Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pluck You!

Recently, Target stores have been running a colorful commercial with a catchy little French tune performed by The Delta Rhythm Boys.

It's a song that I loved when I was a kid, and hadn't thought much about it until I heard it used in the commercial.  The song's title is Alouette.  When I was younger I had no idea what the song was about, but having been around the world a little now and having been exposed to some of the world's languages I recognize the word Alouette as being French for 'little bird.'  I was curious about what the rest of the song was about so I did a little investigating.



It turns out that the song may have its origins in parts of French-speaking Canada and describes the plucking of a small gamebird. The lyrics and their translation follows:

Alouette, gentille Alouette =Little bird, nice little bird
Alouette, je te plumerai =Little bird, I shall pluck you


Je te plumerai la tête =I shall pluck your head
   (Je te plumerai la tête)=(I shall pluck your head)


Et la tête =And your head
   (Et la tête) =(And your head)


Alouette=Little bird 
   (Alouette) =(Little bird)

*O-o-o-oh

Alouette, gentille Alouette =Little bird, nice little bird
Alouette, je te plumerai =Little bird, I shall pluck you

Je te plumerai le bec=I shall pluck your beak
   (Je te plumerai le bec)=(I shall pluck your beak)

Et le bec=And your beak
  (Et le bec)=(And your beak)

Et la tête =And your head
  (Et la tête) =(And your head)


Alouette=Little bird
   (Alouette) =(Little bird)


*O-o-o-oh

Each verse involves another part of the bird being plucked as follows:

Et le cou=And your neck
Et le dos=And your back
Et les ailes=And your wings
Et les pattes=And your feet
Et la queue=And your tail
La Conclusion=The Ending


O-o-o-o-oh


Alouette, gentille Alouette =Little bird, nice little bird

Alouette, je te plumerai =Little bird, I shall pluck you

This song makes me think that it could be used in a two-fold fashion to help introduce people to the French language, but also to introduce people to avian feather topography.  Artist David Sibley has had an on-going series on his blog regarding feathers and feather topography on his blog in recent weeks.


Likewise, this song reminds me of a great resource that I first became aware of via Dr. Larry Witmer of Ohio University.  Ghetie's Atlas of Avian Anatomy (1976) is a very detailed anatomical resource for birds written in four different languages (Romanian, French, English, & Russian).  The detail of the internal anatomy presented in this book is amazing, but the description of the feather regions is comparable to what you might get from the song above.

Interestingly, The Delta Rhythm Boys are probably better known for another anatomically-oriented song that many parents have used with their kids over the years.  The song's title is "Dry Bones", but most people probably know it better as " 'Dem Bones."