(Première version de l'article: 7 février 2013)
This year’s AFLS conference is on the theme of “mise en relief.” As is generally the case for AFLS conferences, different interpretations of the potentially wide-reaching theme will be addressed during the three days. My contribution here, based on a particular interpretation of this year’s theme, is fairly original since it concerns the Barbapapas. You know, that wonderful family of creatures that change their shape. So, here we go, “hup, hup, hup, Barbatruc!”
Let us take a closer look at the Barbapapa family: Barbapapa, Barbamama, Barbalala, Barbotine, Barbabelle, Barbidur, Barbidou, Barbibul, Barbouille, (in English: Barbapapa, Barbamama, Barbalala, Barbalib, Barbabelle, Barbabravo, Barbazoo, Barbabright, Barbabeau). So, the question is, how do you remember their names? Or rather, how do you remember which ones take Barba- and which ones take Barbi-? The obvious answer is to ask your kids since they will know. However, when your kids are still a bit too young to know, then the question remains unanswered. Besides, you might wish to get it right without asking. The technique of learning the Barbapapa song (which lists their names – click here to listen) could be used. However, this almost invariably attracts attention from unsympathetic colleagues who fail to understand your urge to sing this catchy song at all hours of the day. For the average structuralist parent a Gleason workbook approach may prove more satisfactory. So, if we take a glance at the Barbapapa children first of all (leaving out Barbotine and Barbouille – we’ll come back to them), we find [barb] + [a]/[i] where [a] denotes the feminine and [i] the masculine. So far so good: it works for Barbalala, Barbabelle, Barbidur, Barbidou and Barbibul. What about the rest of the family? First, Barbapapa cannot be *Barbipapa for etymological reasons (i.e. he takes his name from fairground candyfloss); Barbamama works (phonetically at least). As for Barbotine and Barbouille, they have names which work for other reasons (although my son did refer to Barbouille as “Barbipoilu” once which shows he too knows the underlying rule; and a neighbour of ours thinks Barbotine should have been called Barbouquine … which shows she doesn’t know the rule). We could also look at the sounds: in the case of Barbidur, Barbidou and Barbibul, the phoneme following the [i] is a voiced stop ([d] and [b]); for Barbapapa, Barbamama and Barbalala it is not. But what about Barbabelle? Why not Barbibelle? (along the lines of Barbie doll or Babybel). Barbotine and Barbouille are still exceptions. In English, it is all far simpler and agglutinative: [barba] + descriptor morpheme (-papa, -mama, -belle, -zoo, -bright, etc.). This also appears to be the case for the various Barba-derivatives in French: Barbabébé, but also Barbajeu, Barbapuzzle, etc.
Pokémon, too, are creatures that change, though not like Barbapaps since they evolve. Pokémon names may remind the linguist parent of undergraduate exercises based on the books by Jacques Cellard in which students are asked to create pseudo-learned words. However, there is a lot more going on in Pokémon names in terms of the different processes and the overall wordplay. The translators must have had great fun as well. Names include: Apireine (Fr) / Vespiquen (Eng); Carabaffe (Fr) / Wartortle (Eng); Chimpenfeu (Fr) / Monferno (Eng); Laporeille (Fr) / Buneary (Eng); Métalosse (Fr), Metagross (Eng); Rhinastoc (Fr) / Rhyperior (Eng); Simularbre (Fr) / Sudowoodo (Eng); Tortank (Fr) / Blastoise (Eng); Venipatte (Fr) / Venipede (Eng).
Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes, the AFLS2013 conference. Be warned, Perpignan is quite a distance from faraway places such as Paris, Lille or Narbonne. During your long journey down to Perpignan you might like to pass the time thinking up names for more neo-mythical creatures, or you could take the list of the 600 or so existing Pokémon and identify the different processes involved in forming their names. Because the real fun with Pokémon is working out what the evolutions will be or what a given form has evolved from: for example, Smogo (Fr) / Koffing (Eng) becomes Smogogo (Fr) / Weezing (Eng), Malosse (Fr) / Houndour (Eng) becomes Démolosse (Fr) / Houndoom (Eng) and Salamèche (Fr) / Charmander (Eng) becomes Reptincel (Fr) / Charmeleon (Eng) who in turn becomes Dracaufeu (Fr) / Charizard (Eng). And when you have finished both French and English … well, you should have arrived in Perpignan. You can save the Japanese names for the journey home!