La plume de ma tante (linguistics)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

La plume de ma tante (French: "my aunt's pen") is a phrase in popular culture, attributed to elementary French language instruction (possibly as early as the 19th century[1]) and used as an example of a grammatically correct phrase taught despite limited practical use. LIFE Magazine in 1958 described it as: As every student knows, the most idiotically useless phrase in a beginner's French textbook is la plume de ma tante (the pen of my aunt).[2] The phrase can also be used metaphorically to refer to something irrelevant.[3] The term lent its name to the musical play La Plume de Ma Tante, which won a Tony Award in 1959.

It is also used as a Parisian accent pronunciation guide for beginners due to French words containing many variants of vowel sounds; La plume de ma tante contains two variants of a. Other limited use phrases used as pronunciation guides include: Le petit bébé est un peu malade (French: "the little baby (boy) is slightly ill"), which contains six variants of e, and Un bon vin blanc (French: "a good white wine"), which contains two variants of o.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Richard V. Teschner; Eston Earl Evans (15 May 2007). Analyzing the Grammar of English. Georgetown University Press. pp. 2–. ISBN 978-1-58901-166-3. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  2. ^ Time Inc (8 December 1958). LIFE. Time Inc. pp. 67–. ISSN 00243019. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  3. ^ Allison Beeby-Lonsdale (1 January 1996). Teaching Translation from Spanish to English: Worlds Beyond Words. University of Ottawa Press. pp. 10–. ISBN 978-0-7766-0399-5. Retrieved 30 October 2012.