Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Lost in Translation





I have a mind that by habit wanders off on its own journey, tempted by a tantalizing image, conjured by a single word. I trot off down some twisted path, the thread of my thoughts caught on the bramble bush of some phrase , only to find as I look up that the conversation has all but unravelled behind me and I am happily lost. I can do this in any language but must admit it is far easier in French. As it is my second language I am not hampered as I ma in English by years of being told to concentrate, to focus, and if my mind wanders others simply assume that I have lost the thread and not that I am happily being entertained somewhere far more interesting “dans ma tete”.


Give me a word and it paints a picture in my head far more interesting and bright than any its mundane meaning conveys. Say tree and I am gone amidst the myriad forests of trees I have explored in my travels, the tortured pine by a greek beach that Jacko and I climbed one hot afternoon when we were very young and far to drunk ,the apple trees in the gardens of my childhood, the date palms of upper Egypt all flit like fairies through my head and I pause and stop and ponder, lost, as the French say, “dans la lune” until jolted back to the present where I have to tune back into reality and look attentive and hope no one has noted my absence.


Songs are a constant joy, French ones all seem to hold stories that weave such pretty pictures. They sing so fast and play with words so cleverly that sometimes you need a doctorate to understand them but what matters that to me? I can love a song to tears , dragged into it by the exquisite story it paints only to find later upon closer examination that the real meaning is utterly unrelated to the one I have given it. French songs are like poetry with depths upon depths of hidden meaning each open to interpretation, we discuss them for hours. And then there is the misheard mot which makes them, for me, even more exciting. So many French words have similar sounds and quite different meanings and thus I happily sing my own version only to have it shattered by one of my diminutive Anglo French offspring. Mummy he says he is like a wet dog (chien mouille) nor a crème brulee! Well to be fair Renan Luc’s lyrics are so wonderfully bizarre, this one seems to be about can his Russian security officer girlfriend who beats him up for excitement, stinks of vodka and sings like a bath ( do not ask my why the French sing like baths but just for once believe me he swears she does)I think him feeling like a crème brulee works just as well, its certainly more palatable than a wet dog.







My current favourite is Christophe Maé who wrote and sings “Mon P’tit Gars” for his son. For months I have been singing the line”Je te bois comme un Grande cafe “( “I could drink you like a big cup of cafe”) how exquisite a line, how evocative of parental all consuming love, after all don’t we tell babies we could eat them up they are so yummy? It is such a wonderful expressive image it makes my toes curl with glee, it reminds me of when the children were babies and I nibbled their ears until they giggled. The children were horrified, the French do not devour their children they tell me what he is saying is ”Je te vois comme un grand guerrier” which means “ I see you as a great warrior” hmm personally I think coffee works better, one of those big milky breakfast cups with a pain au chocolat or a buttery croissant would do nicely thank you.



Well you listen to it see what you think http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6f8Grl8Fho&feature=related

14 comments:

muddyboots said...

words have a similar effect on me but only in english l am afraid! music, agree on the frenchness in music sounding more perhaps exotic, am just off for a frothy coffee, the picture has got my taste buds juicing up nicely!!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

You have a wonderful imagination. Some songs do the same to me, there are several which take me away into my own little world bringing me down to earth with a bump when the true meaning is eventually realised. But it's nice to have our own thoughts and interpretation.

CJ xx

Frances said...

Hello Un Peu, it was a delight to read this.

I have been doing my own free form singing recently, while working in the shop's basement stockroom. I sort do my own version of scat singing to various familiar old tunes.

It greatly amuses, and sometimes surprises, the staff to hear my vocals! xo

Pondside said...

Definitly - he says bois and grand cafe - and the lyrics fit much better than a great warrior!
My children are grown and no longer mortified by my singing the wrong lyrics to songs, but it used to drive Lillypad to distraction.

Fennie said...

There seems great longing in this piece but I know just what you mean - a word sparking a reverie and then there's the 'jeux de mots,' which I agree seem easier in French or is it just the unfamiliarity that causes one to play more. Deliberate mispronunciation can be very funny too. My father used to pronounce Croats as rhyme with groats which always had been in stitches.

Mrs ElderBerry said...

oh my dear, l do so worry about you, you must be careful with over imagination as it can get you into all sorts of trouble, just look at me, L will start imagining that l am in my mid 20s next.

Sally's Chateau said...

Oh yes I can relate to going into a little world of my own over words. Lovely imaginative blog.

bayou said...

Hello UnpeuL!

I do understand all what you described and I had to laugh because my friend Marie-Paule is just the same for English songs--- she does not speak English but knows some words and knows 'en phonétique' all her preferred English songs :-)
I have the same taste than you and love to hear e.g. elle a le regard révolver- which is quite old now....

KittyB said...

French songs are much better than English ones for words - less trite phrases and more random. Just look at all that Piaf and Brel stuff, there's a name for it but I can't remember, the super-fast lyrical twittery stuff. That's a technical term.

LittleBrownDog said...

I know exactly what you mean about wandering off down a completely unrelated tangent, then coming back to the conversation to find yourself totally lost. And that expression, thoughts caught on the bramble bush, is just perfect. Gloriously imaginative and lovely writing.

Cait O'Connor said...

I love the cup and saucer.

Great post. I love the French language - you must be fluent in their language and their music now.

CAMILLA said...

Bonjour Un Peu.!

I loved this post of yours, and we all know what a terrific sense of imagination you have Un Peu,this shows in your wonderful writing.

I have always adored the french language, so too french songs, even tune in to french radio station if I can, but I can't sing a note.

Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

Hi, I'm so glad I stumbled on your beautiful blog...
I can so relate to this post - I often go into a little world of my own over words, images, music and aromas...
J'adore votre blog..:)

Kate Coveny Hood said...

You know - my mother has a bird phobia as well. It started with chickens. Her old world Italian grandfather kept chickens, and one day as a very little girl, she ran into the coop and was savagely pecked (or at least it felt savage to her then).

Now mom lives in Key West and just has to cross the stree when the random chicken crosses her path.