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 and , 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!

Lessons in French lyrics

It’s probably not an academically approved way to learn a language, and the ultimate result will probably not be a working vocabulary I can use in everyday conversation, but I gotta say: it’s great fun trying to translate Quebecois trad lyrics word by word and phrase by phrase. It’s like the songs are in CODE, and I have to break the code!
And so far I have learned the following things:
One, like most Celtic music, Quebecois trad falls into the three general categories of Whiskey, Sex, and Death. And many songs will fall into all of these categories at once.
Two, there are a surprisingly large number of ducks in these songs. This is not so strange in a song about hunting, but in a song about a wedding night?! I pointed at the Charbonniers’ “Lundi Mardi Jour de Mai“, and she explained it was a song about a wedding, and then promptly went “buh?!” when she realized the happy couple had ducks right next to their bed. Quackez-vous, baby! Quackez-vous.
Three, French makes even not-work-safe phrases like ‘va te faire’ sound awesome in front of a 69-piece orchestra. Look it up, Internets! And then just imagine the English equivalent in front of an orchestra!
Four, some tiny bits of vocabulary I haven’t hung out with since college are suddenly trying to get back in touch. Why hello there, pronouns! How’s it going, conjugation of être? And you guys have brought me a few more verbs, too! How nice of you!
And now, Internets, I give you a sampling of critical verbs I am picking up from my study of the lyrics of Le Vent du Nord, Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer, and La Volée de Castors!

  • être: to be
  • avoir: to have
  • tuer: to kill (useful for all songs in the Death category)
  • aimer: to love (category Sex)
  • boire: to drink (category Whiskey)
  • jouer: to play
  • chanter: to sing
  • danser: to dance

So yeah. I’m still at the point of most of these lyrics parsing in my brain as ‘blah blah blah’ (only prettier than that, because, y’know, French), but comprehendible phrases are starting to pop out at me. Like ‘rejoindre mon bataillon’, or ‘ouvrez, ouvrez la porte, mon père, si vous m’aimez’.
(Which is also in a fun song about a girl who apparently thinks nothing of freeloading off a young captain who takes her to a fancy hotel in Paris and wines and dines her. And she fakes her own death, and after three days begs her father to let her out of the tomb.
Either that, or else she’s a zombie. I’m not sure which!)
So yeah. Maybe not a working vocabulary, but if you need somebody to sing about what an asshole the son of the king is for shooting a shepherdess’ white ducks? I’ll be your girl!