La plume de ma tante (linguistics)

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La plume de ma tante (French: "my aunt's quill") 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 grammatically correct phrases with limited practical application that are sometimes taught in introductory foreign language texts. As Life magazine said in 1958, "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 is also used to refer to something deemed completely irrelevant.[3] The term lent its name to the musical play La Plume de Ma Tante, which won a Tony Award in 1959.

The phrase is also used in teaching and remembering the sounds of the French vowel a; La plume de ma tante contains three instances of a that use two different pronunciations. Other limited-use phrases used as pronunciation guides include: Le petit bébé est un peu malade (French: "the little baby is slightly ill"), which contains six variants of e, and Un bon vin blanc (French: "a good white wine"), which contains four nasal vowels.

The phrase's French converse is my tailor is rich, the first in the original English Assimil guide.

In the 1973 film The Exorcist, Linda Blair's character utters the phrase as she is possessed.

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. ^ "Frisky French Fun on Broadway". Life: 67. 8 December 1958. Retrieved 26 April 2014. 
  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.