Travelling via the French trains this summer, I ran across a great little article by David Lowe in the TGV magazine called Who? More?. Did you get it? For those of you who missed the subtlety of this title, phonetically the article title is pronounced Humor. The French are notorious for their play on words and since the magazine was aimed at the French audience, the British writer had fun contributing what he called, “very bad jokes and bilingual semiotics”.
Normally our Culturegrams are focused on one culture or one city, yet, this article got me thinking that perhaps we should be more like Mr. Lowe and incorporate bilingual or multilingual articles from time-to-time. Therefore, we thought we would commence with these bad blagues (French word for joke) and show you that being bilingual has as one of its privileges the clever ability to decipher humor in more than one language. See if you can do so in these puns:
“What do you call a Frenchman in sandals? – Philippe Philoppe (flip-flops).
How does your stomach feel after having too much French bread? – Pain-full. (Painful). Pain (pronounced pahn) is the French word for bread.
What sound do bilingual ducks make? – corner, corner (coin, coin). Coin (pronounced qwan) is the French word for corner.
Three little French kittens were skating on thin ice…un, deaux, trois, quatre cinq. (pronounced cats sank, If you say the last two numbers together).
Mr. Lowe goes on to state after many more self-admitting awful jokes that “following the a broad definition of translation, human communication is itself an act of translation…We are all in-between languages, even inside our own language: when we learn to speak, we are already learning to translate…that all puns are in a sense bilingual, because of the interplay between the non-language of the raw consciousness and the ‘word-language’ of the mother tongue into which the thought is ‘translated.’”
And of course, we could not leave out our Québécois friends and relatives:
What do you call a Canadair tanker (tanker plane) after it has got rid of its load? – A Canada Dry.
So no matter how awful these jokes are to read (or share in my case), it is still a linguistic fact that bilingualism is in itself an amazing act of language deconstruction and reconstruction occurring simultaneously and therefore not something to joke about.
In closing I leave you with the one that really had me snickering:
The motto of the French navy is: “to the water! The hour has come!”, or, in French, “A l’eau. C’est l’heure!” (pronounced Hello Sailor!).