Author Archives: avouac

Marble Game

--Informant Info--
Nationality: French American
Age: 56
Occupation: University Professor
Residence: Pasadena CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 16, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context: 

This piece was collected in a casual interview setting in the informant’s back yard. My informant (JP) was born in Lynon, France, and moved to California in 2002 with his wife for their jobs at Caltech. He is a professor of Seismology, enjoys playing tennis and guitar, has two teenage daughters, and loves to sing old French camp songs he learned as a kid. 

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant (JP) and interviewer.

Interviewer: So tell me about the marble game you used to play when you were little.

JP: *visibly excited* Yes, yes, yes, so it went like this *gets up from his chair, and sits on the ground, making a big v shape with his legs and waves for interviewer to sit down next to him* So we would each face each other like this, place a marble here *points to the middle of the V created by his legs* it would be a Agathe [name of glass marble], one of the good marbles, and with our billes de terres [mud marbles] we would take turns trying to touch each other’s Agathe marble. But it could only touch, if you moved the Agathe it didn’t count and each time you missed, the person you played against could keep your marble, that’s why we played the low level bille de terre not an Agathe, but if you touched the opponent’s Agathe, you won it. *motions rolling a marble, as if he were playing* So the aim of the game was to collect other kid’s marbles. 

Interviewer: Can you explain what the different marbles were?

JP: So there were billes de terres, which means, like, marbles of the earth, or more like mud marbles. Those were not of high level. Then there were Agathes, which is the ones you want to collect. They weren’t actually made of agate stones, but in the olden days they used to be. And then after, there were the big marbles, the prettiest and highest level ones, the Bigarrots. They were like Agathes, but bigger. Since they were bigger, they were easier to touch, but they would also attract more attention so more people would play with you and you could collect more billes de terres. So it was a tactful play.

Interviewer: How old were you when you played this game?

JP: Um, wait, let me think about it… Uh, I was around, let’s see, I want to say six years old, and we played until we were around ten. At that point, we played other marble games. 

Interviewer: What was the name of the game? And how did you learn it?

JP: We just played it in school. It was really popular. I think it was just called Le Jeux de Billes, the marble game. It’s a game that’s pretty close to my heart since it was such a big part of my childhood.

Thoughts: 

The Marble Game has transcended centuries and cultures and is truly one of the games that I think brings together a large global group of people who all played the same game as children. Since marbles can be acquired easily and cheaply, and the rules of the game are simple, it makes sense that so many children played it. However, I worry that with the advance of technology and children relying on electronics to have fun at younger and younger ages, this simple, fun game will gradually disappear. 

French camp song – Cunégonde

--Informant Info--
Nationality:
Age:
Occupation:
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language:
Other Language(s):

Context: 

This piece was collected in a casual interview setting in the informant’s back yard. My informant (JP) was born in Lynon, France, and moved to California in 2002 with his wife for their jobs at Caltech. He is a professor of Seismology, enjoys playing tennis and guitar, has two teenage daughters, and loves to sing old French camp songs he learned as a kid. The following is a song JP learned when he went to summer camp as a child, when he was around 10 years old. He still sings it and taught it to his daughters who like to sing along.

Main Piece: The following is a transcribed camp song JP sung.

Cunégonde, veux-tu du fromage,

Oui ma mere, avec du beurre dessus,

Bein ma fille, t’es bien trop gourmande, et t’auras un coup pied aux…

**repeats from the start** 

Translation:

Transliterated translation: **note: “gourmande” has no direct translation. It is closest to “greedy for food”** 

Cunégonde, want you cheese,

Yes my mother, with some butter on top,

Well my girl, you’re well too greedy, and you’ll have a kick to the … 

Fully translated version: 

Cunégonde, do you want cheese,

Yes my mother, with some butter on top,

Well my daughter, you are too greedy for good, and you’ll have a kick to the … 

Thoughts: 

The reason this song is so funny to children is that the beginning of the name “Cunégonde” sounds like the word “ass” in French. When the mother tells her daughter she’s going to give “a kick to the…” and the song repeats, it sounds like the mother is going to kick Cunégonde’s ass. This was a playful song my sister, dad and I would song together growing up, but I was never really able to share it with my American friends because it does not translate well. 

Annotation:

For another version of the Cunegonde song, please follow this link: https://forum.parents.fr/t/chansons-debiles-3/29119 

Jinx Under a Roof

--Informant Info--
Nationality: French American
Age: 56
Occupation: University Professor
Residence: Pasadena, CA
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context: 

This piece was collected in a casual interview setting in the informant’s back yard. My informant (JP) was born in Lynon, France, and moved to California in 2002 with his wife for their jobs at Caltech. He is a professor of Seismology, enjoys playing tennis and guitar, has two teenage daughters, and loves to sing old French camp songs he learned as a kid. 

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant (JP) and interviewer.

JP: Yeah, yeah, yeah, so, my girls, when they were little did this thing, I think they learned it at school, when they said the same word at the same time, they had to say “jinx” and the first girl, uh, who said “jinx,” um, how do you say, she won? And so the loser couldn’t talk until someone else said her name, like, I don’t, know, five times. And if they were under a roof, they had to say “jinx under a roof” and if they said “jinx” alone, they were the one to get “jinxed” so it was her that wasn’t able to speak until we said her name, and it was the other girl who won. It was a whole fiasco at dinner time because they would start YELLING about who said “jinx” first, they did it all the time, they would scream “JINX, JINX” and my gosh the drama it created.  *laughs, a little bitterly*

Interviewer: Where did they learn this? Did you know about “jinx” before?

JP: Um, they must have learned it at school, I think. They were like, in 1st or 2nd grade. I hadn’t heard of “jinx” before they brought it home, it was new to me.

Thoughts: 

In elementary school, we would play this game at lunch and JP is right, it would truly cause so much drama! Friendships were broken because of this game, especially when you wouldn’t say your friend’s name until they were released from the “jinx.” We learned it from other classmates, who probably learned it from upperclassmen or friends outside of school, and played it in 2nd grade. 

French camp song – À la Pêche aux Moules

--Informant Info--
Nationality: French American
Age: 57
Occupation: University Professor
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection: April 16, 2020
Primary Language: French
Other Language(s):

Context: 

This piece was collected in a casual interview setting in the informant’s back yard. My informant (JP) was born in Lynon, France, and moved to California in 2002 with his wife for their jobs at Caltech. He is a professor of Seismology, enjoys playing tennis and guitar, has two teenage daughters, and loves to sing old French camp songs he learned as a kid. The following is a song JP learned when he went to summer camp as a child, when he was around 10 years old. He still sings it and taught it to his daughters who like to sing along.

Main Piece:

The following is a transcribed song JP sung:

À la pêche aux moules, moules, moules

Je ne veux plus y aller maman

Les gens de la ville, ville, ville

M’ont pris mon panier maman

Les gens de la ville, ville, ville

M’ont pris mon panier maman

*Repeats from the top*

Translation:

Transliterate translation: 

At the fishing of muscles, muscles, muscles,

I don’t want to go anymore mom,

The people of the city, city, city,

Took my basket mom,

The people of the city, city, city,

Took my basket mom.

Translated version:

At the muscles, muscles, muscles fishing,

I don’t want to go anymore mom,

The people of the city, city, city,

Took my basket mom,

The people of the city, city, city,

Took my basket mom.

Thoughts: 

This was a very cute, upbeat song and I can understand why so many children would sing it together during camp. It’s a song about bullying and going to your mother for comfort, which most people can emotionally connect to. To this day, French school children sing this song, but it has been mass commercialized since the time JP learned it and you can find many Youtube videos of it for children. In my opinion, because of its commercialization, it has lost a lot of its charm.

French Hiccup Cure

--Informant Info--
Nationality: French American
Age: 54
Occupation: Relocation Consultant
Residence: Pasadena
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): French

Context: 

This piece is collected in a casual interview setting around a cup of coffee. My informant (BA) was born in Lille, France, and moved to California in 2002 with her husband for their jobs at Caltech. She has a Master in Human Resources and Detection of High Potentials, is a mother of two teenage girls, loves to garden and go on hikes, and is overall a very energetic and happy woman. 

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant (BA) and interviewer.

Interviewer: How do you cure hiccups?

BA: Ah, bah, you have to sing this song as many times as you can without breathing! It goes like this *she proceeds to sing it*

J’ai le hoquet, Dieu me la fait, vive Jésus, je n’l’ai plus!

Interviewer: Where did you learn this song from?

BA: My grandmother taught me it, you know, *names the person.* She would make me and my little brother sing it until our hiccups went away and it really worked, it worked every time. It was really funny. I don’t know where she learned it from though.

Translation: 

Original song: J’ai le hoquet, Dieu me la fait, vive Jésus, je n’l’ai plus!

Transliterate translation (word for word) *note that “n’l’ai” is a slur of “ne” and “l’ai” together, which is the equivalent of slurring “don’t have it” as one word*: I have the hiccup, God did it to me, long live Jesus, I don’t have it anymore!

Fully translated song: I have hiccups, God did it to me, long live Jesus, I don’t have it anymore!

Thoughts: I have heard of holding your breath to stop from hiccuping before, but I discovered the “hiccup song” from my informant. I believe, like she does, that this method works. If holding your breath for as long as possible gets rid of the hiccups, singing a song for you to lose your breath faster can only help! 

Annotation:

For more versions of the French hiccup song, and other ways of getting rid of hiccups, please follow this link: http://nichkouna.blogspot.com/2009/05/le-hoquet-hiccup-schluck-schluckauf.html 

Spit Handshake Promise

--Informant Info--
Nationality: French American
Age: 54
Occupation: Relocation Consultant
Residence: 394 South Bonnie Ave Pasadnea, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 14, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context: 

This piece is collected in a casual interview setting around a cup of coffee. My informant (BA) was born in Lille, France, and moved to California in 2002 with her husband for their jobs at Caltech. She has a Master in Human Resources and Detection of High Potentials, is a mother of two teenage girls, loves to garden and go on hikes, and is overall a very energetic and happy woman. 

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant (BA) and interviewer.

Interviewer: How do you keep an important promise?

BA: Ah, so, when you want to keep your promise, the best way to do it is to spit on the ground or to spit in your hand before a handshake. And if you spit, its already so gutsy that its sure that you’ll keep it [the promise].

Interviewer: And you do this with what kind of people, your friends or with anyone?

BA: Ah, no, I only do it with my friends. I can’t do it with people from my work or people for who I have high respect. It’s only with people from my family or my friends.

Interviewer: And where did you learn this from?

BA: Everyone around me did it growing up, so I just picked it up. I still do it to this day. It’s how I keep my promises.

Thoughts: 

In many cultures, spitting on your hands represents cleaning them, therefore spitting before a handshake is like making a “clean deal” or a “clean promise” that you will not soil. With our hygiene standards rising, I am not certain this practice will continue. The thought of spit being “clean” is not common today, therefore the meaning behind spitting on a handshake might be lost with time. Personally, I would politely refuse if someone offered to do this with me. I would rather a clean Pinky Swear.

Bubbles in Puddles

--Informant Info--
Nationality:
Age:
Occupation:
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language:
Other Language(s):

Context: 

This piece is collected in a casual interview setting around a cup of coffee. My informant (BA) was born in Lille, France, and moved to California in 2002 with her husband for their jobs at Caltech. She has a Master in Human Resources and Detection of High Potentials, is a mother of two teenage girls, loves to garden and go on hikes, and is overall a very energetic and happy woman. This specific conversation is about predicting rain.

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant (BA) and interviewer.

Interviewer: Can you tell me again how you can tell if it will rain again tomorrow if it rains today?

BA: Yes, yes, yes, so it works like this, ok? When its raining, there are puddles that form on the ground right? And after a while, when it rains a lot, the puddles become a little bigger. So when it rains and you see bubbles forming in the puddles, that means it will rain again tomorrow. You understand? **pauses**

Interviewer: Yeah, yeah.

BA: And so when you don’t see bubbles, it won’t rain tomorrow! 

Interviewer: Ah ok, yeah, yeah, I understand. Oh and also where did you learn this trick from?

BA: My grandparents and dad use to tell me this when I was little. We would look at the puddles outside the window to see if there were bubbles when it rained. There was something really cute and magical about it.

Interviewer: And do you still believe it will really rain again the next day if you see bubbles? 

BA: Hmm… well. When I was little I believed it. I kinda forgot about it when I grew older. I guess when I moved to California with how little it rains here I stopped believing it. 

Thoughts: 

I have heard a version of this old wive’s tale before, but it was not for predicting rain the next day, per say. The version I had heard of before was that when women worked and it was raining outside, if there were no bubbles forming in puddles, or if the bubbles burst immediately, that meant they would go home for the day because the rain would subside. However, if the bubbles formed and stayed, the rain would last and so the women would continue working. 

Annotation:

For another version of this old wive’s tale, please visit this website and find the comment written by “daveq” comment: https://www.weather-watch.com/smf/index.php?topic=7551.0