bon sang

Jean-Marc, strolling with me through the town of Vacqueras.

I'm just going to steal one more photo ...from the upcoming Cinéma Vérité edition... before I get my act together, and figure out how to temporarily organize myself on my son's new computer after regaining power (and one new PC...) here at the farm. That's my husband, le vigneron(pictured above).  Just two days after he left for a multi-city USA wine tour, we lost all power back here at the grape farm. No electricity! (I knew Jean-Marc was taking the juice with him, but this is ridiculous!) PS: re the ASU t-shirt: I met my husband in 1990, while on an exchange program organized by Arizona State University. This photo was taken three weeks ago.

bon sang (bohn sahn) expression

    : dammit!, for Pete's sake, jeepers, for cryin' out loud....

There are many translations for "bon sang". A Google book search brings up a rainbow of equivalents. Today, I ask you to add your own translations here, in the comments box. Let's make this a big rainbow!


I was driving the kids to school this morning, giving thanks for the sun shining across the fields of vines (we've been without heat since Le Big Fry) and feeling lucky to be on time....

Our conversation was centered on le changement d'horaire,* something for which we were speeding to catch up with ever since, at 6:45 am I learned it was, in fact, 7:45 am!

"I didn't realize the time had changed!" I apologized to the kids.
"Oh, I knew about it," Max said.
"Me, too," his sister added.

Ah bon?* Well, the next time you have insider information like that, would you mind sharing it with me?"

As I looked into the rear-view mirror, to see whether anyone was listening, I noticed that my son was not wearing a seat-belt.
"Max! Put your seat-belt on... for goodness sakes!"

After a bout of silence, my daughter spoke:

"What does "goodness sakes" mean?" Jackie wanted to know.

Our child's question caught me by surprise.
"Goodness... means "something good". That's when it occurred to me that this half of the definition defeated our purpose (we needed to get those seat-belts on lest something bad happen!).

"Goodness sakes is something to say instead of saying a gros mot*!"

"Well, what does it mean?" Max asked, and, for once, I was certain that both kids were listening to me.

Goodness sakes? What, come to think of it, did "sakes" mean anyway? 
"It's like bon sang, I guess!"

I looked into the rear-view mirror and noticed that my son seemed satisfied with the translation, which he quickly shared with his sister, in English: "GOOD BLOOD!"

Well, it wasn't an exact equivalent, but it was exact in other ways, exact enough to make us smile like pirates as we sped forward into the future, leaving our cares farther down the time line.

*     *     *
Corrections, comments, or stories of your own... always welcome in the comments box. Merci d'avance. We love reading your words!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
le changement d'horaire (m) = time change; ah bon? = oh, really?; le gros mot (m) = cuss word

See hundreds of photos of France at Cinéma Vérité: your gift when you help support this French word journal. Click here to begin!
The first French bike my mom gave me. Can you tell that she borrowed it back? (that's her hat in the basket). Photo © K. Espinasse, from the French Word archives. 


French Clockmaker sign : a reproduction of an old French merchant's sign
Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves : made with no colorings, artificial preservatives, pulps, purees, juices or concentrates.
In French Music: "Au sourire de l'âme" by Pep's (recommended by my son, Max)

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What does a mom do when her kids use the M-word (see today's story)? Does she look to an old French billboard for the answer? (This one, an ad for "La Roue" savon--see the old red wheel in the background?--seems to suggest a good old-fashioned washing-out-of-the-mouth with soap! 

SAPERLIPOPETTE (saah-pair-lee-poh-pet) exclamation
    : gadzooks! goodness me!

Update: my friend Alicia just wrote in, adding this: The correct translation of saperlipopette if you believe Tintin translations anyway... is "blistering barnacles"... Thanks to Captain Haddock!

J'ai retrouvé le plaisir de la BD grâce à ce personnage libre de dire merde et non pas saperlipopette. I rediscovered the enjoyment of the comic book, thanks to the character who was free to say "sh--" and not "gadzooks". --from Le Monde, from the article ZEP, PÈRE COMBLÉ DE TITEUF

AUDIO FILE: listen to my son, Max, pronounce the French word "saperlipopette" and hear the example sentence:  Download Saperlipopette . Download Saperlipopette

In books: Merde!: The Real French You Were Never Taught at School

... and the memoir Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

On the way to the dishwasher, my son drops a dirty spoon.
"Merde!" says he.

I zip my lip, for a moment, and think about how the French use the M-word freely, starting from a tender age. I'll never forget hearing it shouted at the beach, in Marseilles... by one stuttering sand-castle engineer, a little tyke of four years old. "Merde!" he exclaimed, when the water rushed up, demolishing his digs.

"Merde? He said 'merde'!" I remember my astonishment at how the French parents continued to chat, comme si de rien n'était.* Once again, I began to question and compare cultures, thinking back to my experiences in the States. In my mind's ear, I could not hear the same four-letter complaint on a beach, whose shores were closer to my native land. Surely, back home, a four-year-old wouldn't shout the S-word? No, I decided at the time, American toddlers don't cuss like that.

And then I had kids of my own. I think I've been on them about their cussing ever since they turned two (the age of mimic--and they weren't mimicking me!).

"Max!" I complain to my now thirteen-year-old. "Fais attention à ce que tu dis! Careful what you say!"
"Qu'est-ce que tu veux que je dise? Well, what do you want me to say?"
What's wrong with the perfectly retro "rats!"? I wonder. Now there's a keen expletive!

"Zut!" his father offers, picking up the dirty spoon and putting it in the machine, along with the breakfast bowls.

"Que ton langage soit... soit..." I search for a French word to illustrate my point and, taking a clue from my son, who is already halfway up the stairs, on his way to his room, I find it. "See to it that your language is ELEVE!"* Yes, elevated--raised to a HIGHER level!

Max, putting on an aristocratic air, and leaning dramatically over the guard rail offers this:


I smile, satisfied, but my satisfaction is short-lived when, with a snicker, my son comes up with another possibility.

"Oh, Max! That's LOW!"
"Crotte!" he snickers.
"Low. So LOW!"
"Go on, scat, get out of here!"

Remembering that little tyke on the beach in Marseilles, and his side-swiped tower, I think about "language building" and all those vain attempts to bring our kids' speech to "a higher level," against the waves of influence. (Not an easy undertaking when I don't understand French as they do--and now that there is a third language to contend with: French "texto" or text messaging.) With all the lofty, linguistic intentions, I wonder if I am, in a way, building my own chateau de sable*--only on a seemingly "higher" level; you know, a sand castle in the ciel.*

French Vocabulary
Comme si de rien n'était
= as if nothing happened
élevé = high, elevated
une crotte = dropping (dog mess), i.e. "sh--"
le château (m) de sable = sand castle; le ciel = sky

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.