Expat Magazine

When Yankee Doodle Learns to Parlez-vous Français

By Sedulia @Sedulia

My Cajun, French-mother-tongue grandfather was one of the youngest American soldiers of World War I. When he found out I was moving to France, he said, "What do you want to go there for? It's a trashy place." He added that everyone wore wooden shoes.

He fought at Château-Thierry, was badly wounded, spent months in the hospital near Bordeaux, and corresponded for years with a French girlfriend, whose letters to him we found after his death, tied up with a ribbon and carefully preserved all those years. (I was asked to translate them for the family. Unfortunately, the girl's letters were not only quasi-illiterate but stupefyingly boring. She must have been very pretty.)

American society was permanently changed by the doughboys coming back from France. How you gonna keep them down on the farm, after they've seen Paree?

When Yankee Doodle came to Paris town
upon his face he wore a little frown
To those he'd meet upon the street,
he couldn't speak a word
To find a Miss that he could kiss
it seemed to be absurd.

But if this Yankee should stay there awhile
upon his face you're bound to see a smile.
Soon Yankee Doodle he left Paris town,
upon his face there was a coat of brown,
For every man of Uncle Sam was fighting in a trench,
between each shell, they learned quite well
to speak a little French.

When Yankee Doodle gets back to Paree,
he'll break a million hearts take it from me.
When Yankee Doodle learns to
parlez-vous français,
parlez-vous français, in the proper way,
he will call each girlie "
Ma Chérie."
To every Miss that wants a kiss
he'll say
Oui, oui
on ze
be, on ze bou,
on ze
boule, boulevard.
With a girl, with a curl, you can see him promenade
when Yankee Doodle learns to
parlez-vous français,
"Oo-là-là, sweet Papa"
he will teach them all to say.

  --Words from International Lyrics Playground

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