Registry of registres

If you want to give your registre de langue a workout, the enormously popular actor Fabrice Luchini is the man for the job. Even if you didn’t make it to Paris for his performances of Poésie? there are ample Luchini spectacles available online.

The self-described névrosé isn’t shy about disclosing intimate details of his life that make abundant use of la langue familière. No subject seems to be off-limits for the autodidact who left school at 13, especially when it comes to his experiences as an apprentice coiffeur. Luchini’s description of the bikini wax he gave Marlène Jobert begins about 10:09 minutes into his 2015 appearance on On n’est pas couché, using expressions that are, to say the least, very familière.

But the real choc comes when he swings effortlessly into a passage of Les promesses d’un visage by Baudelaire.

Does Luchini rattle on at top speed, layering elegant figures of speech with bursts of street speak that can be difficult to follow? Absolutely, especially when he unleashes his verlan.

But for all the hystérie and endless comic riffs, his devotion to language and those who love it is an invitation to come along for the ride. Especially moving is the story of the taxi driver who loved Rimbaud’s Le Bateau ivre, which Luchini was rehearsing, though the driver didn’t understand a word. Listen to Fabrice’s tale for yourself, beginning around 4:35 in the link to On n’est pas couché above.

The greatest compliment the actor ever received was when he was told after performing Céline’s L’Arrivée à New-York that“On a des images.”  (15:37 into On n’est pas couché)

Which is good news for a learner. Try listening to Luchini with your eyes closed and your mind open to the musicality of the language, no matter what the registre. What pictures do you see? I was way off for foutre le bourdon (22:22 into On n’est pas couché), but I won’t be forgetting the expression any time soon.


— Linda

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