This is going to be one of those things that you either find endlessly amusing, or will leave you completely cold. You know, like how Richard Herring insists on performing the “Men of Phise” stories he did as a tiny child, which he seems to think is the funniest thing ever, but which is just numbingly dull.
Mr Men – remember them? The series of endearingly crudely-drawn children’s characters from the felt-tip of Roger Hargreaves, and if you’re as old as us, the spin-off animated series narrated by Arthur Lowe. It’s probably been converted to CGI and voiced by Matt Lucas or someone nowadays.
Anyway, the characters are also huge in the land of Gainsbourg and Cantona, with each character renamed for the Gallic audience. The names chosen for the various Mr Men and Little Misses are, we’re saying, tremendously amusing. Here are our ten favourites.
10. Mr Impossible (M. Incroyable)
French – it’s a pretty cool sounding language, isn’t it? Just saying the word “incroyable”, making the correct type of glottal gasping sound on the ’c’, instantly makes one feel 17% more sophisticated. It’s not as if the name really needed translating in the first place, what with the French word for “impossible” being, er, “impossible”. Clearly French pre-schoolers would rather everything is kept just within the realms of plausibility, and our purple friend here does the incredible, rather than the impossible.
9. Mr No (M. Non)
Surly. Unhelpful. Behatted. Could M. Non be any more French? Well, maybe, but only if he went on strike in opposition to government plans to tax oversized bowler hats. POP FACT: This Mr Men book is only available in France.
He’s got a cucumber, for a nose, he’s got a big cucumber, for a nose (to the tune of “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands.) We don’t even speak that much French, but we can guess what a literal English translation of M. Curieux is. According to Babelfish, there is a French word for “nosey” (fouineur), so quite why they used ‘curieux’, we’re not sure. One thing is for sure, “Mister Curious” would have been a good character name for Kenneth Williams’ un-named busybody in all those old Hancock’s Half Hour radio shows. ‘Ere, stop messin’ abaaaht.
7. Mr Mischief (M. Farceur)
When translated literally, M. Farceur becomes Mr Joker, which kind of makes us want to Photoshop some scary make-up onto the above picture and type in “why so serious?”. We won’t, though. You can see how Roger Hargreaves came up with so many characters. Just take away the nose, shrink the hat slightly, and you’ve got….
Possibly because the original English characterisation suggested this Mr Man had been given too strong an antidepressant by his GP, or possibly because the person in charge of translation is a big fan of Matthew Perry, Mr Happy becomes Mr Bing. And according to BabelFish, ‘Bing’ isn’t even a French word for anything. We suspect that Microsoft may have sponsored this character to promote its unpopular search engine, actually.
5. Mr Cool (M. Génial)
Maybe because Mr Cool actually looks more like a walking ‘geography’ wedge from a game of Trivial Pursuit than The Fonz, the French translators have redubbed him as merely ‘genial’. It’s quite possible ‘Mr Genial’ could have been the title of the original British version of the Mr Cool book, only for 1970s British toddlers to get him mixed up with ‘Genial’ Harry Grout from Porridge.
Oh, come on. You’re giving away the twist, now. Tiny readers in English-speaking locales get to read this book, and delight in pint-sized glee at the part where it becomes clear that Little Miss Helpful might aim to be helpful, but actually causes inadvertent mayhem. French readers know this vital twist right from the front cover. No wonder a literal translation of The Sixth Sense in France is “A Film Where Bruce Willis Is Revealed To Be A Ghost At The End”.
3. Mr Sneeze (M. Atchoum)
Excellent. That’s a much better name for him than ‘ours’. Now, we’re not sure we’ve ever really noted exactly how French people sneeze, but do they actually add on a clear “mmm” sound after they propel mucus from their nasal cavities? “Aaah… aaah… aaaaaaahhhCHOOOOOO… mmm!” It’s as if they revel in the act of sneezing.
2. Little Miss Late (Mme En Retard)
Wait… she’s called what?
1. Mr Nonsense (M. Bizarre)
Fact nicked from Wikipedia: When asked why he sleeps in a rowing boat, the answer is "I tried sleeping in a motorboat and it was somewhat uncomfortable." What character could be more at home in the nation that saw the declaration of the Surrealist Manifesto? All he needs is a little twirly moustache to complete the look. Now, we’re going to speculate that the French version of Mr Nonsense is mainly comprised of several unrelated vignettes – including one hugely controversial one where M. Bizarre fellates M. Curieux’s nose, and one where Mr Fussy’s hair turns into a crying duck.
NOTE: This is probably our last update for a couple of weeks, as we’re off to Sydney. Will there be an exciting update when we return on how we campaigned outside the Australian House of Representatives to secure a DVD release for Newstopia? Well, possibly not, as we’re not going there to watch telly. (READER’S VOICE: “Hang on, this blog stopped being about telly ages ago!”) Ah, good point. Anyway, see you in a few weeks!