La Section de la langue Jèrriaise

Adam and Eve Spoke Jersey-French

(According to The Man from St. Ouen's)

E.L.B. tells the story of an Englishman who wanted to learn Jersey-French, but was discouraged by a man from St. Ouen's.



"This Jersey-French," said the Englishman, "this patois of yours - ?"

The Man from St. Ouen's gave the table such a bang with his fist that the whole room shook.

"Now listen to me," he said vehemently. "The last man who called it that was the best runner in all America, and lucky for him. As it was he only got to shelter by a short neck. Patois, indeed! What the devil d'you mean by it?"

"Oh dear me," said the Englishman. "I beg your pardon. I'd heard a fellow from Aberdeen call it that in a hotel bar and I thought - "

"Well, don't do it again," said the Man from St. Ouen's.

"Let me tell you that Jersey-French is a language, and one of the oldest in the world at that."

The Englishman murmured something about Sanscrit.

"I don't know anything about that," said the other, "but you can take it from me that Jersey-French came first. Personally I'm convinced that Adam and Eve spoke it."


"Yes. And when Adam woke up that morning with a pain in his side, the first thing he said was 'Grand doux d'la vie chêsque-est chonnechin aup' i'mé?'"

"I suppose you know," he went on, "that at the battle of Hastings, William, who, of course, was a Jerseyman, won the day by saying to his bowmen, "Tithez en l'air, garçons, et ou lûs perchéthez l's'iers'."

"That's a new one on me," said the Englishman, "but I'll take your word for it."

"I should think so," said the Man from St. Ouen's. "There's another thing I can tell you, which is that King John's charter was written in pure Jersey-French, and so was the Domesday Book."

The Englishman coughed. "I wouldn't doubt it for a minute," he saud, "but that somebody told me a few weeks ago that King John never gave the Island a charter."

"That's all humbug," retorted the Man from St. Ouen's. "As a matter of fact, the Société Jersiaise have a copy, but as there isn't a single member who understands Jersey-french, they keep it locked up and pretend they've lost it."

"Well now," said the Englishman, "I'm tremendously interested, you know. I've spent the greater part of my life in Madagascar and the South Sea Islands, and -"

"Never heard of them," interrupted the Man from St. Ouen's. "Do they speak Jersey-French there?"

"No, but now that I'm living in Jersey, I'd like to pick it up."

"It won't be easy, unless you're in the country," said the Man from St. Ouen's, "but I can teach you a bit now. Repeat after me, 'tchêsque-tu t'en vas béthe?'"

The Englishman made a valiant effort.

"Thank you," said the other, with a grin, "mine's a drop of 'chen qu'est bouon pour les rignons à la bouonnefemme.'"

"What on earth does that mean?"

"A drop of gin, that's all" - to the barman - "met m'en un doublye; ch'n'est pas mé tch'y paie."

This little matter being satisfactorily settled, the Englishman started again.

"I'm living on a farm," he said, "and they talk a lot of Jersey-French. The other night, the farmer came in at two in the morning, and his wife said something to him that I couldn't catch the meaning of. I gathered, though, that she wasn't too pleased with him. It was in their bedroom."

"But how could you hear? Surely, you weren't there too?"

"Oh, no, no," protested the Englishman, "but my room adjoins theirs, and the partition is very thin. He woke me when he fell full length on the floor trying to undress, and the wife let himn have it. I only wish I could have understood."

"That's easy," said the Man from St. Ouen's. "In all probability it was, 'la préchaine fais qu'tu r'veindras à ch't'heuthe ichin et dans ch't'êtat-là tu couoch'châs dans l'êtablye.'"

"And that meant?"

"It was a polite way of telling him that the next time he returned home at that hour and in that beastly state of intoxication, he'd have to sleep in the cow stable. I know, because I've had some myself. It didn't really mean anything, except that she was a bit annoyed. Did he make any reply?"

"No. I don't thing he was in a condition to do so. Next afternoon he complained to me that when he was taken ill his wife always put it down to the drink. This was in English, but he added something in Jersey-French that I couldn't understand."

"I'll tell you what it was," said the Man from St. Ouen's. "He said: 'Si j'avais êcouté mémée et resté vier garçon j'éthais fais ben mûs'."

"It sounded like that," said the Englishman. "What did it mean?"

"That if he'd listened to mother and remained a bachelor, he'd have been better off."

"Well, I don't think that's very nice of him. Personally, I find her a charming woman."

"Oh!" said the Man from St. Ouen's, "she's charming, is she? And what about her old man - is he charming too?"

"Well, he was quite all right when I first went there," replied the Englishman, "but lately he's got rather gruff, and at times almost rude. I'm sure I don't know why."

"Only yesterday," he went on, "she put three lumps of sugar in his tea, but none in mine. She said she was sure I didn't need it. On that he muttered something that I couldn't catch."

"Did it sound like, 'arrête, man pend'loque, j't'en don'nai mé du chucre, yun d'chais jours'?"

"Well, now you say it - "

"Exactly. Now let me give you a word of advice, young fellow. One of these days that farmer will come up to you and say - 'fiche-mé l'camp hors d'ichin, ou j'ramâsse ma frouque.'"

"Will he though?" said the Englishman. "What's a 'frouque' by the way?"

"It's a thing with a long handle, and several very sharp and nasty prongs," replied the Man from St. Ouen's, "and the farmer will be intimating to you, in the clearest possible manner, that if you're not off his premises in two ticks you'll be in imminent danger of finding yourself most uncomfortably impaled on them. You remember that American runner I told you about; well, do what he did, my lad. The open road for you good and quick."

"But, good gracious!" said the Englishman indignantly. "I haven't done anything. And if he were to murder me, he'd hang."

"Not at all," said the Man from St. Ouen's. "He'd plead not guilty, and go before the Assizes. The jury would say, 'ch'n'est pas un mauvais gâs, et tout probablye que l'autre le méthitait,' and he'd leave the court without a stain on his character."

"I haven't got that," said the Englishman. "Translate it to me, will you?"

"With pleasure," said the Man from St. Ouen's. "The jury would say that the farmer wasn't a bad chap, and that you probably deserved all you got."

The Englishman got up. "I'll find other lodgings to-morrow," he declared, "and after what you've told me, I don't think I want to learn Jersey-French any more. Good afternoon to you."

The Man from St. Ouen's, left alone, did a quiet grin. "Sont-y achocres, chais Angliais-là," he murmured. "Nou peut lûs dithe autchune bêtise, et y vos craient."

Morning News 24/4/1947

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