Seven, Seven, Seven
April 15, 2005 6:39 PM   Subscribe

I ride the Paris metro every day to get around the city, and I've only recently noticed a strange phenomenon. At two different metro stops I've seen homeless people repeating the word "seven" in English over and over again at random intervals. I can't think of any French words it could be that I might be mishearing, especially since the 'n' is very pronounced and the vowels sound English enough. Can anyone explain what's going on here?
posted by themadjuggler to Society & Culture (38 answers total)
 
This sounds like the beginning of a very interesting novel.
posted by annathea at 6:49 PM on April 15, 2005 [1 favorite]


Are you *quite* positive they're not saying "c'est bien" rapidly enough to mistake it for "seven"?
posted by annathea at 7:21 PM on April 15, 2005


My roomate just walking in on me sitting here, staring blankly at the screen, saying "seven" over and over again. She thinks I'm nutbar.

Anyway, the only thing I could come up with is that they're saying "c'est fun"....but I'd imagine being homeless isn't really the party it's cracked up to be.
posted by stray at 7:36 PM on April 15, 2005


peut-etre c'est bien?

c'est bon?

je ne sais pas.
posted by fishfucker at 7:45 PM on April 15, 2005


Some of the southern french accents have vowel sounds that seem very english. Or a french-as-a-second language speaker.
posted by nprigoda at 7:52 PM on April 15, 2005


You could always ask one of these homeless people, n'est-ce pas?
I laughed at that annathea
posted by peacay at 8:02 PM on April 15, 2005


C'est l'vent?
C'est l'fun?
C'est bien?

No clue, but when I arrive Sunday I'll keep my ears open. I've got an interview in Vincennes Monday morning and if I get it I'll be in Paris for the next two years. Wish me luck!
posted by furtive at 8:37 PM on April 15, 2005


Ça va? To passers by, hoping for a donation, perhaps?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:49 PM on April 15, 2005


The problem with 'bon' or 'bien' is that the "n" is really not that strong. 'Fun' has the appropriate "n" sound but seems the least probable. ( 'C'est' as the beginning appears unanimous. ) Maybe they both have a mutual acquaintance named Benoit, who prefers the shorter form of his name, and so they keep reminding themselves "C'est Ben"...
posted by birdsquared at 9:51 PM on April 15, 2005


C'est fin, maybe? Perhaps they're predicting armageddon. Maybe they know something you don't.
posted by heresiarch at 10:15 PM on April 15, 2005


What about "J'ai faim"? (I'm hungry)
posted by stray at 10:35 PM on April 15, 2005


You could ask one of them. You could walk up to him and ask, maybe give him a euro. Maybe he'll push you on the metro tracks and a metro will run you over. And then maybe in a few weeks someone else will post a question here that goes:

I ride the Paris metro every day to get around the city, and I've only recently noticed a strange phenomenon. At two different metro stops I've seen homeless people repeating the word "eight" in English over and over again at random intervals. I can't think of any French words it could be that I might be mishearing, especially since the 'n' is very pronounced and the vowels sound English enough. Can anyone explain what's going on here?
posted by Skyanth at 1:45 AM on April 16, 2005 [16 favorites]


Where is the emphasis - on the first syllable or the second? If it's on the second, I vote for stray's answer. I ride the metro every day too, and I'll look out for this. If I hear it, I'll report back!
posted by hazyjane at 1:52 AM on April 16, 2005


Except for the non-existing 'n' in eight, Skyanth wins this thread.
posted by AwkwardPause at 2:22 AM on April 16, 2005


Perhaps you just saw the same English-speaking homeless person and he actually says "seven" over and over? Repeating random words is quite common for those folks, they move from one stop to another and I've seen quite a few English-speaking ones...
posted by elgilito at 3:02 AM on April 16, 2005


I'm also voting for "c'est bien" or more likely "ça va".

But yeah, just ask one of them, next time. They won't bite you. But make sure you're well away from the tracks, just in case Skyanth is on to something...
posted by funambulist at 4:17 AM on April 16, 2005


Skyanth, that was hilarious.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:36 AM on April 16, 2005


Skyanth, that's the outline for a Bradbury story just ready to be written. chapeau
posted by matteo at 5:35 AM on April 16, 2005


I too doff my headgear to Skyanth, and I want an answer. If you have to sacrifice your life for the cause, themadjuggler, that's just the way it has to be. Go find out.
posted by languagehat at 6:41 AM on April 16, 2005


Thanks for all the responses-- to clarify, one of the homeless people was a woman and the other was a man. The man was at Nation where I saw him in the early afternoon going to class and then again coming back nearly five hours later.

If I happen to see one of these people again I'll definitely ask and drop a euro.

Of the suggested French phrases, "c'est bien" and "c'est fin" sound the closest, except I'd lean closer to the latter because it sounds more like the 'v.'

I'd also like to thank Skyanth for the eerie comment!
posted by themadjuggler at 7:14 AM on April 16, 2005


quelle est la fréquence, kenneth?
posted by crunchland at 8:38 AM on April 16, 2005 [1 favorite]


c'est vin.
posted by sfenders at 8:39 AM on April 16, 2005


...either they're asking for wine, or it's an abbreviated comment to the effect that the intoxicating fluid of daily life is like a fine bottle of wine.
posted by sfenders at 8:43 AM on April 16, 2005


...or blaming the stuff for their problems, I guess. But it has to be "c'est vin".
posted by sfenders at 8:45 AM on April 16, 2005


You could ask one of them. You could walk up to him and ask, maybe give him a euro. Maybe he'll push you on the metro tracks and a metro will run you over. And then maybe in a few weeks someone else will post a question here that goes:

I ride the Paris metro every day to get around the city, and I've only recently noticed a strange phenomenon. At two different metro stops I've seen homeless people repeating the word "eight" in English over and over again at random intervals. I can't think of any French words it could be that I might be mishearing, especially since the 'n' is very pronounced and the vowels sound English enough. Can anyone explain what's going on here?


Post of the year.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:20 AM on April 16, 2005


They're counting down. Be very alarmed when they reach "Blastoff."
posted by five fresh fish at 10:53 AM on April 16, 2005


C'est vin is brilliant. I don't know if it's right, but it's brilliant.
posted by puddinghead at 12:27 PM on April 16, 2005


Am laughing like a fool here, Skyanth.

Let's all meet here in a month with the short stories this will inspire.
posted by goofyfoot at 12:31 PM on April 16, 2005


nobody might know!
posted by fionab at 4:46 PM on April 16, 2005


Oooh, spooky: Brooklyn Poles and Parisan homeless are all muttering "Se7en" under their breath...
posted by five fresh fish at 6:12 PM on April 16, 2005


I'm not convinced about "c'est vin." Wouldn't they be more likely to say "c'est le vin," if they wanted to talk about vin? And then it would sound less like seven.

I keep trying to make it some conjugation of venir, but it's not working ...
ça vient?
something with vienne?
(il faut que) ça vienne?
but that doesn't make sense.

Or maybe it's "sa" ... Is there a feminine noun that sounds like vienne?
posted by librarina at 9:02 PM on April 16, 2005


Could be "se vendre"? "Video artist Chantal Durand's work consists of words and iconic pinup art pasted on to the 1947 film Métropole, blatantly commenting on sexist ideology behind the portrayal of women at the time. Inserted text is addressed satirically; the political Se vendre, se vendre, se vendre..."
posted by sfenders at 5:45 AM on April 17, 2005


Could be "se vendre"?

I would say no only because the e in "vendre" is a big airy "awwww" which is pretty far from an "eh" in "seven."
posted by themadjuggler at 8:23 AM on April 17, 2005


I think they're waiting to start saying 'Eight' ?


A guy is walking past a big wooden fence at the insane asylum and he hears all the residents inside chanting, "Seven! Seven! Seven!"

Quite curious about this, he finds a hole in the fence, and looks in. Someone inside pokes him in the eye.

Then everyone inside the asylum starts chanting, "Eight! Eight! Eight!"


:)
posted by Arthur Dent at 9:48 PM on April 17, 2005


And that is why you read the whole thread before replying.

So, any news?
posted by NickDouglas at 1:22 AM on April 18, 2005


Maybe a few French guys escaped from the asylum and are stuck at seven, not realizing that a fence is the prerequisite for advancement?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:25 AM on April 19, 2005


I want to see some action in this thread.

*drums fingers*
posted by languagehat at 4:00 PM on April 21, 2005


Me, too. Hey, juggler, could you take a tape recorder to work and post an audio file?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:08 PM on April 21, 2005


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