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confused in Montreal
May 17, 2010 2:14 PM   Subscribe

I was startled and amused in Montreal by strangers coming up, saying "Mon chapeau est plus beau que le votre!" Can anyone add some context?

I was in Montreal for the first time this weekend with my dad, who wore a straw hat somewhat similar to this, though with a broader brim. Nothing very unusual. Two different men approached him on the street at different times, in different neighborhoods, to say something like “Mon chapeau est plus beau que le votre!” (“My hat is prettier than yours!”). The first man took us completely by surprise, though, and I admit to not catching everything with my imperfect French, but he used the word “chapeau.” The second, an older man, clearly said the above sentence, and was smiling as he said it. Neither looked particularly out of the ordinary. Does anyone know what they were talking about?

My googling turns up very little. Is it a cultural reference we don’t know? Plenty of people were wearing hats, but I didn’t see many like his, and I'm sure we stood out in ways that we, being tourists, didn’t recognize. We had a great time and were amused but puzzled by the comments.
posted by Phatty Lumpkin to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sometimes people here in England will come up to you and sing a line from 'Where did you get that hat?' if you happen to be wearing a particularly nice hat.

So, in a similar vein, is it perhaps a reference to the Sacha Distel song, 'Mon beau chapeau'? (lyrics here - plenty of 'beau chapeu's, although your sentence doesn't occur).
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:39 PM on May 17, 2010


LMDBA: Thanks for that! It certainly seems like a possibility, and Sacha Distel wears a straw hat (but more of a Panama hat) in this video of the song you suggested.
posted by Phatty Lumpkin at 2:49 PM on May 17, 2010


Whoops, make that a boater hat that Distel was wearing.
posted by Phatty Lumpkin at 2:50 PM on May 17, 2010


I live here and it's never happened to me... so I'd go with the song reference to a specific kind of hat, as le morte de bea arthur says.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 4:11 PM on May 17, 2010


A search in French pulls up this page on archive.org, where the exact sentence is given in a set of comparison phrases from a book comparing English, French and Mandarin:

Plus grand.

Cette poire est sucrée, mais cette autre l'est encore plus.

La lune est plus petite que le soleil.

Mon chapeau est plus beau que le vôtre.

Il est plus fort que vous.


I am guessing that the phrase is a stock example phrase, possibly accompanied by a drawing of a hat exactly like yours.
posted by zadcat at 7:24 PM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


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