Onomatopée

drummer

Today’s French carol, Patapan, was written by Bernard de La Monnoye in 1720. It wasn’t originally written in French at all, but rather in the Burgundian dialect, which bears only a passing relationship to the language of Molière. It’s kind of the “Little Drummer Boy” of France; the chorus is the sound of the instruments.

When it is played these days, it is often performed by woodwind instruments, without the lyrics. In 2009, American Idol winner David Archuleta recorded this version in modern French – at least the first verse. I can find versions by Julie Andrews, children’s choirs, and even puppets, but all of them are in English. If anyone knows of a good version in French, I’m all ears. (In 2016, the USAF holiday flash mob led with Patapan sung in French. Thanks to reader Michael McFarland who told me about it.) Here are the lyrics, with my translation. The paintings are from the Louvre.

flute

Guillaume, prends ton tambourin, (William, bring your little drum)

Toi, prends ta flûte, Robin; (You, take your flute, Robin)
Au son de ces instruments, (To the sound of these instruments,)
Turelurelu, patapatapan,
Au son de ces instruments, (To the sound of these instruments,)
Je dirai Noël gaîment. (I will gaily say Christmas)

C’était la mode autrefois, (It was the style in the past)
De louer le Roi des rois, (To praise the King of kings)
Au son de ces instruments, (To the sound of these instruments,)
Turelurelu, patapatapan,
Au son de ces instruments, (To the sound of these instruments,)
Il nous en faut faire autant. (It made us need to do as much)

flute2

L’homme et Dieu sont plus d’accord, (Man and God are more in accord,)
Que la flûte et le tambour; (Than the flute and the drum 😉
Au son de ces instruments, (To the sound of these instruments,)
Turelurelu, patapatapan,
Au son de ces instruments, (To the sound of these instruments,)
Chantons, dansons, sautons en! (Let’s sing, dance, jump !)

Today’s word is onomatopée (on-om-a-toe-pay), which, you guessed it, is the French equivalent of onomatopoeia, the grammatical word for the literary device of a word that sounds like the noise that it represents. Here’s a link to fellow-blogger Shannon Kennedy’s post about French sounds for farm animals. You may be surprised to learn how differently the animals in the stable in Bethlehem would have spoken had they been French.

61UcM4tWpjL__SL75_The French Christmas Album, Volume I

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About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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8 Responses to Onomatopée

  1. Thank you so much for the mention!

  2. gooddeedaday says:

    Really interesting to read about Pat-A-Pan! I have David Archuleta’s “Christmas From the Heart” album, which features the song, which has become one of my favourite carols. Thank you for posting!

  3. Michael Mc Farland says:

    I’m sending you the original song and the version in french of the carol Pat-a-pan:

    DIALECTE DE BOURGOGNE
    Guillô, pran ton tamborin;
    Toi, pran tai fleúte, Rôbin!
    Au son de cé instruman,
    Turelurelu, patapatapan,
    Au son de cé instruman
    Je diron Noei gaiman
    C’ étó lai môde autrefoi
    De loüé le Roi dé Roi,
    Au son de cés instruman,
    Turelurelu, patapatapan,
    Au son de cés instruman,
    Ai nos an fau faire autan.
    Ce jor le Diale at ai cu
    Randons an graice ai Jesu
    Au son de cés instruman,
    Turelurelu, patapatapan,
    Au son de cés instruman,
    Fezon lai nique ai Satan.
    L’homme et Dei son pu d’aicor
    Que lai fleúte & le tambor.
    Au son de cés instruman,
    Turelurelu, patapatapan,
    Au son de cés instruman,
    Chanton, danson, sautons-an.

    EN FRANÇAIS
    Guillaume, prends ton tambourin,
    Toi, prends ta flûte, Robin;
    Au son de ces instruments,
    Turelurelu, patapatapan,
    Au son de ces instruments,
    Je dirai Noël gaîment.
    C’était la mode autrefois,
    De louer le Roi des rois,
    Au son de ces instruments,
    Turelurelu, patapatapan,
    Au son de ces instruments,
    Il nous en faut faire autant.
    L’homme et Dieu sont plus d’accord,
    Que la flûte et le tambour;
    Au son de ces instruments,
    Turelurelu, patapatapan,
    Au son de ces instruments,
    Chantons, dansons, sautons en !

    Espérant le tout à votre convenance,

    Joyeuses Fêtes !

    Michael Mc Farland

  4. Michael Mc Farland says:

    Allez sur YouTube pour écouter cette chanson interprétée par la The USAF Band – 2016 Holiday Flash Mob ! Les arrangements et l’interprétation sont excellents. C’est quand même inusité et rare d’entendre une chanson en français par les forces américaines.

  5. Un très bon conseil. Voici le lien sur YouTube: https://youtu.be/gr4-akvoJuU C’est excellent!

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