Who will talk the talk as World Cup enters knockout phase?


It’s mine, mine, mine!

Sixteen teams have departed from Brazil, and the World Cup knock-out phase is shortly to begin. Sixteen teams still dream of being the 2014 FIFA World Cup champion (and in a couple of hours they will be down to fourteen). There is so much analysis of the event from a footballing point of view available, so let’s be nerdy and take a linguistic look instead. Who will get bragging rights come the final whistle, who will squawk and screech and howl in protest at the inevitable controversies to come?

In the top half of the draw, one semifinalist will come from the winners of  ….

  • Brazil v Chile
  • Colombia v Uruguay

It’s a Romance language affair – 1 x Brazilian Portuguese team among 3 x South American Spanish teams. The pressure on Brazil to perform at home is enormous. Chile and Colombia look dangerous.

... and the other semifinalist will emerge from 

  • France v Nigeria
  • Germany v Algeria

European giants v African outsiders; The languages involved, of course, are French (some commentators are calling Algeria the French B team), Arabic, German and English, bearing in mind that there are many, many languages African languages in Nigeria.

football-114653_1280In the bottom half of the draw, one semifinalist will come from the winners of  ….

  • Netherlands v Mexico
  • Costa Rica v Greece

This is Europe v Latin America; Dutch and Greek against Latanish/Spatin.

... and the other semifinalist will emerge from 

  • Argentina v Switzerland
  • Belgium v USA

So many languages involved here! Spanish via Argentina (and it’s increasingly important in the United States); Swiss French, Swiss German, Swiss Italian – and let’s not forget Romansh; Belgian Dutch (Flemish), Belgian French, Belgian German and Walloon (a Romance language), and American English.

People are saying it has been Latin America’s tournament so far, so just going by the force of numbers, Spanish has to be the best bet. But things can quickly change – in a couple of hours at least one, if not two, of those Spanish speaking teams will be gone. Now I am signing off to catch 2 hours’ sleep before Brazilian Portuguese takes on La Roja Spanish at the ungodly hour of 2am Australian time. If  your team is still in the competition, good luck!



Sex, cocktails and the World Cup: a uniquely Brazilian way to score

caipirinha condomThe World Cup is on and everyone has got to cash in on it somehow, particularly businesses in the host country Brazil. Not all the action happens on the field, of course. There is all the celebrating and partying and socialising that goes on too. You know, lots of kissing, hugging and biting. With that in mind, mischievous condom manufacturer Prudence has brought out a limited edition Caipirinha-flavoured condom. Caipirinha is Brazil’s national cocktail, made with cachaça (alcohol distilled from sugar cane juice), sugar and lime. I hope they bring out a feijoada version too (feijoada is the national dish, a stew made with black beans and pork). FIFA should cash in on this too and make it the official condom of the World Cup.

I’m partial to caipirinhas, vodka too. I’m so looking forward to the limited edition FIFA 2018 Russian World Cup condom, which is bound to have lots of vodka in it. I’m not sure what the limited edition 2022 Qatari World Cup condom will be, maybe a date juice-flavoured condom for those who like hot dates?

Watch out for the pingadeira!

Incidentally, another word for cachaça is pinga. When I first went to Brazil with my Portuguese-Australian friends, our hosts at a pousada in Paraty were saying we should go to a festival da pinga, which we thought meant a festival of the penis. 😀 (We don’t often come across pinga here in Australia.) But as you will see there are some kind of sex-related connotations in the related vocab:

  • uma pinga: a drop; booze (formal); a gulp, swallow; a roof gutter; a penniless person (all informal or popular usage)
  • estar na pinga: to be drunk
  • pingadeira: a dripping pan; small but continuous receipts; constant expense; (Brazilian usage) the clap, gonorrhea 
  • pingado: besprinkled, full of drops; drunk; coffee with a few drops of milk added

I don’t think Prudence is a good name for a condom brand – it’s too dull and earnest. It’s sex for prudes. Protuberance or Exuberance would be much better.

essential party vocabulary in my five Romance languages


If you enjoyed this post, or if you are thinking of making condom purchases, you might like to read about the Romanian computer hacker with a penchant for grape-flavoured condoms, a story where you can also find what the words are for “condom” in my five Romance languages.

Test your wits: can you pass the Maître Gims/Sexion d’Assaut Brevet quiz?

Bella for BrevetIn the past couple of days there have been rumours going around the Twitterverse, or at least the French part of it, that the lyrics to Bella by Maître Gims would be a comprehension text for this year’s Diplome National du Brevet. (You can hear the song on my post Sounds from France via Africa: three hits by Maître Gims). The circulation of a supposed picture of the exam paper (right) caused a French fracas.

While Bella is a decent enough song, to translate a quote on the subject on the Europe1 website, it “does not really lend itself to a test of French where one would expect to study Maupassant, Camus or Victor Hugo”. In other words: Quelle horreur! The lyrics by a rapper born in Zaire are suddenly worthy of serious study. The purists were choking on their cafés au lait and their croissants. (The Diplome National du Brevet is taken by students at the end of their troisième or “3eme” – the final school year before high school, their last year of compulsory schooling. More detail here if you need it).

Personally, though, if I was a student of that age, I’d rather have Maître Gims than Hugo on my exam papers. Unfortunately, or fortunately if you’re a purist, it was a hoax.

The weeks fly by fast. Once again Black M is top of the French singles charts – third week in a row now – with Sur Ma Route, while La Bande à Renaud have held on to the No. 1 album slot.

Maître Gims and Black M are members of a collective of mostly African-born singers known as Sexion d’Assaut, a group which, according to Wikipedia, distinguishes themselves by staying away from “bling bling” that other French rappers have adopted. Bernardo quite likes Maître Gims and Black M, and he tends to stay away from “bling bling” too, so he thought he’d investigate Sexion d’Assaut. This is what he found.

They had a No.1 hit in 2012 with this effort, which also features a great but bemused-looking string quintet playing in the background. What’s the symbolism? Not much bling bling here, grey is the colour. Are some of these rappers wearing cardigans!

That was taken from the album L’Apogée (a No.1 in both France and Belgium), which spawned other hit singles, including this one, which seems to have an educational theme. Are they sitting for their Brevet?

Ok, last song. The lyrics are on this clip. Study them carefully then answer the questions below to see if you are worthy of a diplome.

Diplome National du Brevet
Serie Generale
Session 2014
Epreuve de Franglais

  1. What do mothers, fathers, motherhood and fatherhood symbolise in this text?
  2. Write a 300-word Freudian analysis of the “Ohohohoh” refrain.
  3. Who would make a better rapper – Camus, Hugo or Maupassant?
  4. Does the French national football team wear too much bling bling?
  5. What problems do adults have? Limit your list to no more than 500 and offer solutions to half of them.
  6. Which comes first, the chicken or l’oeuf?
  7. The name Sexion d’assaut is a play on “section d’assaut” – the assault section (of a platoon etc). Think of 15 other words in which sec could be changed to sex and then use them to argue why we should make love, not war.
  8. Why do rappers flap their hands so much? Give your answers in sign language and post them on YouTube.
  9. Who should be the next white member of Sexion d’Assaut – Charles Aznavour, Plastique Bertrand, Gerard Depardieu, Renaud or Nicolas Sarkozy?
  10. Think of a 10th question then write it in the box below. Bernard’s grey cells have gone to sleep and the rest of his body wants to do the same. Bonne nuit!.


Straight to No.1 – the Renaud revival is in full swing

A fortnight ago I wrote in anticipation of a revival of interest in the music of the great French gruff one, Renaud. More specifically, that 15 artists under the moniker of La Bande à Renaud had recorded his best-known songs on an album, and that the first single from it, Mistral Gagnant by Coeur de Pirate, had entered the French top 50.

The following week the signs weren’t so good: Mistral Gagnant dropped nine places from 47 to 56. I grew morose. “Bernardo, you are out of touch,” I told myself. “You’re living in the past. Nobody likes Renaud anymore.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong! The album has just debuted at No. 1 on the French chart, and Mistral Gagnant has zoomed into the top 20 singles – at number 13, actually. “Bernardo, you’re bloody brilliant,” I now tell myself. “You are so on the ball. You don’t just anticipate trends, you don’t just set trends, you’re, like, so far ahead the Hubble telescope has trouble tracking you. Take a bow, Bernardo!” (Long pause while Bernardo tries to take a bow but his big stomach gets in the way and it’s all a bit of a strain).

Here is an extract of the details from the French music charts blog:

  • We have a brand new Number One in this week’s French albums chart, as La Bande A Renaud enters straight to the top. Like the two volumes of Génération Goldman for Jean-Jacques Goldman, some artists (such as Coeur De Pirate, Jean-Louis Aubert, Nolwenn Leroy, or Carla Bruni to name a few) sing Renaud‘s best-known songs. Since the first French albums chart was published in January 1985, Renaud got six chart-topping LPs, with Mistral Gagnant (for four weeks in January 1986), Putain De Camion (for two weeks in April 1988), A La Belle De Mai (for two weeks in November 1994), Boucan D’Enfer (for five weeks in June and August 2002), Rouge Sang (for two weeks in October 2006), and Molly Malone Balade Irlandaise (for two weeks in November and December 2009). Renaud‘s compilation Le Plein De Super ! re-enters at number 31.

On the singles chart, another song that I have been raving about, Black M‘s Sur Ma Route, has spent its second week at the top of the charts.

It hasn’t all be great news for La Bande à Renaud, though. The second single from the album, and the one on which they all perform, Dès Que Le Vent Soufflera, conveniently poitioned for you at the top of this post, has barely made an impression – after four weeks on the charts it drops from 96 to 107. Meanwhile, Renaud’s original version of Mistral Gagnant has re-entered the charts at 111. It will be interesting to see whether these songs go up or down next week. You can listen to Coeur de Pirate and Renaut’s new and old versions of Mistral Gagnant here.

For fun, I thought I would chuck in some covers of Renaud’s songs by other artists.

Here the sad ballad, Manu, gets some raw rock treatment from Zephyr 21.

Vanessa Paradis and Maxime Le Forestier did an acclaimed version of Mistral Gagnant way back 1998.

Italian singer Alessio Lega often adapts French songs into Italian, including these three by Renaud.

The Renaud song that seems to be covered most by other artists is Hexagone, (from 1975) probably because of its political venom – it is a sarcastic, brutal assessment of the flaws of the French people, going through their trivial pursuits month by month. On La Bande à Renaud, the task of updating it fell to Nicola Sirkis, the lead singer of Indochine.

There have been rap versions of this too, but for me none beats Renaud’s original. I have chosen a clip whose images will give you some idea of what he’s going on about.


Black M is not just sur la route to No. 1, he is Numéro Un!

A couple of weeks ago I was eavesdropping on the French music charts to see if there was anything exciting, and there was. I came across a song hovering outside the top 30 that was so catchy and infectious I have played it many times since. So I wasn’t the slightest bit surprised to read on the French music charts blog this week that it has since shot up to No. 1. The song is Sur ma route, by Black M, a French-Guinean singer. It’s great! It deserves to be an international smash hit and I only wish that radio stations in the “Anglo” world would be a bit more daring and play “foreign” material like this more often.

I will tell you more about Black M a.k.a Black Mesrimes in another post soon (click on his name and you can read the English Wikipedia entry) but in the meantime I think you should get to know this song. I picked a clip showing the lyrics to make it easier. In no time you will be singing, Sur ma route, oui, il y a eu du move, oui!…..

Roll the R in your F word

I like the way he says “foutre“, especially the rolled R at the end. My teacher at school was forever trying to get more rrrrr in my Rs. Since foutre is a rude word – its meaning is like the English F word in WTF! – it has to be enunciated with vigour and conviction.

Go to this page on the Rap Genius website, put your cursor over a line or two of the lyrics, click, and a pop-up to the right will tell you what that section bit is about. Yeah, yeah, it’s all in French but, you know … cut and paste + language translation tool = you get the drift.

Portugal’s World Cup woe – a five-language selection of headlines on the ‘selecção’

The Portuguese national team (a selecção nacional) made headlines for all the wrong reasons in their opening World Cup soccer game. Here is a sample of newspaper and online headlines in My Five Romance languages. The best one, in my opinion, is by the Gazeta Sporturilor.

Portuguese language newspapers

From Publico

G4P0 Publico

G4P0 Publico2

From Diário de Notícias

G4P0 DN2


From Record

G4P0 Record

From A Bola

G4P0 a bOLA

Spanish language newspapers

From El Mundo

G4P0 El Mundo

From El País

G4P0 El Pais

From El Espectador (Colombia)

G4P0 El Esp

Italian newspapers

From La Repubblica

G4P0 la Repub

From La Gazzetta dello Sport

G4P0 La Gazzetta

French newspapers

From L’Equipe

G4P0 L'Equipe

 From Le Nouvel Observateur

G4p) LeNO1

G4P0 Le NO2

Romanian newspapers

A clever headline in the Gazeta Sporturilor

G4P0 Gazeta S

From Adevărul

G4P0 Adevarul

Go Portugal! Vai Portugal! May the força be with you (and Germany too)

In a few hours Portugal will face Germany in their opening match of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. So what better time is there to sing along and dance to the official anthem of support for Portugal in the World Cup, Vai Portugal sung by Kika. Is it a winner? Sim!

I don’t know anything about Kika but I found a website page in Portuguese which has some information about the song.

As you can probably guess, I am very fond of Portugal and the Portuguese, their language, their food, their hospitality, their home-grown wines etc etc. But I have a little conflict of interest with this match. You see, when all the World Cup teams were put into a hat and we made the office draw, guess which team Bernardo drew? Yes, Germany. So, ahem, Go Germany Go! Vai Alemanha!

Maybe a draw would be the best outcome.

While we are talking international relations, here is another Kika song I found. It’s in English, featuring Andreas Wijk, a Swedish dude. Go Sweden!

Brazil and the World Cup: do you like what you see? Nudist players included!

Image from Pixabay

Image from Pixabay

Four days into the World Cup and it looks like all the predictions that it would be a shambles have proved to be false. From the comfort of my armchair, the tournament looks fabulous; it’s a riot of colour, the goals are flowing (an average of 3.36 goals a game, up to and including the Argentina v Bosnia-Hertzegovina match, compared with an average of 2.27 goals a game in South Africa in 2010), and the images of Brazil look splendid. I feel sorry for the team from Croatia, though. In the opening match against the host team, which they eventually lost 3-1, I felt they were hard done by the referee, and now they are up in arms because spying photographers took photos of their players swimming in the nude at what looks like a very lush, tropical resort.

Of course, while there is no denying the natural beauty of Brazil, what you see on your television screens tends to be the sanitised version. Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro may look spectacular, for example, but it is heavily polluted with the run-off from the inadequate housing and sanitation facilities in Rio’s favelas.

The social problems and inequalities in Brazil are well known, having been drawn to our attention, both by protesters and the media, and quite rightly so, for these are issues that have to be tackled, not just in Brazil, but everywhere. In Australia, for example, which is supposed to be a “wealthy”, mainly middle-class country, there was a report out today by The Guardian Australia website that the nation’s nine richest people (yes, nine individuals) have more money than the bottom 20 per cent of the population, or 4.54 million people. And the richest 1 per cent of Australians have the same wealth as the bottom 60 per cent. On a global scale, the same article says that the richest 85 people in the world are as wealthy as half the world’s population, 3.5 billion. As one Australian newspaper put it – accidentally – in a recent front-page headline, The world is fukt.

Brazil host citiesFrom this blog’s point of view, hopefully the World Cup in Brazil will stimulate interest in that country and in the Portuguese language, just as it did for me when I first visited that country more than a decade ago, and let’s hope that some of the tourist money flowing into that country at the moment goes into the pockets of the people who need it most.

If you have never been to Brazil and are contemplating a visit, you might like to read my guide on the best that the country has to offer, which was published recently on the website of Australia’s best-selling magazine, The Australian Women’s Weekly.


Fifteen French stars release Renaud tribute album – and the poignant first single is a winner

Mistral Gagnant coverGreat news for fans of good French music – fifteen artists have come together under the name of La Bande à Renaud to record a tribute album to Renaud, one of the great characters on the French music scene. The album, which has just been released, contains 14 of Renaud’s best known songs. Among those taking part in the project are Carla Bruni (who is married to former French president Nicolas Sarkozy), Nolwenn Leroy, Bénabar, Thomas Dutronc (son of the great Françoise Hardy), Renan Luce, Elodie Frégé, HF (Hubert-Félix) Thiéfaine, Benoît DorémusAlexis HK, and Nicolas Sirkis (lead singer with well-known French new wave-pop-rock band Indochine).

The first single from the album, though, is Mistral Gagnant by Canadian singer Coeur de Pirate, which has entered the top 50 on the French single charts. She does a superb job on this song, which highlights the beauty of the French language and shows how great Renaud’s songwriting was at its most poignant.

Although Mistral is the name of a particular wind in France, and “gagner” means to win, the song is not about winning winds. Here is an explanation from Wikipedia: A Mistral Gagnant was a kind of candy and lottery. Some of them were “winning” (gagnant) and you could get another one for free. At his adult age, these candies were not on sale anymore. In Mistral gagnant, Renaud sings to his young daughter about his childhood and realizes that time flies, as will fly away the laughs of his daughter as a child. This broad theme plus the very simple music make this song one of the classics among Renaud’s “tender” songs. There is a good translation of the lyrics here into English (look at #3 or #2, not #1) and into Portuguese as well.

Here is the original version of the song, which dates back to 1985.

There are two songs on the album that I am particularly looking forward to hearing.

  1. The version of Manu by Jean-Louis Aubert, of Téléphone fame. I covered the original Manu in my post Chansons for melancholic mates 1 and you can hear two songs by Téléphone in my post Four of the best from France and Belgium.
  2. The cover of Chanson pour Pierrot by Raphaël Haroche. This song was slated to be my “Chansons for melodic mates 2” but haven’t posted it yet, on the grounds that melancholy is best dished out in small doses).

The official website of La Bande de Renaud is http://www.labandearenaud.com/

Renaud, now 62, dabbled in many musical styles, from rock to traditional folk from parts of France and Ireland (!). He was a champion of the left-wing youth and at times he could be very funny – he had a biting wit and reserved most of his contempt for the pretentious bourgeoisie – see, for example Renaud’s unforgettable ode to idiotic brothers-in-law. He can also be tremendously difficult to translate as he uses a lot of street argot. Unfortunately, he has battled alcoholism for much of his adult life. He often wore a red bandana around his neck, and La Bande de Renaud have incorporated that into their logo and much of their publicity material.

Here is an instrumental version of Mistral Gagnant that I found on YouTube by someone or an outfit called Harmonica, who seem to specialise in the music of Renaud.

Chesty Brazilian singer Alexandre Pires back in the limelight

Performing at an Avicii-style, dance music pace must have been quite a challenge for Alexandre Pires, the Brazilian singer on the official 2014 FIFA World Cup anthem, Dar Um Jeito. Pires is better known as a crooner of smooth romantic ballads, and is one of the few Brazilian superstars who has also managed to crack the Latin (Spanish-speaking) market, including in the United States, with this type of music. Dar Um Jeito is the fastest I’ve ever heard him sing! I can’t envisage him becoming a rapper.

Alexandre Pires came from a musical family and along with his brother and cousin was a member of a popular group Só Pra Contrariar (often known as SPC for short), who had considerable chart success in the 1990s in Brazil. However, he left them in 2002 to go solo and their fortunes waned somewhat after that while his international career took off. However, Pires recently got together with SPC again for their 25th anniversary compilation, recorded live in Porto Alegre. One of the songs from it, Recordações, (which could be translated as recollections, remembrances, souvenirs) recently made the Brazilian top 10. It is very typical of his and the band’s style.

Pires baresEstrela-guiaPires often appears in a white vest, or topless, to show off his chest. The example pictured left is the cover of his very successful album from 2003, Estrela Guia (Estrella Guia in Spanish). But if you do a image search on him on the internet you will find more provocative poses and you might even come across a photo or two of him in a revealing, wet white swimming costume or “sunga branca”. Anyway, this next song is one of the singles from that album, Bum Bum Bum. Now, I know what you’re thinking – you’re imagining it’s a homage to the human posterior, or rather three human posteriors. But you’re wrong, it’s not about bums, it’s about boom boom booms, the beating of a heart. Now there’s a pronunciation lesson for you.

Pires often re-records his songs in Spanish to target the rest of the South American market; if you would like to compare the two versions of what was probably his biggest hit, see my post entitled Great songs in one language or another.

Here’s a more recent single, A Chave É O Seu Perdão (The Key is Your Forgiveness/Pardon), taken from his most recent solo album Eletrosamba, which won a Grammy award last year.