Home | Away

Jamie does his French homework

Today’s lesson:  telling time!

Me:  OK, what does this clock say?

Jamie:  8:15!

Me:  And what’s eight o’clock in French?

Jamie:  (thinks).  Huit heures!

Me:  Great!  And now what’s . . .

Jamie:  Huit heures meter maid!

Me:  . . . a quarter aft . . . hey!  Did you say “meter maid”?

Jamie:  (smiles mischievously). 

Me:  What did you say?

Jamie:  Huit heures meter maid!  That’s another Paul we forgot!

Winter solstice, 2005.  The day of Jamie’s very first bilingual joke.

You know, thirty years ago doctors were still telling parents that kids with Down syndrome were incapable of learning to read.  Well within living memory, folks.

UPDATE:  It has been brought to my attention that some readers are not sure why Jamie would say, “that’s another Paul we forgot.” Sorry about that!  The explanation is right here.

Posted by on 12/21 at 08:41 PM
  1. Ol’ Sol once again begins her long northward creep, and with luck someone here will explain that joke.  Great story, and another serving of Michael’s tasty humble pie.

    Posted by  on  12/21  at  10:01 PM
  2. Lovely! Jamie’s one up on moi. Don’t meter maids put tickets on quarts?

    Posted by  on  12/21  at  10:35 PM
  3. Ah, yes, I remember well the day that our French teacher was returning our workbooks and I exclaimed, “Yippie, cahiers!”

    “Pas amuseant,” said the teacher with a sly grin.

    Posted by  on  12/21  at  11:33 PM
  4. Ooh, tell Jamie that there’s actually a word for bilingual stuff like that, jokes/songs etc - “macaronic.”

    It’s really good for clearing that little space of air around you at oppressive social events…

    Posted by bellatrys  on  12/21  at  11:45 PM
  5. Examples of a macaronic song here and here.

    Posted by bellatrys  on  12/21  at  11:49 PM
  6. I’m looking forward to his giving me French.. er.. Freedom-Talk lessons at some point in the near future.

    Posted by norbizness  on  12/22  at  12:06 AM
  7. Oh, you would teach your child French.

    Posted by Roxanne  on  12/22  at  12:43 AM
  8. There were three little cats
    who lived in France
    their names were ‘un’, ‘deux’, ‘trois’.
    They went on the ice
    the ice it cracked
    and un deux trois cats sank.

    Posted by  on  12/22  at  02:14 AM
  9. I’m sorry.  I know French.  I love puns.  I even love bilinguial puns (I sometimes think of a good idea as an “Easter.” You know, bonne idee = Bunny Day = Easter.)

    But I don’t get the joke.  And who’s Paul?

    Posted by  on  12/22  at  02:59 AM
  10. Lovely Rita, meter maid, where would I be without you? 

    Paul McCartney

    (I don’t speak French, only Beatles.)

    Posted by  on  12/22  at  05:44 AM
  11. He would probably enjoy the awful puns in French that I used to learn:

    A Frenchman orders breakfast: twelve pieces of bacon, eighteen hash browns, nine sausages, a four-foot stack of pancakes, a quart of coffee, six grilled tomatoes and one egg.

    - Why only one egg? Don’t you want any more?

    - (in a dreadful stage accent) No, no, one egg is un oeuf.

    Posted by  on  12/22  at  06:51 AM
  12. If, like me, you don’t know how huit heures is pronounced, but are certain the joke has something to do with Lovely Rita, go here and listen (MP3 link). Good for Jamie!

    Paul is dead, man. Miss him. Miss him.

    Posted by Dr. Drang  on  12/22  at  08:10 AM
  13. Oh, you would teach your child French.

    Yes, I would.  I’m concentrating on important French verbs like couper and courir.

    Paul is dead, man.

    I heard he was in a car crash and he lost his hair.  Turn me on, dead man.

    Posted by Michael  on  12/22  at  08:48 AM
  14. Michael, you made my morning. And you made cry, dang it. I have a 2 year old with DS, and I wonder if I will ever stop feeling outrage over the limitations that were placed on these children--and are still being placed on them. I watch my son read everyday! He loves it! I may be a biased observer, but I think he reads better than most other 2 year olds. Sure, he is still “jargoning"--but the seeds are being sown....

    Posted by  on  12/22  at  08:50 AM
  15. "huit heures” is pronounced “wheat-erh”—close enough to Rita for punning purposes.

    Posted by  on  12/22  at  10:36 AM
  16. John Lennon strongly denied that he deliberately put various “clues” about Paul’s supposed demise in Beatles songs, but the the “Paul is (a) dead(,) man, miss him (missing?), miss him, (missing?)” bit certainly sounds to me like Lennon’s voice, and I’m not completely convinced that these “clues” weren’t an elaborate practical joke by John.

    On the subject of people with DS, advances in medical care have created new challenges for parents of people with DS. I know of a rather poignant example of such challenges from a situation in my mother’s old neighborhood. There was a couple who had a child with DS. Contrary to what used to happen in the old days (so I’ve read), the child grew into an adult with DS (hence my use of “people” above instead of “children"). When the son was in his 40s, the couple realized that he would almost certainly survive them, and they had to make elaborate provisions, involving signing over their house to take effect after their death, for his eventual care.

    Posted by  on  12/22  at  10:44 AM
  17. The linked article about Jamie and the Beatles is wonderful; thanks for pointing us that direction.

    I’ve got a facility for placing words and phrases in musical lyrics myself.  Lyrics are so easy to memorize/remember for those of us with brains that way inclined; they have rhythmn, meter, and rhyme all as built in aids to memory. I have enormous numbers of songs stored in my brain which come pouring forth at the smallest prompt; when I hallucinate, I hallucinate music.  And no, I suck at making music myself either with my voice or an instrument.  But I can hear it anytime I want simply by playing back inside my head.  Useful that.


    Posted by Mary Kay  on  12/22  at  10:45 AM
  18. I love it! The only thing better than a pun is a pun told well by a kid, and the only thing better than that is a bilingual pun told well by a kid, and the only thing better than that is a bilingual pun told well by a kid with Down syndrome who knocks our socks off.

    Posted by Orange  on  12/22  at  11:54 AM
  19. Aah, i was looking for the synchronicitous causal construct as to why i was burning Beatle’s mixes and reading email (en francais) from a friend in Paris this morning.  And yes, Sgt. Pepper’s was well represented.  Thanks Jamie. 

    Wasn’t Paul turned into a walrus in his next samsaric manifestation???

    Posted by  on  12/22  at  02:26 PM
  20. That’s cold Berube. First you get the reader all excited with the sight of a sub-3000 word post.

    Then the reader doesn’t understand the “Paul” joke.

    Then the explanation is given as a pointer to a 3000 word post!


    You with your meta-jokes - you ain’t right.

    Posted by cdj  on  12/22  at  03:16 PM
  21. Bwah-hah-hah-hah, cdj.

    Posted by Michael  on  12/22  at  03:33 PM
  22. French homework? I just knew those accents were more than just window dressing.

    You should be warned that the ECHELON web crawlers send up a red flag every time they encounter an accent aigu, circonflexe or cedille, as there’s certain to be some leftishness afoot.

    Something to bear in mind as you draw your son further into this tangled, treasonous web of yours.

    Posted by Dan  on  12/22  at  05:31 PM
  23. Well, Dan, I’ll bear it in mind now, because I hear nothing attracts ECHELON web crawlers like the word ECHELON in all caps.

    Posted by  on  12/22  at  05:35 PM
  24. > I hear nothing attracts ECHELON web crawlers like the word ECHELON in all caps.

    Still, nothing draws them in quite like the phrase ”Somebody set up us the bomb.” (Which, incedently, reads backwards as ”Bomb the US, upset somebody.")

    You’re welcome.

    Posted by Dan  on  12/22  at  06:02 PM
  25. Ooh, tell Jamie that there’s actually a word for bilingual stuff like that, jokes/songs etc - “macaronic.”

    And tell him that macaronics also relate to Yankee Doodle’s bold taste in haberdashery. A “doodle” was a rude yokel, while a “macaroni” was an effete and multi-cultural sophisticate—Bart Simpson in kneepants v. a tea-sipping language monkey.

    Or don’t. He’s doing a fine job of amassing his own trove of useless essentials.

    Posted by  on  12/22  at  07:32 PM
  26. vetiver -

    If you’re gonna use an analogy, then fucking use the analogy: Bart v Martin.


    Posted by cdj  on  12/22  at  07:37 PM
  27. cdj, thanks for the warning (whew, a narrow escape!) Ditto to JR for the concise clarification.

    Natch, I did connect Paul with meter maids; unfamiliarity with French was the problem.

    Posted by  on  12/22  at  08:03 PM
  28. What’s next, huit heures Decartes?

    Posted by  on  12/23  at  09:05 PM
  29. Ahem’s poem reminded me of one of my favorite jokes, a German macaronic.

    What comes between fear and sex?  Funf.

    Posted by  on  12/29  at  01:41 AM
  30. je t’aime Jamie. It reminds me my french class at school.

    Posted by life cover  on  09/20  at  03:31 AM
  31. tnx for data sharing ! i very like your post and hope to read more from your blog

    Posted by cipi - it services  on  11/02  at  03:05 PM
  32. Hilarious. That’s a pretty witty bilingual pun.

    Posted by Safety Training  on  12/29  at  10:36 AM





Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Submit the word you see below:

<< Back to main