Friday, October 23, 2009

In a parka do bun do?

"In a parka do bun do, in a parka do bun doooo...."

Well, at least that's how I first understood the lyrics to "Dominique," the wildly popular song in the early 1960s.  You remember, Dominique-nique-nique?  Sung by the Singing Nun, aka Soeur Sourire, it was already a hit when she made her debut on the Ed Sullivan show.

My family owned the LP back in those school-girl days before I knew any French.  So I used to spend hours curled up on the sofa listening to "Dominique" over and over, trying to decipher "onto shemay altude you, in a parka do bun do."

Then I found the lyrics printed on the album cover.

Dominique -nique -nique s'en allait tout simplement,
Routier, pauvre et chantant.
En tous chemins, en tous lieux,'
Il ne parle que du Bon Dieu,
Il ne parle que du Bon Dieu.

I must have worn a groove in the vinyl as I repeated the torture until not only could I match each written word to the sung French but  --  at long last  -- was actually able to repeat it.

It's still incredible to me to think that a French song about a saint could have topped the charts on American pop radio.  Soeur Sourire eventually disappeared from view, and I despised the saccharin Debbie Reynolds film version of her.

I'd forgotten about her over the years.

Then on last Sunday's episode of Mad Men, what comes filtering out of Miss Farrell's apartment when she opens the door?  Yup.  Domnique -nique -nique.

And now in a parka do bun do is stuck in my brain.


Starman said...

Funny how our minds just make up what we think we hear.

Jake Dear said...

Bonjour Polly,

I clicked on your post, and then on the song. Within seconds, my wife, Mo, walked briskly from the other side of our house, a smile on her face, humming the song, and her eyes welled. She was brought back to her French grandmother's living room in San Francico, where as young girl she awoke hearing this song on most Saturday mornings -- followed by "forbidden coffee and a perfectly cooked egg and toast."


Jake Dear

Libby said...

I, too, have my own lyrics for this song. I don't know how I could ever have heard it, since I was born in 1973. I used to work in an outdoor sports shop where we sold Kamik boots. I used to go around singing "Mik, kamik, kamik kamik!" and I had no idea where it came from!

Thanks, Polly!

DW Quilt Art said...

Great story! Oh yes, I remember :-) Diane

Going Like Sixty said...

What a cute story!

Autolycus said...

Well, I've never quite got over my old Dad's deep conviction that Frank Sinatra was singing "I did it sideways".

Did you see there was a recent French film about Soeur Sourire?

Polly-Vous Francais said...

You all have made my day!
And trust me, I needed it.

Autolycus, now I will never forget "sideways". Bless your dad. That's a keeper!

I read a vague bit (maybe on wikipedia) about the more recent film, but hadn't heard about it elsewhere. Soeur Sourire had a tragic life after all that fame, from what I gather. So sad.

pdxknitterati/MicheleLB said...

I loved this song! Way back when.

When I carry my guitar in the hard case (as opposed to the sling over the shoulder gig bag) this song always starts running through my head! There is no escape...

Pendrift said...

Soeur Sourire had a tragic life that ended in suicide. It's a long, sad tale. C├ęcile de France played her in the film that came out earlier this year.

Jake Dear said...

Regarding modegreens (the mishearing of a phrase), I'm reminded of my son, puting his hand over heart at a baseball game, singing his own version of the opening line of the National Anthem: "Jose, can you see, by the donzerly light . . . ."


Jean In Minn said...

Yes, we loved this album and made up the words we didn't know. I still have the album but, alas, no turntable. So sad about her life after.

GreensboroDailyPhoto said...

That was my song and my record too. I had your very same experience. I studied Spanish but something about that song inspired me. It was so perky and upbeat-- even if I wasn't sure what it was saying. It was coming from a nun so it had to be wholesome!

Alex said...

Jake Dear, the Jose thing reminds me of something Ramona Quimby once did in a Beezus & Ramona book!

I suppose I'm too young to have the same connections to Soeur Sourire as everyone else, but I love hearing reminiscent stories like these.

-- Alex, intern :)

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Ah, Donzerly. When I taught 8th grade civics, every year I did a pop quiz and asked the students to write out the words to the national anthem. Usually about 10%had donzerly. Or donderly!

My son came home from 2nd grade one day and announced he'd memorized the American poem about the statue of the witches...

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Well, it took me a while to figure out about "the statue of the witches."

It was the Pledge of Allegiance.

Ken Devine said...

first visit and straight into a delightful song.
Good read too. Thanks

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