Tag Archives: french

Tri-lingual Hobbit re-read: Chapter 5 (Post 1 of a few)

I am so, SO overdue to continue this that it’s not even funny! But since I definitely want to get this done before An Unexpected Journey comes out in December, and because my language geekery is wanting the love, let’s dive into Chapter 5, shall we? Bring on the riddles in the dark!

This won’t be the whole chapter, but it’s a start, and I’ll keep chipping away at this as I can!

Continue reading Tri-lingual Hobbit re-read: Chapter 5 (Post 1 of a few)

The things I learn from Quebecois music

I’ve been having great fun, O Internets, learning that yeah, Quebecois trad is pretty much only a skip over from Celtic trad in general when it comes to the overall themes that show up in the songs. As I have frequently joked, the themes of Celtic music are Whiskey, Sex, and Death, and a lot of that applies to Quebec trad as well–though you could make a decent case for Religion also being a theme of the genre, in this case, and for swapping out Whiskey for Wine!

With that in mind, I have been taking note of overall character archetypes and themes I’ve spotted in songs I’ve been trying to translate, or which I have been learning off of translated lyrics from various bands’ websites or from lyrics wikis. I present for your amusement and edification the following things I have spotted in Quebecois trad music:


Band members (inserting themselves into their own songs)
Belles (sleeping)
Belles (waking up)
Belles (who are daughters of rich fathers, and pretending to be daughters of the town executioner)
Belles (who want their lovers to murder their mothers)
Belle (who really seriously want their parents to BACK OFF ALREADY when it comes to their chosen galants)
Belles (with unfortunate choices in galants who do not clue in when they’re supposed to making with the snogging)
Dragons (who are actually human soldiers as opposed to mythical giant lizards)
Fishermen (who have issues with their boats tipping over)
Galants (who may or may not be wasting their time trying to win the affections of les belles)
Galants (who are kind of thick-headed when it comes to seeing opportunities to snog their belles in the woods)
Husbands (who lament the scolding of their wives)
Innkeepers (who have issues with their tables not having enough legs)
Knights (transformed into dragons by cranky witches)
Lawyers (who belles do not for the love of GOD want to marry, except their fathers are pressuring them into it)
Mothers (who somehow manage to be concerned about their sons even after being murdered and having their hearts removed, Edgar Allan Poe much?)
Parents (cranky about their daughters accepting the affections of unsuitable galants)
Parents (anxious about the chosen dangerous professions of their sons)
Priests (pursued by women)
Priests (pursuing women)
Priests (who are actually disguised gallants)
Princesses (who are doleful about their knights getting transformed into dragons)
Roofers (who have issues with falling off of roofs)
Shepherdesses (cranky about the shooting of their ducks)
Soldiers (successfully wooing belles)
Soldiers (NOT successful at wooing belles)
Sons of kings (who make shepherdesses cranky for shooting their ducks)
Vintners (who are very bad at making wine)
Vintners’ assistants (who are very GOOD at making wine)
Violin players (who are preferred lovers, not that there’s any bias in that song or anything)
Witches (going around transforming nice young knights into dragons, I mean, the NERVE of some people)
Wives (cranky about their husbands drinking too much, messing around with other women, or both of the above)
Wives (who are not terribly good at household chores, and trust me, you don’t want to know what this one girl wound up doing to her cat)
Wives (who want to poison their husbands)


Blue Jays
Dragons (who are actually transformed knights)
Ducks (STILL not sure what the heck they were doing next to the wedding bed in that song)
Nightingales (singing)
Snow Geese


Bedrooms (in which locale the activity of the song ought to be obvious)
Churches (in which priests are frequently pursued and/or pursuing, or which young lovers are illicitly meeting)
Inns (all SORTS of shenanigans going on in inns)
Kitchens (more shenanigans)
Mills (yet more shenanigans, lots of mills in these songs)
Woods (oh my yes with the shenanigans)


Bottles (generally presumed to be containing wine)

Une chose merveilleuse

On my way home tonight I was listening to tracks off the album À la grâce de Dieu by the Charbonniers, and in particular, the song “Allons vidons”. Jean-Claude Mirandette was just getting started on the first verse when I had that delightful double-take reaction of HEY HEY STOP I UNDERSTOOD THAT! I backed up, played that bit again, and sure enough, the sentence “C’est dans notre village / Il y a un p’tit moulin” popped right out at me. “In our village there is a little mill”. It’s a tiny sentence to be sure, but I was inordinately proud of comprehending it.

It’s weird and wonderful to hear a whole sentence in another language, only to understand it just like it’s the language I grew up with. I’m still getting bits and pieces of songs piecemeal, but that I’m getting them in general gives me ridiculous amounts of glee. My main goal is still musical, i.e., to be able to understand the lyrics of all these awesome songs and therefore appreciate them more. Anything I get out of it for conversational purposes is really icing on the cake.

But that said, I was also very pleased to be able to construct this whole sentence all by myself when posting to Facebook: “Je lire les paroles en anglais et français, j’écoute les chansons en français, je peu à peu comprends plus et plus!” Which means, “I read the lyrics in English and French, I listen to the songs in French, bit by bit I understand more and more!”

A good chunk of that sentence did in fact come to me either straight out of songs or else from poking around on band websites. “Les paroles” I know as “the lyrics” from looking at the French edition of leventdunord.com. “J’écoute”, “I listen”, I swiped right out of the lyrics to “Écris-moi”. “Chansons”, “songs”, is all over the place in all the songs in my collection. “Plus et plus” I got out of the lyrics to “Le dragon de Chimay”.

I’m still also heavily using Google Translate–but sometimes I only have to use it to doublecheck gender of nouns or verb conjugation spellings, because some of the words are starting to actually pop into my brain on my own and I just need to doublecheck them. As opposed to having no idea what the words actually are. Progress! I has it!

So yeah! Plan to learn all the Quebecois trad by slow osmosis: proceeding nicely. :D

ETA: userinfodesperance, who is a wise and clever wordsmith apparently in more than one language, advises me that the proper first person singular conjugation for “lire” is “je lis”. This, children, is why you always ask for language help from people who either speak the language or who have studied it better than you have! Also, this is an extremely important verb for a writer and book geek to know!

And now: language geeking with De Temps Antan lyrics!

So, De Temps Antan, right? One of the cluster of fine Quebecois bands I’ve been a-swoon over this entire year, in no small part due to the excellent vocals and bouzouki of M. Éric Beaudry. These boys have a very handy PDF of lyrics posted on their site for their first album. There is not, however, an equivalent PDF for their second, current album, Les habits de papier!

Of the songs on this album, three have muscled their way onto my Francophone Favorites playlist: “La turlutte du rotoculteur”, “Pétipétan”, and “Grand amuseur de filles”. The first has no lyrics as it is a double firebomb of turlutte + bouzouki, fiddle, and harmonica action. <3 I found lyrics for the second, for which I am extremely grateful, given that the chorus is a machine-gun spray of syllables and I had to see them transcribed to begin to try to sing it!

You would know, however, that the one where M. Beaudry sings delicious lead, "Grand amuseur de filles", is the one I can't actually find any lyrics for at all! *^_^*;;

So, I told myself, here's a brilliant idea--let's see if I can listen hard to these lyrics and see if I can identify ANY WORDS IN THEM WHATSOEVER. And since I've gotten involved with other local fans of Quebecois music and we have our little Chanson et langue group going, we're seeing if we can transcribe the lyrics ourselves!

I played with this some today with the help of userinfovixyish and userinfoeeyorerin, who reported to me that the third verse was basically talking about the singer trying to cheer up his sad, sick friend by hauling him off to a strip club, quote, “as you do”. Erin then informed me, and I quote, “I feel this entire song needs to be punctuated with eyebrow waggles, ‘as you do’, or ‘that’s what he said!'” (Which appears to be a very apt description of most of the songs that have gotten onto my aforementioned Francophone Favorites playlist. I keep getting all of the bounciest, stomping-est songs onto this list and then I find out what they mean and I’m all O RLY? >:D )

And I’m amusing myself mightily with the help of Dejah of the Chanson et langue group, who has way more French than I do, though she’s flailing almost as hard as I am on the latter verses of the song.

Here are a random sampling of phrases I was rather stunned I actually heard correctly, based on comparing with Dejah’s much better transcription of at least the initial verses:

  • Chanter la chanson de ma jolie maîtresse (sing the song of my pretty mistress)
  • Deux ou trois amants (two or three lovers) (see previous commentary re: O RLY? >:D )
  • Allons-y donc, allons aux cabaret! (let’s get to the cabaret!)

And I got several scattered other bits of phrases, like “faut la quitter” and “avec un jeune garçon”, and I haven’t yet confirmed but am pretty sure of having heard “je ne fais que pleurer” and “la fleur de la maisson”. Man, trying to transcribe words in a language you barely know is HARD and FUN and Dejah is right–doing this with music is way more entertaining than out of a textbook!

Language epiphanies ROCK

Here’s one of the biggest reasons I have fallen so passionately in love with Quebecois music: part of me has latched onto it with an unconscious reaction of holy crap! There’s a whole extra LANGUAGE over here for music to be awesome in!

Which is really pretty silly of me, given that I already had some decent representation of non-English-speaking music in my collection–not only my early wave of Quebec trad with La Bottine’s Rock and Reel, but also Angelique Kidjo, Habib Koite, and the huge pile of Celtic music I’ve got that’s sung in both Irish and Scots Gaelic. Spanish shows up periodically in my playlists as well; a couple of the tracks by the Paperboys are sung in that. Norwegian is represented by Morten Harket, and although it hasn’t made it into iTunes yet because I haven’t bought an electronic copy of the album, German is represented by Falco (yes, folks, I do in fact have at least a cassette copy of the album that brought the world “Rock Me Amadeus”) and by the German translations of the Beatles songs “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You”. Even Elvis has a couple of non-English or partly non-English songs, with “Santa Lucia” in Italian and the German bridge of “Wooden Heart”.

And all of this, mind you, is music I’ve loved quite well over the years. But something about Quebecois trad–and the music being sung in French–has excited me in a way that other non-Anglophone music hasn’t managed to do yet.

It may simply be the joie de vivre of the music in general, since as you know, O Internets, I respond very ardently to the entire Quebecois trad genre. Podorythmie as a physical expression of music, and the language-transcending, machine-gun fire of a turlutte, seize me in a way that very little other music in my collection does–and yes, this includes even my beloved B’ys and Elvis, an assertion that I do not make lightly.

But part of it is, I think, also just the sheer awesomeness of words. Which, yeah yeah yeah, I’m a writer, words are what we do. I’ve always liked tinkering around with other languages, though, and when I couple this with music that appeals to me so greatly, suddenly French becomes much, much more relevant to my interests! (And man, if I’d known about this music when I was taking French in college, I think I’d have done a lot better on that course!)

I have been thrilled to find and join a mailing list for fans of Quebecois music in the Pacific Northwest to indulge these interests. And starting tomorrow night, in fact, I’ll be participating in a newly forming group to learn French specifically by learning Quebecois songs. Much to my massive delight, the first song we’re going to be working with is “C’est une jeune mariée” by Le Vent du Nord!

This is going to be fun. :D