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French Music – Juliette Greco Posted by on Aug 27, 2019 in Culture, Music, Vocabulary

Juliette Gréco, whose career spanned more than 70 years, is an emblematic star of French cinema and song. She interpreted songs by artists from Jacques Brel to Serge Gainsbourg … and even had a romantic relationship with the American Jazz legend Miles Davis.

Little French Songs

As France’s former first lady Carla Bruni reminded us, the French are famous for songs that tell stories. This song, encore une histoire d’amour celle-là (another love story this one), as she tells us, from Juliette Gréco, is a perfect example … and happens to be full of easy-but-useful vocabulary and examples of some useful grammar points.

Un petit poisson*, un petit oiseau A little fish, a little bird
S’aimaient d’amour tendre Loved each other tenderly
Mais comment s’y prendre But what to do/how to proceed
Quand on est dans l’eau When one is in the water
   
Un petit poisson, un petit oiseau A little fish, a little bird
S’aimaient d’amour tendre Loved each other tenderly
Mais comment s’y prendre But what to do/how to proceed
Quand on est là-haut When one is up there
   
Quand on est là-haut When one is up there
Perdu aux creux des nuages Lost in the hollow of the clouds
On regarde en bas pour voir One looks down to see
Son amour qui nage Their love swimming
   
Et l’on** voudrait bien changer And one would gladly transform
Au cours du voyage In flight
Ses ailes en nageoires Their wings into flippers
Les arbres en plongeoir The trees into diving boards
Le ciel en baignoire The sky into a bathtub
   
Refrain Chorus
   
Quand on est dans l’eau When one is in the water
On veut que vienne l’orage*** Wishing that a storm would come
Qui apporterait du ciel To carry from the sky
Bien plus qu’un message More than a message
Qui pourrait changer d’un coup That would change in an instant
au cours du voyage  In the course of things
Des plumes en écailles Feather sinto scales
Des ailes en chandail Wings into a sweater
Des algues en paille Algae into straw
   
Refrain Chorus

* Reminder: In French, adjectives usually come after the noun that they modify (une voiture rouge, un livre interessant … a red car, an interesting book). Certain adjectives though come before the noun. See here for a description of the rules.
** Sometimes you’ll find that little l’ showing up before on. This previous post explains some of the reasons why … including because sometimes it just sounds right!
*** 
This is an example of the French subjunctive. You can find lots of info about the subjunctive in earlier posts including this one.

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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Lise: Maybe not always. Paris has ways of making people forget. / Jerry: Paris? No, not this city. It's too real and too beautiful. It never lets you forget anything. It reaches in and opens you wide, and you stay that way. / An American in Paris


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