The Star-Herald

Patois, dictons, metaphores: lettre B, 2e partie

As you probably already know, many years ago, more specifically, until 1967, most St. John Valley students were punished for speaking French on school grounds.

They were told they spoke some sort of bastardization of a language that no one outside the Valley understood. Of course, this was a lie.

So, most of us never learned to read or write French, standard or otherwise. This column is written largely phonetically so that we, the people who were cheated by the legislature between 1918 and 1967, can read it and share a laugh or two.

beau de loin, loin d’être beau  – literally: good looking from far away but far from good looking; ugly

beau fin-fin – braggart; vain person

bébelles – toys

bec finLiterally: small mouth; finicky eater

bédènne – tummy

belle atous – well-dressed

belle crotteliterally: pretty turd: pretty girl; pretty child

belle pouline – pretty girl

b’en amanchéliterally: well hooked up; well off; wealthy; in trouble; trapped; well-developed woman

b’en atteléliterally: well-harnessed; well-married

b’en dans sa peauliterally: well in her skin; comfortable with oneself

b’en fardéliterally: well-powdered; wear lots of make-up

bête a corneliterally: horned beast; cow; bull

bête a patatesliterally: potato beast; one who picks potatoes by hand

bête puanteliterally: stinking beast; skunk

béteau – soon

binne a deux siégesliterally: bean with two seats; lima bean

binne a quatre sieges – literally: bean with four seats; very large baked beans

bité – beat, win against

blanc comme un drapliterally: white as a bedsheet; pale

blême comme un drapliterally: pale as a bedsheet; sickly looking

Don Levesque is a Grand Isle native who worked in community journalism for almost 35 years. He was the publisher and editor of the St. John Valley Times for 15 years prior to retiring in 2010. He wrote a weekly newspaper column, called Mon 5¢, in the Valley Times for more than 20 years. He has been inducted into the Maine Journalism Hall of Fame and the Maine Franco-American Hall of Fame.

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