Author Archives: Kathy LeCates

Song – French

Folk Song/Poem in French:                                         English Translation:

“Une souris verte                                                        “There’s a green mouse
Qui courait dans l’herbe                                              Running through the grass,
Je l’attrape par la queue                                               I caught him by the tail,
Je la montre à ces messieurs                                        I showed him to some men,
Ces messieurs me disent                                             The men told me to drop him
Trempez là dans l’huile                                                In oil and hot water,
Trempez là dans l’eau                                                  And he’ll become
Ça fera un escargot                                                     A hot snail.
Tout chaud                                                                  I put her in a drawer
Je la mets dans un tiroir                                              She told me she was too cold,
Elle me dit qu’il fait trop froid                                    So I put her in my hat
Je la met dans mon chapeau                                        And she told me it was too hot,
Elle me dit qu’il fait trop chaud                                  So I put her in my pants
Je la mets dans ma culotte                                          And she made me three small droppings.”
Elle me fait trois petites crottes”

My friend Gillian, who has French ancestry and speaks French, told me about this little song/poem that she used to sing when she was in Kindergarten.  She said that she and her sister were taught this song by her parents to keep them occupied and give them something to do during playtime, either at home or at school.  She taught it to her friends, (who weren’t French since she went to an American school), and they loved it, so they sang it during recess or whenever they had playtime.

Though the translation doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense in English, she told me that it is a common and well-known song in France and is comparable to American children’s songs, such as “Ring Around the Rosy.”   Like Americans, the French also had songs that would keep their children occupied during playtime.  Though the song is very strange and doesn’t make a lot of sense, the topic of a mouse and a snail prove to be entertaining to children, as children seem to like playing with little animals.  When the theme of little animals is paired with a catchy tune (Gillian didn’t know it, she said she only recited it as a child as a poem in a sing-song voice, although in France it exists as a song with a tune), it then seems to create a perfect little song for kids to enjoy with each other.  At such a young age, the fact that the song doesn’t make sense seems irrelevant as long as it is fun to sing and has an interesting topic.  Additionally, when sung in French, it actually rhymes, which further enhances the song’s catchiness.

This song also resembles the leprechaun legend that is believed by many kids in America.  Gillian explained that, like leprechauns, green mice don’t actually exist, but the song creates a legend and a belief for kids to follow and have fun with.  Finding a leprechaun or pot of gold at the end of a rainbow is comparable to trying to find a green mouse in the fields- it is simply a different story.  In teaching kids songs with legends such as these, parents have a way of giving them something to do/look for in order to keep them occupied.  As with many children’s songs, this one is simply entertainment in the form of a silly French legend to keep little kids busy.

This song signifies the general trend in cultures around the world to create little legends or myths that have no purpose other than to entertain children.  When I was little, my parents also always used to tell me stories and sing me songs (such as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”) in order to make me do something, whether it be sleep, chores, or simply to stay busy.  Though they seem to make little sense, these songs are key when learning about various cultures because they are representative of the way parents treat their children and how they bring them up in that specific culture.  Songs such as these seem to be especially prevalent because they provide children not only with a song to sing but they also have a goal for the children; here being the uncatchable “green mouse.”

Annotation: CD disc, La Récré, “Une souris Verte” Volume 2. Song 3

Legend – France

Legend: La Velue

“My mother used to scare me into doing things by threatening that the monster “La Velue” would come after me.  It was basically this big, shaggy, monster with these poisonous spike/stinger kinds of things that hung from its body.  My mom told me that it was this weird animal thing that survived the legendary flooding without being on Noah’s Ark.”

Gillian told me about the French legend of “La Velue”, a clearly frightening monster that would appear to be incredibly scary to children.  She told me that when translated, “La Velue” means “Hairy one”, or “Shaggy Beast.”  As she described, “La Velue” is a legendary monster in French culture that is known for having survived the Biblical flood without joining the other animals on Noah’s Ark.  Gillian later elaborated that La Velue survived the flood by hiding in a cave in France.

Gillian explained that when she was little, if she misbehaved or didn’t do her chores, her parents would scare her by saying “I would listen to me if I were you, or you’ll get caught by La Velue.”  Here, her parents even combined the legend with a little rhyme to taunt Gillian.  By threatening her in this way, her parents remind her of how scary the monster is and how terrible her fate would be if she didn’t do the things she was told.  Also, by pairing the legend with a short little rhyme, her parents made it seem like the legend had even more validity because it came in multiple forms (legend and poem), and therefore must be known by many to be true.

Gillian told me that her mom learned the legend of La Velue from her parents, who are French.  The legend apparently has passed down through many generations and is well-known in France.  However the legend was never commonly used to threaten children, and this trend seemed only to exist in Gillian’s family.  In France, La Velue is used more as an excuse for bad things happening, almost as bad luck.  Velue would be blamed for creating such problems.  La Velue is also known in Portuguese cultures where it is called “La Peluda.”  (The legends of the two monsters, however, seem to be incredibly similar.) Though it is unknown how the legend spread, it is clear that this seems to be a legend that is known and told throughout many cultures.

When her Gillian’s mother had Gillian, she decided to continue the use of the legend of La Velue because it had worked when she was a child and scared her into behaving very well.  Gillian’s mother had also learned a lot about other legendary American creatures, like the Boogie Monster, and thought the concept was comparable.  Gillian got used to hearing about La Velue throughout her childhood, and says it is probably a legend she will share with her kids, as well.

The legend of La Velue proves to be effective because of the way it scares children.  In many cultures around the world, parents look for ways to discipline their children.  La Velue, like other legendary creatures, works very well because it slightly torments the children without actually harming them.  Though La Velue is a unique monster and known only in French and Portuguese cultures, the concept signifies a trend all over the world that is used in raising children.



“Basically I heard this story that if you swim in a pool, you can get pregnant.  I think the legend goes that once a nun went swimming in a pool and got pregnant, so now people think that if you go swimming, you can get pregnant, too.”

Though she isn’t religious, Gillian told me that she heard this legend from a couple friends she had in middle school.  She said that one of her friends of her general group of friends, who was very religious said she heard the story from her parents, who received it in a funny email.  Though neither she nor her parents actually believe the legend, she were amused by it and told it to their friends.  She, Gillian, and the rest of their group from then on referenced the legend whenever they were near a pool or talking about swimming.

The legend seems to contain much irony because according to Christian belief, nuns aren’t supposed to engage in sexual intercourse, and therefore, aren’t ever supposed to get pregnant.  However, when the story came around that a nun went swimming and somehow got pregnant, it obviously became very interested and peculiar news.  If this had been a story about a random person who had gotten pregnant after swimming, it may not have had the same effect.  By including a nun, the legend seems to become much more powerful because nuns are known for not getting pregnant, and therefore the story is particularly intriguing.

This legend also seems particularly amusing to Gillian and her friends because they were at an age at which they were just learning about puberty.  Though Gillian’s friends’ parents were only slightly amused by it, Gillian and her friends were the ones who really engaged in retelling the story over and over.  This is most likely because as young girls, they were just learning about menstruation, sex, and pregnancy.  At this age, these topics seem somewhat taboo, scary, or awkward to talk about.  By participating in telling this story, they are showing a natural curiosity and interest in unknown human functions and topics that are typically left for adults to discuss.  Also, by joking around about such a taboo topic, the girls eliminate any embarrassment because subconsciously they know the story is ridiculous, as well.  However, by pretending the story is real and going along with it, they then make it less embarrassing to discuss any other beliefs or stories they heard about these topics and won’t feel as stupid about sharing anything ridiculous that they happen to hear.  In general, while this story clearly isn’t true, it’s a striking and peculiar legend that proves to be very amusing to young girls and those who discuss beliefs about pregnancy and amusing tales related to these types of bodily functions.  It also provides an amusing kind of joke about religion due to its contradictory nature.

Ethnic Jokes

Ethnic Jokes:

  • “Why do they put cotton balls under medicine caps?”

“To remind n*ggers they picked cotton before they sold drugs.”

  • “What do you call two dozen n*ggers working in a cotton field under the blazing sun?”

“Old-fashioned farming equipment!”

My friend told me these racist cotton jokes that she had heard from other friends or saw on TV.  She said that jokes like these are really common among youth, probably around the ages from 16-25, or any age older depending on how racist the person is/how much of a sense of humor they have.  She said that there is an endless amount of racist jokes, specifically jokes about African-Americans, that are exchanged all the time for amusement.

These jokes in particular deal with the reputation of African Americans having been brought to America to work as slaves on plantations.  Most often, the plantation owners were trying to grow cotton, which is why cotton is so often one of the topics referenced in these types of jokes.  In joking about cotton, one is making a direct reference to their past occupation.

By linking it with today’s items, such as medicine and farming equipment, one is carrying the racism from hundreds of years ago to present day.  In referring to farming equipment, one is saying that they are essentially worth nothing more than to work in the fields, as they did back during the time of slavery.  Also, by referring to medicine as drugs, one is equating the racism employed by plantation owners to the racism employed by people today who associate drug dealing with particular racial stereotypes.

These jokes are made even more crude and offensive by including the term “n*gger.”  This is a derogatory way of saying “African-American” or “black” and makes other races seem superior.  Though people often tell these jokes solely for humor, they still represent the roots of racism.  By referring to this race in this particular way, the storyteller is inadvertently promoting his/her race or occupation instead, and therefore feels better about himself.  However what some people may not realize when telling these jokes, even if it is only out of humorous intent, is that slavery and racism still exist in parts of the world today, and people still take offense to this type of language.

Family Tradition

Family Tradition:

“The family has had a tradition of having the children attend dinner parties.  After dinner, the youngest child was passed around the table from lap to lap.  As each adult was visited, he or she had to continue a story directly from the parting words of the previous adult.  Each adult made the story as difficult to continue as possible.  (This was actually true in the era of FZO.)”

This emailed description of an older LeCates family tradition elaborates on a type of storytelling ceremony for the children in the family.  My family has always enjoyed dinner parties as long as I can remember, and as long as my father can remember.  My family would often invite over our extended family or family friends in the area to enjoy dinner and cocktails for an evening in order to relax on the weekends.  As my father describes above, when he was a child, his family was in the habit of continuing a tradition of allowing the children to attend the dinner parties, and using them as a way of telling stories to provide amusement at the end of the evening.

When I was little, I had been told that children are not generally allowed at dinner parties, and they are mainly a way for adults to interact, communicate, and enjoy themselves.  So when I heard about this older tradition that I had never taken part in, (The youngest living member to act in it was “FZO,” as stated above, a nickname for my second oldest sibling and brother Chris) I was slightly surprised.  Children are often looked down upon as being uncivilized, loud, obnoxious, and particularly disrupting when it comes to mature adult gatherings.

This tradition, however, uses children in a way that allows them to participate while still having an amusing time.  By passing the child around the table to each guest in turn, the child delights in taking part in the activity as opposed to being rejected for the night, and the adults get to take part in entertainment.  By including the concept of each individual continuing the story (Most likely with a sentence or two), and with increasing difficulty, the adults devise a way for them to also be entertained by each other in a more mature fashion that still involves the children, than if they simply told a normal story.  The adults are given the opportunity to outwit and stump each other, and the child gets to participate.

Since it is also clear that since this tradition usually comes at the end of the night, one can assume that a substantial amount of alcohol had been consumed throughout dinner.  This adds to the comedy of the tradition and the humor that comes from sharing ridiculous stories.  In involving only the youngest child, the adults don’t have to bother with either holding another heavy human being, or creating embarrassing innuendos that an older child might be appalled by.   Furthermore, by continuing this tradition at every dinner party, the adults of the family create numerous amusing stories which involve much variation and humor.  Though I never got to partake in this ritual, it is obvious that has been an amusing and well-received LeCates family tradition.