marcel barang

Festival Brassens – 4

In English, French, Reading matters on 16/04/2011 at 7:14 pm

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The official title of this song is ‘Le temps ne fait rien à l’affaire’ (Time has nothing to do with it; It’s not a question of time) but I’ve always known it by the blunter ‘Quand on est con’ of the next line.

‘Con’ is a culture-sensitive word with many uses, meanings and nuances, hence many translations.
It’s seldom used in its literal meaning of a woman’s vagina (as such, ‘cunt’ or ‘twat’ = ‘chatte’). Most often, it’s used in the sense of ‘stupid’, with variations of ‘bloody stupid’ or ‘fucking bloody stupid’, or of ‘bloody idiot’, rather than the more offensive ‘connard’ (‘stupid jerk’, ‘cunt’, ‘twat’ or ‘arsehole/asshole’ – the latter compliment being more widely bestowed in English than in French ( the outdated or droll ‘trou du cul’ or the prevalent ‘enculé’) for reasons or practices we need not consider here. In French, ‘un con’ is the poor man’s ‘crétin’ (‘cretin’ or ‘moron’).
At times, ‘con’ is mildly derisive (‘faire le con’: ‘to arse around’ or ‘mess about’) or not at all (‘c’est tout con’: it’s dead easy; ‘c’est pas con’: it’s quite clever) or used just for laughs (‘con comme un balai’ or ‘con comme la lune’: as thick as two short planks). And folk in the south of France tend to use ‘con’ (or its Occitan twin, ‘cou’) as a comma or breathing space (‘Et alors, con, t’aurais vu ce couillon, boudu con, qu’est-ce qu’il tenait !’), which I guess could be rendered with ‘uh’ or ‘ah’, if at all. [‘boudu’ I understand to originate from ‘boun diou’ meaning ‘bon Dieu’.]
After all these considérations à la con (lousy reflections), I’ll venture that the mean term for ‘un con’ is ‘a jerk’ in British English – rather than in American English, where ‘a jerk’ is more obnoxious and would rather fit ‘un salaud’ or ‘un fumier’ (‘a real shit’).
So, here goes.

Quand on est con – Georges Brassens – 1961

When a jerk (always a jerk)

Quand ils sont tout neufs
qu’ils sortent de l’œuf
du cocon
tous les jeunes blancs becs
prennent les vieux mecs
pour des cons

When they are brand-new
just out of the shell
of the cocoon
all young greenhorns
take old geezers
for as many jerks

Quand ils sont venus
les têtes chenues
les grisons
tous les vieux fourneaux
prennent les jeunots
pour des cons

When they are here
the hoary heads
the grey noggins
all the old fogeys
take young lads
for as many jerks

Moi qui balance entre deux âges
je leur adresse à tous un message

As I’m caught between two ages
I have for them all a message

[Refrain]
Le temps ne fait rien à l’affaire
Quand on est con, on est con
Qu’on ait vingt ans, qu’on soit grand-père
Quand on est con, on est con

[Chorus]
Time has nothing to do with it
When you’re a jerk you’re a jerk
Be you twenty or be you a grandpa
when you’re a jerk you’re a jerk

Entre vous plus de controverses
Cons caducs ou cons débutants
Petits cons de la dernière averse
Vieux cons des neiges d’antan
Petits cons de la dernière averse
Vieux cons des neiges d’antan

No more controversy between you
Obsolete jerks or novice jerks
Little jerks of the latest shower
Old jerks of snowfalls of yore
Little jerks of the latest shower
Old jerks of snowfalls of yore

Vous les cons naissant
les cons innocents
les jeunes cons
qui, ne le niez pas, prenez les papas pour des cons

You budding jerks
innocent jerks
young jerks
who, don’t deny it, take all dads for stupid jerks

Vous les cons âgés
les cons usagés
les vieux cons
qui, confessez-le, prenez les p’tits bleus pour des cons

You aged jerks
worn jerks
old jerks
who, admit it, take all rookies for bloody jerks

Méditez l’impartial message
d’un qui balance entre deux âges

Meditate the impartial message
of one who’s caught between two ages

Refrain | Chorus

youtube.com/watch?v=gznDOMKeWkA&feature=related

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