16 at 22:37

"Chez Panisse" is the name of the restaurant, so you need an additional preposition.

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    Sure, but there are non-proper noun examples as well. If I wanted to jokingly refer to going to my friend Fred's house, I could say I was, "going to chez Fred." I wouldn't say, "I'm going chez Fred." – munificent Apr 27 '16 at 0:00
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    The key word there is "jokingly." The joke is that Fred's place is some fancy establishment called "Chez Fred." – Andy Schweig Apr 27 '16 at 0:06
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    @munificent Maybe you wouldn't say "I'm going chez Fred", but that (see my Answer) is probably due to a confounding of the usage of the verb "go" in the sentence. Would you say "We're playing poker at chez Fred tonight", or "We're playing poker chez Fred tonight"? I've never heard the former used, for my part. – jaxter Sep 26 '16 at 18:44
  • I'm not half-Belgian, but I agree entirely with jaxter here. If someone said, “I'm going to chez Fred tonight” (and Chez Fred is not the name of a French restaurant), then I would definitely be judging them with all my inwardly pompous might. I might (at least half-jokingly) say that I was dining chez Fred tonight, but never that I was going to chez Fred or dining at chez Fred. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 26 '16 at 23:37

We actually don't speak French. That's why that word is only used in proper names (usually of French restaurants).

  • As phoog points out in his comment, "...chez Target" is fairly common usage. I've also heard "...chez Talbot's" ("tall-bohz"). Both are parodies; one parodying those who attempt to downplay the frugality of Target shoppers, and the other parodying the elite (in the speaker's eyes) who shop at Talbot's. – jaxter Sep 28 '16 at 3:29
  • @jaxter Chez is not an English word. I encourage all people who would insist on using 'chez' to just go ahead and speak French. Don't bother with English. – William Sep 28 '16 at 3:49

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