Les Inconnus: Les Rois de la Comédie Française

Posted on 21. Apr, 2014 by in Culture, Film, People

Photo by stupiditiz.com

Who doesn’t like a good laugh? Le rire (laughter) just makes life better and laughing will put you de bonne humeur (in good humor) even if you’re having a bad day.

Everyone has his or her share of favorite comedians. Some like Jerry Seinfeld and Steve Martin while others may prefer Chris Rock or Ricky Gervais. However, there are very few comedians as versatile as Les Inconnus (The Unknowns). Les Inconnus was a group of three French comedians that became célèbre (famous) in the early 1990s with a TV show called La Télé des Inconnus (Les Inconnus TV). Pascal Légitimus, Bernard Campan and Didier Bourdon had perfect chemistry and they proved it time and time again with their sketchs inédits (novel/original skits) on stage, television or the big screen. Their ability to take on a variety of different personas made them unique in their genre as each comedian adopted très facilement (very easily) a number of accents and characters they made their own.

Les Inconnus produced a prolific number of skits throughout their career. Some of the more popular ones include Questions pour du Pognon (Questions for Dough—pognon is slang for money), a skit based on a real game show called Questions pour un Champion (Questions for a Champion); Douceur de Vivre (Sweet Life) where they assume the role of a French Hard Rock band; and Les Policiers (The Policemen) where they imitate French policemen.

Les Inconnus poked fun at game shows, movies, soap operas, actors, singers, politicians, stereotypes, and anything that was part of la culture populaire (popular culture) at the time. Later in their career, they made several movies such as Les Trois Frères (The Three Brothers) in 1995 and Les Rois Mages (The Three Kings/The Magi) in 2001. Their popularity waned in the late 1990s and they parted ways to embark on solo careers. They stayed in touch over the years and recently announced une réunion officielle (an official reunion) and the release of a new movie called Les Trois Frères: Le Retour (The Three Brothers: The Return).

Pour vraiment apprécier Les Inconnus (To really appreciate Les Inconnus), you have to understand French argot (slang) and you must be familiar with certain cultural references. You also have to watch their skits more than once to catch les petits détails (the little details).

Thanks to YouTube, you can still enjoy many of the skits made by Les Inconnus over twenty year ago. So check out some of their videos and listen closely to the dialog because ils parlent rapidement (they talk fast)!

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

Pan-Pan!: French vs. English Onomatopoeias

Posted on 14. Apr, 2014 by in Vocabulary

Photo by saturnino on Flickr

Photo by saturnino on Flickr

The word onomatopée (onomatopoeia) has been floating around the Internet as of late and I thought it would be fun to devote a post to French onomatopoeias vs. their English counterparts.

What is an onomatopoeia? An onomatopoeia is a word meant to mimic a certain sound made by un humain (a human), un animal (an animal) or un objet (an object). The spelling of an onomatopoeia should sound as close as possible to the actual sound it is trying to imitate.

The word itself comes from two Ancient Greek words: onoma meaning name, and poieo meaning to produce.

So let’s run through a few onomatopoeias in both French and English to give us an idea of how people hear things differently. You’ll find a number of these in both French and English bandes dessinées (comic books), dessins animés (cartoons) and livres pour enfants (children’s books). Keep in mind that there can be several onomatopoeias for the same sound but these are just some of the more popular ones.

The first onomatopoeia will be in French and the second in English.


Human Sounds:

1. Sleep: ron-ron vs. zzzzzzz

2. Sneeze: atchoum vs. achoo

3. Expression of pain: aïe! vs. ouch!

4. Crying baby: ouin-ouin vs. wah-wah

5. Drinking: glou-glou vs. slurp/glug

6. Beating heart: poum-poum vs. thump-thump

7. Hushing: chut vs. shh


Animal Sounds:

1. Rooster: cocorico vs. cock-a-doodle-doo

2. Pig: groin-groin vs. oink-oink

3. Bird: cui-cui vs. tweet-tweet

4. Duck: coin-coin vs. quack-quack

5. Frog: croac-croac vs. ribit/croak

6. Snake: siff vs. hiss/sss

7. Owl: ouh-ouh vs. hoo-hoo


Sounds made by objects:

1. Clock: tic-tac vs. tick-tock

2. Ambulance siren: pin-pon vs. wee-woo

3. Gun firing: pan-pan! vs. bang-bang!

4. Car door slamming: vlan! vs. wham!

5. Water dripping: plic-plic vs. drip-drip

6. Doorbell ringing: dingue-dongue vs. ding-dong

7. Telephone ringing: dring-dring vs. ring-ring


À Table!: The French Meal in Seven Courses (Part 2)

Posted on 07. Apr, 2014 by in Cooking, Culture, Wine

Photo by Chia Yee on Flickr

Photo by Chia Yee on Flickr

In the last post we looked at the first three courses of a typical French meal: l’apéritif, l’entrée and le plat principal. Let us continue our culinary journey by exploring the four remaining courses.

La Salade et le Fromage (Salad and Cheese): The French typically eat their salad after the main course because ça facilite la digestion (it aids digestion). Americans tend to put salad and the main course on the same plate but the French use une assiette propre (a clean plate) for salad. Cheese can be served alongside the salad or can be eaten after and is usually served on its own platter. Sometimes a new bottle of wine is opened depending on the selection of cheeses at hand. And n’oubliez jamais (never forget) that you mustn’t eat cheese by itself, as it is meant to be consumed avec du pain (with bread) at all times.

There are hundreds of different varieties of cheese, some hard, some soft, some smelly, and some wrapped in ashes or nuts. They are made with either du lait de chèvre (goat’s milk), du lait de brebis (sheep’s milk) or du lait de vache (cow’s milk). Don’t be afraid to try a little bit of each.

Le Dessert (Dessert): Near the end of the meal, a new bottle of wine or a bottle of champagne is opened to complement the dessert. This can be anything from pâtisseries (pastries), tarte (pie/tart), flan (a type of custard/crème caramel), or quelque chose avec du chocolat (something with chocolate). The dessert is usually very rich and served sur une petite assiette (on a small plate). This would be the perfect opportunity for a Délice au Chocolat (Chocolate Delight) or Crêpes Suzette.

Le Café (coffee): The meal nears its end with a delicious (and very small) tasse de café (cup of coffee) accompanied by a mint or un petit morceau de chocolat noir (a small piece of dark chocolate). Coffee is either served at the table or in the salon.

Le Digestif (Digestif): If the apéritif is used to open up the appetite, the digestif is used to do the opposite. Digestifs are strong alcohols consumed in very small quantities. French Brandy such as Cognac or Armagnac, liqueurs, fortified wines such as Sherry or even eaux-de-vie (fruit brandy—literally translated waters of life) are popular digestifs. Digestifs are usually served in the salon (living room) and bring the meal to an end.