Thursday, September 7, 2006

Sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble

I'll do something that I rarely do here: I'm posting two words within an hour of each other. Normally I only do that to catch up for missing days, but in this case these are words that go together well.

Much like "qu'est-ce que c'est", "sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble" is a French phrase that for many is best known as a song lyric, in this case from The Beatles' song "Michelle". The relevant portions of the lyrics go as follows:

Michelle, ma belle
Sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble
Tres bien ensemble

"Ma belle" means "my beautiful", and is pronounced largely as you would expect. As with the aforementioned Talking Heads lyrics, it helps to clip off the final consonants of many of the words, leaving the pronunciation of the rest somewhat as follows:

Son le mot qui von tre bien ensem

Sort of like:

Sohn lay moat key voan tray bee-ann on-som

Or, if you prefer:

Someday monkey won't play piano song
Play piano song

According to A Hard Day's Write, The Beatles didn't speak French, so Paul's friend Jan Vaughan (the wife of the fellow who introduced John and Paul) was a French language teacher. Paul said that "I asked her what sort of things I could say that were French and which would go together well [...] because I'd always thought that the song sounded French". Vaughan came up with both the name Michelle and the lyrics that rhymed with that name. Paul later requested that she translate a specific phrase (the one that we're considering), which appears in English at the beginning of the song:

Michelle, ma belle
These are words that go together well

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