Thursday, 23 February 2012


My younger daughter sent me this list, which is meant to show French people how they sound when they speak English - or possibly to instruct them in how to speak English:

Etes-vous prêt ?
Ail ou radis ?
Are you ready ?

The bill

Félicitations !
Qu'on gratte tous les jeunes !
Congratulations !

Passer un coup de fil personnel
Ma queue perd son alcool
Make a personal call

Plus d'argent
Mors mon nez
More money

Joyeux Noël
Marie qui se masse
Merry Christmas

Nous sommes en retard
Oui Arlette
We are late

Attirance sexuelle
C'est que ça pèle
Sex appeal

Le dîner est prêt
Dix nourrices raidies
Dinner is ready

Fabriqué en France
Mais dîne Frantz
Made in France

J'ai fait un bon voyage
Ahmed a l'goût d'tripes
I made a good trip

Le boucher
Deux bouts d'chair
The butcher

Il parle Allemand
Il se pique Germaine
He speaks german

Tu as sauvé toute ma famille !
Youssef vole ma femme au lit !
You saved all my family !

Asseyez-vous sur la chaise
Six tonnes de chair
Sit on the chair

Le sel et le poivre
Sale teint de pépère
Salt and pepper

Né pour perdre
Beaune - Toulouse
Born to loose

Je cuisine
Âme coquine
I'm cooking

Épicerie fine
Délicate et saine

Où est l'épicier ?
Varices de grosseur ?
Where is the grocer ?

Donne-moi de l'argent !
Guy vomit sous mon nez !
Give-me some money !

Prendre le train
Toute ta queue traîne
To take a train

It reminded me of the wonderful Colin Crisp, who taught me French in first year at the Australian National University (another day I'll tell the exciting story of when he lost our French proses) and who also showed us this book, which contained recently discovered medieval French texts:

This was one of the poems it contained, with its accompanying explanatory footnotes:

Un petit d'un petit [1]
S'étonne aux Halles [2]
Un petit d'un petit
Ah! degrés te fallent [3]
Indolent qui ne sort cesse [4]
Indolent qui ne se mène [5]
Qu'importe un petit d'un petit
Tout Gai de Reguennes. [6]

1. The inevitable result of a child marriage
2. The subject of this epigrammatic poem is obviously from the provinces, since a native of Paris would take this famous old market for granted.
3. Since this personage bears no titles, we are led to believe that the poet writes of one of those unfortunate idiot children that in former times existed as a living skeleton in their family's closet. I am inclined to believe, however, that this is a fine piece of misdirection and the poet is actually writing of a famous political prisoner or the illegitimate offspring of some noble house (the Man in the Iron Mask, perhaps?)
4 & 5.Another misdirection: obviously it was not laziness that prevented this person from going about and taking himself places
6. He was obviously prevented from fulfilling his destiny since his is compared to Gai de Reguennes. This was a young squire (to one of his uncles, a Gaillard of Normandy) who died at the tender age of twelve, of a surfeit of Saracen arrows before the walls of Acre in 1191.

(The poem is best read out loud).


  1. An old, old genre. I believe that "Pas de l'Rhone que nous" was popular among the GIs of WW II--at least I heard it from my father. (Transcription available upon request.)

    1. Transcription hereby requested.

    2. "Paddle your own canoe", which I gather was an expression current back in old days.

    3. Thank you, George, although I was actually hoping for a full four verses of song - was there any more, do you know?