Les gueules noires

littleshebear

Senior Member
English-Ireland
Hi there, I'm translating a piece about coal miners in Northern France circa 1970 and the miners are nicknamed 'les gueules noires' throughout. Any thoughts on a good English equivalent that would be instantly recognisable? Obviously the literal translation is 'the black faces', but perhaps someone knows a bit more about English/American coal mining and what term would be the closest equivalent for that epoch? Thank you in advance.
 
  • littleshebear

    Senior Member
    English-Ireland
    Thank you both - yes I've been on that page, SwissPete, but nothing seemed universal enough for an anglophone readership. Hewer or collier is the best I've come across, but neither has the same ring. I think 'the black gobs' is similar Welsh-Sion, but it's not a case of making up a name for them, I'd like to have a term which, like the French, would actually have been used.

    Many thanks.
     

    livvie

    Senior Member
    Gibraltar, English
    Hello,

    I haven't found a suitable term really but there an awful lot of terms on SwissPete's list that have nothing to do with coal miners!
    :D

    I think if I was translating this I would use les gueules noires (the black faces) the first time the term came up and then in the rest of the text I would continue with les gueules noires. English readers are probably not going to appreciate reading the black/sooty faces...
     

    Dripweed

    Senior Member
    English / UK
    I'm translating a piece about coal miners in Northern France circa 1970 and the miners are nicknamed 'les gueules noires' throughout.
    Hello littleshebear :)

    I’m not aware of an exact English equivalent of ‘gueule noire’. A term that was certainly in use at the time of the British miners’ strikes in the 1970s and 1980s was ‘pitmen’. The term has now largely disappeared, rather like the mines themselves.
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    For an American, 'blackface' can recall the White performers made up to look like racist stereoptypes of Blacks in minstrel shows, so it probably wouldn't be the best choice; likewise, a 'gob' mostly means 'a sailor' in AE', although the expression "Shut yer gob!" would probably be understood by context. Sometimes solutions lîke the one suggested by livvie in #5 are the best way to deal with cultural references like this.
     
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