I am completely indebted to Clare for helping me out with the blog this week. For those who don’t know Clare, she is an excellent French tutor, an author, and a wonderful soprano too.
Picture by Tamsin Edwards TexArt
“As a long-time, regular attender of Raunds Community Choir, I do enjoy a good sing! J’adore chanter à tue-tête!
chanter à tue-tête – to sing at the top of one’s voice
literally: to sing at kill-head
Capucine, qui avait un peu trop bu, chantait à tue-tête, « On a besoin de toi, amour! »
Capucine, who had drunk a bit too much, was singing at the top of her voice, ‘We need you, love!’
Being curious as always, I decided to find out the origins of this strange expression. I looked to the terrific website Expressio for an explanation. It appears that the adverb à tue-tête dates from the sixteenth century. At that time the verbtuer not only meant ‘to kill’ but had other parallel meanings. It also meant ‘to lose consciousness’ and ‘to tire oneself out’ or ‘to destroy one’s health’. Therefore, chanter à tue-tête didn’t mean ‘to sing until dead’, I’m glad to say, but rather ‘to sing until tired out’.
Alors, je chante juste ou je chante faux? So do I sing in tune or out of tune? I have to admit that sometimes, as the French say, je chante comme une casserole! – I sing like a saucepan – and you can imagine that isn’t very good! Tant pis parce que je chante pour le plaisir et c’est tout ce qui compte – too bad because I sing for pleasure and that’s all that counts!
Many thanks to all those who have bought a copy of my new book Je mourrai moins bête: 200 French expressions to help you die less stupid. If you have enjoyed reading it, please leave a review on Amazon. Here are the links for Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com and Amazon.fr.”