Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lyrics of the Day

From the legendary Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell":
It was a teenage wedding, and the old folks wished them well
You could see that Pierre did truly love the mademoiselle
And now the young monsieur and madame have rung the chapel bell,
"C'est la vie", say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell
That song came to mind this morning when I read that the French government is eliminating the word mademoiselle due to feminist pressure. The French language doesn't have an equivalent of Ms., so women filling out government forms were in essence forced to declare their marital status by choosing madame or mademoiselle while men were not. The lyrics of "You Never Can Tell" illustrate this by noting that the wedding turned the mademoiselle into a madame (whereas Pierre was always a monsieur).

I learned today that the distinction between mademoiselle and madame used to be different:
Before the French Revolution, the use of "mademoiselle" had little to do with whether a woman was married; a laywoman or commoner was always called "mademoiselle" to indicate she was of lowly status. Only women of high birth were addressed as "madame."
I want to make a joke here about how that changed when the French lost their heads, but I think we can skip the guillotine humor.

By the way, the magazine Mademoiselle folded in 2001 after 66 years of publication. And the French stopped using the guillotine in 1981 when they abolished capital punishment.

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