sonnez les matines

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by filll, Oct 5, 2006.

  1. filll New Member

    English Canada
    I presume that "matines" in the poem refers to matins, or morning prayers, although I have not found a dictionary that is good enough to make it clear.

    Also, I assume that "sonnez" is referring to a ringing of a morning bell to call people to morning prayers. However, why is it usually spelled "sonnez"? Why not "sonnait" or "sonnaient" or something? I am confused about this.

    Thank you.
  2. noddy

    noddy Senior Member

    English Uk
    because the poem is calling Brother jack to come and ring the bells for morning prayers so sonnez is the imperative form of the verb
  3. walkyrie Senior Member

    né et vit en France
    The one who sings "Frère Jacques" is actually talking to Frère Jacques, hence the use of the imperative :

    "Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques,
    Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?
    Sonnez les matines, sonnez les matines
    Ding ding dong, ding ding dong."
  4. Nicomon

    Nicomon Senior Member

    Français, Québec ♀
    You assumed right:)

    MATINES, subst. fém. plur.
    LITURG. CATH. ,,Première partie de l'office divin qui se dit au point du jour, voire au milieu de la nuit TLFI
  5. filll New Member

    English Canada
    In that case, it is interesting that most English translations of this poem/song that I have found are incorrect.
  6. noddy

    noddy Senior Member

    English Uk
    why what do they say?
  7. french4beth

    french4beth Senior Member

    Here's the English translation:

    Brother John.
    Brother John.

    Are you sleeping?
    Are you sleeping?

    Morning bells are ringing.
    Morning bells are ringing.

    Ding, Ding, Dong.
    Ding, Ding, Dong.
  8. sarcie Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    I've seen this translation as well, but with the first two sets reversed (i.e. starting with Are you sleeping?...) I suspect this and the "morning bells" part have been translated in this way to fit to the tune.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 25, 2016
  9. Monsieur Moose Senior Member

    le Wisconsin
    English - Les Etats-Unis
    Are they incorrect Fill?
    Words, ideas, phrases are almost never word for word in a translation. They main idea as it percieved by the culture is usually more important as well as the sound / rhyme (as in the song) of the words to convey that idea. In the english and french versions the main idea is intact.
    Are you sleeping? Wake up the prayer/morning bells are ringing.
  10. pollyboffin Member

    English, UK
    I think it's just the use of "poetic licence" to simplify the translation for young children.

    Frere Jacques would normally be sung by children in a nursery, or primary school, and although "ring the bell(s) for matins, ring the bell(s) for matins" is a more accurate translation, a lot of children in the UK would not understand the word "matins"

    Additionally, I suppose in these days of "political correctness" some people may also complain about schools teaching children songs with religious overtones if the true translation were used!
  11. Fred_C

    Fred_C Senior Member

    Well, it is an old song, I guess. No french child knows what "matines" are, neither.
    I wonder however why they chose John to translate Jacques, when everebody knows that Jacques is James, and John is Jean. :)
  12. Nicomon

    Nicomon Senior Member

    Français, Québec ♀
    Je dirais que c'est simplement parce que John rime mieux avec Dong ;)

    Edit: au fait j'y pense... posais-tu sérieusement la question?
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 11, 2017
  13. filll New Member

    English Canada
    It depends on what you mean by "incorrect". It is, of course, not a word for word translation, which is admittedly rare and in many cases inappropriate. My point was that the most common English version conveys a different sense than the standard French version.

    The most prevalent English version has a light and airy feel, with less religious overtones. The French version makes it clear that the subject of the rhyme is a religious figure, and even might suggest something darker. Some say that the French version is the funeral dirge of Jacques de Molay of the Templar Knights.

    If you are interested, there are many versions and translations in Wikipedia (I would give the links but I am not allowed to here, being a newbie).
  14. doodlebugger Senior Member

    Perhaps because Jacques sounds like Jack, which is John.
  15. Nicomon

    Nicomon Senior Member

    Français, Québec ♀
    Here's one of those Wikipedia links, but I for one see Frère Jacques as a children's song. Period. :)

    Sonnez les matines = sonnez les cloches (annonçant les matines). Matines = prières du matin
    sonnez les cloches du matin = ring the morning bells = morning bells are ringing (switched around, to rhyme with sleeping)
    And John, because it rhymes with dong. Why complicate things? ;)
  16. filll New Member

    English Canada
    Of course, one can enjoy Frère Jacques as a nursery rhyme or as a children's song, and leave it at that. I myself had just accepted it for many years as a nice simple set of sounds that children learn and perform for the delight of their elders and never thought or worried about what the song meant.

    However, some are interested in what this rhyme means, and its origin. It struck me some days ago that I had never looked into the actual meaning, even though I have some rudimentary exposure to the French language and had heard this song numerous times. "Frère Jacques" is probably the longest set of French phrases that English-speaking children learn, but they learn it typically as a confused mumbled string of sounds by rote, without learning what the words are and what they mean. So, I thought I would like to investigate this a bit further; it is my nature.

    And "Frère Jacques" is a bit different than what I had originally thought.

    But for those who are not interested in such pedantry, the meaning of the rhyme and its origin is really of no consequence and it is unimportant.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 25, 2016
  17. Nicomon

    Nicomon Senior Member

    Français, Québec ♀
    I can understand that you did. I'm also very curious by nature. :) And I agree that Frère Jacques does have a religious undertone (more so in French than English).
    My point is that because I mostly see it as a children's song, I don't agree at all with the Jacques de Molay theory. :(

    As specified in the Wikepedia article ...This claim should be probably approached with an air of caution.
  18. JC_fun New Member

    Quebec french
    The matines were the first part of the "Divine Office" , said to be pre-daylight prayers as some suggested.
    Now, one can easily figure the Franciscain Principal brother of l' Ordre de Saint- Francois- d'Assise, walking the yard surrounding the chapel, along with his fellowship, waiting for the sound of the bell to enter for morning prayers.
    Noticing that daylight was starting to show it's face, he cannot help but wonder what Brother Jacques is up to. He quick marches into the chapel, only to find Jacques snoozing on a chair, with the bell rope or guide, in his hands.
    In view of the spectacle before him, he shouts: " Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques, dormez-vous, dormez-vous, he's asking Jacques if he is asleep, are you sleeping ? Are you sleeping ? Then he tells him to ring the bell. "Sonnez" here, is definitively given as an order, sonnez les matines, he's obviously late for his task of ringing the bell on time.
    One can also imagine poor old Jacques, panic stricken, jumping to his feet and start
    ringing the bell. I might add here that Jacques must've come very close to a heart attack, and didn't really appreciate hearing his Brothers humming "Frere Jacques"
    song to him.
    Have a nice one, JClaude.
  19. SlackerMcFly New Member

    This story makes the most sense in the context of the song. Its also the best meaning of the song I have found because it follows the literal English translation.

    The literal English translation is:

    Brother (or friar) James, Brother James
    Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?
    Ring the bells the matins (morning prayers), Ring the bells the matins
    ding dang dong, ding dang dong.

    Now one thing I don't get is why they used 'sonnez les matines' instead of 'sonnez pour matines'?

    Sonnez les matines in English means:
    Sonnez = Ring the bells
    les = The
    Matines = Matins
    So... Ring the bells the matins.
    That 'The' makes no sense and is out of place. But...

    Sonnez pour matines
    Sonnez = Ring the bells
    Pour = For
    Matines = Matins
    So... Ring the Bells for matins
    This makes more sense and doesn't mess up the tune and allows the same flow of the song.

    So lets all sing it the correct way!

    Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques,
    Dormez-vous ? Dormez-vous ?
    Sonnez pour matines! Sonnez pour matines!
    Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 25, 2016
  20. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    Welcome, Slackerfly,

    It isn't sonner pour because sonner (direct object) also means to sound, in the sense of to announce, or to make the appropriate noise that announces. So sonner la retraite, for example, means sound the retreat. In practice it means blow the horn that announces the retreat, but it isn't phrased literally. It's the same thing here: sonner les matines means go make the noise that announces the matins, and the appropriate way to do that is ringing the bells.
  21. SlackerMcFly New Member

    I typed into a translator plus googled both these words...
    Sonner = Ring
    Sonnez = Ring the bell

    I also typed into a translator a few phrases
    Sonner les matines = ringing matins

    Sonnez les matines = ringing the bell matins

    Sonder les matines = Sound the matins

    Therefore the correct and literal way to say it would be
    Sonnez pour matines = Ring the bell for matins
    This makes the most sense for the song.
    Sure you can say Sonner les matines or ringing matins and if your French and been around it for a long time you'll know what it means. You can even say Sonnez les matines or ringing the bell matines and leave out the pour (for) and still know what its talking about but to be clear especially for those like me who aren't French its better to say Sonnez pour matines so when I type it into a translator i can clearly understand what your saying. I get the whole modern uber language that has evolved from the traditional language and that folks want a simpler way to say things that leave out connecting words and such. Especially in laguages other than English. I believe the majority of a non English language whether its French or Spanish or German or Chinese, ect doesn't use connecting words much like the, for, and, or, ect.

    The English language likes to makes words and phrases longer than it really needs to be and more complicated. Also ive noticed that non english laguages when they use a connecting word, it pretty much disappears when translated to english. So Sonnez les Matines is really ringing the bell the matins. But when you translate it to english the connecting 'the' disappears so it makes the whole phrase look bad and sometimes have a whole different phrase or meaning and it reads ring the bell matins. So what is a bell matin? See what I mean. So to be correct in english laguage terms its sonnez pour matines or ring the bell for matins. Language is a complicated thing and none more complicated than the english language.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 25, 2016
  22. Language Hound Senior Member

    American English
    Welcome to the Forum, SlackerMcFly!
    I'm sorry, but this is not correct French. Please reread Kelly's post (#20).
    I find it hard to believe that you are serious...By your reasoning, we should say things like "The book of Robert is on the table" (instead of "Robert's book") so that French-speaking people who don't know English will understand the meaning when they type the words into an automatic online translator!!!
    Fortunately, languages are not governed by Google Translate!

    P.S. Don't put too much trust, if any, in automatic online translators.
    And be sure to be careful with your spelling--if someone put "your saying"
    instead of "you're saying" into Google Translate, they would not understand
    what you're saying above.;)
  23. Cry Out Olivia New Member

    English - USS
    I got this translation in my Translate app, powered by Google:

    Sonnez les matines
    Sonnez les matines
    Ding, ding, dong
    Ding, ding, dong


    Ringtone to your Cell
    Ringtone to your Cell
    Ding, ding, dong
    Ding, ding, dong
  24. Itisi

    Itisi Senior Member

    Paris/Hastings UK
    English UK/French
    Now we're getting somewhere! :D
  25. y.gille New Member

    La formulation anglaise que j'ai connu est : "Ring the morning bell".
    C'est donc bien un impératif, comme en français.
  26. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Isn't there a special word or phrase for ceremonial sounding of bells?

    Unfortunately I am not sure I know what that word or phrase is, but if, for example, "toll" carries that meaning, why not "Toll the matins"?
  27. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    Toll generally has ominous overtones - I don't think it fits here.
  28. Bezoard Senior Member

    French - France
    Just for reference :

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