“If you don’t understand who you are
and where you come from,
it’s hard to understand your place now.”
—actor John Turturro, quoted in
Parade magazine on February 15, 2015
In the previous six posts in this series “You Might Be from the Country If . . . Parts I-VI” I attempted to explain who I am by examining where I came from as a country boy born and raised in rural Arkansas.
In the last of these posts, Part VI, I presented some “false French” that I encountered in my years as a French teacher, translator, and interpreter.
Now in this last post in that seven-part series I offer some of my favorite French quotations collected over the years of my life and career. Due to ongoing health issues, this may be my last post for the foreseeable future.
Favorite French Sayings
“Quand nous étions en Arkansas,
dix des Français qui m’accompagnaient
ont demandé un établissement sur la rivière Arkansas.”
(“When we were in Arkansas,
ten of the Frenchmen who accompanied me
requested a settlement on the Arkansas River.”)
—Henri de Tonti,
Explaining establishment of Arkansas Post (1686),
Historical Collection of Louisiana, Vol. 1, p. 68
“I started out life as a cowboy in Arkansas
and came to Oklahoma as a French-English translator.
As our Yankee friends say, ‘Go figure!’”
If you have followed my blog all through these three-and-a-half-plus years and more than a hundred-twenty-plus posts you may recognize the first quotation above which appeared in my earlier post titled “Arkansiana IV: Arkansas’ French Connection.”
You may also have noted my explanation of my own personal connection to the French language in a post titled “How the Words in Italics Changed My Whole Life” and my love for French Louisiana that led to our disastrous honeymoon to Cajun Country and New Orleans in December 1962. (See my post titled “Our Honeymoon Was No Honeymoon for Mari.”)
As a result of my years of studying and teaching French I eventually became a French-English translator and interpreter for an international Christian organization in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Later, I became the U.S. representative and translator/interpreter for a traveling French evangelist.
Through all those years of exposure to the French language, I came across several French sayings that have stuck with me.
Here are just a few of my favorites. I must admit that now, almost four decades later, the origin of some of these French quotes is unknown or forgotten.
“Ce qui n’est pas clair n’est pas français.”
(“What is not clear is not French.”)
—Antoine de Rivarol
L’universalité de la langue française
(The Universality of the French Language)
“Chaque jour je fais deux choses que je déteste;
je me lève et je me couche.”
(“Every day I do two things that I hate:
I get up and I go to bed.”)
“Nul homme n’est un héros pour son valet de chambre.”
(“No man is a hero to his personal valet.”)
—Quoted by French evangelist Jean-Louis Jayet
“Aujourd’hui, ce qui ne vaut pas la peine à dire, on le chante.”
(“Today, what is not worth saying is being sung.”)
“Ne me dites pas que ce problème est difficile.
S’il n’était pas difficile, ce ne serait pas un problème.”
(“Don’t tell me that this problem is difficult.
If it were not difficult it would not be a problem.”)
“Le cœur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît point.”
(“The heart has its reasons, that reason knows nothing about.”)
“L’homme n’est rien, l’oeuvre tout.”
(“Man is nothing, work is everything.”)
—Gustave Flaubert in letter to George Sand,
quoted by Sherlock Holmes in The Red-Headed League,
from “Literary Skills of Sherlock Holmes” by Ted Friedman.
“De la discussion jaillit la lumière.”
(“From discussion springs forth light.”)
(Provided the discussion is honest, accurate, and amiable!)
“La France a perdu une bataille,
mais la France n’a pas perdu la guerre . . . .
La France ne peut pas être la France sans grandeur.”
(“France has lost a battle, but France has not lost the war. . . .
France cannot be France without grandeur.”)
—Charles de Gaulle
“L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’audace.”
(“Audacity, audacity, always audacity.”
or, “Dare, dare, always dare.”)
—Attributed to both Georges Danton of France
and Frederick II of Prussia,
quoted by Gen. George Patton in the movie Patton
And my favorite French quote,
the official slogan of the French-speaking
Canadian province of Quebec:
“Je me souviens.”
Forget the Past! How Can I Do That?
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing . . .”
—Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV
The quote above about forgetting the past was the scripture passage for the daily devotional lesson from The Upper Room for February 21, the day I wrote this section of this post. Coincidentally, it was also the date on which I began work as a French-English translator at the Osborn Foundation in Tulsa in 1977, thus beginning my Oklahomian Exile.
Paradoxically, when I inserted that biblical quote I had already closed this section on my favorite French quotes with my own French self-quote about the past:
“Je déteste le présent et je crains l’avenir,
mais j’adore le passé.
C’est là où toute ma vie est allée
et où moi aussi j’irai bientôt!”
(“I hate the present
and I fear the future,
but I adore/worship the past.
That’s where all my life has gone
and where I too will soon go!”)
(To hear this sentiment about the past
expressed in music, listen to 1950s crooner Eddie Fisher sing
“Turn Back the Hands of Time”)
On that note, as a “hopeless romantic and helpless neurotic French cowboy” I conclude this post and series with a link to a video of the inimitable French cabaret singer Edith Piaf performing “Non je ne regrette rien” (“No I regret nothing”) with French and English lyrics on screen. To read about Edith Piaf, click on her name; to hear the song with a totally different view of the past, click on its title.
“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
—Acts 2:4 NIV
Finally, in about 1983, after studying, teaching, translating, and interpreting French for more than twenty-five years, I was invited to come to France for an orientation visit with a French evangelist I represented at the time. It was the first and only time I ever set foot in any French-speaking country!
During that two-week visit I was interviewed on French radio. I still have a cassette recoding of that interview in which I gave my Christian testimony in French. (See my earlier post titled “My Religious Conversion.”)
Not bad for a “cowboy from Arkansas” (the son of a livestock dealer and the grandson of a country Southern Baptist preacher), an “exiled Arkie of the Covenant” whose only remaining contact with French is his daily Bible reading in the same French Bible he used to translate and interpret more than thirty years ago!
The photo of Ferdinand Foch was taken from:
The photo of Charles de Gaulle was taken from:
The photo of Frenchman Georges Danton was taken from:
The photo of Frederick II of Prussia was taken from:
The photo of General George Patton from the movie Patton was taken from:
The link to the video of Eddie Fisher singing “Turn Back the Hands of Time” was taken from:
The photo of French cabaret singer Edith Piaf was taken from:
The YouTube video of Edith Piaf singing “Non je ne regrette rien” was taken from:
The YouTube video of “Non je ne regrette rien” from the movie Madagascar III: Europe’s Most Wanted was taken from: