“ZUT ALORS… SACREBLEU !” and other -shall we say- “seasoned” French expressions

Posted on 26. Oct, 2010 by in Culture, History, Literature, Music, People, Vocabulary

Il y a quelques années (A few years ago), one of my very good old American friends, who by the way will have no hard time recognizing hersacrself when reading this, went to France for the first time of her life, only to discover there that whenever she used the interjections she had painstakingly learned at her French class back in the States -expressions like sacrebleu (not our “(sacrés) bleus“), “sacrés chats“, and “zut alors“- it immediately drew around her a few perplexed stares, a good deal of half-concealed smiles, and even at times, she swore again and again, a non-negligible number of outright hysterical laughs!


Voilà desSacrés Chats” (“Holy Cats”, Will Bullas)

Est-ce bien vrai ? (Is it really true?)

Maybe her somewhat “conspicuous American accent” -let’s put it this way- had something to do with it? In all fairness, I don’t think so.

Mais alors, pourquoi ces réactions ? 
(But why these reactions then?) She wondered.

Tout simplement (Simply)because most of these interjections and expressions, as the French would say, “sont tombées en désuétude“, or, if you will, “have grown very old”, or “have done their time.”

So why are they still being taught in your French class, you may be right to ask?

Should these expressions be completely ignored when teaching the new generations of students learning the new French of the 21st century?

Should we simply expedite these “vieilleries” (“oldies”) on a one-way au revoir ticket to where they belong: Le musée des archaïsmes?

The answer is: Absolument pas ! (Absolutely not!)

Even though you are more and more unlikely to hear nowadays anyone in Paris, Marseille or Lyons interject “Bigre !“, Fichtre ! or “Saperlipopette !“, it is still important for anyone studying the French language to know them and what they mean, because la langue française is by far not limited to its aspect familier (colloquial aspect) in its daily spoken form, like in the argot, but also -what should be seen as paramount above all- includes une dimension intellectuelle as well as un apport littéraire et culturel (a literary and cultural benefit.)

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                                                  Clothilde: “Saperlipopette !

It would be impensable (unthinkable) to read and understand the major works of, say, Alexandre Dumas, StendhalVictor Hugo, Proust, without having a prior knowledge of such basic experssions and interjections.

The same thing can be said about the songs of -pour ne nommer que quelques-uns (to name but a few)- Édith Piaf, Yves Montand, and Georges Brassens —without mentioning the “classic” adventures of Astérix et Obélix, or Tintin and his foul-mouthed Capitaine Haddock!

                                        
Geroges Brassens: No doubt, his favorite French interjection must have been “nom d’une pipe !”
(an Englishman would say “cor blimey” or “bloody hell!”)

Speaking of Brassens, l’auteur-compositeur-interprète (the singer-songwriter), meaning, the artist who writes, composes, and interprets his own melodies and lyrics, has summed up these interjections in one remarkable tour de force called La ronde des jurons, which can roughly be translated as “the round of swear words”, or rather “cusses” instead of “curses”, since the word ‘juron‘ is related to ‘jurer, like the English “to swear” is to “to make an oath” or “to swear to God”, which is found to be reflected in some interjections of clearly religious origin such as “nom de Dieu(“Name of God”, or “Good Heavens”), “Doux Jesus(as in “Sweet Jesus”), and so on.   

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For a full analysis of the “Ronde des jurons“, it’d be worth it to go for une petite visite to the “analysebrassens” website, which invites to découvrir et partager les innombrables petits secrets que renferment les chansons de Georges Brassens (“to discover and share the countless secrets contained within the songs of Georges Brassens.”)

LA RONDE DES JURONS – GEORGES BRASSENS

Voici la ron-
de des jurons
Qui chantaient clair, qui dansaient rond
Quand les Gaulois
De bon aloi
Du franc-parler suivaient la loi
Jurant par-là
Jurant par-ci
Jurant à langue raccourcie
Comme des grains de chapelet
Les joyeux jurons défilaient

Tous les morbleus, tous les ventrebleus
Les sacrebleus et les cornegidouilles
Ainsi, parbleu, que les jarnibleus
Et les palsambleus
Tous les cristis, les ventres saint-gris
Les par ma barbe et les noms d’une pipe
Ainsi, pardi, que les sapristis
Et les sacristis
Sans oublier les jarnicotons
Les scrogneugneus et les bigr’s et les bougr’s
Les saperlottes, les cré nom de nom
Les pestes, et pouah, diantre, fichtre et foutre
Tous les Bon Dieu
Tous les vertudieux
Tonnerr’ de Brest et saperlipopette
Ainsi, pardieu, que les jarnidieux
Et les pasquedieux

Quelle pitié
Les charretiers
Ont un langage châtié
Les harengères
Et les mégères
Ne parlent plus à la légère
Le vieux catéchisme poissard
N’a guèr’ plus cours chez les hussards
Ils ont vécu, de profundis
Les joyeux jurons de jadis

Tous les morbleus, tous les ventrebleus
Les sacrebleus et les cornegidouilles
Ainsi, parbleu, que les jarnibleus
Et les palsambleus
Tous les cristis, les ventres saint-gris
Les par ma barbe et les noms d’une pipe
Ainsi, pardi, que les sapristis
Et les sacristis
Sans oublier les jarnicotons
Les scrogneugneus et les bigr’s et les bougr’s
Les saperlottes, les cré nom de nom
Les pestes, et pouah, diantre, fichtre et foutre
Tous les Bon Dieu
Tous les vertudieux
Tonnerr’ de Brest et saperlipopette
Ainsi, pardieu, que les jarnidieux
Et les pasquedieux

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