Jean Dujardin: "Putain!" Yes, That Means "Whore."
SF Weekly does not aspire to be the outlet for Oscar-related tidbits. But, amazingly, it turns out we have to be. Whether through sheer ignorance, outright prudery, or a little from both columns, no major American Oscar recap we could find bothered to reveal what Best Actor winner Jean Dujardin said when he blurted out a stream of rapid French to end his speech.
The actor and his colleagues won big for the silent fable The Artist. Yet as soon as these French-speakers actually begin speaking, it seems we don't care what they say -- or, in several writeups, the most jarring part of Dujardin's outburst was simply omitted.
Dujardin's quote, verbatim: "If George Valentin could speak, he'd say 'WOW! PUTAIN! GENIAL! MERCI! FORMIDABLE!'"
A rough translation: "WOW! SON OF A BITCH! GREAT! THANK YOU! WONDERFUL!"
But let's focus on "putain." Because, literally, that means "whore."
"Putain" is a most flexible word. If you drop a heavy object on your foot, you shout it. If the light turns red while you're in a hurry, you utter it between clenched teeth. If someone hands you an unexpected check or your team pulls off a last-second win, it applies as well. And it's also suitable, apparently, for an Oscar speech.
"Putain" is also a generational divide. The Frenchmen with memories of American soldiers handing out sticks of chewing gum will likely say "merde" when thrilled or upset. Their children talk like Jean Dujardin.
It isn't like French is some manner of secret code -- whole continents full of people speak it and you can learn it from books or junior college night courses. So it's odd that a man joyously shouting "WHORE!" in front of a billion television viewers largely went unmentioned -- or simply edited out of existence -- by the English-language press.
Not so across the Atlantic. More than a few headlines simply recapitulate Dujardin's speech.
That's better. Like it or not, you shouldn't pretend it didn't happen.
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