Oubliette? Qu’est que c’est?

In days of yore, in castles and prisons, there was a most gruesome CUBE called an oubliette. In English, oubliette means “dungeon” (from the French verb oublier – “to forget”).

Don’t you just love the romance of word origins?

The only opening in this dungeon was a trap door in the ceiling (my more versatile foam-padded adaptation with its own brand of misery is pictured above).

The oubliette in the French penal colony on Devil’s Island was infamously known as the incarcerator of Papillon.

If you’ve not heard of the 1970’s movie of the same name with Dustin Hoffman or read the book, Papillion (so nicknamed for the butterfly tattoo on his chest) was a thief, safe-cracker, and, later, a convicted murderer.

He spent two years in the solitary confines of an oubliette until he managed a daring escape.

Both of us prisoners in our respective oubliettes, Papillon and I share something else in common. A mutual love of music.

Because hard time in the oubliette dragged on infinitesimally, he was known (only to himself since he was stuck in solitary) to break into song to speed things up. His favorite was the French children’s song, Alouette.

On some days in the CUBE, I sing the same song!

Except I substitute the word oubliette for Alouette – because it rhymes and adds relevance!

My rearranged rendition of the song helps me vanquish the hebetude. All this day-after-day-after-day-ness just sucks the swivel right out of my chair.

I first learnt the strange lyrics of this song in a high school French class. But I heard the melody much earlier on, while watching cartoons on TV.

I found one on YouTube!

The first line of the song goes like this:

Alouette, gentille Alouette

An Alouette is a Lark (bird). The line translates as “Lark, nice Lark.”

Mild enough. But then it gets weird.

Lark, nice Lark (Alouette, gentille Alouette)

I will pluck you (je te plumerai)

I will pluck your head (je te plumerai la tete)

It then proceeds to pluck the Lark into oblivion…

I will pluck your beak (le bec)

Your eyes (les yeux)

Your neck (le cou)

Your wings (les ailes)

Your feet (les pattes)

Your tail (le queue)

Your back (le doc)

…Ending each verse with an echoing refrain:

And your back (Et le doc)

And your tail (Et le queue)

And your feet (Et les pattes)

And your wings (Et les ailes)

And your neck (Et le cou)

And your eyes (Et les yeux)

And your beak (Et le bec)

Oh- oh- oh- oh…

Oubliette, gentille Oubliette

Oubliette, je te plumerai.

But, in the CUBE version of this song, I exchange the French word plumerai for putain.

In the resulting English translation, you simply change the “pl” in pluck to an “f.”

Je te putain!


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