dimanche 13 janvier 2013

Learning while having fun

Speaking of English expressions... this cartoon produced in 1951 was meant to illustrate colloquialisms, sayings and expressions in English. Some of them may be typically American though.

For what I know, Avery's idea was also to introduce outsiders to new expressions of that time that could be difficult for older generations to understand. But maybe some of these so-called new expressions ot the beginning of the 50s have now turned obsolete?

I remember an American girl telling me "Feeling groovy" was old fashioned (and that was 30 years ago!)

37 commentaires:

Flocon a dit…

This is what they say on Wiki about Symphony in Slang.

Il existe a French version of the cartoon and it ain't too bad after all.

Ned Ludd a dit…

The Simon and Garfunkel segment was from the Smothers Brothers , which was one of the few programs worth watching in the sixties.

Anijo a dit…

That French version is interesting, although I don't understand everything they're saying. Instead of Mr Webster, it's Monsieur Robert lol..

I was wondering what they said on the part about 'cut the mustard'?

So many of these expressions are still common.

As for 'groovy', it's a fun word.

Flocon a dit…


"Instead of Mr Webster, it's Monsieur Robert"

I didn't pay attention at first but here is the reason and Ned certainly knows about this dictionary.

as to cut the mustard (réussir à faire quelque chose) they use the expression pédaler dans la semoule.

It seems something like one hundred expressions are illustrated in the cartoon.

"I heard it through the grapevine" at 4:45 is rendered by "une belle plante m'a dit". There's a double entente here since "une belle plante" actually means "une belle fille".

At 3:55 they don't translate "a Grey Hound" so the passage is incomprehensible to Francophones.

At 4:11, 10 foot pole is translated by "revenir poteau" which is also nearly incomprehensible to most people. It basically means becoming friend again.

5:10 "raining cats and dogs" is rendered with "un temps de chien", which is correct.

2:40 "peindre la ville en rouge" ne veut rien dire en français, they just translated the English expression without further ado.

2:43 "We went to see Édith Piaf" for "going to the dork ???" (I can't understand what is said here). They're making a pun with "Piaf" which actually means bird in French slang.


"So many of these expressions are still common"

- Have some gone out of usage by now?

- Are some typically American and not British?

"As for 'groovy', it's a fun word."

Still in usage or definitively out of date as my girlfriend told me?


Il est utile de savoir reconnaître ces expressions quand on les rencontre mais je ne suis pas sûr qu'il soit judicieux de les utiliser quand on n'est pas a native speaker.

Flocon a dit…

Pédaler dans la semoule actually means the contrary of "To cut the mustard".

Pédaler dans la semoule, an expression that I personaly never use because I dislike it, means "to be at a loss to do or understand something".

Anonyme a dit…

>> this cartoon produced in 1951
"A Day at The Zoo", 1939:

>>the Smothers Brothers


Ned Ludd a dit…

"I couldn't cut the mustard." - Je n'étais pas ç l'hauteur.

"heard it through the grapevine" - "par le téléphone arabe.

"paint the town red" - approximately "passer une nuit blanche".

"We went to the Stork Club" meaning a famous nightclub at the time.

"ten foot pole" would be American, the British would say "barge pole". It is used unusually here because it usually means wanting to avoid something: "I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole."

The only expressions I heard that are not used are "she put on her dog"2:43, and "it's raining cats and dogs" and maybe "paint the town red".

I have a big Larousse and a very helpful Robert called "Le Robert Méthodique" which is organized around base words and gives more information about usage. There is even a booklet of exercises with it.

Ned Ludd a dit…

Also, "red tape" means "paperasse".

Flocon a dit…

Merci pour les explications Ned, particularly à propos The Stork Club.

-Pour "to paint the town red" I usually understand "Faire la fête".

-"she put on her dog", I think I've never met that one.

As pertains "it's raining cats and dogs" (il pleut des cordes), it probably is the first idiom I learned at school when I was 11 or 12. I guess it's a funny one for children to learn.

Anijo a dit…


Thank you for all those explanations. I have a Petit Robert (which is not all that 'petit' lol). That is precisely why I found the use of M Robert instead of Mr Webster so amusing.

Groovy is very much out of date, but some people still use it in a tongue in cheek type of manner.

I have never heard the phrase 'she put on her dog'. Unlike Ned, though, I still encounter 'paint the town red'. I always thought it meant to go out and drink and act crazy and have a grand old time.

Anijo a dit…

This link that Jan provided also features some phrases that can be interpreted in a different manner, and it too was directed by Tex Avery.

Anijo a dit…

Oh Flocon,

As to whether some are British or some are typically American, I'm not always that sure myself alas.. Ned noted the 'ten foot pole' - good on her ;)

Ned Ludd a dit…

Jan gave a good example of the Smothers Brothers. The brother Tom acts the mentally retarded, but he was one of the main writers.

I would say "kawabunga what excitement". But the French Wiki misspells it as "cowabunga" and the Engligh Wiki doesn't even have it. I see several sites that use "c", but not surfers.

Anijo a dit…

Ned, per the French Wiki:

Il a de nombreuses orthographes, comme kowabunga, cowabonga ou kawabunga.

Anijo a dit…

Well, this surfer uses 'c'. ;)

However, per wiktionary

During the 1950s and 1960s surfers adopted "kawabonga!" as a declaration of enthusiasm, changing the pronunciation slightly to "cowabunga!".[4] "Kupaianaha" is the Hawaiian word for surprising or wonderful[5] and it may have influenced surfers who had grown up with Howdy Doody.

Flocon a dit…

Thank Jan for providing the link to Wiki for the A day at the zoo cartoon, it helped me understand some of the gags. At 2:08 for example.

But one has got to know the many cultural references to get the whole picture though.

Flocon a dit…


"The brother Tom acts the mentally retarded".

I'm not sure it would play well now to mimic a mentally retarded person on TV (but it provides an idea for the next post).

You and Anijo and perhaps SemperFidelis will probably recognize that comedian on the brothers' show.

Flocon a dit…


"I have a Petit Robert (which is not all that 'petit' lol)"

Well, take care of your « petit robert » then.

Maybe will ZapPow explain the "double entendre". I'm sure there are many « petits roberts » (which are not so petits) in Martinique too...

Unless Ned cuts the mustard, on se comprend mieux entre femmes when men are kept at bay...

Anijo a dit…


I am not familiar with that comedian, but that was a really groovy presentation, and again, it's interesting how little that the political climate has changed since then.

Ned Ludd a dit…

Anijo, my bad. I only ever saw it spelled Kawabunga. I never thought that my mention of the Smothers Brothers would lead to so many good comments.

Flocon, in case you didn't know, when Leigh thanks everyone for sending her their dead roaches, she is referring to the leftover part after one has smoked a marijuana cigarette. That is called a roach.

Another comedian on the program was Pat Paulson His editorials still apply today.

Ned Ludd a dit…

Flocon, I should also mention that she plays with the word "heat". In slang "the heat" means the police.

Flocon a dit…


" I never thought that my mention of the Smothers Brothers would lead to so many good comments."

C'est la qualité des commentateurs qui fait la qualité d'un blog ;-)

Pour "heat" = police, je le sais pour l'avoir entendu dans une chanson probablement...

The heat's coming = +/- 22, v'la les flics! (very old fashioned though, but les flics isn't as u know)

Anijo a dit…

I remember when I was in Marseille as a young foreign exchange student and I was talking to some guy who asked me "tu aimes les flics?", and I responded something along the lines of how much I really enjoyed going to the 'flics'. He looked at me really strange. I thought he was asking me if liked the flicks.

In retrospect, it was an unusual question to be asking. He must of been some kind of bad-boy type I'm guessing.

Flocon a dit…


"He must of been some kind of bad-boy type"

Beware of bad boys Anijo, although I'ver been told women kind of prefer macho men.

He must of been ? I thought it should have been "have been".

Anijo a dit…

I know that women are supposed to prefer macho men per some people, but I have never ever had any romantic type of relationship with any macho and the type of women I enjoy being friends with don't like macho men either.

Yes, you're right, it's have been. I pronounce it 'of been', so that slipped out in the writing.

Ned Ludd a dit…

I often pronounce it "must a been". There is the phrase "might as well", like "We might as well leave now". Many people me included often pronounce it "mize well".

I am not sure about the macho thing, but I am pretty sure that women don't want a man to be like them.

Flocon a dit…

As a matter of fact, I knew the of been was some kind of slip of the tongue but I thought a confirmation would be welcomed since it could also be a voluntary slang like way of parlance.

As is said: Ça va sans dire mais ça va encore mieux en le disant. (It goes without saying but it even goes better when saying it)

Re " women don't want a man to be like them."

Like cameleo men need not apply then

Ned Ludd a dit…

I hope you don't mean this Chameleon where only some men need reply.

This is probably more your to your taste.

Anijo a dit…

C'est quoi un "cameleo man"?

Flocon a dit…


For whatever reason your last comment had to be retrieved from the spambox. Go figure...

J'aime bien tes deux videos. As regards that of Sabrina, don't waste your time trying to transcript the lyrics for me, I'll do without them even if I'm ear-impaired.

" probably more your to your taste."

Do I understand you know my tastes or more generaly, you know men?

Flocon a dit…


It's "chameleon" but I didn't pay attention to the spelling.

A chameleon person is one that merges with its environment and is then indistinguishable from the others, someone who's like the rest of the crowd.

Since Ned informed me that women don't want a man to be like them, this brought the idea of the chameleon to my mind.

Ned Ludd a dit…

Just to add another Smothers Brothers, this is more recently on a late night variety show.


Ned Ludd a dit…

Flocon, aujourd'hui encore j'ai entendu à la radio une société anonyme appellée une personne morale. D'abord "anonyme" est assez sinistre, mais je me suis souvent demandée pourquoi on dit en français "personne morale" quand ces sociétés ne sont ni une personne ni morale.

Comme on dit à l'école, repondez en cinq cent mots(ou bien moins).

Flocon a dit…

#1 Not one single letter missing or wrong in the phrasing of the question! Bravo.

#2 Personne morale is a generic term, par opposition à "personne physique" like you and me. C'est une convention juridique vieille de plusieurs siècles, créée quand sont apparues les associations, les divers types de sociétés commerciales, les guildes etc.

Quel mot employer à la place de personne morale? Une chose? une entité? une autorité like the Chicago Transit Authority?

Don't take the words at face value here.

In English the word "body" can be used in sentences like the body of professors (or something else, you see what I refer to). And yet there's no "body" so to say.

#3 The answer is delivered in less than 100 words. Any other question?

Flocon a dit…

addendum: The word morale doesn't refer to morality as what's right and what's wrong but in opposition to the psysical existence of individuals.

En fait tout est expliqué ici en anglais.

Ned Ludd a dit…

J'en ai pensé avant et je dirais "pesonne juridiqe". Dans l'article en anglais, la décision du Cours Suprème de 201O a accordé de facto le droit de libre expression aux corporations.

La meilleure explication que j'ai vu est par Stephen Colbert sur le fonctionnement de Super PACs

The first 12 minutes show the absurdity of the Supreme Court decision. But it continues.

Ned Ludd a dit…

The finale of the Colbert Super PAC with the same lawyer explaining to him what he can do with the 800,000 Dollars that remain. It is the second video on the page.

As you can see, American politics are completely clean and above board. According to the news, he is donating it to charity.