What do these French lines from "Private Lives" mean?
September 10, 2009 8:25 PM   Subscribe

Le filter français - what do these lines from Noël Coward's "Private Lives" mean?

I assume it must be idiomatic, or at least colloquial, because Babelfish was pretty useless. Context - the maid (Louise) brings in a coffee service, puts it on the table, then goes to straighten the piano bench and accidentally sits on the keyboard.

"Pardon, madame - ça n'est pas ma faute, mais si madame n'avait pas laissé son piano ouvert, je ne me serai pas cogné dedans. Oh! Puis qui'ils se me haut à table qui'ils boivent leurs café et qu'ils me fichent la paix!"
posted by starvingartist to Writing & Language (4 answers total)
Excuse me madame-- it isn't my fault, but if madame had not left the piano open I wouldn't have banged into it. Oh!

And then there is an error in the last sentence that is making it hard to translate. Start at the second "qu'ils" and it says "they drink their coffees and disturb my peace." Before that it might say "because they put themselves high on the table" or something like that. If it said "se mettent a table" that would mean sit at the table to eat, but I'm not sure about the "se me" instead of "se mettent" and why there is a "haut." And I have a native speaker here who doesn't see what it is supposed to mean either.

Can you recheck the lines?
posted by ohio at 8:33 PM on September 10, 2009

Best answer: Alternate idea for the last line: "They're already sitting down at the table, they should drink their coffee and leave me alone."
posted by ohio at 8:38 PM on September 10, 2009

Response by poster: Ach. I did mistype, but not the "haut". Those two "qui'ils" should be "qu'ils". Not a big deal. I'm totally willing to buy the idea that it's a misprint. It's definitely "se me haut" in my script, which is not so far from "se mettent", and I've no idea how well Coward spoke French. I'll go with your suggestions. Thanks!
posted by starvingartist at 8:49 PM on September 10, 2009

So, assuming that "se me haut" is actually "se mettent", the last sentence would translate to something like "And they should sit down, drink their coffee and leave me alone already". The tone would be one of annoyance and exasperation. An alternative would be "Won't they sit down, drink their coffee and leave me alone already?"
posted by bluefrog at 7:04 AM on September 11, 2009

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