Alouette: What It Means (It’s not as nasty as you’d think!)

Alouette is NOT a Mean Song… REALLY!

Most people think the French Canadian song, “Alouette” is very mean, once they learn what it means in English. It sounds like it’s about someone taunting a bird… “Lark, nice lark… I’ll pluck out your feathers… I’ll pluck your eyes.. I’ll pluck your wings…” It sounds really cruel.

Picture of a Lark for Alouette

I asked Monique Palomares in France about it. She wrote back, “‘Alouette, gentille alouette’ is not a song about mean people who want to cruelly pluck a lark alive. Larks were and are considered as game, so people would FIRST kill them, then pluck them, then cook them and at last eat them.”

We don’t eat larks in the US, so most Americans at least, think the song is mean. Now we see it’s really not! It’s as if we bought a chicken or a turkey from a farm and had to pluck the feathers out ourselves. While doing the chore we might have sung a song like “Alouette”… at least in the olden days we may have.

Here are the lyrics to the song in French with an English translation. Consider them with that in mind…

Alouette, gentille alouette,
Alouette, je te plumerai.

Je te plumerai le bec,
Je te plumerai le bec,
Et le bec, et le bec,
Alouette, Alouette !
Ah ! ah ! ah ! ah !


Je te plumerai les yeux,
Je te plumerai les yeux,
Et les yeux, et les yeux,
Et le bec, et le bec,
Alouette, Alouette !
Ah ! ah ! ah ! ah !


Je te plumerai la tête,
Je te plumerai la tête
Et la tête, et la tête
Et les yeux, et les yeux,
Et le bec, et le bec,
Alouette, Alouette !
Ah ! ah ! ah ! ah !

Je te plumerai le cou…

Je te plumerai le dos…

…les ailes… le ventre…

…les pattes… la queue…


Lark, nice lark
Lark, I’ll pluck you.

I’ll pluck your bill
I’ll pluck your bill
And your bill, and your bill
Lark, lark. Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!


I’ll pluck your eyes
I’ll pluck your eyes
And your eyes, and your eyes
And your bill, and your bill
Lark, lark. Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!


I’ll pluck your head
I’ll pluck your head
And your head, and your head,
And your eyes, and your eyes
And your bill, and your bill
Lark, lark. Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!


I’ll pluck your neck…

I’ll pluck your back…

I’ll pluck your wings… your belly…

… your legs… your tail…

You can hear Alouette, gentile alouette on Mama Lisa’s World Canada page.

Monique wrote, “This reference to larks being cooked and eaten can also be found in the circle game song ‘Bonjour Guillaume’. It’s a circle game song that goes…”

Bonjour Guillaume, as-tu bien déjeuné?
Oh oui madame, j’ai mange du pâté,
Du pâté d’alouette
Guillaume et Guillaumette,
Chacun s’embrassera,
Guillaume restera.

Which translates literally as:

Good morning, William, did you have a good breakfast?
Oh, yes, madam, I had some pâté,
Lark pâté, William and Wilma
Everyone hugs one another
William will stay.

You can hear Bonjour Guillaume on Mama Lisa’s World France page. There you’ll also find the instructions for this circle game.

I found reference to eating lark in an old American cook book! Yet we have no memory of cooking or eating larks! So it must have been a long time ago.

Thanks to Monique for explaining about the meaning of the song “Alouette”.

Mama Lisa

NOTE from October 2010: I’ve been reading Gulliver’s Travels by the Irish writer Jonathan Swift (published in 1726). There’s mention in the book of eating larks. Larks seem to have been eaten in the United Kingdom and Ireland in the past too.

This article was posted on Tuesday, October 12th, 2010 at 4:16 pm and is filed under Alouette, Canada, Canadian Children's Songs, Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, English, France, French, French Kids Songs, Languages, Mama Lisa, United Kingdom, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

85 Responses to “Alouette: What It Means (It’s not as nasty as you’d think!)”

  1. Kate Says:

    I think this is a horrible song…There’s nothing benign about chanting that one is going to “pluck” a bird’s eyes, his head, his wings, his bill, his neck…It’s a cruel,
    violent song, and shocking that one would want to teach this to a child. Okay, one may kill a bird out of necessity to eat; but it’s barbaric to gloat about “plucking” each bodily part. And it certainly doesn’t promote the idea of kindness to animals. I would NEVER have taught my child this song. I think it’s shocking and inhumane.

  2. Victoria Says:

    I think you have to consider the song in context, which means considering how it must have been when people killed, plucked and prepared lark to eat.

    Unless one’s diet consists of plants only, thinking about killing a bird, goat, cow or any other animal that will be then butchered, cooked and eaten doesn’t paint a pretty picture.

  3. Lisa Says:

    I agree with Victoria… in those days it may have been a way to make the chore of cleaning the bird less unpleasant. They didn’t buy their birds perfectly plucked and packaged at the supermarket.

  4. Rose McDonald Says:

    Lipstick on a pig time. It doesn’t matter how you dress it up, it’s still a grisly jingle. The attempt to rationalize it is just silly.

  5. Lisa Says:

    From the point of view of someone in the olden days, it’s how they prepared their food. It would be like cleaning and stuffing a turkey. The person singing the song isn’t performing those actions out of meanness.

  6. kc Says:

    OMG, what an awful song regardless of what it’s for or what time it’s from

  7. kc Says:

    There is a ton of nasty cr*p these folks had to do like pooping in a thunder pot but they didn’t sing about it …… There is nothing happy about taking the life of something and mutilating it !

  8. Julie Says:

    I heard the song on the target commercial and I search it because I liked how it sounds, now I know what it means… horrible song. Now I will hate the commercial. Even thou we eat chicken I dont think we should make a proud song on how we kill it and pluck every single part of the poor thing. I hate this song.

  9. Ben Says:

    This is actually a great song to teach to children. It’s important that they know where real food comes from. Plucking a lark or any other bird isnt mutilating it, that’s a ludicrous statement. Preparing food is a great, ages old tradition. Nothing could be more wholesome.

  10. Rasta Says:

    It’s a childrens song, but to teach french, by naming all the different parts of the body in french. Plucking birds & chickens in the old days was a child’s work.

  11. Christen Says:

    I agree with rasta and ben, everyone else needs to grow up

  12. Debra Says:

    Yeah Rasta, finally someone with some sense. I can’t believe some are worried about the cruelty of this song. How about all the violent video games…same outrage?

    When we sang this as a child in the 60’s, we only knew it in French as a cheery fun melody to sing and I do remember learning the french words for the body parts, but do not recall knowing this song as a mean, ugly, vicious or cruel song.

    This song was taught as whimsical not so literal and we really didn’t think of killing a bird, just pulling out a feather.

  13. Tim Says:

    I agree with Rasta. What is cruel about cleaning poultry? I am a cook, and I am insulted by Kate. I clean so many different animals, whether I am cutting off feet, heads, fat, or removing offal it is all the same. How does cleaning game promote cruelty towards animals? I have been singing this song -I am from Quebec, Canada- since my early youth, and to this day I have never, or have ever heard of anyone else, plucking out a lark’s eyes! Who eats lark anyways? You vegetarians don’t even know what meat omnivores consume. Take a history course, and you will see we evolved into Cro Magnon because of an increase in protein intake!

  14. Lisa Says:

    Just to add another perspective – check out this podcast & article from NPR about feathers and plucking birds for scientific purposes.

  15. ted Says:

    This song makes me hungry for foul! I have indeed gone bird hunting and dressed my own for cooking. Can’t wait to teach my kids this song.

  16. litsa Says:

    Unless you’re vegetarian, you can’t really complain about this song. The way birds are de-feathered in factory farms is absolutely horrific. Chicken is only as cheap as it is because the birds are run through assembly lines like “products”. There is no real regulation protecting birds from mistakes. There’s certainly no time for singing songs that acknowledge the fact that the object being butchered is a gentile animal.

  17. Key Says:

    Learning about the true meaning about this song and all of your opinions it got me thinking ‘Its just a song..’ I have never plucked any of my food so Im on the inexperience side and when I first learned the english version of the song I absolutely was appalled by it I thought it didn’t need to describe plucking the body parts…But then reading other blogs about the true meaning of ‘Alouette’ I took consideration because Think about the chickens or Cows most kids don’t understand that we pluck the chickens or Kill the Cows and skin them and not just wrapped in plastic ready to fry and eat

  18. Lisa Says:

    Very true Key!

  19. Angelo Says:

    Looking at the era and circumstance that created this song makes its understanding simple, its a fallacious approach to look at a work of time and literature with an ethical eye. It doesn’t matter if you believe in animal rights or if you feel it describes cruelty, what really matters is what it truly postulates; How larks were prepared from scratch into a dish very much like the metaphor of “the song of sixpence”. Since technology and the industrial revolution has pampered most people up to this generation, only few know what its like to take even a Turkey, kill it, pluck its feathers, separate its edibles and cook a dish the “old-fashioned” way. Only those who see from this point or who at least have been through this can appreciate or understand this literary work of time.

  20. Maureen VELLA Says:

    My lovely old french teacher taught this tour class. We all enjoyed learning some body part names in french. None of us found it grusome. It was just fun.

  21. Toby Says:

    I suspect the origins of this song began during the French Revolution as the nobility were being guillotined (executed). Alouette rhymes with (Mary) Antoinette. The song could easily be about plucking human heads off. The initial part of the song was probably sung as a taunt by the public who were reducing the condemned from humans to objects/animals in their minds, to ease the execution process. I doubt that the song was sung in a feminine or child-like way. More likely it was sung in a masculine way.

  22. Monique Says:

    The two most popular songs from the Revolution (“Ah, ça ira” and “La carmagnole”) that were widely popular are still known nowadays. If “Alouette, gentille alouette” had been among them, it wouldn’t have been forgotten as being a Revolutionary song. French people think of it as being Canadian. The song as we know it now was first published in “A Pocket Song Book for the Use of Students and Graduates of McGill College” (Montreal, 1879). However, there is an old song by Frenchman Nicolas Millot that was published in 1578 (211 years before the French Revolution) and no doubt “Alouette, gentille alouette” originates in that song. You can read it with an English translation in this document by Frank Dobbins (professor at Montreal University).

    Even if alouette rhymes with Marie-Antoinette, the people of Paris didn’t call her “Marie-Antoinette”, they called her “l’Autrichienne” because she was Austrian (and much hated) or “Madame Déficit” because she was considered a spendthrift while the State had no money or “Madame Véto” because the king could veto any decision voted by the Legislative Assembly.

    From the document by Frank Dobbins of Montreal University mentioned above:

    “Here is the whole poem by Nicolas Millot as displayed in ‘Le Roy and Ballard’ collection in 1578:”

    J’ay l’alouette

    J’ay l’alouette qui volette, Je la plumeray.
    Nous luy plumerons le pied. Haut le pied!
    J’ay l’alouette qui volette, Je la plumeray.
    Nous luy plumerons la jambe. Haut la jambe! Haut le pied!
    J’ay l’alouette qui volette, Je la plumeray.
    Nous luy plumerons le dos. Haut le dos! Haut la jambe! Haut le pied!
    J’ay l’alouette qui volette, Je la plumeray.
    Nous luy plumerons les ailles. Haut les ailles Haut le pied!
    Nous luy plumerons la teste. Haut la teste! Haut le dos! Haut la jambe! Haut le pied!
    J’ay l’alouette qui volette, Je la plumeray.

    Metrical English translation by Frank Dobbins:

    I have the lark that is fluttering, I’ll pluck her feathers.
    We will [then] pluck off her foot. Out her foot!
    I have the lark that is fluttering, I’ll pluck her feathers.
    We will [then] pluck off her leg. Out her leg! Out her foot!
    I have the lark that is fluttering, I’ll pluck her feathers.
    We will then pluck off her back. Out her back! Out her leg! Out her foot!
    I have the lark that is fluttering, I’ll pluck her feathers.
    We will then pluck off her wings. Out her wings! Out her foot!
    We will then pluck off her head. Out her head! Out her back! Out her leg! Out her foot!
    I have the lark that is fluttering, I’ll pluck her feathers.

  23. Emilie Says:

    This song is actually sung by the French Canadian trappers to keep rhythm with each other while they were rowing their canoes on the water.

  24. sam Says:

    why would ya wanna eat a puny little bird like a lark don’t they have kfc in french land

  25. Kathi Nelson Says:

    My mother used to sing this to me. I sang it to my kids, who all grew up to be fine people in spite of it. Did you see the movie Gigi? In it she learns to eat Ortolans, a type of bunting. Other cultures eat pigeons, especially squab, the young of pigeons. My dad raised them for a while. They were delicious! And I am sure there are many more birds which are eaten around the world. So to all of you who can’t bear to look at where our food comes from, and who find this song offensive, maybe you should just become vegetarians. And don’t sing the song if it upsets you. See? It’s so simple!

  26. Etana Says:

    My gosh, After I read the song I was laughing so hard! Really!? “I’ll pluck your neck”?! HILARIOUS!
    Its cruel and all yeah yeah but I had a good laugh and I could NOT stop! LOL!

  27. Edward Says:

    This is a song made up to teach children to speak and learn body parts. like any other children’s song it’s intentions are to teach and entertain children. This is just a process after you hunt your pray. Chickens, pork, beef and seafood are not bade they are born raised and slaughtered for everyone’s consumption. We have been so removed from the process of this that any reference to it has become evil.

    PS. For all you vegetarians it has been proved that plants feel when we cut them down so you are no better than anyone else. We just can’t hear the broccoli screaming.

    Everyone grow up and stop whining about everyone else and make sure you are acting appropriate before we condemn someone else.

  28. Québécoise de souche Says:

    Big deal. Why are people offended by this song? I guess singing London bridge is falling down is also terrible (promotes terrorism or whatever) Seriously people its a SONG. I’ve been singing it since I was a child and it did not turn me into some maniac lark killing machine.

    Get a grip and go after those nut cases who actually harm animals for pleasure – not some children song!

  29. Andrew Says:

    London bridges is about the plague and has nothing to do with terrorism.

  30. Tom Draughon Says:

    This may have become a “childrens” song, but it did not start out that way.
    Although the great folklorist Marius Barbeau suspected the song may have had origins in France,
    there is absolutely no record of its existence before it was published in a McGill College songbook in 1879. It became very popular in Canada soon after, even being sung at baseball games. It was picked up by “doughboys” in WWI and disseminated widely, being sung as a light-hearted song to ease the misery of war.
    I sing this song with my group Les Fils du Voyageur, which specializes in folk music of French Canada, and I have done extensive research on our repertoire.
    For all of those who think it is grisly and disgusting – you are so far removed from the reality of daily existence in the 19th century and before! Larks and most other birds were food, and one doesn’t eat birds without removing the feathers. They are, of course, killed first, not plucked alive. Go visit an organic farm and help them process chickens sometime. This is reality.

  31. Eddie Kent Says:

    When you eat ortolans (which is actually forbidden, even in France) you cover your face with your napkin to hide from God. Furthermore, you don’t pluck them – they’re far too small.

  32. Monique Says:

    You do pluck them! What you don’t do is gut them.

  33. Lori Young Says:

    This song has been in my mother’s family for generations. It was created to teach the steps of killing, plucking, and preparing game birds for meal time. The song is sung in the exact steps one goes through to prepare dinner. I know I have always learned everything by song much faster and easier than by wrote. It was because of “horrible” songs like these that you are all here to complaine about them in the first place! Get off your high and mighty horse, use the brain you were born with and consider history. There was no cookbook handy, most people neither read nor wrote, no internet to search on, the nearest neighbor was probably five or more miles away, and a lone cook has to have some method to remember how to cook and clean game in the proper order. The song provides the steps. Think about the way to remember algebra, Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. What are we excusing her for, what did she do wrong? No one has now, nor ever has had any modicum of an iota, and no one cares. This is how this song should be considered. Who cares?! No one! It was just a way to remember something important.

  34. carl Says:

    London bridges falling down is not about the plauge, you are thinking of ring around the rosie.

  35. Vanessa Says:

    Definitely going to be finding another song to teach the students body parts!~ While it has a catchy jingle, the meaning and singing as we pluck a birds head, eyes, feathers is Cruel.

  36. M-Oh Says:

    Y’all trippin, this song bangs!!

  37. Leanne Says:

    I remember learning this song in Primary along with a few others. Now my 5yr old’s Primary teacher (who is a qualified French teacher) is teaching him French in class. So I taught him this song at the weekend so he caught tell his teacher. Whether this song is cruel or not doesn’t bother me as I explained to my son’s (teaching my 8yr old too) that this is what happened years ago. Personally I think its excellent as ur learning body parts.

  38. Bryan Says:

    I think it’s a lame song that has served its purpose and should be put to sleep. But it will continue to be endearing to all those who wish it to live on. And that’s your choice! So do your own thing, and stop worrying about what other people think. Why is there so much arguing on here? I mean, I like some controversial songs too, and I don’t go around making people have to listen to my choice of music. Pow!

  39. Sam Says:

    I am a Vegetarian, but have no problem with people killing animals to provide food on the table. When I was a child growing up in the Mid-60’s I vividly remember my Grandmother, my mom, and my aunts killing live chickens, then plucking the feathers, cleaning them and preparing them for cooking. This still goes on in most of the world as not everyone buys their poultry or meat already prepared. My family sang songs while doing this. While at first the translation seemed gruesome, considering the context, it makes perfect sense. No problem with this vegetarian here. I still help my family grill their hamburger meat during picnics! :D

  40. Sarah Says:

    Keep in mind that there’s a lullaby that says “down will come baby, cradle and all” to describe a baby falling out of a tree. Also, I was taught “I’m being swallowed by a boa constrictor” to learn body parts from the toes up.

  41. Bea Says:

    Oh my goodness! I learned this song in first grade music class in 1959. I was born and raised on a farm so I know all about plucking feathers ( if you wanted to eat ) but it’s just a damn song! The people complaining about it are ridiculous. I can’t believe that anyone would misconstrue this song. Those people have been way to sheltered and if they have such strong feelings for this song then they’re going to have a problem with life experiences. Not everything comes wrapped up in a nice neat package. Thank goodness if my kids were left to their own devices out in the wild they would have life skills that would sustain them. I have to laugh at how foolish most of these posts are. I like the one about Rockabye Baby ..yep that cradle is going to crash to the floor probably kill that baby yet no one is saying anything about that..why..because it’s taking everything to damn literal. That’s what’s wrong in the world can’t joke around anymore about anything because people have been so brainwashed that they don’t know how to laugh, joke around or have fun. So lighten up buttercup life is like a breeze….

  42. Brenda Says:

    People who grew up in the country are more likely to understand this song. Although they don’t sing about the process of killing and preparing and eating their food, they quite often complete the process! They hunt game and fish to supplement their income or maybe just avoid eating the meat of animals that have been raised in sometimes cruel conditions of captivity and pumped full of growth hormones and other nasty supplements. Those who are shocked by this never give a thought to the fact that the meat they eat did not sprout out already grown, slaughtered, prepared and neatly packaged in nice, even rows in the supermarket coolers. More to the point, this song is a French folk song, hundreds of years old, sung by hard-working people to make the work-day a littler easier. I can live with that!

  43. Pierre Says:

    Oh my goodness! I learned this song in first grade music class in 1959. I was born and raised on a farm so I know all about plucking feathers ( if you wanted to eat ) but it’s just a damn song! The people complaining about it are ridiculous. I can’t believe that anyone would misconstrue this song. Those people have been way to sheltered and if they have such strong feelings for this song then they’re going to have a problem with life experiences. Not everything comes wrapped up in a nice neat package. Thank goodness if my kids were left to their own devices out in the wild they would have life skills that would sustain them. I have to laugh at how foolish most of these posts are. I like the one about Rockabye Baby ..yep that cradle is going to crash to the floor probably kill that baby yet no one is saying anything about that..why..because it’s taking everything to damn literal. That’s what’s wrong in the world can’t joke around anymore about anything because people have been so brainwashed that they don’t know how to laugh, joke around or have fun. So lighten up buttercup life is like a breeze….

  44. Lisa Says:

    Many lullabies around the world are extremely scary. It seems the idea is to scare the child to sleep… if you don’t go to sleep, this will happen…

  45. Richard Says:

    Oh, for G*D sakes…. Millennial Snowflakes. Get over yourselves.
    Meat does not come from square plastic trays at the supermarket.

    And, I realize… to most *youngsters*, it /seems/ too….


  46. Rachel Rivero de Posey Says:

    Saludos amigos!
    Well, I have ZERO need to “justify” this song. Like Richard said, please folks. If this freaks you out then you must be living in a cave, but then you couldn’t be living in a cave could you? If you were, you would must needs find something to eat in the wilderness which would include skinning it, or plucking it, pulling its eyeballs out and while you’re at it its brains, its guts, its anus, its nails…

    Do you see the picture? Back in the day they didn’t have the grocery stores. Back in the day they had to do this at home. It probably usually fell to a younger but strong enough kid. Give them a break for making a song that the kids could sing to help to do their chore. And by the way the kids were not freaked out. This was part of normal everyday life.

    I know I’m 6 years late on this from the first comments, but it’s annoying to see how small people are. Read some literature that has nothing to do with 2018 or 2012. You will definitely learn a lot. Life is radically different these days. We live an antiseptic life. It’s semi false. It’s quite plastic. There are good things for sure, but seriously, read something old. You’ll learn about a lot more than just the storyline.

    Last thing, there are parts of the world right this minute where people have to do this daily if not weekly or bi-weekly so they can get some protein. They can’t drive down to the local market to get their pre-packaged, pre skinned, pre… well I’ve already said it… Hah 🌞
    In good cheer

  47. Felix Gimbal Says:

    Rachel of Oct 6 2018 made perfect sense. Others made sense as well and still others find the need to clutter the internet with the stench of their virtue signalling.

    I’m glad to have stumbled across Mama Lisa’ explanation of this song I first heard over 60 years ago but never knew the English meaning of.

    Thank you Lisa.

  48. Aurélie Says:

    Thank you for this explanation. This article is really helpful. I sang this song over and over as a kid and it’s one of those cherished rhymes. It doesn’t offend me at all because we had hens, in the yard that we killed, cut their head, plucked, gutted them etc before cooking. So, yeah, this song is a great one for my family. We’ll keep teaching it to our kids…

  49. Cheryl Says:

    I always thought it was a way to teach children the parts of the bird. (Didn’t realize they were talking about plucking a bird.)

    BTW, not all of our nursery rhymes are innocent. “Ring around the rosie” was a poem referred to the plague with the line “all fall down” meant dying of it.

  50. Dale C. Davies Says:

    I was in the 425th Squadron Alouettes in the Canadian Air Force. On my Blazer Badge it has written the following: ESCADRON JEE TE PLUMERAI!. I would very much like to sign up for all your email’s in both French/English if possible? P.S. My Mother’s Father was French/French so I’m just a quarter of it now! Mama Lisa what type of French Lark was the actual Bird in France that they would use for Game? And don’t forget to ask me what my Middle Name really is? Never too young to learn more French!, But French/French! Merci Mama Lisa (Any Questions, feel free to ask me?)

  51. J Says:

    The song is sweet, the lyrics, uh..not so much. One way to make it light-hearted would be to change the lyrics. Something like, ” Little Firefly, gentle little Firefly, little Firefly, how you sweety glow..” then make up more lyrics about animals, plants, fish, fowl, insects, etc. Celebrate and describe them to the tune of an old chestnut with out of date lyrics. Why not? It’s not like any ones livelihood is at stake, other than the larks.

  52. Monique Says:

    @ Dale: our lark is Eurasian skylark = Alauda arvensis, “alouette des champs” = literally “lark of the fields”.

  53. Dale C. Davies Says:

    Hi Mama Lisa this is Dale. My Grandfather on my Mother Side was enlisted into the French Army at the age of 15, this being the First World War! He went into the Trenches and went through it all, Shelling, Mustard Gas, Chlorine Gas, Snipers, the Work’s. Five years later walks out of the Trench’s after everything thing is said and done! Not a scratch, chest full of Medals and all there mentally and physically! then meets my Mother’s Mother and falls hopelessly in Love having seven children! Unfortunately in the Second World War, while my Mother’s Mother was coming home one evening she was killed Unexpectedly by a V2 Rocket! That led to my Mother’s Father to start Drinking, and within a month time he developed a stomach Ulcer (as he could not live with such Broken Heart) that the Ulcer broke and he bleed all his life’s blood and die then and there leaving my Mother Orphaned at the age of 12. Truly the French are Romantics at Heart. All I know is my Mother’s last name in French was Chevalier Gambette (Knight) if that’s correct? Well there you go! Sincerely -Dale C. Davies- P.S. you have my email – would like very much on how you can help me learn Parisian French! Please Do Drop me a line on how? Thanks Mama Lisa (never too old to learn)

  54. Anonymous Says:

    I do not like the idea of being cruel to animals. I ADORE ALL animals and I really have a way with them. I do not like the lyrics to this song and I would change them all. I REALLY love the French language, and have been looking up some French songs. I was really wondering what the lyrics meant because if you watch the episode on season three on the hit TV series Liv and Maddie, Liv is trying to learn French for an interview for Voltage, her TV show that she shoots up until season four. She tries everything including labeling everything in her home with Post-It notes with the French translation to what the item is. In the end the only thing that helps her to speak French is this song. I was looking up the lyrics and now I wish I had not. I really wish the lyrics are different.

  55. Arlene Says:

    My married last name is Lalouette! I grew up in Canada singing this song; We taught our kids this song — they loved it — and were delighted to learn body parts in French. My mother was raised on a farm, and though she herself was German, remembers singing this song while she completed the (what we ‘softies’ now think of as gruesome) task of plucking the chicken for dinner. Like others have said, there was no grocery store to purchase clean, skinless chicken breast wrapped in plastic and served on a tray — chickens are not born that way. Even still, when I had my own young children I was a bit sensitive about belting out a tune about plucking a lark… So, my generous, kind, but eye-rolling father-in-law (also raised on a farm), offers this substitution: Skip plumerai and substitute caressé, as in Je te CARESSÉ la tête… it means cuddle, hug. Awww… that’s sweet right!? But just so ya know, my now 16 y/o son (Frère Jacques) thinks the substitution was ridiculous, and that even he knew early on it was a ‘farm song.’ He too, is a fine person — never been cruel to animals, loves his crazy mama, and says he’ll teach it to his kids one day too. I asked which version…? He said the original — but that he’ll also share the hilarious story of how HIS Grandpère offered THEIR Grandmère a softie version! Family comedy! Now, let’s all laugh out loud with our best French accents… ahh houuu houuu houuu!

  56. Roxanne Vanderford Says:

    And “Rock-a-bye Baby” is ok??? (that screams child neglect and cruelty) We are all a little messed up by Nursery Rhymes and Children’s songs. Time to grow up and move on. Just sayin’

  57. Dyann Says:

    Hi. Know i’m late to the posting party on this, lol. I learned the song 45 yrs ago, in Kindergarten, never had a clue what it meant & truthfully, didn’t really care. It wasn’t until I rewatched a Ghost Whisperer episode & this song was part of the plot, that I became interested as to its meaning. A character, Eli (a Shrink) was offended, because of “pluck your head”& the ghost for that episode was in a mental institution. They didn’t even mention birds, lol, but it made me curious.

    At first, I too was rather horrified, as from the literal English translation, it DOES sound as if they are taunting and threatening to do this to a live bird. Then I thought better of that, seeing the age of the piece & remembering other “chore songs” my Ooma taught me. Some of them were pretty grisly too, as are MANY Nursery Rhymes, if you know the history on them. But being a meat-eater who has had to pluck/eviscerate birds to eat, (which is WAY less gruesome than having to pull the fur off a mammal, I can understand why there would be a use for this back then, as that chore would have fallen to the smallest children & this gives them a list to go by, as they went along, plus the tune is catchy & sticks in your head, making it also easy for non French speakers to learn as an intro to a foreign language & remember. It also teaches& reminds children that meat comes from animals, you’d be surprised how many don’t know this.

    So, while I no longer find it repulsive& can laud it for teaching the body parts of many different animals in latter verses, not just the Lark, but as an American speaker I’d rather sing it in French just for the catchy tune, as in English, it does still leave me a bit unsettled. *snicker*

    But heck, there are worse ones (as others have mentioned) like “Rock-a-bye-baby”, “Swallowed by a boa” or how about; “Sing a song of sixpence”, “Nana Nenê”, “There was an old lady” ,”goosey-goosey-gander”,” Duérmete Niño”, “ladybug, ladybug, fly away home”,”Dodo Titit”, “Who killed cock robin”, “Bayu Bayushki Bayu”, “Lady of Niger”& 2 of the creepiest ones about a scary mom & stranger danger, “Ninja Nanna”, & ” Bíum,Bíum,Bambaloó”… ALL of these have disturbing words/imagery of their times or punishments in them for not sleeping or listening to their parents ! I won’t even go into all the others that sound nice, until you know their history (London bridges, etc). Yikes, hehe

    But life isn’t always pretty, sanitised, or for many, in Styrofoam packages. Sometimes we need to impart important knowledge to kids, but without frightening them so much they’ll never leave the house, so we do it in a more gentle way they’ll remember, nursery rhymes, fables, songs.

    Over the years many of them imparted views/skills/knowledge that today’s kids (mostly) don’t need, or shouldn’t still have (inequality,etc) or don’t need to know or the ‘lesson’ part just gets lost over time, but the ditties themselves remain.

    If you have a problem with them,such as “Alouette”, don’t teach them to your kids, or explain your own views on it to the child (IF they are at an age where they will understand it).

    But, for me, lastly, there’s two that stuck with me, in a bad way, since childhood.The poem “The little Peach” about the death of 2 children, John & his Sister Sue, from eating a peach (which I refused to try for years! lol) & the horrific prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep”… That one gave me & children around the world, nightmares (I created a different version of THAT as I refused to pass the original atrocity onward).
    Words are powerful.
    [*grin*- sorry for the novel length “comment”]

  58. rainy Says:

    Thank you for posting the history behind this song. I grew up singing this due to my French-Canadian Grandmother’s insistence and her childhood memories in Quebec.

  59. Kia Says:

    Alright babies, it’s just a freaking song. It’s really catchy, and uh… has some suggestive content. While I also feel like it’s old so I have to respect it, it’s so funny! I mean, when I first looked up the meaning behind Alouette, Google said that many believe that a kid was woken up by a lark, so the kid threatens to pluck off his neck, feathers, BACK, beak, etc. I was DYING laughing!!! Am I the only one who feels this way?

  60. Ari Says:

    I am offended by Kia. This is a CRUEL song and NO ONE should be LAUGHING at it! And anyway, how do you respect something and LAUGH IN ITS FACE at the same time?!

  61. Peter Says:

    No, Kia, you are not the only one who feels that way. I think it’s a really pretty song, but it is also hilarious.

  62. Patrick Says:

    What an unexpected song this is. As a piano teacher, I’ve taught this for many years without knowing either the French words (my French is truly merde!!) or the English translation. I will continue to teach it, but have chosen alternative lyrics to find a way that is not offensive to anyone. Those wishing to explore further are in for an interesting discovery.

  63. Kevin Says:

    This article is making me hungry now that I know the translations.

  64. Britany Says:

    Here’s an idea, don’t eat animals. Maybe just maybe the song makes you feel bad because you actually feel bad about eating animals. And the song doesn’t help you ignore that thought. Maybe

  65. Kia Says:

    Just a song. Like I said: It’s JUST a song. Whoever Ari is, don’t get offended over me laughing. It’s not even like the song ever really even HAPPENED, anyway!

  66. 14 Says:

    heyo my dudes, i just wanna say Mama Lisa this song translation was very helpful so thank you Mama Lisa! Also, uhm, i like chez. btw, not that anyone cares, but imma go ahead and share (storytime) i got intrested in the origins of nursery rhymes and all that since i heard Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary because i wuv meh some history also its pretty interesting, not gonna lie. well it’s 2020 and we all gonna ded from coronavirus so i guess it doesnt really matter anyways. well then.

  67. Jacob Says:

    I have no problem with meat and I have no problem with the song’s existence. But I always thought this song was much nicer, about a bird flying and landing on the parts of the body. Even I think it’s gruesome and would not promote it for children — at least not children who eventually translate it. I rather know the bird is alive and happy in the end.

  68. em Says:

    some of you guys are freaking babies i’m pretty sure most of you are a adults so act like one yes it may sound like a cruel song but face it, thats where most of the meat you eat comes from. If you’re vegetarian i understand why’d you’d be upset, but for those of you who are upset and eat meat please stop hating on this song because that’s where your food comes from so suck it up and welcome to reality! love you guys!

  69. herrier Says:

    they used to sing it to pass the time when they harvested a bird

  70. Marie Says:

    I disagree with lists fair enough to people who eat meat but when it all comes down to that youse cant kill them quick enough I think its disgusting

  71. Marie Says:

    I agree with em meat eaters are just cannibals

  72. Marie Says:

    Theres people beating you around the bush for questions about it and taking the mick about it through technology that’s why I use very little of it and avoid cables

  73. Norma Says:

    Woke up this morning….with the words of the first line in my head…I am 75 now….luckily remembered how to spell it in French..and found all these comments. I truly had no idea what I was singing way back in time. Have never plucked a bird in my life. In my later years I have now eaten plenty small pigeons cos I have a hunter cousin. I really cannot believe all these comments on what I always thought was a simple song. Ah Life.

  74. PK Says:

    It’s a catchy song, but hard to dance to. Kudos to Mama Lisa for creating a post that has garnered a thread of comments spanning nearly a decade!

  75. Cayden Says:

    If your only justification for this song not being gruesome is because it’s something we do to eat, consider the fact that we don’t actually need protein from the meat of other animals to survive. There are other ways of getting protein in your diet, but I’m not here to convert anybody to a plant based diet.
    It’s all well and good that some of you learned this song as a child, and learned a little French from it and didn’t think anything of it, but times have changed. It’s easy for a child to look up something in a different language, translate it, and be traumatized by it. I’m an adult as well, I heard this song on Tom and Jerry sung by Nibbles the mouse as a kid, and like some of you, never gave it a second thought. Then today, I find a bunch of adults online arguing about if it’s an okay children’s song. It’s not. It’s still murder of a living creature. It doesn’t matter why. We as a society have evolved since this song was created, so stay with the times.

  76. John Switzer Says:

    Use a boiling tea kettle
    The feathers really come out readily

  77. Kent A Says:

    I cannot even count the number of birds I cleaned and dressed from about 10 years old and up. Yea dunking on hoot water makes pluckung the feathers much easier and after putting it over a flame (pan of lighted alcohol) will burn off the pin feathers. This is a great song. Too many people have no idea where there food comes from anymore.

  78. Audrey Says:

    Just because it involves plucking feathers off a bird, remember that they hunted birds for SURVIVAL. If I had to do as nasty a chore as that, I wouldn’t blame them for singing a song to distract them from the bird guts in front of them. Besides, the tune is catchy children like it, and it is educational! What’s not to like


    Always loved this song as a kid. Was singing it to my grandson and decided to remind myself of what it meant. It would seem that we don’t quite understand the cycle of life. Vegetarian? Fine. Meat eater? Fine. The thing is… animals are not vegetarians. They eat each other. It’s just the way it is. Law of the jungle. People eat animals. That’s just the way it is. Animals will kill and eat people if you happen to be in the wrong circumstances. If an animal was never killed for any reason we humans would probably have nowhere to live except “amongst” them because the earth would be overflowing with animals. As far as the song goes I would also imagine that if any of us lived in that day and time and couldn’t just run down to the store for our groceries but had the life they had we would be a tad more understanding. Our sensitivities might not be so delicate. Most of us including myself tend to adapt to many of the ideologies of the culture around us without considering how we would react if the shoe was on the other furry (no pun intended) foot of another time and place. As I observed society over the past year or so I hope we don’t end up walking in another person’s shoes to be more understanding.

  80. Sumiran Says:

    Shame on the poet of this song and people who support it the tune is good but the poem written is so inhumane and cruel

  81. Jim Says:

    Don’t these childishly worried adults have anything better to do than gripe about the historical events as if their complaining will solve a problem that they have imagined.

  82. Vera A Zimmerman Says:

    Oh, come on, People. It’s a children’s song meant to be funny and teach body parts. I learned it in Louisiana. We enjoyed pinching each body part with our fingers as we sang and laughing uproariously. We all turned out fine. By the way I’m 80 years old and have never killed or plucked a bird.

  83. KJ Says:

    I was taught this song in French class in elementary school in the 1960s. It was taught to help us remember the names of body parts. It’s 2021. Times change, perceptions change. I’m certainly not going to bash anyone for having an opinion about this song. The song was used to pass time while people had an unpleasant chore to perform in order to eat. I am not vegan or vegetarian. I am, like most primates, an omnivore who found the history interesting.

    Ring Around the Rosy, pocket fill of posy… not a pleasant song. It was taught to those of us who are older, and sang it on the playground with our friends. Did we know it was about the plague? No.
    Times change, perceptions change. History is history, it can not be changed.
    Rather than being self righteous and indignant about innocent songs sung by a different generation, put your energy into something more important.

  84. Adele Says:

    Some of us are vegetarians merely because we’ve developed allergies to meat…

  85. Adele Says:

    You want a truly dark song, listen to “Il était une bergère”. The shepherdess didn’t kill the cat to eat him. She killed him because she was mad at ONE thing he did (contaminate the cheese with his saliva). You shouldn’t kill animals (or people) because they did one bad thing. (Yes, Willy Wonka, I’m looking at you.)

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