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Chanson, France, French (Français), Pop, Singer-songwriter

“Les Voisines” (Renan Luce)

Country: FRANCE

Verse: Am / / / F / / /
Chorus: G / E / Am / D / E / E7
Capo 5


J’ai toujours préféré aux voisins les voisines
Dont les ombres chinoises ondulent sur les volets
Je me suis inventé un amour pantomime
Où glissent en or et noir tes bas sur tes mollets

De ma fenêtre en face, je caresse le plexiglas
Je maudis les techniciens dont les stores vénitiens
Découpent en tranches la moindre pervenche déshabillée

J’ai toujours préféré aux voisins les voisines
Qui sèchent leurs dentelles au vent sur les balcons
C’est un peu toi qui danse quand danse la mousseline
Invité au grand bal de tes slips en coton

De ma fenêtre en face, je caresse le plexiglas
Je maudis les méninges inventeurs du sèche-linge
Plus de lèche-vitrine a ces cache-poitrines que tu séchais

J’ai toujours préféré aux voisins les voisines
Qui vident leurs armoires en quête d’une décision
Dans une heure environ, tu choisiras le jean
Tu l’enfileras bien sûr dans mon champ de vision

De ma fenêtre en face, je caresse le plexiglas
Concurrence déloyale de ton chauffage central
Une buée dense interrompt ma transe
Puis des épais rideaux et c’est la goutte d’eau
Un ravalement de façade me cache ta palissade
Une maison de retraite construite devant ma fenêtre
Sur un fil par centaines sèchent d’immenses gaines

“FEMALE NEIGHBORS” (Original English Translation by ORS, 2012)

I’ve always preferred female to male neighbors
whose Chinese shadows* undulate on the shutters
I’ve invented for myself a pantomime love
where your hose slip on in gold and black on your calfs

From my window across, I caress the plexiglass
I curse the technicians whose venetian blinds
cut up into slices the tiniest bit of periwinkle being taken off

I’ve always preferred female to male neighbors
who dry their lace in the wind on the balconies
there’s a bit of you who dances when the muslin dances
I’m invited to the grand ball of your cotton panties

From my window across, I caress the plexiglass
I curse the brainy inventors of the tumble dryer
no more window-shopping for the bras that you used to dry

I always preferred female to male neighbors
who empty their wardrobes in search of a decision
in about an hour, you will choose the jean
you’ll slip into it for sure in my field of vision

From my window across, I caress the plexiglass
Unfair competition from your central heating
a dense steam interrupts my trance
then some thick curtains and it’s a drop of water
a cleaning of the facade hides your palisade from me
a retirement home constructed in front of my window
on a line, by the hundreds, immense girdles hanging

*see comments for a better explanation of “ombres chinoises”

Vocabulary and Etymology

le voisin – the neighbor; from L. vicinus (nearby) from L. vicus (village); related to Span. vecino, Port. vizinho, Ital. vicino, Roman. vecin; other related words are English villa and vicinity
l’ombre (fem.) – L. umbra (shade, shadow); related to  Ital. ombra, Roman. umbră, Span./Port. sombra;  other related words are English somber, umbrella, and Span. sombrero (“broad-brimmed hat”)
onduler – to undulate, from L. unda (wave); Ital. ondulare, Span./Port. ondular.  The word “wave” in French, however, is “la vague” (in the other Romance languages it is “la onda”).
les volets – shutters, from L. volare (fly)
pantomime – Gk. pantomimos (παντόμιμος), meaning “actor” or “imitator of all” (from panto “all” + mimos “imitator”)
glisser – to slip, slide, from Germanic root glidan (to glide); related to musical term “glissando” meanign to glide from one pitch to another
les bas – stockings, hose, from L. bassus (low, base)
le mollet – calf (of leg)
plexiglas – trademark name (Rohm and Haas Company) of synthetic polymer of methyl methacrylate (PMMA)
maudire – curse, from L. maledicere (speak ill of); related forms in Span. maldecir, Port. maldizer, Ital. maledire
les stores venitiens – Venetian blinds (horizontal slatted blinds); also called “Span. veneciana, Ital. veneziane.
decouper – to cut up, as if with scissors, as opposed to couper (to cut, a if with a knife)
la tranche – the slice
pervenche – periwinkle blue (color); related to Ital./Port. pervinca,
deshabiller – to undress, from L. habere (have, hold);
la dentelle – the lace, from L. dens (tooth, ivory)
la mousseline – muslin cotton fabric, from Arabic Mosul, northern Mesopotamia (Iraq) city where muslin was made;
le slip – underpants; also slip de bain (swimming traunks)
meninges – Greek. meninx μῆνιγξ (membrane)
le seche-linge – clothes tumble dryer, literally “dry linen”; also called le sechoir; Span./Port. secadora;
le leche-vitrines – window shopping, literally “window licking” from lecher (lick) and vitrine (stop/store window)
le cache-poitrine – bra, literally “hide-chest”; more generally called “le soutien-gorge” (literally “support-throat”)
vider – to empty, go through, hollow up; related to Ital. vuotare, Span. vaciar, Port. esvaziar
l’armoire (fem.)- cupboard, wardrobe, from L. armarium (cabinet, closet); also called la garde-robe (literally “keep-gown”); related to Ital. guardaroba/armadio, Span. guardarropa/ropero (for clothes)/armario (for things), Port. guarda-roupa
enfiler – to slip on, thread
la concurrence – competition; L. concurrere (together, run); in French, competition refers to sports contests, while concurrence seems to be more business related; the same dichotomy occurs in Ital. competizione/concorrenza, Span. concurso/competencia, Port. competicao/concorrencia
deloyal – disloyal, unfair (competition);
la chauffage – the heating; L. calefacere (make warm); related words Span. calefaccion, Port.
la buée – the steam, mist (as in on a window); related to Sp. bugada
le rideau – the curtain, from verb rider (to wrinkle, ripple)
le ravalement – the cleaning, renovation of facade of a building, facelift; from verb ravaler (to clean, reface, renovate)
la palissade – the palisade, a “fence of stakes” L. palus (stake, pile, pole, swamp, marsh)
la maison de retraite – the nursing home, literally “house of retirement” from verb retraiter (to retire)
la gaine – the girdle, also sheath

Grammar and Other Notes

1.  Dont

In French the word dont is a conjunctive which connects two nouns directly, usually in the format S V O dont V.   The structure similar to the English words whose or where as in the phrases “I enjoy music whose rhythm is upbeat” or “I enjoy music where the rhythm is upbeat”.  Example from the song:

J’ai toujours préféré aux voisins les voisines dont les ombres chinoises ondulent…
Lit: I’ve always preferred to the male neighbors the female ones whose chinese shades undulate…

Je maudis les techniciens dont les stores vénitiens découpent en tranches…
Lit: I curse the technicians whose venetian blinds slip up into pieces…

2.  Variety in Romance language vocabulary.

As Romance family members, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese indeed share a lot of vocabulary, but there are plenty of examples of blatant divergence.  In this song, you can a sample of some of those differences, organized alphabetically below., as they pertain to can be words related windows (blinds, shutters, curtains), undergarments (bra, girdle, lace, to slip on, stockings/hose, underpants), among others.

Blinds les stores venitiens le (tende) veneziane la persiana veneciana, el estor a persiana
Bra le soutien-gorge (“support-throat”), le cache-poitrine (“hide-chest”) reggiseno el sostén, el sujetador o sutiã
Calf (of leg) le mollet il polpaccio la pantorilla a panturrilha
Curtain le rideau la tenda; il sipario (theatre) la cortina; el telón (theat) a cortina;     o pano de boca (theat)
Girdle la gaine il busto la faja a cinta,       o espartilho
Lace la dentelle il pizzo, il merletto, la trina el encaje a renda
Shutters (window) les volets, les stores le persiane el postigo, la contraventana a persiana, a veneziana
Steam/Mist la buée l’appannamento la bruma a nevoa,      o borrifo
Stockings/Hose les bas le calze las medias as meias
To slip glisser scivolare rebalar escorregar
Underpants le slip le mutande los calzoncillos a cueca (male);       a calcinha (female)


4 thoughts on ““Les Voisines” (Renan Luce)

  1. Just a note: The meaning of “ombres chinoises” doesn’t come through in the translation here. As far as I know it is an expression referring to shadow puppets/shadow theater; so rather than window shades from China, the voyeur/narrator is talking about being able to see the silhouettes of his female neighbors against the shutters. Nice song, though, and I absolutely love the concept for this site. I’ll definitely be back. 🙂

    Posted by Elisabeth | March 15, 2012, 11:18 pm
    • Thank you so much for your insight and encouraging comments!

      Usually the English translations are intentionally a bit literal, but in this case, I think you’re right that the image of the “ombres chinoises” needs some explanation. Thanks for your help!

      Posted by orangeroomstudios | March 16, 2012, 12:07 am
  2. Wow thank you so much for this! I’m a Portuguese & English speaker studying French for a year now, I really loved the idea of the blog. Definitely going to follow! Great explanation as well.

    Posted by thaygoulart | June 24, 2013, 3:57 am


  1. Pingback: “Les Voisines” : Taking a Peep into a French Voyeur Pop Song | Ripe Ideas - February 25, 2012

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