Tuesday, October 2, 2012

No more naughty words in the Paris classroom

 My friend Benoit teaches junior high in the Place des Vosges at a public school, un collège secondaire, nestled under the arcades of the 17th century square.
The school's recess area is part of what was once Victor Hugo's garden and rear courtyard.  His collège secondaire students often go to a vocational school or into the Police Academy afterwards. Jean-Claude Mulés, the retired Brigade Criminelle Inspector, who has helped me with research works with Benoit's students as well.
On the other side of the school, which you wouldn't notice unless you are looking for it, is a Synagogue. Two years ago Benoit and Jean-Claude took the students on a school trip to Auschwitz.  For his junior high students from working class backgrounds he said this was an eye-opening experience.
Benoit faces a classroom issue he says has become rampant. His students swear and use sexist words. So he showed me what he'd decided to give out to the students titled - Ne soyons pas sexiste - We won't be sexist.
Here's the list of the alternatives he gave them to use instead of the usual expletive
'Putain' - Slut

(these are rough translations)
Zut! - Heck or Shoot
Flûte - darn it
Bigre - my goodness
Purée - heck or how you make mashed potatoes
Sapristi - heavens
Mince - darn it or blast
Fichtre - goodness me
Diantre - good heavens
Boudiou - Slang for Bon Dieu  Good God
Peuchère - Provençal for Poor thing
But the two prettiest words he suggests are:
Cornegidouille - no clue it's a mouthful
Saperlipopette - Provençal for goodness me

I really like the last one - it's sweet, hard to get the tongue around and puckers your lips but by the time you get out all those consonants your irritation disappears.
In November I'll check with Benoit for a progress report.

Cara - Tuesday


  1. I love these suggestions! A few of them are standard fare already at my sons's primary school, while others are well used in BD. My boys also like using Capitaine Haddock's 'mille millions de mille sabords!'

  2. Cara, I learned Italian after the age of 40 and one day my teacher taught us to swear. That was something that definitely did not happen at St. John's High School where Sister Marion Joseph taught us French. Therefore, my French education in this regard has been sorely lacking. I will now memorize Benoit's list, so that if I have to express my upset, it will be charming. But not as charming as this wonderful post and all too brief trip back to Place des Voges. Thanks for taking me there.

  3. Russian has some amazing swear words. Would love to read alternative words using classic Russian words that were eliminated after 1917. Sadly, I don't know enough Russian to do this. Enjoyed your post.

  4. It's all Greek to me. Looking forward to your new expressions in Cleveland!

  5. wonderful place, and photos. I wonder if that replacement list would work here in the states. Have fun this week, will be thinking of you all.