petite anglaise

April 5, 2005

big fish, little fish

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 10:18 am

The rasping, abrasive noise of coffee beans grinding in the machine sets my teeth on edge. I yawn and stretch, glad to have the kitchen to myself, and begin inspecting my shoulders. There is nothing worse than arriving at work and realising half way through the day that what I thought were clean clothes actually have toothpaste, snot and/or dribble on the right shoulder – Tadpole’s favourite nestling spot. I dab at the offending white marks with a moistened tea towel and then bend to examine my trouser legs and wipe off some breakfast milk which Tadpole has deposited at mid-thigh level.

After a quick application of Mac foundation in the ladies room, I’m just about ready to enter the world of grown ups again.

Unfortunately I have an French comptines playing in a continuous loop in my head, as Tadpole was on energetic form, complete with dancing and chanting this morning.

Along with her perpetual favourites, ‘Blaa blaa Black Sheep and ‘La capucine’ (if anyone can explain to me the meaning of the non-French exclamation of “YOU!!!” at the end of this rhyme, I would be grateful), she was singing the following little ditty (caps show her emphasis):

Les petits poissons DANS L’EAU
nagent, nagent, NAGENT, nagent, NAGENT
les petits poissions DANS L’EAU
nagent aussi bien QUE LES GROS

Little fish swim just as well as big fish. Mmm. Something tells me this verse was written by a man, attempting to convince himself/the world that size doesn’t matter.


  1. Aïe! Wait till Tadpole starts getting worried about not being as tall as her friends. Size matters to small kids too.

    You should see ‘Shark Tale’ – great morality tale for the yout’

    Comment by Ria — April 5, 2005 @ 12:32 pm

  2. “Dansons la capucine…” I’ve always thought the “YOU !” at the end was a simple utterance of joy, similar to “Youpi !”

    Or perhaps my happy pills are working too well!

    Comment by Antipo Déesse — April 5, 2005 @ 12:37 pm

  3. It’s not the size of the fish, but the motion of the ocean.

    Or something….. :wink:

    Comment by ViVi — April 5, 2005 @ 1:01 pm

  4. LOL Vivi, I haven’t heard that version before ;)

    Petite, it sounds like you need a break, my dear. From everything.

    Comment by Katia — April 5, 2005 @ 2:41 pm

  5. Chère petite anglaise,
    Thank you for a lovely blog!
    And as for the “fishy” nursery rhyme, my own little monsters sing it to, in the following, longer version:

    Les petits poissons dans l’eau
    Nagent, nagent, nagent
    Les petits poissons dans l’eau
    Nagent comme les gros
    Et les gros aussi
    Nagent, nagent, nagent,
    Et les gros aussi,
    Nagent comme les petits

    Repeat endlessly

    (The authenticity of this version, FWIW, is certified by my French mother-in-law, who used to work as a helper in a *maternelle*)

    Annette in Alsace

    Comment by Annette — April 5, 2005 @ 3:27 pm

  6. No, no, no.

    The REAL official version is as follows:

    Les petits poissons dans l’eau
    nagent, nagent, nagent, nagent, nagent,
    Les petits poissons dans l’eau
    nagent aussi bien que les gros.

    Les petits, les gros,nagent comme il faut,
    les gros, les petits, nagent bien aussi;
    Les petits, les gros,nagent comme il faut,
    les gros, les petits, nagent bien aussi.

    Comment by a l'ouest — April 5, 2005 @ 4:13 pm

  7. Not from blogging!!!!

    Size matters?!?!!?!?

    Comment by Bob — April 5, 2005 @ 4:20 pm

  8. As any fisherman worth his salt knows, what counts is not how big the fish is but the size of your tackle ;-)

    Comment by Iain — April 5, 2005 @ 4:25 pm

  9. You do sound weary Petite. Don’t succumb to Blog Bulimia… Treat us mean, keep us keen. Take time off if you need it.

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — April 5, 2005 @ 4:57 pm

  10. Not necessarily from blogging… After all, the last few posts show that you use it for it’s therapeutic goodness too – which is definitely a good thing :)

    Comment by Katia — April 5, 2005 @ 5:23 pm

  11. Petite THANK YOU!!!! When I arrived to France I was directly put in a French school, where the first week I had to learn les petits poissons without understanding a word (when I translated it, I couldn’t believe that it means what it means…). Anyway, I’ve been 13 years trying to remember the last part “nagent comme les gros” but I couldn’t!! And now that I know it, I can finally forget it completely and I will no longer have that horrible rhythm in my head, as I have had during 13 years…. All that thanks to you (and also thanks to annette, her version is the one learnt)
    THANK YOU BOTH!!!!!!

    Comment by KitKat — April 5, 2005 @ 6:10 pm

  12. Petite, I think THIS would be one of those days when you should be careful not to use your ‘Tadpole voice’ in the wrong circumstances.:razz:

    Comment by sammy — April 5, 2005 @ 6:30 pm

  13. As I remember it (well, i’m not 4 anymore), “dansons la capucine” is a very short song you repeat ceaselessly while dancing the “farandole” and when the end of the song arrives you’re supposed to kneel down. The “you” then, is the best sound to come with this motion.

    French parents also say “youuu” to kids when they hold them and, for kicks, pretend they’re going to drop them.

    So no, the “you” has nothing to do with… you.

    And I subscribe to everyone’s point of view : you sound like you need a vacation or something.

    May I conclude with these terrible words when you think it over :

    Dansons la capucine,
    il n’y a pas de pain chez nous,
    il y en a chez la voisine,
    mais ce n’est pas pour nous!

    Comment by shellorz — April 5, 2005 @ 8:09 pm

  14. You!

    Comment by petite — April 5, 2005 @ 9:16 pm

  15. haha. I would have bet that the following post would begin by “you!”. I didn’t expect it would end with the same word.

    btw, I would have sworn that little fish swam better than big fish.

    Comment by shellorz — April 5, 2005 @ 10:00 pm

  16. I thought it wasn’t the size of the fish… it’s the whopper of a story the fisherman TELLS about the size of the fish. :shock:

    BTW I agree w/ ViVi – motion matters most!

    Comment by Lisa — April 5, 2005 @ 11:15 pm

  17. Without meaning to lower the tone of the conversation, but since I moved to the US at a fairly innocent age and then, when I came back to europe, lived at my parents’ house until I moved here, I’ve only fairly recently been discovering certain anatomical differences in the “fishes’ tackle.”

    Perhaps this song is about the widespread american practice of circumcision? And the european skepticism that a non-intact “kit” can work as well? This song is actually fighting discrimination.

    Comment by EasyJetsetter — April 6, 2005 @ 12:23 am

  18. The French rhymes seem to be gentler than the ones I learned. What about the farmer’s wife who chased blind mice and cut off their tails with a carving knife? Then there was the old lady who lived in a shoe and beat all her children soundly and what about the goosey, goosey gander who took the old man and threw him down the stairs. And they worry about violence on TV! What about the generations who were brought up reciting all this stuff?

    Comment by Omykiss — April 6, 2005 @ 2:04 am

  19. Pathetically, I don’t know any of these songs. David’s nephews have been known to sing (or have sung to them) some song that starts like…

    tape, tape, tape petites mains,
    tourne, tourne, tourne petit moulin…

    It has little handmotions that go with it, sort of a less-complicated, french version of “the itsy bitsy spider.

    I only know those two lines though.

    Comment by kim — April 6, 2005 @ 9:10 am

  20. Omykiss – see my previous post about alouette and plucking if you want a bit more violence! But I agree, the other ones I’ve come across in French so far are pretty tame..

    Comment by petite — April 6, 2005 @ 9:25 am

  21. “Pomme de Reinette et Pomme d’Api” ends with a threat to hit your oppo with a hammer. I think that comes under ungentlemanly contact in most jurisdictions…

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — April 6, 2005 @ 11:03 am

  22. surely the big fish/little fish is more an adult/child comparison ? designed to appeal to small people in a large world ?
    The question of tackle did not occur to me..

    I frequently appear at work with unsuspected flecks of oatmeal, egg, dribble, etc adhering to myself. I always considered it a kind of father’s badge of honour, but then again the casual American workplace is more forgiving of this.

    Comment by Doug K — April 6, 2005 @ 6:50 pm

  23. Kim: Here is the “joli moulin” song (with a 2 years old at home, I know a jolly good number of them :wink: )

    tape, tape, tape petites mains,
    tourne, tourne, tourne petit moulin
    nage, nage, petit poisson (again??)
    vole, vole, petit pigeon.

    Petites mains ont bien tapé,
    petit moulin a bien tourné.
    Petit poisson a bien nagé,
    petit pigeon a bien volé.

    (repeat endlessly)

    Comment by a l'ouest — April 7, 2005 @ 3:30 am

  24. Here is

    Dansons la capucine
    Y a pas de pain chez nous
    Y en a chez la voisine
    Mais ce n’est pas pour nous. Tiou !

    Dansons la capucine
    Y a pas de vin chez nous
    Y en a chez la voisine
    Mais ce n’est pas pour nous. Tiou !

    Dansons la capucine
    Y a du plaisir chez nous
    On pleure chez la voisine
    On rit toujours chez nous. Tiou !

    It’s probably a “dancing ” song. Tiou is for the rythm

    Comment by Patricia Boaglio — April 8, 2005 @ 8:42 am

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