Saturday, December 06, 2008

Le Singe Qui Ne Chantait Pas

I'm currently watching the excellent French TV series Engrenages ('Spiral' in English), which is great on a number of levels: it's subtitled, so I can follow the story even when the Blue Kitten is yelling; it's a well written, well plotted and thoroughly gripping thriller along the same sort of lines as State of Play; it's got a feisty lady chief inspector as its lead character; and it's teaching me some interesting new vocab.

Here are just some of the words and phrases I learned last night:

casser la gueule à quelqu'un - to smash someone's face in

le proxénétisme - pimping

poignarder - to stab

une pute de luxe - a high-class hooker

se faire cogner - to get beaten up

Recently I've also started talking to the Blue Kitten in French, in the vague hope that she might be bilingual by the age of two.

These two developments are unrelated, though, and so they shall remain. Otherwise who knows what might happen?

[Wibbly lines descend across the screen...]


LE CHATON BLEU, a small-scale crimelord, has lured RATTLY MUNKLE, a hapless stuffed monkey, into her evil crime lair. A BURLY HENCHMAN looms menacingly in the background.

CHATON BLEU: Tu me dis la vérité ou tu vas te faire cogner, singe.


CHATON BLEU: Parle-moi, espèce de hochet anthropomorphique!


CHATON BLEU: Sinon je vais te casser la gueule!


CHATON BLEU: Oh, qu'il est dur, celui-ci!


CHATON BLEU: pourtant doux. Dur-doux. Doux-dur...doux-doux...doudou...


BURLY HENCHMAN: Is it time for your nappy change?



Tim Footman said...

Oooh, please teacher, I already knew casser la gueule, and I've only got an O-level.

But is it anything to do with dégueulasse [= disgusting], which is what Jean-Paul Belmondo says to Jean Seberg at the end of A Bout de Souffle?

Vicus Scurra said...

More likely to be confused at the age of two would be my guess.

John Cowan said...

Wow, this made me (and even my wife, who has no French) laugh our heads off. It truly deserves to be immortalized in the sidebar. A few notes:

Proxénétisme is rather more technical and legal than pimping is: see the discussion in the comments here.

If you're serious about wanting a bilingual child, you pretty much have to talk nothing but French where she can hear (not just to her), or she'll figure out that you're just as good with English as with French, and discard French with scorn. ("Speak French when you can't think of the English for a thing; it saves time," as the Red Queen said to Alice.)

As for the period of language confusion, it rarely lasts long, and there is all kinds of evidence that bilingual children do not suffer for it in either of their languages in anything but the shortest possible run.

Sylvia said...

Never had any of that in Cours Illustre'. Except for the monkey.

patroclus said...

Tim: blimey, what kind of school did you go to? And 'la gueule' is slang for 'mouth', and 'dégueuler' means 'to vomit', so you can see what they have in common. Now I can't stop thinking about Jonny Lee Miller saying "ur l33t" to Angelina Jolie at the end of Hackers, which is possibly not in the same league as A Bout de Souffle.

Vicus: You may be right, particularly as I only speak French to her when James is away (too self-conscious otherwise), which isn't all that often.

John: Glad it made someone other than me laugh. I was going to have the Blue Kitten sa 'Putain, qu'il est dur, celui-ci' for added authenticity, but I couldn't bring myself to put a swearword into my baby's mouth, even in jest. My French isn't good enough to produce a bilingual child, but hopefully she'll be able to pick uo enough to get by in France when we go to visit her grandad.

Sylvia: Did you have Thierry, who lived in an HLM in Créteil and liked to have five sugars in his tea?

Smat said...

I remember Thierry! School French appears to have moved on a bit since then thankfully.

Christopher Campbell-Howes said...

EXT SUNLIT TERRASSE, DAY. Distant chirruping of cicadas:

PAPY: Goo-goo, goo-goo

CHATON BLEU: Casse-toi, pauvre con

PAPY: Comment? Goo-goo, goo-goo

CHATON BLEU: T'es débile, mec? Dégage, vieux clébard

PAPY: O puteng bordel de merde

Jayne said...

I envy you. My language skills are limited to being able to order a beer - although I do know how to say that in a surprising number of countries...

Christopher Campbell-Howes said...

Seriously, and to endorse John Cowan's comment, living in France we have come across several families of mixed nationality parentage, for instance where the father is British and the the mother is French, in which the father has spoken to his children in English and the mother in French, not always exclusively, from birth.

The children seem to have no problem separating out the two languages and grow up to be bilingual.

I can't begin to explain it, but it's a wonderful thing.

patroclus said...

Smat: I'm guessing Thierry (and his mum Monique) were invented in order to appeal to inner-city kids who might identify with living in a tower block in a down-at-heel suburb of Paris. Whereas to us growing up in the idyllic rural north of Scotland, they probably didn't seem all that relevant.

Papy: 'Clébard'? I've never heard that one before, will have to go and look it up.

Jayne: Apart from English, I think Spanish is the key one - means you can order a beer practically anywhere in South America, as well as in Spain. Although Portuguese will get you a beer in quite an eclectic variety of places.

Papy: This is what I've heard too. Sadly I don't think my French is good enough to keep it up all the time, though. Probably just enough to confuse her utterly.

Annie said...

See, le chaton bleu is providing blogging inspiration!

Is it the same singe which was dans l’arbre, by any chance?

(Anyway, the only French you really need is Fou de Fa Fa)

Anonymous said...

I don't know any French, but I love this.

Sylvia said...

yes yes yes, it's the Eddie Izzard singe dans l'arbre.
P, I'm not sure about Thierry - I've got the years 2,3 and 4 of the Cours Illustre' so I'll look it up.

This bilingual business. Have gone terribly wrong with my children. I have things thrown at me if I speak to them in Italian. Baby even claims that her autism doesn't allow her to speak anything but English. They went to the Mussolini Montessori and everything. No wonder the voting papers from the Consulate are in English too. I'm not alone. My neice and nephew do that trick of pretending not to understand, so now my parents have completely given up and just speak to them in English. My Italian is rubbish anyway. So much more difficult than French.

vw: lurven. A bit Barry Whiteish for a Sunday evening, I think.

cello said...

Formidable! C'est le chaton(la chatonne?) bleu sur le Klippan rouge.

Very relieved you're not bothering her with pimping and prostitution just yet.

I enjoyed Spiral, but in that French sort of way, just like I 'enjoyed 'Caché ( code for 'kept having to rewind it and ended up feeling a bit thick').

Anonymous said...

From googls translate (yes I'm rubbish)

KITTEN BLUE: You tell me the truth or are you gonna do hit monkey.

RATTLY Münkler:

KITTEN BLUE: Tell me, sort of anthropomorphic rattle!

RATTLY Münkler:

KITTEN BLUE: Otherwise I'll break the mouth!

RATTLY Münkler:

KITTEN BLUE: Oh, it is hard, it!

RATTLY Münkler:

KITTEN BLUE: Dur ... and yet soft. Hard-soft. Soft-hard-soft soft ... ... ... doudou


Burly Henchman: Is it time for your nappy change?


Jayne said...

Yes, Spanish and Portuguese are handy. But I also know the word for beer in French, German, Dutch, Italian, Arabic, Greek, Norwegian and Polish. Not to mention Hindi (beer in Hindi is beer so I'm not going to mention it).

The fact that they're nearly all variations on bier is neither here nor there - if you want a beer I'm your gal. If you want to buy a loaf of bread you'll need someone else (although I do have a very good mime for tampons that's done me great service in at least half a dozen countries...)

patroclus said...

Annie: Hahaha, two excellent videos there. I particularly liked 'le pox de poulet'.

Sylvia: That's a shame - Italian is a very lovely language, and you don't find many non-Italians who can speak it. I have a feeling that my Italian is very, very rusty now too.

Cello: Oui, en fait nous avons deux Klippans rouges maintenant. I get round your problem by not even attempting to follow the plot, and instead looking out for Marimekko lampshades and Le Corbusier chairs, both of which were in evidence in episode 1 of Spiral.

Billy: Ooh, that made me laugh, especially the inexplicable Germanisation of Rattly Munkle's name.

Jayne: Ah, the international language of beer. And, er, tampons.

BiScUiTs said...

Un café au lait, s'il vous plait.
That could come in handy in a TV detective drama, especially if there is a murder in a café.
There's always time for a hot beverage.

Boz said...

There is masses of evidence that having a second language helps a child's education in all sorts of complicated and inexplicable ways. Even a little bit really helps, I'm told.

Which if nothing else is a damn fine excuse for holidays on the continent?

John Cowan said...

A propos de Rattly Münkler:

Google Translate is based on a statistical model of large corpora of bilingual text, so it has a tendency to (over)translate proper names into vaguely corresponding proper names in the culture associated with the other language.

In an English/French brochure, the contact address may be in London for anglophones and in Paris for francophones, causing the program to learn (with Ionesco) that the French for London is Paris. Similar effects cause German references to Austria to turn into English references to Ireland (nearby country, speaking the same language). Before it was changed, the Norwegian phrase "Jeg bor i Kvinesdal" was translated into English not as "I live in Kvinesdal", but as "I live in Hell"!

I notify the Right People at Google when I hear about these things, but they apparently have to fix them pretty much one at a time.

Malc said...

Very funny - and thanks for the phrases. They'll come in dead handy next time I'm stuck in the middle of Le Havre.

patroclus said...

John: Blimey, can that really be true? That's quite fascinating.

Anonymous said...

i tried to leave a long a tedious comment the other day but it doesn't seem to have stuck (do you have a tedium filter?) - so here's another one. xxx
(it was something to the effect that i tried the bilingue thang with the twins and, although they can do gutteral rhotics a treat, they don't seem otherwise terribly linguistically gifted)

John Cowan said...

It's true, all right -- on my honor as a Googler.

You can read about the problems (many of them fixed now) here and here and here and here.

Some of the weirdest effects happen when you try to translate from French (or whatever) and your content isn't actually French, as in the case of "Rattly Munkle".

John Cowan said...

I should add that grandson Dorian now also has an hochet anthropomorphique -- it's also a teething ring, to which the (blue!) monkey is clinging. I promptly christened it Rattly Munkle. Perhaps for purposes of disambiguation I should call him "Rattly Munkle of the New York Munkles"?

The rest of the family has also taken up this name, except of course Dorian himself, who is now pushing nine months and saying "uh-duh" a lot, from which I trust he will not grow up a Simpsons fan. Gotta change him now before he falls back to sleep or closes the laptop lid, whichever comes first.