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Serge Gainsbourg's song on French Orthography
Home > Languages > French > Gainsbourg

French singer Serge Gainsbourg, a true poet and exceptional songwriter, wrote this song illustrating the many pitfalls of French orthography, even for native speakers. The singer receives a letter from his girlfriend where she complains about his lack of empathy. Gainsbourg echoes each line of the letter, displayed here in italics, with an orthographic correction. Try to listen to it by buying the disc.

Serge Gainsbourg "En relisant ta lettre"
Paroles et Musique: Serge Gainsbourg
© 1961 - Editions Warner Chappell

In red, I wrote an explanation on Gainsbourg derision of the typos made by his girlfriend in the preceding line.

En relisant ta lettre je m'aperçois que l'orthographe et toi, ça fait deux
C'est toi que j'aimme
Ne prend qu'un M [she wrote 'aimme', with two Ms instead of 'aime']
Par-dessus tout
Ne me dis point

Il en manque un [there should have been a dot after the word 'point', which means 'dot' in French]
Que tu t'en fous
Je t'en supplıe
Point sur le i [she forgot to dot the i on 'supplie']
Fais-moi confiance
Je suis l'èsclave

Sans accent grave  [she put an 'accent grave' on 'èsclave' instead of 'esclave']
Des apparences
c'est ridicule
C majuscule  [she wrote a lowercase 'c' at the beginning of a phrase]
C'était si bien
Tout ça m'affecte
Ça c'est correct   [no mistake!]
Au plus haut point
Si tu renonces
Comme ça s'prononce  [this phrase is used to tell a schoolboy to write a new word 'as it is pronounced']
À m'écouter
Avec la vie
Comme ça s'écrit [this phrase is used to tell a schoolboy to pronounce a new word 'as it is written']
J'en finirai
Pour me gardder

Ne prends qu'un D [she wrote 'gardder' with two Ds instead of 'garder']
Tant de rancune
T'as pas de cœur
Y a pas d'erreur
Là y'en a une ['There is a mistake' (the song does not say where)]
J'en nourrirai
N'est pas français ['Is not French' is used to tell a schoolboy that the word or phrase is used is not grammatically correct]
N'comprends-tu pas ?
Ça s'ra ta faute
Ça s'ra ta faute

Là y'en a pas
Moi j'te signale
Que gardénal
Ne prend pas d'E [there is no final E in 'Gardénal']
Mais n'en prend qu'un [but only one 'E']
Cachet au moins
N'en prend pas deux [the word 'Cachet', at least, does not take two Es]
Ça t'calmera
Et tu verras
Tout r'tombe à l'eau
L'cafard, les pleurs
les peines de cœur
O E dans l'O [o, written O inside the E]

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