Homophonic Translation: Pas de lieu Rhone que nous

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a term I just learned, although homophonic translation is familiar to anyone who’s laughed along to that Benny Lava video. It’s “translating” something by writing a phonetic approximation in another language, much like a mondegreen, but the “mis-hearing” bridges two languages.

For instance, I like to annoy my friend Lisa by homophonically translating things she says to me in French. If she says “C’est bon!” I respond “Bone.” If she says “C’est ça,” I answer, “Saw.” I also like to encourage guests to dig in at the start of a meal by announcing “Bony patoot!” By which I guess I mean, Don’t worry your skinny butt about getting fat.

For some reason, there is something particularly amusing about homophonic translations from English into “French”, by which I mean nonsense that looks like French and sounds like English. For example, if you grew up speaking English and can also pronounce French, try reading this little rhyme out loud:

Un petit d’un petit
S’étonne aux Halles
Un petit d’un petit
Ah! degrés te fallent
Indolent qui ne sort cesse
Indolent qui ne se mène
Qu’importe un petit d’un petit
Tout Gai de Reguennes

It was written by actor and wit Luis van Rooten. Recognize it? Here’s a visual clue.


Know any other homophonic translations?

Illustration by Florence England Nosworthy

~ by lolarusa on November 30, 2012.

7 Responses to “Homophonic Translation: Pas de lieu Rhone que nous”

  1. That’s tantalizingly familiar, but I can’t figure out the source. My french pronunciation is far from perfect, so that’s probably hurting my chances.

  2. ok, I think I understand a little. “one potato, two potatoes…” but that rhyme seems too monotonous to generate the French you wrote. Maybe I’m on the wrong track?

  3. I haven’t spoken French for years, but was fluent (reading/writing/speaking), and my pronunciation is still pretty good…..and I haven’t got a clue. What is it? All I can hear when I say it is the French, French accent, French definitions of the words, so maybe that’s in my way of trying to hear it as something else?

  4. I’ve added a clue.

  5. “….like pas de la rhone ca nous, which I told her was Canuck for paddle your own canoe.” From a novel I’m trying hard to edit. Thanks for your help.

  6. Glad to be of service, Richard, but you should be aware that I don’t actually speak French, let alone know how they speak it in Canada.

  7. Characters in the novel make it up as they go along. Hard to ever tell if any of them really spoke Canuck. Note the ‘I told her…’ No indication in that phrase that what follows has even a modicum of truth. In fact the spirit of the novel would immediately suggest otherwise. All the more fun for those of us who have a tricky relationship with language.

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