French piano

CKM367

Senior Member
Russian
In 'Elephants Can Remember' by Agatha Christie, there is such a fragment:

He told me you used to drink something called a tisane, wasn’t it? What’s that, a variant of French piano or something?

I believe French piano is a tipple, is it not? What is it exactly, can you help?
 
  • MuttQuad

    Senior Member
    English - AmE
    Tisane is herbal tea, to which Christie's Hercule Poirot was partial. I have never heard of any beverage called "French piano," but perhaps it is British slang for one.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I think it's just Superintendent Garroway trying to tease Poirot by overemphasising his (Garroway's) ignorance of things Francophone. He looks on Poirot as a funny little Belgian with strange habits.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I think it's just Superintendent Garroway trying to tease Poirot by overemphasising his (Garroway's) ignorance of things Francophone. He looks on Poirot as a funny little Belgian with strange habits.
    I agree. He's asking if "tisane" might be a French word for "piano," or perhaps the name of a special kind of piano used in France.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    He knows that "tisane" is a beverage so I doubt he thinks it's a musical instrument. My thought is that it's some sort of wordplay: pee, eau, eau de vie, :confused:.
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    He told me you used to drink something called a tisane, wasn’t it? What’s that, a variant of French piano or something?
    I agree. He's asking if "tisane" might be a French word for "piano," or perhaps the name of a special kind of piano used in France.
    Even Garroway isn't stupid enough to think that somebody could drink a piano!

    I presume it his attempt at pronouncing pernod (a traditional French drink).

    _______________________________________________________________
    Notes

    1. The English pronunciation of 'piano' is remarkably close to the French pronunciation of 'Pernod'"

    2. Pernod is very popular in southern Europe for its thirst-quenching ability, and implies that it is not some frou-frou liqueur that is daintily sipped but a solid "in-between-times drink" that plays a role much like beer further north. With an alcohol content of 40% vs. an average of 5% for most beers and a much higher cost, we doubt very many people drink it like beer — even diluted with five parts water, as done traditionally in France.
    http://www.ochef.com/322.htm
     
    Last edited:

    Susan Y

    Senior Member
    British English
    Actually Garroway is not referring to a tisane when he asks "What's that?", but instead to what Poirot is actually drinking in the scene, which is blackcurrant syrup. Garroway himself is drinking whisky and soda, so it is presumably the evening and pernod would be quite a reasonable guess. I think Biffo is right.

    Here is a bit more of the dialogue, immediately before the sentences quoted by CKM:

    Passing on to Poirot, he [the manservant] put down a glass filled with a dark purple liquid."What's your tipple?" said Superintendent Garroway with some interest."A syrup of black currant," said Poirot."Well, well," said Superintendent Garroway, "everyone to their own taste.
     

    CKM367

    Senior Member
    Russian
    It is also rather strange that Poirot called Sirop de Cassis syrup. It is strange to drink syrup whereas Sirop de Cassis is agreeable beverage.
     
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