Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Parental Guidance suggested...

I apologize to those of you who will feel offended by this, but yes, you read it well : the title of the show by Florence Foresti (a very famous French comedian) featured in this theater is really Mother F%^&@# Of course for us French it does not really mean anything. It's just a word we hear a lot in American movies ;-) so we think it's alright to use it (even to put it up in lights at a theater!). Think about that when you swear in French; for you it's just a word, for us it can be most inappropriate...


  1. That is hysterical! I am most certainly not offended. I have been known to use the mofo expression.

  2. Its so true about curse words. But, I have to wonder then, what this conveys to the French. Why choose this word to name the show and what does the name do as far as drawing an audience? Curses really are laden with context - I recently just learned the precise usage of a Spanish curse word that I'd known the "meaning" of for 25 years.

  3. WOOOW!!! I checked for a translation because I was not really sure and woow!
    I looked for Florence Foresti tickets just one week ago as I wanted to go and her with a couple of friends and did not find any (except a third category that I declined!). It seems to be full, up to January!
    Have you got tickets Eric?
    Speaking of one woman show, last week, I went and saw another French woman at the Olympia : the show of Valérie Lemercier who is also very funny !!!
    Ah I loved her show and actually I love laughing and sharing someone's humour! I remember when I was at school, I always fell in love with the funniest boy in my class!

  4. Its one of the things that always makes me cringe when my French friends translate literally from French into English - such pretty girls using such awful language!

    But then personally I don't use the English versions very much - even if one English swear word appears to be a verb, adverb, noun etc in common usage. (7-10 in the title!)

    The theatre is on Faubourg-Montmartre? I think I have fought my way past the queues to get to the metro!

  5. I would think Samuel L. Jackson would be right at home with that marquee. As for swearing in other lanugages, I have been known to use the French "M" word on occasion, but I don't think it has the same impact. I also occasionally use the British term "bloody."

  6. I understand exactly what you mean, Eric. I won't use the Italian, but my first experience in Italy was "The Madonna is a pig"...I wouldn't DARE use the Italian, as not to offend your bloggers who speak Italian,but it is one bad word. Doesn't sound nice in English, but it turns into a chloroxed version of the real thing.

  7. Merde!! Sorry, I just had to. Your post made me laugh out loud.

  8. WTF?!! Oh, right. I meant... oh dear!

    I hardly ever use the mofo word, but there are others ;)

  9. When people speak something other than English around me, it always causes me to wonder :)

    My daughter Anne is learning French in school, so next time I am in Paris, the waiters and I will get along much better.....assuming I want to pay her way to France......

  10. Well said Eric! I don't think people truly take that into consideration when we use other languages to swear.
    I'm not sure what the attraction is, with swearing in other languages... I can do it in 3, French, Spanish and German, but I won't use them in public... you never know who is listening!!

  11. LOL, Cali and Caro!

    Well, that did shock me but it didn't offend me ~ it was just the surprise at seeing it up there in neon lights, in Paris no less.

  12. Interesting post, Eric. I've always wondered about the British term, "bloody." I don't know what it means to the Brits and why it's offensive.

    I'm not really offended by American/English swear words anymore. I guess I've just heard so many. Or maybe it just depends on the context. I wonder what Foresti's context is.

  13. I ride the NYC subways 2x a day, and I've heard it all (mostly from the teenagers on their way to and/or from school).
    Seriously, I absolutely know what you mean about curses in another language. In response to one of Bernard Pivot's famous questions on "Bouillon de la Culture"—"What's your favorite curse word?"—my answer would be "Putain!" Of course in English this means nothing, but in French . . . and I use "bloody" all the time and don't think twice. And don't even ask me about Greek curses! (Hey, this is fun.)

  14. good one Eric & so true, it is just a word, & one of the wonderful things about using different languages helps us to see things from a different perspective.

  15. Well that's something you certainly don't see every day ;)

    I agree Joyjoy. I once swore in German without thinking - before remembering I was on a train in Switzerland :S I got some strange looks.

  16. So Eric, what is the most offensive thing you have heard a foreigner say in French without realizing the impact? Or is it too awful to print?

    I try to be fairly cautious. Actually, I don't curse much in my native language either.

    This also reminds me of the vous/tu situation in French. I tend to be concerned that I might tutoyer someone who would perceive I had crossed the line. Most of the time, I err on the side of caution and use "vous" unless I am certain ... But perhaps using "vous" makes me seem aloof. I mean, I know the general guidelines, but even they seem to rely often on an individual's perception of a situation/relationship.

    Okay, I digressed ... But that's what came to mind for me in this discussion.

    By the way, I thought I made a comment yesterday, but it didn't post. I've been rather under the weather, but I wanted you to know that I am enjoying all the recent photos. The eyes were striking. The face looked real! And I loved the Canal St. Martin shot!

  17. The things we learn when we travel. My first adventure with this stuff was as a teenager on a summer homestay in Turkey. The mother and daughter armed me with a useful insult, just in case: son of a donkey (had to use it once, too). Apparently, one of the worst epithets to hurl in Hungarian is: horse penis. As someone said above, it must mean more than the translation suggests.

    For folks who may not already know, "mofo" is a somewhat gentler way of saying the word in this picture. I only became aware of it in recent years.

  18. LOL
    Sure it is a funny show ;-)

  19. Petrea, bloody isn't so bad a swear word. I don't use it much, but it's quite casually used and not too offensive.

    This, on the other hand, the MF word, is very offensive. It's the sort of word in English you will hardly ever hear (well, I can only speak personally I suppose) but yes to most people it is very shocking. Certainly in England, you would never see this word emblazoned on a theatre! I've never used the word myself though have heard it in a few films. I sound very Julie Andrews here, I know, but I think I'm telling it how it is in England.

  20. Incidentally, Eric, I'm not offended at all by your post. It's showing what's happening in Paris! I love the pic. If you were to say the word to me (or around me), though, yes I'd be offended of course!

  21. Bonjour & Hi every one
    Love all your translated curses ;o))
    I heard Florence Foresti in an interview saying she chose this title because of Madonna, whom she admires a lot

    I understood Madonna has recently appeared wearing a tee-shirt with MOTHER printed in front and the second word on the back

    Foresti's show is about being amother and how it is hard sometimes...

  22. There was a really good piece about Florence Foresti and comedy / language differences in the Evening Herault last week - see

  23. Eric - this didn't offend me. It's real life Paris. It makes me realize a lot of Americans are ok watching very strong cursing in movies that alot of them would never utter. Maybe its sort of an outlet. So, while Lynn will be offended, I don't care if you start mofo-ing all over the place around me (tho I somehow don't think either of us are in danger!!)

    Shell Sherree - I'm glad somebody was amused! (I'd just watched a Die Hard film. For anyone who hasn't seen them - is there anyone?! - Bruce Willis kills the bad guys at the end of each one while saying Yippie-kay-yay mofo!)

    Lili, that explains alot.

  24. @carrie "Why choose this word to name the show and what does the name do as far as drawing an audience?" In fact Florence Foresti just had a baby and that is her way of dealing with motherhood. Only she did not really realize that MoFo had very little to do with motherhood

    @Flore "Have you got tickets Eric?" No, but I wish I had. I love her (more than Valérie Lemercier)!

    @Eli "The theater is on Faubourg-Montmartre? I think I have fought my way past the queues to get to the metro!" It used to be a famous club in the 80's - The equivalent to Studio 54 in NYC)

    @PHX"Doesn't sound nice in English, but it turns into a chloroxed version of the real thing." I agree with that. Bad language in the mouth of a foreigner can be sometimes cure but most of the time "out of tune"

    @Sharon. LOL. Merde is actually pretty OK nowadays. But not when I was young!

    @Tomate Tss tss

    @Petrea. I don't think bloody is that offensive in English (I just checked that is what UK Lynn says a little further down in the comment box!). It's probably weird for you Americans to hear that in British shows, isn't. Kinda like "tabernacle" - a pretty strong canadian curse word - for us French

    @Alexa. Yeah putain is now pretty common. It originates from the south I think

    @Adventures of a mobile phone Ach! Verdamnt nochmal!

    @Parisian heart "So Eric, what is the most offensive thing you have heard a foreigner say in French without realizing the impact?" I have no precise example but I think that every time I hear a foreigner swear, it feels totally out of place because of the accent, the tone, etc. Bout the vous/tu thing don't worry too much.? With foreigners, it's OK. And FYI, it's also difficult for us - I mean knowing when we can say vous or tu. I hate it.

    @USelaine. Horse penis! I love that one!!

    @Lynn "Incidentally, Eric, I'm not offended at all by your post. It's showing what's happening in Paris! I love the pic. If you were to say the word to me (or around me), though, yes I'd be offended of course!" I would never Lynn! How could I?

  25. Not a show to take your 'mother' to then!

    In the UK, this word said with an American accent in a jokey, Hollywood, way might be OK, but used normally with a British accent would be very offensive indeed.

    Similarly, if a literal translation into French was displayed outside this theatre I would imagine it would be a lot less acceptable.

  26. Ahhhhhh Eric. I know you wouldn't :)

    Yes, good point, Drummond. As a joke, perhaps, it might be acceptable, with a pseudo American accent. However, I still think my eyebrows would pop up lol.

  27. "Tabernacle" is a curse word? I'm shocked, shocked, I tell you! Isn't that like saying "church" is a curse word?

  28. I seem to remember saying 'FotherMucker' when we were kids. We thought we were so cool.

  29. Now that is funny! I have spent the afternoon looking for a flat to rent in the 6th as our trip dates had to change a bit.....after all the stress, I clicked over to see this and was laughing so hard I had to get up and walk around!!!


  30. It is the same building as your photo from 08 avril 2005 isn't it...?

  31. @Me. Yes!

    @Petrea. Tabernacle is where the Catholic priests put the host while "not in use". For the French Canadians it's a terrible insult (they actually pronounce it "Tabarnac"). For the "French French" it's just a word...

  32. I just got done looking up this whole Quebequois-religious-term-as-curse-word thing and could not believe my eyes. Its true, the French speakers in Quebec do use tabernacle and chalice and other words, including Christ as a verb, to insult each other. What you don't learn here on PDP!!! I'm still stunned.

  33. ET SUZY. You are right...the Eiffel Tower is red white and blue this week. I just asked why, and it has to do with Turkey, the world cup and that was all I could comprehend when I asked about it.(Suzy asked about this yesterday)

    Saw Katie at La Palette today and if you are a PDP regular, we mentioned all of you in our conversation!!!!!!!

  34. Wow, interesting photo -- I wonder what this show is all about?! It's a bit shocking to see that written in lights, but I'm cracking up imagining the craftsperson creating that neon sign. Great fun to see PHX today, and yes we did chat about everyone. PHX I do hope that you didn't get caught in the thunderstorm like I did (it was about 8 pm). I guess the New York Times got it right after all. There was torrential rain and I got soaked.

  35. Isn't it wonderful that Katie and PHX got together in Paris? I love that.

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  37. What a horrible word - I hate it!! It is used far too much in movies, that's for sure. I did discover a few months ago, while reading a book on European history, that the f-word has been around for a long time. The first time it's found in print is in England around 1500, and it's in code because the word was considered to be offensive at the time!

    I hope people don't think that Americans just go around speaking like that, because most of us definitely do not!!

  38. Petrea, I, too, love that Katie and Phx got together ... and that Eric saw Katie.

    Eric, thanks for your answers. The why of the offensiveness when foreigners swear is different than anything I could have guessed. And as for vous vs. tu, I had no idea that the French struggle with this as well!

  39. This is indeed a parental guidance matter. No children allowed even near the place. Thanks for sharing. By the way, I found a fantastic Paris adventure that might interest you too. Thanks and have a wonderful day!

  40. Whoah! :]
    you know what the F-word really means?

    Consent of

    my nurse/teacher taught that to us in class.

    gotta go lunch :]