Blason populaire

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Blason populaire is an umbrella genre in the field of folkloristics used to designate any item of any genre which makes use of stereotypes, usually, but not always, negative stereotypes, of a particular group.[1]"These stereotypes are manifested in a wide array of folkloric genres, including proverbs, other traditional sayings, nicknames, jokes, songs, rhymes, and football chants. All share a common function in that they are invoked to highlight positive aspects of the in-group by explicit auto-stereotyping or, alternatively, to identify the negative characteristics of out-groups. The explicit positive stereotyping of an in-group may often implicitly suggest negative characteristics of a rival out-group."[2] In blasons populaires nations are homogeneous and have national characteristics.

Items such as ethnic jokes or blonde jokes are very common examples of blason populaire.

Blasons Populaires in Irish Proverbial Material[edit]

The Irish proverbial material is almost devoid of any national blasons populaires, with the possible exception of the multi-group international comparison. These comparisons are often manifested in epigrammatic form in European languages, with the most salient and representative stereotypical trait being attributed to the nations involved (what Billig (1995) refers to as ‘banal nationalism’). Enumerative structures, usually tri- or quadripartite formulas, are the favoured apparatus. The syntactic and semantic juxtaposition of negative traits for comparative purposes is then counter-balanced by the positive representation of one nation, usually in final position, most commonly the in-group that invokes the comparison. Below is a nineteenth-century German example (Reinsberg-Düringsfeld 1863, 5) in which there is no apparent in-group.

Die Italiener fluchen, Die Franzosen schreien, Die Engländer essen, Die Spanier trotzen, Und die Deutschen betrinken sich.
( The Italians curse, the French scream, the English eat, the Spanish defy, and the Germans get drunk.[3] )

Blasons populaires in Wallonia and Luxembourg [4][edit]

In Wallonia (Belgium) and Luxembourg, the concept of "blason populaire" refers to a demonym-like nickname of the inhabitants of a village or a city.

Blasons populaire come from the traditional languages (Walloon, Luxembourgish). They are never translated in French, as opposed to the demonyms which exist in French and in Walloon, often in two different constructions.

Some, which have lost their pejorative meaning, are now used to name restaurants, theater groups, communal houses, etc. They are also used in pseudonyms of writers in Walloon.

Town Blason English
Ansart (province Luxembourg) Wardeûs d'oyes (Walloon) Guardians of geese
Ath (Hainault) Les Bourjoûs d'Ât (Picard) The burghers of Ath
Sivry (Hainault) Chés gâtes ed Chevi (Picard) The goats of Sivry
Péruwelz (Hainault) Chés casseux d'Quinquets d'Piérwé (Picard) The breakers of Quinquet lamps
Nickname "Les grevîs"
(Walloon "graevî", minnow)
in the communal house of Rimagne (Remagne)
Nickname "Les maquets"
(French rewriting of the walloon name "maké", stunned) to call a communal house in Ver (Custinne)

Blasons populaires in Picardie and Nord-Pas-de-Calais[edit]

The inhabitants of all villages or cities in these regions have a blason populaire (in Picard language: surpitchet).[5]

For example, for the town of Amiens the blason is chés Maqueus d'gueugues d'Anmien ('the Eaters of Walnuts of Amiens'). In 1597, Spanish soldiers mounted a surprise attack. They were disguised as peasants and put walnuts at the doors of the town. The inhabitants were famished and opened the doors, following which the Spanish soldiers entered the city; with deadly consequences for the inhabitants.

Town Department Picard French English
Soissons Aisne chés Béyeux[6] les bouches bées open-mouthed
Laon Aisne chés glorieus d'Laon les fiers de Laon the proud [people] of Laon
Saint-Quentin Aisne chés cannoniers d'Saint-Quintin les querelleurs de Saint-Quentin the scrappers of Saint-Quentin
Arras Pas-de-Calais chés boïaux rouches d'Aro les boyaux rouges d'Arras the red guts of Arras
Lille Nord chés burgeos d'Lille les bourgeois de Lille the burghers of Lille


  1. ^ Carl Lindahl, John McNamara, John Lindow, eds. Medieval Folklore: A Guide to Myths, Legends, Tales, Beliefs, and Customs. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  2. ^ Marcas Mac Coinnigh. 'The Blason Populaire: Slurs and Stereotypes in Irish Proverbial Material'. Folklore 124, 2 (2013): 157-177.
  3. ^ Marcas Mac Coinnigh. An Blason Populaire: Slurs and Stereotypes in Irish Proverbial Material’. Folklore 125 (2013): 1
  4. ^
  5. ^ (in French): André Accart, Les sobriquets des habitants du Pas-de-Calais, 456 pages, ( 2006 ) ISBN 2-915800-05-7
  6. ^ (in French) Jean-Pierre Semblat, Dictionnaire des noms de lieux - Aisne, Archives & culture éd., Paris (2011)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]