Sunday, April 26, 2009

L'Homme bien bati, la femme bien faite

Somehow I always imagined that the Charles Atlas-type I-was-a-97-lb-weakling ads were an American phenomenon, limited to the front and back pages of the Archie & Veronica or Superman comic books of my youth.

But here's an ad that I found from a 1954 issue of Realites magazine.

"Here are, FREE, are the secrets of
The well built man ... and virile
The well-made woman ... and seductive.



What's more, this was not merely a 50s trend: the exercise company had been in existence in Paris for about 25 years.
And I thought working out in France was a new concept! Silly me.

Mostly, though, I have pondered and pondered the semantics and linguistics of this ad, and of the phrases in general. In French, a man with a good body is well built, while a woman is well made.

Enlighten me, someone.


Related post: French Women Don't Get Fat but Americans Do

5 comments:

Gary said...

Polly-Vous:

That is a neat way to put it!

Gary

Michelle said...

Interesting. It puts the myth of the French woman 'just being' perfect, to rest.

According to my clothes, it seems that lately I am little more well-made than usual. Oh well, at least I can work out knowing that well-made French women have apparently been doing it for years :-)

Jay Livingston said...

My guess is that this is not a native French home-grown version but M. Atlas himself translated into French. The guy in the picture looks a lot like Charles, and the copy guarantees results with just "15 minutes a day" just as in the US version. Methode Dynam sounds a lot like "dynamic tension," the principle of Atlas's system. I guess he couldn't find any French Archie's so he put his translated ads in Realites. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to kick some sand in the face of a 98-pound weakling.

Arieh said...

I was also curious about the subtle difference between men being well-built and women being well-made. The Littré dictionary gives a definition for "bien faite" that could well apply to a man's as well as a woman's body : "Bien fait, mal fait, ayant le corps bien ou mal proportionné." However for "bien bati" the Littré's definition refers only to men : "Fait de telle sorte, au physique et au moral. Un homme bien bâti. Un homme mal bâti. "

It is only my own interpretation but I would guess that these subtle differences might originates in the Bible, in Genesis; God built the world and created and built man from the earth whereas he "made" women out of the rib of man.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

@Jay, Astute observations, as always! I don't know how far back Charles Atlas goes, but the Dhynam Institut and Institut Dynora really existed in Paris (at the same address) at least as far back as 1933 - I found old references to them.

@arieh, I like your interpretation. Thanks!

And now I'm heading off to the gym like Michelle!

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