Programming / French Week. Day 4
Words – crazy love of words – This national peculiarity is perhaps a little less famous than the Eiffel Tower – but it runs deep in the hearts of all of us.
Without knowing at all what it is in your countries – and based on the “it says that your language, madam, is so difficult”, I will suppose that, in France, we have a particular love of words.
You can attract a French almost anywhere with “pretty words” – these are unforgettable classes with students who were escaping their last months in jail by taking General Culture classes, and where we found ourselves, me quite terrified and them, little notebook in hand: how do you write that, madam? It’s downright swaggy. And we had left in the “peu ou prou” wich means “plus ou moins”/”more or less” and other little treasures of the French language. “Peu ou prou”, it is much rarer – therefore more distinguished and subtle. They loved it – and like real life, it’s not a movie with a fake ending, and known when you enter the cinema – I was able to end my years with them without any other worries. All this with our “pretty words”.
A few days ago, I searched for a faithful translation of allécher, a word in English that would refer to the lips that a cat licks when it smells something it likes – transformed into a word for human, as it is in French. I found “attract” “make you want to” – and I would love to know English so much better to find the word that “goes” well in front of our word full of gluttony, predation, concentration on the target, with the final paw stroke that puts the prey in our muzzle.
We’ve stuffed kilos of dictionaries with words and words and words, and we invent them every day, words that are born, that live for a while, that sink gently – here you will find a powerful part of the French soul.
I’m bothering you, aren’t I?
And it has nothing to do with shows, my story of words.
In fact it has – but of course, since I only speak mostly French, I only know shows in French. I count on everyone to point out the treasures of his or her language.
There is one piece in particular, which is called: A Word for Another, by Jean Tardieu.
I haven’t found millions of entries in English for this play, that’s true.
However, this play is adaptable in all languages, as long as you understand its principle.
It’s a challenge for actors: it’s a question of making the audience understand by using words that are not at all adapted to the situation. The husband becomes “the dear tulip” – “Dear, dear plush! For how many holes, for how many pebbles haven’t I had the mitron to sweeten you up! ” & it’s so easy to understand that the friend is the plush – finally, even if it doesn’t mean anything at all, everyone understands.
The author – and the translators – plays with the sounds and will, for example, choose a word that will have either the same length or the same ending as the original word.
He keeps most of the verbs, which makes it a little easier to understand. He keeps the musicality of the oral language, those ways of speaking which are always the same, and which we are not even used to hearing anymore – and with this, he makes a little jewel, a real jewel of joy and pleasure. A whole play, a whole story, and a complicated one, of course, with a husband, a lover, debts, false friend.
You’ll notice that I’m not even talking about all the comedy shows based on puns – we all have them, each in our own languages, I guess.
On the other hand, it leads us straight to the very curious, very strange, very improbable treasures of Surrealism – and there’s no way to avoid that.
Robert Desnos & one of his poem: It was a leaf
On stage Desnos and his charming animal: “I had lingered that morning brushing the teeth of a pretty animal that, patiently, I am taming. It’s a chameleon. This amiable beast smoked, as usual, a few cigarettes and then I left.”
On stage, the beautiful Rrose Sélavy so loved by Marcel Duchamp: she will have with her all the words of Duchamp and all the words of André Breton.
On stage the blue orange which is said to be the earth,
On stage again, the curve of your eyes that goes around my heart
And what’s more, it gives us an absolutely magnificent pretext to set up sets like we haven’t seen for ages.
This day number 4 should be a great and beautiful day of fantasy and freedom: after all, it is first by playing with our words that we learn to be free, isn’t it?
Featured Image : Magritte – The Dove.