Silly Saturday: the French connection

I’ve been thinking all week about a suitable silly offering for today, and I’ve come up with a few possibilities, especially after having delved so deeply into my excursions to France. I had not considered this one until just very recently, but it has won out in the end. Although there’s really nothing actually silly about the content, in any sense of the word, let me hasten to assure you that the connection is—in my mind, at least—perfectly logical, so please bear with me.  When I drove by this place in the spring of 2003, saw it off to the side, stopped and backed up for a much closer look, and practically crawled my way through the flowers to this vantage point, made a few careful shots, withdrew back to my car, and consulted my trusty map, the closest place I could find (and I am not making this up) was Silly-en-Goffern. I have tried, several times since, to find the meaning of the Silly-en-gouvern 04-23-02 French word “Silly,” and I have so far been unsuccessful. It’s not in my Random House pocket French-English dictionary, and I just tried another Google search, without any success.  If, perchance, any of you French speakers out there can help me, I’d be grateful for your enabling me to close a long-standing gap in my humble polyglot education. If not, so be it—it will just have to remain one of the many great mysteries that life has to offer.

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Welcome to Krikit Arts! I'm a veterinarian; photographer; finger-style guitarist, composer, instructor, and singer/songwriter; fisherman; and fly-tyer. Please enjoy--and please respect my full rights to all photos on this Website!
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27 Responses to Silly Saturday: the French connection

  1. Vicki says:

    Another gorgeous scene – no wonder you back-tracked and made a few photos.

    After 3 years of French in secondary school, the best I can do is order a black coffee and ask you how old you are (in French). Well, maybe a little bit more.

    I guess the translation is something very funny and we’d laugh our socks off if we knew what it was.

    • krikitarts says:

      I never had any formal French in school, only Latin and Spanish in high school and German in college. I think French always scared me. I like languages that give you words that you can spell correctly the first time by listening to how they are pronounced.

  2. I take it you had the appropriate camouflage gear on as you crawled through the flora (but that would just be silly) . Nice shot…it does say France to me.

    • krikitarts says:

      No camouflage, but I was very alert for any sign of activity from the building. It actually looked unoccuped, but I still kept a sharp eye out and did not creep up to anything like close proximity.

  3. shoreacres says:

    I can’t help you with the French, but I did learn something about the English word: “The word silly has over many centuries taken a fascinating journey through a range of evolving meanings. Silly did not originally refer to the absurd or ridiculous – in fact quite the opposite. The word derives from the old English word seely, meaning happy, blissful, lucky or blessed.”

    In that sense, I’d say you were silly to stop for this photo — it’s a glorious sight.

  4. Beautiful shot. Love the POV. “Silly” the way you mean it has a special “feel” in English, one that is not quite captured in the ways the word can be translated in French. In French there are words for silly that mean sort of foolish-stupid such as “bête” “idiot” “stupide” “sot” and the more slangy “débile.” There is silly-absurd –> “absurde.”But for me, “silly” in English is a bit more lighthearted and fun somehow than these words in French. Maybe silly-zany goes a bit more in this direction: “loufoque””décalé” . . . but then we’re heading beyond “silly” and into bizarre and “crazy” territory. Silly is just one of those words that can’t be conveyed directly in another language. I love words like that. :-)

    • krikitarts says:

      It’s a real joy to know another language that well, and I really appreciate your thoughtful analysis. I have only a pocket version of the Random House E-F & F-E dictionary, and there was no such word in the F-E section. I also went through two or three pages of Google hits, and all of them were trying to translate the English “silly” into a French equivalent, with only limited and tangential success. Each language certainly has some words that have no direct counterpart in any other. The German “gemütlich” is one that comes readily to mind, and there are many others.

    • I remember the repeated use of silly in Pride and Prejudice. In checking just now, I found the word appears a dozen times. Here’s the first, in a line spoken by the father:

      “They have none of them much to recommend them,” replied he; “they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters.”

      • krikitarts says:

        The father was great, but Mrs. Bennet–at least as played by Alison Steadman in the BBC series–was absolutely delightful and completely unfortgettable.

  5. phildange says:

    There is no French word “silly” . In this town, Silly is a proper noun like a myriad of towns names . It’s rather frequent in Orne and Eure-et-Loir départements and is often written “Sillé” in other villages . It might come from a Gallo-Roman rich landlord called “Silius” .
    BTW this town of yours is “Silly-en-Goffern” . I wonder how you could read “Gouvern” instead, probaly the English false association with silly I guess .

    • krikitarts says:

      Hi there, Philippe! I am very grateful for your clarification and for taking the time to send this new information. I no longer have the map I used while I was there–it was likely provided by the rental car company–but I copied the name (Silly-en-Gouvern) carefully so that I could include it in my journal, because I loved the site. I am well aware, after some considerable research, that there is no French word “silly.” Thanks to your contribution, I have changed the spelling of the closest town in the text of my post.

  6. Did you perhaps mean the Silly-en-Gouffern that’s in Normandy?

    That article doesn’t give the origin of Silly, nor did I find it when I did a little searching. It’s a name, not a regular French word.

    • shoreacres says:

      The article that you linked may provide a clue. In the history section, it mentions a Roman-era public fountain in the town, discovered and restored in 1897, that was part of a station named for a fellow named Silius. Who knows? It might have been this fellow, who had some responsibility for Gaul.

      • The article you linked to documents attacks, killings, insurrections, intrigues, and lies. As the Romans said, “Nihil sub sole novum,” “There’s nothing new under the sun.”

    • krikitarts says:

      Yes, Steve and Linda, thank you both. I have had the same thoughtful correction from someone on the spot (see the new comment by phildange, above). Thanks for checking up on me. The map I was using had the wrong spelling–I really did not make that up! And so I sit corrected. Dang.

  7. Winnie Hurd says:

    I enlisted the help of a friend who has lived in France for many years. He said the name Silly-en-Gouffern comes from the fact that it was a former Roman “station” called Silius.

    • krikitarts says:

      Wow–I never thought this silly post would generate so much interest and that I’d get so much helpful information from so many different sources. Thank you for your addition!

  8. Adrian Lewis says:

    Beautiful picture, my friend.

  9. It sounds like you all have it nailed down, but I will share my thought. The flowers look like they could be Scilla, a spring bulb. I know that some houses and areas are named for a plant that grows in the area and Silly could be a contortion of that.

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