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Remembered Today:

A very puzzling French postcard: help welcomed, please!


Dragon
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I would welcome help with this perplexing postcard. It is the message on the back of a postcard of Hohrod Bärenstall German military cemetery, which is in the Vosges close to the battlefield of le Linge. The picture may or may not have any significance, but there were plenty of local cards to choose other than a graveyard.

Although the writer is using French, I do not believe that he or she has French as a first language, because some of the text is written as it is sounded and some of it is unclear. One possibility could be an Alsacien who has German as a first language and has had to learn French after the war. For example, 'l'auréne' would be the way Lorraine (the region) would be pronounced.

I can normally manage, but this text has me - and my largest French dictionary, and even Google - defeated! I would very much like to know what the writer is saying, even the gist, and would appreciate any insights.

Thank you for looking.

Gwyn

post-16-0-32935800-1450097654_thumb.jpg


The front of the card.

post-16-0-43509600-1450097971_thumb.jpg

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Golly; good French it ain't. It reads like someone who has had one French lesson and is trying to write it.

As far as I can make out it says something like:

"These few lines to say to you (that) this is a .......................... with your big.. lying down?...............................has no more need of you........................ with (its? or his? or sound?) .........of ..................."

The rest of the words look as though they are the fruit of half heard words that are being written phonetically, and may well be somewhat impolite! and are slang.

It sounds as though the writer is trying to say 'go away' fairly strongly, but I may be wrong.

All the words that I can think of to put in the blanks have no real relevance e.g. the word SOUDE is normally welded, but it may be SONDE which is normally a thing for taking some sort of . Neither seems relevant.

The last word, TANAC defeats me utterly.

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I must apologise for not having followed up over the weekend but I had a major home IT crash!

Ligue de l'Aurene / = or Ligne de Aurene? the address? I think the writer is French but probably illiterate with a bit of letter confusion thrown in. What I see is: Ees quelques linges pour de dire que tu cé une soude avec ta grande couchré né plus besoin de toi nroten avec sou de tavac.

What I think the writer might have meant to write is Ces quelques lignes pour te dire que tu es une soude avec ta grande couchée; n'est plus besoin de toi [??ten] avec sou de tabac.

I'm going to take soude > soudé meaning joined together or fixed, as in soldered.

"These few lines to tell you that you'll be fixed with [after?] a good rest; there's no need for anything from you [???] with a sou['s-worth?] of tobacco."

The word ending -ten really defeats me - after an initial n the next letter looks incredibly like a Russian Ю (yu), but I refuse to believe that ...

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I am really grateful to you both for your ideas. Thank you. Jane - no problems; I hope your IT has been sorted out now!

I am trying to read aloud what you have suggested with my best approximation of the accent of the region. Of course, my thought that the writer may not be a natural French speaker could apply to someone from any area with a dialect; it just seemed possible to me that he or she was local given the customs of limited travel at that time. If local, he or she would probably have grown up speaking German and may not have known much French at all until the francisation of Alsace and Lorraine after 1919.

Re place names, I have a full dictionary of communes, with French ,German, dialectal forms and ancient forms of names and will browse. For example, looking at A [l'Aurene?] I came across Auenheim (67) which is Auene in Alsacien. though it's a good 140 km from this cemetery. I'm just going out, though and will look up later.

Gwyn

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Hi Gwyn,

I'll let Muriel have a look at it tonight. Is there anything to suggest the date it was written ?

He (presumably the writer is male) writes "linges" for lignes, so perhaps he suffered from a mild form of dyslexia or had the subject of the postcard "Linge - Baerenstall" on his mind when he started writing.

I think he finishes with sou (seau) ole (de) tanac (tabac) or bucket of tobacco. I think the key words to understand are his "soude" and "nioter". If it's written by a soldier it might be quite "raunchy" and colloquial !

Steve

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Any North African troops in the area? Assuming the word is "Nioten" I searched on that and found some N. Africans with that as a first name. So could explain poor French as she is wrote. That would be the correct place, Dragon, wouldn't it if there were commas (did you see what I did there?) - but that would run against the poor education!

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...but then again, perhaps not! A look on Ancestry to see if Nioten is a name anywhere, only shows Norway :blink:

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These few lines to tell you that you are a drunkard with your big sloping nose. I don't need you any more...

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These few lines to tell you that you are a drunkard with your big sloping nose. I don't need you any more...

Fair enough, but what does the postcard say?

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Dear Gwyn,

Steve’s wife speaking!

I have spent some time poring over this unusual message. We are talking about someone with a very limited Literacy who spells phonetically possibly using dialect words, as this would have been very frequent in rural France at the time (if I compare it to the experience of my own relatives at the time).

It may be far out but this is what I think:

“Lique dre l’Aurène” probably means Linge (misspelling of where the postcard is from) in Lorraine (dre can mean yonder in dialect)

“Ces quelques linges” is meant to spell “lignes” eg: “These few lines”

“pour de dire tu cé” must be “pour te dire, tu sais….” « In order to tell you, you know… »

I think une soude (dialect for sourde (deaf) may mean an « earful » but I cannot be sure.

“avec ta grande couché” seems to refer to a tall woman who lies down, I’m sure we can think of this as a euphemism but there again I can’t be sure! That would be consistent with him talking either to a man about that man and his “bad” woman or maybe he is writing to a woman whose “lying down” has come back to his ears.

“né plus besoin de toi” should read: “je n’ai plus besoin de toi » « I don’t need you anymore »

« waten avec sou » seem to me to be « va-t-en avec elle » eg « clear off/go away with her/him » as sou mean his/her in some dialects.

“de Tanac” I simply understand as “from Tanac” as in written by Tanac especially as that last word has the final flourish of a signature, I think that can only be his name.

I hope this helps, or maybe it is even more confusing!

Muriel

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I don't recall if the card is dated but it appears to be late 1920's maybe a bit later, it is likely that the writer is German, he may be a lot smarter than we think even if his French is limited he may have thought that a postcard written in German and mailed in France might have some difficulty with delivery. There would still have been much animosity in France toward Germans.

maybe ?

khaki

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I think une soude (dialect for sourde (deaf) may mean an « earful » but I cannot be sure.

Une soule is a drunkard.

Fair enough, but what does the postcard say?

:P

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Thank you for your very helpful replies. It's late now so I'll respond properly in the morning.

The card is undated, but as the cemetery seems newly established compared with other photos, and it was begun towards the end of the 1920s, then that gives a rough idea of the earliest date it could be.

Anyone who had grown up in Alsace and Lorraine between 1871 and the 1914/18 war would have grown up as German. The absolute key to the regions thinking of themselves as France again was language and an intensive period of francisation began after the war. One of my previous posts.

Gwyn

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certainly waten for va-t-en would suggest someone more used to German orthography.

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Une soule is a drunkard.

:P

I think the writer has started one letter and changed it to an L in the word soule, It is not soude in my opinion. Ian's first phrase about the person being a drunkard with a big nose etc. etc. might actually be closer to the reality of the post card's content.

Jonathan

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Do you think this is a stroppy note he wrote when he was very drunk late one night then, when he reviewed in the cold light of day ("Did I really write that??"), he thought, I know, I'll put this away safely and, in a hundred years time, some poor historians will spend hours trying to figure out the social history context, relevance and significance of it, without realising the truth...?

I go with Ian's interpretation, anyway, stroppy note, written in haste, probably when drunk....

James

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, stroppy note, written in haste, probably when drunk....

James

Not bad handwriting for the above, without us knowing we can only guess at any number of scenarios,

others might be,

grieving.

poor schooling

unbalanced

poor health

infirmity due to age or wounds,

The card appears to be in good condition, must have survived due to someone caring about it.

khaki

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The writing extends across the address space, so the writer evidently didn't intend to send the card, at least as an 'open' postcard (but perhaps enclosed in an envelope).

I don't think anyone who could write so clearly and produce so florid a capital as the 'C' in 'Ces' could possibly be almost illiterate in an absolute sense. The explanation that the writer was a speaker of dialect and possibly a first-language German speaker seems more likely (although the script has no obvious characteristics of German 'Kurrent').

I would agree that the word is 'une soule' and not 'une soude'. The writer seems to have initially written 'une soue' and then have overwritten the 'e' with an 'l' and added a final 'e'.

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Many thanks to everyone. From your suggestions and my own ideas, I think I may have a postcard written by someone who either has limited education in writing French, or has difficulties in reading and writing which make his or her French confused, or who is using French as a second language in which he or she lacks confidence. He or she is writing as the words sound to him or her. Comparing it with other postcards I have of the era, I think the handwriting is French script but it lacks the assurance of someone who has been taught it from childhood, or he or she is young, or simply doesn't write much, or is emotional.

From the fact that it is a postcard of a specific mountain location which you would have to travel to get to, on roads which even ten years later were challenging after war damage, I suspect that the author may have been local.

Le Linge is not in Lorraine. It is in Alsace, in the Vosges mountains, but it is not far from the border with Lorraine and it is possible that the author was confused about where the regional boundaries were now the conspicuous 1871 frontier had been taken down. Therefore I agree that l'auréne seems like a mistake for Lorraine.

I agree that the writer didn't intend to post this without an envelope. Maybe he or she pushed it under the door, or gave it to a third party to pass on, or just vented anger or bitterness and never gave it to anyone at all. We'll never know, but it's entertaining to speculate.

I have often seen le Linge written erroneously as ligne. Given that the author finds writing and spelling troublesome, and sometimes gets letters out of order, I wondered whether tu cé could mean tu est: as in tu est une soule. "You're a drunkard." It's the sort of mistake I've seen dyslexic native English writers make. But I also agree that it could be tu sais.

As for the final word, it does look like a signature and if not a formal name, it could have been a pet name or a nickname. Or again, given that the author struggles with writing, he or she may be writing t' as in your: eg t'Anac, t'Anae, t'A*** (your A***) where the asterisks mean letters I don't know if the name is a private or nickname.

So to me, with your helpful input, it looks like:

[sent from] Linge in Lorraine

These few lines [are] to tell you you are a drunkard with your lying-down woman. I don't need you any more. Go away with her.

From Tanac

Does this fit?

Huge thanks to everyone who has helped. It feels like the sort of card someone could use as the basis for a piece of fiction!

Cheers

Gwyn

PS I actually just bought it for the picture. I didn't know there was a message and when there are messages, they're often anodyne assurances of the writer's continuing good health and wishes for the recipient's.

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One other puzzler. One might assume that the card was from a woman to a man who had gone to the bad with another woman, telling him to get lost. But 'une soule' is feminine. So is it from a man to a woman who is consorting with another undesirable woman? In fact, the writer could be of either gender.

Cheers Martin B

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Yes. Which is why I've hedged on that one. :)

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This pc would make an excellent project for a college level French language class to tackle. For extra credit, not a mandatory test. Interesting to see what they might come up with as a message.

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