La ballade de Willy Brouillard (English translation)

English translationEnglish

The Ballad of Foggy Willy

The night spreads over the suburbs
Willy opens his eyes at last.
He went to sleep at dawn,
maybe a bit wasted.
He gets up, has a wash, grabs
his jacket and his piece.
He's hungover, tough shit,
yet off he goes.
A night watch
in dark alleys.
A strange life
for Foggy Willy the pig.
A brawl at the Crown1
No dice, I'll check the place later.
I don't stand a chance without my buddies,
and besides, I forgot my handcuffs.
Heading off to the supermarket.
Last night they ransacked it.
Nothing to report. All is quiet,
nothing's burning.
A night watch
among barbarians.
A strange life
for Foggy Willy the pig.
As a kid, he wanted to be
a park keeper like his granddad,
spending his life among spadgers,
watching over lawns and sparrows.
He ended up surrounded with concrete
in the middle of a damn lousy jungle.
He watches over the State and the Capital2,
over those who flog drugs to the yobs.
Why did he choose the law
over the gangsters?
Why did his old man cut him out
of his will when he signed up?
He never hurt a fly,
not even a black, shady one.
Between two shitty lives he picked
the one with a decent grub.
A night watch
under bleak neon lights.
A strange life
for Foggy Willy the pig.
It's not as if I'd start crying,
many are worse off.
No way I'd write a song
glorifying a copper.
That would be a topsy-turvy world,
the lowest of the low.
Is it possible to sing a tune
over the life of a cop?
  • 1. A voltigeur is a kind of foot soldier. The name was used for a popular brand of cigars a few decades ago, and in France tobacco is mostly sold in bars. This is why "Le voltigeur" became a typical bar name.
  • 2. "the bosses"
thanked 4 times

Do whatever you want with my translations.
They no more belong to me than the air I breathe.

Submitted by silencedsilenced on Thu, 29/10/2020 - 23:00
Added in reply to request by Emma vWEmma vW
Last edited by silencedsilenced on Sun, 22/11/2020 - 01:01
Author's comments:

I tried to use some UK slang to match the colourful French. Just in case, here are US equivalents:

spadger -> little kid (might not be that usual in the UK either, but it derives from "sparrow" so I chanced using it here)
flog -> smuggle/sell
yob -> hoodlum (the French rather means "lowly mobster")
copper -> cop

Thanks to Sarah Rose and Gavin for the proofreading from both sides of the pond Regular smile


La ballade de Willy Brouillard

silencedsilenced    Fri, 30/10/2020 - 21:38

[@Sarah Rose] I wonder if this attempt at using UK slang sounds convincing or understandable

Sarah RoseSarah Rose    Sat, 31/10/2020 - 01:44

I can't help you there, I don't know UK slang. Wink smile

silencedsilenced    Thu, 05/11/2020 - 22:52

Well, you can at least tell me how it looks from the other end of the pond Regular smile

Sarah RoseSarah Rose    Sat, 31/10/2020 - 17:41

The parts I can understand look good. Wink smile Just a few commas to move:

and besides I forgot my handcuffs. --> and besides, I forgot my handcuffs.

As a kid he wanted to be / a park keeper, like his granddad, --> As a kid, he wanted to be / a park keeper like his granddad,

silencedsilenced    Sat, 31/10/2020 - 17:45

Hahaha and what are the parts you don't understand? I'm always curious about these differences between UK and US English. I could put a few US equivalents in the comments.

Sarah RoseSarah Rose    Sat, 31/10/2020 - 18:16

Ha ha, well: spadgers, flog, and yobs.

We do have the word "flog" but it means to whip someone and I'm guessing that's not what's meant here. I know what copper means, but only because it was in the subtitles of a German series I watched and I understood the German equivalent.

silencedsilenced    Sat, 31/10/2020 - 18:25

Oh well, that's not so terrible then
spadger -> little kid
flog -> smuggle/sell
yob -> hoodlum (a "niston" would rather be a beginner gangster, the lowliest kind of mobster, but I don't know a word for that in any variant of English)
I'm not sure a UK native would approve of this vocabulary though.

Sarah RoseSarah Rose    Sat, 31/10/2020 - 18:40

Cool, thanks!

silencedsilenced    Sat, 31/10/2020 - 12:58

[@Gavin] what about you, buddy? I sure could use some help here.

GavinGavin    Fri, 06/11/2020 - 17:11

Honestly it's looking pretty good! Spadgers gave me pause as I wasn't familiar with it but it seems legit Regular smile
Flicard - obviously 'flic' is 'cop' or whatever but what does making it 'flicard' do - is it more aggressive or is it cuter? I ask because 'pig' is pretty derogatory.

silencedsilenced    Fri, 06/11/2020 - 17:27

"flicard" is definitely an insult, a mark of contempt. Maybe more like "lowly cop" but pretty strong. I couldn't find something between "cop" and "pig", but I'd be grateful for better suggestions. Or anything else that crosses your mind: this song can't have enough of colourful slang Regular smile

GavinGavin    Thu, 12/11/2020 - 13:42

Honestly it's already very good - But what the hey, I can try and think of some alternatives...not necessarily better.

Gun > Piece
Too bad > tough shit

Not good > No dice (ie He wants nothing to do with that!)
'Let's head to the supermarket' - maybe just 'Heading to/down to/off to the supermarket'

'living among concrete' - 'among' is usually 'things' - among people, among trees. I'd say 'surrounded with concrete' or 'entombed in' even.

the worst move ever. (for le fond de la misère' - maybe something like 'the lowest of the low' or maybe 'the pits'?

silencedsilenced    Sun, 22/11/2020 - 00:36

How I missed our nitpicking sessions!

"he grabs his piece" would be understood as "he grabs his gun"?
What a strange name for a gun. Is that part of the cryptic cockney rhyming slang?

SchnurrbratSchnurrbrat    Sun, 22/11/2020 - 00:41

I just found that this slang is 300+ years old. that's impressive. btw "piece" and "packing" are widely used in States.

silencedsilenced    Sun, 22/11/2020 - 00:47

Oh, I had no idea. This one flew right under my radar.

GavinGavin    Sun, 22/11/2020 - 18:16

Don't think there's any rhyming slang there but it is pretty common for this milieu. Sort of thing you'd hear in an old gangster novel. Regular smile

GavinGavin    Thu, 12/11/2020 - 13:44

Con - connard - connasse.

flic - flicard - flicasse ? Wink smile

silencedsilenced    Sun, 22/11/2020 - 00:45

The usual feminine of "flicard" is just "flicarde", as far as I know, like the somewhat cute "fliquette" for "flic" Regular smile

Apparently some people use "flicasse" here and there on the Net, but it might just be this "asse" suffix you can slap at the end of about any word to create your own convenient insult on the spot Regular smile
Or maybe it's a regional thing. At any rate I don't think it's very common.

GavinGavin    Sun, 22/11/2020 - 18:15

Ah fliquette I've heard via M. Renan Luce Regular smile

PaotrLaouenPaotrLaouen    Sun, 22/11/2020 - 00:46

Le "Voltigeur" est aussi une marque de cigare populaire (au sens français). C'est lui qui a donné son nom à de nombreux bar-tabacs, comme différentes autres marques de tabac (Balto, pour ne citer que celui qui est au coin de ma rue).

silencedsilenced    Sun, 22/11/2020 - 00:55

Bonne remarque, merci.
Et tant qu'on y est, à votre avis, "flicasse" c'est plutôt courant ou plutôt rare comme variante de "flicard" ?

PaotrLaouenPaotrLaouen    Sun, 22/11/2020 - 10:57

Jamais entendu. Mais c'est un milieu que je fréquente peu!

silencedsilenced    Sun, 22/11/2020 - 13:10

Haha je suppose que ce n'est pas entre eux qu'ils emploient ce genre de nom d'oiseau.
Merci de la confirmation.

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