Thursday, May 1, 2008

Boiling hot potatoes

Chapter nine of Bill Reddy’s The Rise of Market Culture, from 1984, is a close examination of dialect songs from Lille during the Second Empire. It’s really quite a wonderful thirty-five pages. Probably, without context, the below excerpt from one of these songs, written by one Alexandre Desrousseaux, is close to meaningless. Here it is anyway. I’m giving it first in the Lillois dialect in which it was published in 1865, not so very different from French, and then in Reddy’s English translation (see pg 272 of this volume).

Comme l’commerce est à l’baleine
Min maît’ m’a donné min livret;
Mais j’vas tâcher de m’tirer d’peine,
In essayant d’un aut’métier.
J’irai d’main, avec eun’ cayère,
Avec eun’ marmite d’puns-d’-tierre,
Sus l’Grand’Plach’ tout le long du jour,
Crier de bon coeur et comme un sourd :

Tout boulants ! Tout boulants!
V’là des puns-d’-tierres charmants.

Since my trade is turning cold
My boss has turned me out.
But I aim to get out of the hole
By trying another route.
I’m going tomorrow with a chair
And with a pot full of potatoes
To spend all day on the Grand Square
To yell with a will like someone deaf:

Boiling hot! Boiling hot!
Charming potatoes in the pot!

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