18 November 2021
POUR LES AMIS DU FOOT ANGLAIS (!!)
French attack on England team names
by Philip Throp
Rob Smith, one of our committee members, is well-known to our Town Twinning friends on both sides of the Channel as an amusing raconteur with an endless source of funny jokes in English and in French. My problem is that I can never remember jokes, whether told by Rob (there are so many), or anyone else.
Not long ago I arranged to buy Rob a coffee in town so that he could provide me with some jokes with which I could entertain the groups of visiting French schoolchildren for whom I do guided walking tours in Oxford. Needless to say, the many many jokes Rob recounted to me that morning were of variable quality (“ha, ha had to get that one in!”) but either they wouldn’t really work with French children with very limited knowledge of England and the English language, or the jokes were too “mature” for me to tell them (especially in the presence of their teachers).
Curiously, there is only one funny story of Rob’s that I have ever retained and this one is forever in my mind. Having a penchant for words and an ear for accents I hear and see Rob in my mind telling this one which I have heard from him so many times (sigh).
It happens that Rob was with our twinning group in France in the week of France’s World Cup soccer win, and was watching, on TV with French friends, the England v Croatia semi-final. England have a player called Eric Dier, and Richard’s very quick-witted French friend quips: “Ah Dier, …….il n’est pas d’ici” This is a smart play on the name “Dier” which is the same sound as the French word “ailleurs” (elsewhere). The French word “d’ailleurs” actually means “besides or moreover”, but d’ailleurs could literally mean “from elsewhere”, hence Rob’s companion’s crack that “Dier n’est pas d’ici”—not from here.
Just a quick digression here to say that Eric Dier’s ancestors were presumably “dyers”. This was a job done by many, many people before the Industrial Revolution. It was particularly prevalent in sheep farming areas for dying the wool (and for tanning the skins). Cleaning and dying the skins involved using urine and so this was a particularly smelly activity. Shakespeare’s notoriously up and down father in Stratford on Avon was a dyer and, despite holding mayoral office for some years, can be traced in records of legal cases from the number of fines he suffered for polluting the street at the front of his house and place of work with foul smells. So a more historically accurate translation of Eric Dier’s name into French would be “teinturier” (a dyer). By the way, you can see in the French word the association with the English word “tinctures”.
The game of trying to Frenchify the England football team’s names led me to the following promising back line of defenders: Kyle Promeneur, John Pierres (?), Eric Teinturier (or Eric Moureur perhaps?), and (with a bit of poetic licence in the spelling) Luke Sur. John Stones is very promising, choose from John Pierres (Jean-Pierre?), or probably the more accurate John Cailloux (“small stones”—- though John Stones is a tall lad). Perhaps you’ll allow me to add one more to my lineup, very appropriately for a football defender, Kieran Trippier, (Kieran Trebucheur). And I have a bizarre French name for our eccentric goalkeeper, Jordan Choisir-Gue? Though in explaining the name OxFORD (Bouef-Gue) to my French schoolchildren, they always respond that they have never heard the word “gue” in the context of a river-crossing.
I have drawn something of a blank with the names of the rest of our current team (apart from Arri la Canne) but would welcome any fresh contributions from our resourceful and quick-witted readers submitted to the Corbynista message-board.