French Language Blog

Like Coffee, I like my Humour Noir! Posted by on Jan 27, 2011 in Culture, Vocabulary

Garçon! French Dark Sense of Humor, S’il vous plait.

Take a tad bit of unbridled cynisme (cynicism), a little dose of the desperately tragique, mix up with un soupçon (a hint)of the morbidly discomforting, preferablyverging onthe edge of the macabre, or any social “taboo” flavor that tickles your fancy, and you may very well end up with what French Surrealism pioneer and champion André Breton coined seventy years ago as “l’humour noir“…

Predating the Columbine Massacre by more than 200 years, the French “Jacobins” revolutionaries, noted for their infamously unrestrained “humour noir” on a massive scale, may have called this grisly game “Bowling for Guillotine” (read ‘Bowling for Guy-o-Thai-ne’…)

Note that it’s a “darkness” of humor that casts a charming contrast with their presumed Lumières” (“Enlightenment”)!

* * *

Since there’s no specific recette (recipee) to make a joke “à-l’humour-noir“, here are a few French samples—à deguster avec moderation(To savor with moderation)!

* * *

C’est un type qui croise un de ses copains dans la rue(A guy runs into one of his friends on the street.)
– Tiens, Albert, ça va ?(Hey, Albert, how are you?)
– Ben, figure-toi que ma belle-mère est morte, la semaine dernière…(Well, can you imagine that my mother-in-law died last week…)

– Oh non ! Qu’est-ce qu’elle avait ?(Oh no! What did she have?)

– Bof, trois fois rien: une table, un buffet…(Bof, nothing much really: Just a table, a sideboard…)

* * *

You sure do remember Titanic (or Mozinor’s Titanic Park!), non?

Question: Pourquoi lorsque le bateau coule(Why is it that whenever a boat is sinking), on crie ” les femmes et les enfants d’abord”?(People yell: “Women and children first”?)
Réponse: Parce qu’après, les requins n’ont plus faim…(Answer: Because after that, the sharks are not hungry anymore…)

* * *

Un gars va chez son médecin(A guy goes to see the doctor):
– J’ai bien peur d’avoir de mauvaises nouvelles pour vous, monsieur(I’m afraid I have bad news for you, sir)Vous êtes en train de mourir(You are dying.)

Oh non ?! Ne me dites pas ça… Combien de temps me reste-t-il ?(Oh no, don’t tell me this… How long do I still have to live?)

– 10…

– 10 ? dix quoi ? (10? Ten what?) 10 mois ? 10 semaines ? 10 quoi ?!(10 months? 10 weeks? 10 what?!)

– 10…9….8….7…

* * *

– J’ai un copain qui a un boulot formidable(I’ve got a friend who has a great job), il a au moins cinq mille personnes en dessous de lui !(He’s got at least five thousand people under him!)

– Ah oui, qu’est-ce qu’il fait ?(Oh yeah, what does he do?)

– Il tond le gazon dans un cimetière…(He mows a cemetery lawn…)


“Cemetery”—and other “voie sans issue” (cul-de-sac)roadsigns

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– Maman, maman, grand-mère m’a mordue ! (Mom, mom, grandma bit me!)
C’est bien fait. Je t’avais bien dit de pas t’approcher de la cage (Good for you. I already told you not to get close to the cage!)

* * *

A refreshing “noir” remedy to our overly politiquement correct times:

French Surrealist André Breton quotes Poe, Swift, Baudelaire, Kafka, and others, in his “Anthologie de l’humour noir

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  1. Lena:

    Is it possible to write the translation after the whole joke? I get confused the other way.

  2. French Translation Edinburgh:

    I second Lena’s comment… 🙂
    Excellent blog by the way, keep up the good work!

  3. jacqueline michon:

    Great stuff. I’ve been in France for 17 years now and have only just discovered you.


  4. jacqueline michon:

    Great stuff. I wrote a comment yesterday but it didn’t seem to get through.