Sunday, January 20, 2013

Fermé la bouche

Fermé la bouche.

Mom was forever telling us kids to stop saying “shut up” and “oh my God.”  So, one of us nine girls must have found a secret French connection and fermé la bouchewas born. Before you knew it, no one was yelling “shut up” any more.

Of course, this was long before siri, the internet, or iphone translator apps.  Clearly, this was not listed under “F” in our Webster’s Dictionary and even more disturbing, it was nowhere to be found in our edition of Funk and Wagnalls.  So, no one really knew what it meant. Except her, the sister who ‘knew’ French.  I thought it sounded suspiciously like a feminine hygiene product.  But no one would address that concern.

Fermé la bouche.
She loved the way it rolled off her tongue and gave strength to her meaning. Whatever it was. It made her believe in her own authority.  Soon, we all needed to try it and feel for ourselves, the power of a foreign tongue. We said it hard and fast. We said it slow and soft.  We declared war with it and laid our dollies to sleep with it.  We stressed every conceivable syllable with as many intonations.  There was a lot of “fermé la bouche”-ing going on.

At some point, I tired of her puff-uppery and listening to her fermé la bouchethis andfermé la bouchethat.  She had met her résistance. “Shut up!” I yelled, among other things.  She swore to God I’d go to hell for calling her a “fool” (but …”you are”… I added.)  “Don’t fools go to hell too?”  If only I had known how to say it properly… “Les imbéciles ne vont-ils pas à l'enfer aussi?”

I knew she knew the Bible about as well as she knew French.  So, I put my sword down and picked up my pen instead.  Én garde.

Funny, … to this day… she wields a gavel and I, a pen.  C’est la vie.

Patricia Spreng

And this below, just for the sheer fun of it!!  

I'm joining friends at d’Verse for the Poetics prompton Foreign Tongues.  Truly, this started out as a poem and then it ran away from me, so I let it go.  My apologies for breaking the rules this time. = ) 

(and… Sara, if you read this… you’ll know I took a few liberties.Fermé la bouche.”  = )


  1. lovely. both the lush french swearing and the friends =)

  2. haha...this is way cool...we invented a secret language when we were kids to do just a feminine hygiene good...thanks for the smile

  3. ...ha, nice...sometimes there's something cool in speaking a language you only knew and no one gets it other than one seemed to understand what you are saying that kind of creates a superior feel because you knew they know nothing of your dialect...though most likely you will look like a weirdo & insane for being s

  4. ah, you are alright....ha...this was interaction and it got you to pick up the pen so that is not a bad thing at all...and you got me laughing...smiles.

  5. This is a great story. Well written, filled with humor and meaning. Thanks for sharing with us, really enjoyed it.

  6. love this! I have used the French form myself quite often. Reminds me of a Hebrew school teacher who would use the Hebrew in stead of English Sheket! (quiet!) or, Sheket b'vakashah. (Quiet, please.)

  7. Patricia, we were not allowed to say "shut up" either, nor my sister's favorite, "Poo-head." So she came up with "You're a gunky," and since it didn't mean anything as a noun, she succeeded! Thanks for the blast from the past. And the commentary is a winner, too. My "gunky" sister should be a mental health consumer, but she decided to become a therapist instead. Talk about the blinky leading the blinky... glad I'm in treatment! Peace, Amy


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