Search This Blog

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Parlez-vous Guernsey French?

When I was small my grandparents would talk to each other in Guernsey French whenever there was something they didn't want me or my sisters to hear.  The result? I learnt quite few words for myself, especially those concerning chocolate or treats!  So I was delighted recently to discover in a second-hand bookshop a glossary of 1,000 'Gernesies' words by Eric Fellowes Lukis.  'An Outline of the Franco-Norman Dialect of Gernsey' (Revised Edition 1985)  also charts the fascinating history of this wonderful language.

Says the author in the foreword 'It is almost a miracle that a language existing only as a spoken dialect for nearly a thousand years and continually exposed to French influence, could have retained so much of its ancient heritage.'
Whilst searching through the book I have found several fascinating words  like 'charlotaer'  which means 'pamper' and gavlottaer' - 'to lounge about.'  There's the devilish 'pimperluche', a perfect word for a 'wasp' and the unlikely-sounding 'babiloubuene' which means, apparently, indiscretion.

Controversially, the author has built up a case for the revised spelling of the language insisting that 'the French spelling adopted in the 19th century cannot represent accurately the strange un-French sound of Gernesies.'

I think I might I agree with that  - it was mostly Double Dutch to me...

1 comment:

Elaineyross said...

How I remember Auntie Flo and Mrs Le Moigne talking with our grandmother in the 'sing song' melody that really was Guernsey patois at its best - albeit completely above my head. Do you know that on the Guernsey web site there is a 20 part tutorial for those of us wishing to learn the art? It's particulary good as there is phonetic guidance - why not have a go! A la perchoine (which trnaslated means 'goodbye'.