Wednesday, July 21, 2010

up, reptiles, phonetics


Posted by Picasa Looking up.

Outside a garden centre a notice offers: Bedding plants, flower pots, reptiles.

An unexpected present arrives through the post. It is a slim book called Mots d'Heures: Gousses, Rames. "Words of the Hours: Root and Branch" might be a translation. It describes itself as "Discovered, Edited and Annotated by Luis D'Antin Van Rooten". It takes me a few minutes to recognise what it is - an exercise in phonetics in the distorting mirror of translation.
Pretending to be a collection of witty, if obscure, eighteenth century poetic fragments from the time of Napoleon III,  it is, you realize, when  when you try to read the verses aloud in correct French that  they sound like the Rhymes of Mother Goose in English. What makes this even funnier is that the English words which come through  more or less homophonically, sound as though they are spoken with a heavy French accent. So ""Mots d'  Heures" becomes Mother and so on.. The annotations are presented as though  they are serious comments on the French poems. Hence, linked to Et qui rit des curés d'Oc..."we read the footnote, "Oc or Languedoc, ancient region of France ... Its monks and curates were, it seems, a singularly humble and holy group. This little poem is a graceful tribute to their virtues." The next line De Meuse raines, houp! de cloques.  Get it?  Raines, by the way, is an old French word for frog. I'm still laughing as I decipher more of the rhymes. The book, with its straight-faced foreword, was published in 1966.

4 comments:

HKatz said...

That photo - the heavens look heavenly.

"The mouse ran up the clock"... delightful. I'm thinking of how much fun the author must have had writing the book; someone who held onto some of the best qualities of childhood - the nimble cleverness, playfulness, and mischief.

marja-leena said...

A sky to inspireTurner.

Barrett Bonden said...

Thank goodness someone else managed to penetrate De Meuse raines... etc. I was beginning to feel quite stupid.

Lucy said...

This sounds really funny! Please send more. There was a tradition of those silly things in spoof Latin, wasn't there, like 'Caesar adsum jam forte...', but I've not come across anything like it in French. I wonder how it would work on French people...