The plague is rudeness and coarse words! The work of the seventeenth-century playwright is teeming with colorful jokes. From swearing between nobles and provincial best insults to animal insults, sometimes poignant, Le Figaro invites you to reconnect with the very salty interjections of the master of the pen and the pike.
God: it is “the” forbidden word. For fear of receiving the very severe admonition of the dies irae – established according to the psalm of the Exodus of the Decalogue “You shall not call upon the name of the Lord your God in vain” – the honest people redoubled their inventiveness to swear in peace. Animals, foul smells, onomatopoeias … everything is subject to curse. The cat’s meows are transformed into “maraud” to designate with contempt a man of the people, while the interjections “bah”, “zest” are the images of indifference and “fed up”. “Zeste ma mere”, wrote Antoine Oudin for example in his French Curiosities (1640).
Moliere is no slouch in the flowery expressions of his time. The seventeenth-century painter will also brilliantly handle the art of verbal jousting, drawing his expressions in provincial and peasant dialects as well as in animal images and feminine adjectives. Swear words drawing their strength from the level of language and the sex of its actors. We do not swear in the same way depending on whether we attack a female character or a country man! Decency is king, including rudeness.
From this comic fury, we have survived a few old expressions. Le Figaro invites you to rediscover these comical best insults in order to give spice to these endless litanies of “fucking” which punctuate our daily lives.
● Parguenne, Morguienne, Jerniguienne, Tetiguienne
Whether they are inscribed through peasants, servants, shepherds or traders, servants and obscure aristocrats … patois are an inherent part of Molière’s work. An inexhaustible source of expressions and locutions, regional dialects are endless ways to salt lines and spice up already heated conversations.
“Parguenne”, a curse very used in the old comedies like “Mordienne” or “morbleu” and “jarnigoine” from the Spanish theater, becomes a provincial way of meaning the equivalent of our “Mrde”.
Thus we find for example in Act II, scene 1 of Dom Juan , the character of Pierrot throwing: “Oh! Parguienne, without us, he had enough for his bean “, or the Chevalier de Guise exclaimed in Mademoiselle de la Vallière:” We are actors, well! it is necessary, mordienne, Supper, this evening, each one with his actress.”
● Morbleu, Vertubleu, By the Corbleu!
Blasphemers risked very severe punishment by swearing in the name of God. To get around the ban, the French competed in talent. So we frequently find in Molière’s work the swear words “Corbleu”, “Morbleu”, “Tete-bleu” taking their final place in “bleu”. A snub to the Institutions to ape, with the assonance in “eu”, the name of God.
“Blue head!” These are mortal wounds to me, To see that with vice one keeps measures ”, expresses the atrabilary Alceste, in Le Misanthrope , Act I, scene 1, to signify his lively mood tinged with indignation.
In addition to the euphemisms of the Riviera, we also find fetid deformations resulting from peasant expletives, such palsembleu or vertubleu which define neither more nor less people who “feel the fat man”. Very useful in hot weather…
● Bah, Baste, Zest !
Today used to mark his “disgust” or to signify his hesitation, the expression “bah” was mainly used in Moliere’s time to express his indifference, his disdain or his bitterness. Coming from the Italian “Basta”, the French exclamation is found thus pronounced by Sganarelle in Le Medecin despite him: “Baste, let’s leave this chapter there, it is enough that we know what we know: and that you were very happy to find me.”
A century after the playwright, writers will also use the location to express the carelessness of their characters. “We’ll show you off. Bah! I have seen others, ”wrote Fabre d’Eglantine. A perfect way to underline the disinterestedness of the speaker disregarding the words of others, by using animal bleating. If used with caution, however, it would be in bad taste to indulge in bestial behavior.
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● Maraud, Godelureau, Pendard, Coquine!
“The insult plays on the rupture of established codes, by responding itself to a well-established code”, explained Sylvain Milbach, lecturer in contemporary history, in 2009 . Seventeenth-century society follows a very regulated hierarchy, including in its language. Moliere translates this linguistic break in The School of Women.
Arnolphe gratifies Horace with the term “godelureau” while he calls Agnes, a young girl, a “rascal”. A term which in the 17th century took on various meanings, very different from today, to mean: playfulness, villainy or the libertine character of an individual. The servants, for their part, are treated as “heavy and clumsy”. Adjectives with strong pejorative suffixes to mark their linguistic and hierarchical inferiority.
So it is not surprising to hear Alceste say to his valet Du Bois: “Ah! I’ll break your head for sure. If you don’t want to, rascal , explain yourself differently. ” An adjective only used to designate “in a contemptuous way a man of the people or of a lower social rank “.
In addition to this linguistic arrangement according to the codes of decorum, it is possible that, under the effect of anger, the registers become tangled. Martine, for example, in Le Médecin contre lui, who will throw in Act I, scene 1, a slew of best insults, indifferently peasant, provincial or bourgeois, in the face of Sganarelle: “Traitor, insolent, deceitful, cowardly, squeak, hangman, beggar, bélître, rascal, rascal, thief!”
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● Ox’s head, Crocodile, Little snake!
In the 17th century, familiar images of the fairer sex could not have been more gratified. Apart from the “rascals”, “gourgandine”, “butorde” which are regularly attacked to them, we find very colorful bird names. The Comtesse d’Escarbagnas, comedy-ballet by Molière, multiplies the lexical bestiary with, among others, the images of “ox’s head”, “bouvière”, “cricket”, “bridled goslings” …
Also joined to this familiar fauna are expressions such as “little serpent” (symbol of the Fall), “maraud” (a word apparently formed from the onomatopoeic stem mar – which imitates the meaning of rutting cats and pejorative suffix -aud), “bitch”, “crocodile” or “strap”. Expressions that have nothing to envy those of La Fontaine, contemporary of Moliere, but which are nonetheless exotic and even … poignant. I hope you have understand my collective material about best insults to sting at Moliere