French Language Blog

Zazie . . . bis!* Posted by on Aug 2, 2016 in Culture, Music, Vocabulary

Zazie isn’t just dans le métro . . . or au cinéma. As promised in last week’s post, this week I’ll talk about another Zazie. And in a throwback to my Potpourri post, also share a random collection of other useful tidbits to keep you motivated and learning French!

Zazie is one of my favorite chanteuse. **  Since releasing her first album Je, Tu, Ils (I, You, They) in 1992, she has released more than a dozen albums (studio and live) featuring her signature combination of politics, feminism, and amazing word play. In 2001, long before growing acceptance of same sex relationships, she released Adam et Yves, a play on Adam and Eve (Yves – pronounced in English like “Eve” is a man’s name . . .) and her Tout le Monde il est beau (Everybody is beautiful), sticks it’s finger in the eye of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the former head of the nationalist Front National political party, simply by running through a more modern list French names. ***

Many of her songs are about strong, independent woman rejecting unhealthy relationships with men. And like l’écrivain (the writer) Raymond Queneau, she is a master of clever use of le français. Femmes téfales (Teflon women) is a play on femmes fatales. Un temps plus vieux, which you could translate as “An older time” (even though that’s not quite the way you’d express that in French . . . it would be more “un temps plus ancien” sounds like “un temps pluvieux” (a rainy time). And songs like Homme sweet homme and Mobile homme play on the similarities between the English word ‘home’ and the French ‘homme’ (man).

Zazie has a youtube channel where you can explore many more of her songs. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I have!

And now for the latest installment of useful vocabulaire! Cette semaine (this week): Le saviez-vous? (Did you know?)

French has two verbs that are commonly translated in English as “to know”: connaître et savoir. And both verbs do mean “to know”, but this is le français, and we all know (ha!) that that means it can’t be so simple! The verb savoir is closest to the simple “to know” relating to facts, figures, and details that you “know”. “connaître“, in its most commmon uses, might be more like “to be aware of or to be familiar with” as in a person or people that you are acquainted with, or subject areas and general knowledge.

Some examples might help.

Je sais ou il habite. / I know where he lives.

Je connais les Duponts. / I know the Duponts.

Je sais lire. / I know how to read.

Je connais l’histoire des rois de France. / I know the history of the French kings.

* The term bis is most often used in addresses, but can in more general terms be used to refer to a follow up item on an agenda, or as in this case, a blog post!

** While in English it may have for some a specific connotation of smokey lounges and sultry singers, in French chanteuse is simply the feminine form of the word chanteur / singer.

*** Did you ever wonder why so many French people are named Marie, Pierre, Monique, and Jacques? Until 1966, French parents were literally required by law to select children’s names from a specific list of religious saints, historic names, and other officially recognized names. In 1996, the official list was extended to include names from mythology, regional names, and recognized diminutives but it wasn’t until 1993 that the law was updated to allow parents to choose any name . . . but be careful! “Any” doesn’t mean “any”! There is still a review process and names deemed to be too outré (outrageous) can still be rejected.

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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Since my first trip to France at 16, I have been a passionate francophile. I love the language, food, music, art, people, and more that make France and la Francophonie in general such an amazing part of our global community. Having lived in France and studied the language and culture for over 35 years, it is my great pleasure to be able to share a little bit of my deep love with you through this blog.