What surprises Americans: when I tell them how much, in general, the French love our country. But, the complaints about all of the English language used in France… The movie subsidies… The laws about how much French-language music has to be played on the radio… They miss what seems to me the obvious inference: the government support for French cinema, the laws requiring that at least some French-language music show up on the radio, the complaints (from almost no one) about the invasion of the English language–they’re all there because the French love to mix some English with their daily language, because they love American movies, because they know American music better than I do (I’m an American). The “cultural exception” that allows the French government to financially promote French films and music is there precisely because left to their own devices, many French will consume American entertainment media almost exclusively, and the indigenous entertainment industry would croak (slang for “die”–maybe equivalent to crever?). No stereotype is true of everyone–but, this one applies to a lot of French people.
The latest evolution of the laws regarding French-language music on French radio: you can’t just play the same French-language songs over and over again. Radio stations are required to play a certain percentage of French music. Many stations have tended to fulfill that requirement by just playing the same classics repeatedly, which makes no one happy. The radio stations’ excuse: there just isn’t that much good new French-language music.
This is bullshit. Quebec is at the center of a number of the interesting things happening with respect to French, and one of them is music. There are some really good–amazing, even, to my ears–Québécois musicians putting out new albums all the time. I would categorize (’cause us French do love to taxonomize shit) them roughly as follows:
- “folk” musicians
- straightforward rock-and-rollers
One of the most interesting of the singer-songwriters: Sally Folk. She is an ineffably adorable pint-sized brunette who rocks a 1960s glam/girl-group look. A couple of her songs are the sort of perky, happy tunes that you might expect from someone who looks like that–and the rest are dark, sophisticated, dark, complicated, dark… Did I say “dark”? One that stirred up a lot of controversy when her third album recently came out is J’aurai ton enfant quand même, “I’ll have your baby anyway,” in which the narrative voice (is that the term?) talks about how she knows that her guy doesn’t want to have a kid, and the relationship is ending, but she’s gotten pregnant anyway. On dira aux autres is (as far as I can tell) about a hook-up: on dira aux autres qu’on se connaissait déjà, “we’ll tell the others that we already knew each other.” Nous sommes heureux infidèles: about an affair, obviously. I don’t even understand her song La cigogne–my French isn’t that good–but it makes me blue every time I hear it. (I think it’s maybe about a miscarriage? Phil d’Ange?) Certes, j’ai fait quelques erreurs//De jugement comme de pudeur–yep, that’s me alright… Check ‘er out, and scroll down for the English notes, where we’ll discuss perky, to be left to one’s own devices, and to have one’s druthers.
A rare song that sounds as cheery as Sally Folk looks. The rest mostly make me think about shooting myself–in a good way.
Try not to think too much about the words in this one–if a better expression of regret has ever been sung, I really don’t want to hear it…
Sally Folk at her “just don’t give a fuck” best (thanks for that expression, L.):
perky: this adjective can refer to two things, and in those cases, the meanings are quite different.
When it refers to someone’s personality or attitude, it means…well, here are the synonyms from Merriam-Webster:
…and its antonyms, also from Merriam-Webster:
Seems like a pretty positive word, right? And, it most certainly can be–I strive to always be perky, personally. But, culturally, it’s a bit more complicated: perky is often used to describe some who is annoyingly activy, airy, animated, bouncy, etc. Looking up the word on the Sketch Engine web site, purveyor of fine linguistic corpora and the tools for searching them, I see that the adverbs with the strongest statistical associations to perky are:
Delightfully is, of course, good; annoyingly most definitely is not.
So, that’s the meaning when you’re talking about someone’s personality or attitude. The other meaning applies in reference to a woman’s breasts. I just showed you the top adverbs associated with perky–when you look at the top nouns, 9 out of 12 of them refer to a woman’s breasts or nipples, one of them refers to butts, and the other two are probably language processing errors. If you can’t intuit the meaning in this context, Google perky breasts, but do not, not, not do so at work.
It’s almost 5:30 AM in Australia and I have to talk about the Cold War origins of biomedical natural language processing (who knew?) at 9–and I’m too lazy to write up to have one’s druthers and to be left to one’s own devices. Disappointed? Say so in the comments. Or, even better: write them up yourself!