Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Voulez-vous coucher avec moi...

Speaking of Tennessee Williams (see below several posts):

This past week, I've been working my way through the first volume of his collected plays. So far, I've read "The Glass Menagerie" (his first hit, in 1945), "Spring Storm" (his first play, written in college, never performed), and just now halfway through "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1947, his first play after "Menagerie").

In "Streetcar," while Mitch is courting Blanche and they've had a couple of drinks, she starts flirtatiously speaking to him in French. He looks befuddled, and when she determines that he definitely does NOT speak the language, she goes on, amusing herself: "Voulez-vous couchez avec moi ce soir?..." (This doesn't appear in the movie.)

Now, I of course know the phrase from the '70s "Lady Marmalade" song by Patti LaBelle, so it was hilarious to read what I thought might be the origin of the phrase for the '75 songwriters Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan! (Don't know if those guys are gay, but if they are...then I KNOW gay icon Blanche saying this is the source!) :)

According to the website french.about.com, here's the story of the phrase in modern American vernacular:

"Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?" made its American debut without "ce soir" in John Dos Passos' novel Three Soldiers (1921) when one of the characters jokes that the only French he knows is "Voulay vous couchay aveck moy?" E.E. Cummings was the first to use those five words correctly spelled, in his poem "La Guerre, IV," known as "little ladies more" (1922). The full expression didn't appear until 1947, in Tennessee Williams's "A Streetcar Named Desire," though it was written "Voulez-vous couchez [sic] avec moi ce soir?"

But "voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)" really came into English vernacular with music, as the chorus in the 1975 hit "Lady Marmalade" by Labelle....

No comments: