La plume de ma tante (linguistics)

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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 grammatically correct phrases with limited practical application that are sometimes taught in introductory foreign language texts. As LIFE (magazine) formulated 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.

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.