Pouliche and paen-paen

A translation of the entry for 'pouliche' in George Metivier's Norman-French Dictionary, from the Guernsey Magazine, January 1884; and another little rhyme.

POULICHE: young mare, filly.

The word is to be found in some modern dictionaries, and we only allude to it here in order to quote the little rhyme1 which used to be hummed to us so merrily by our nurses, while for the time being they transformed us into ponies, suiting the action to the word, and making believe to be farriers shoeing a horse, while they beat time by little slaps on the soles of our tiny plump feet, and sang:

Ferre, ferre, mon poulaïn,
Pour allaïr a St Germaïn.
Ferre, ferre, ma pouliche,
Pour allaïr cis ma nourriche!

We might translate this rhyme a little freely—

Shoe, shoe, my pretty little steed
To go to St Germain with speed,
Shoe, shoe, my pretty little mare,
To pay my nurse a visit there.

With regard to St Germain, the place alluded to in the song, Mr Métivier goes on to say:

'There was, in point of fact, in these localities, two churches and two medicinal springs, as well as the families respectively named St-George and St-Germain. The hougue or hillock of Renouf de St-Germain, continued so to be called, at the time of the publication, in 1582, of L'Etente du Fief-le-Comte au Castel.2 We may also observe that at St-Germain-sur-Ay, a district of Coutances, in the canton of Lessay, there formerly existed a water-gate, made use of from the most remote times, and that there is still an active traffic carried on between that port and Jersey at the time of the fair of St Croix à Lessay, held on the 12th September.'


PAEN-PAEN: Blood-nose beetle.

Paen-paen mourte-mé ten sang,
Et j'te dounerai un verre de vin bllanc.

Beetle, show me your blood, and I'll give you a glass of white wine.

This children's rhyme is quoted by E D Marquand in 'The Guernsey dialect names of birds, fishes, insects, &c.,' in the Report and Transactions of the Guernsey Society, 1908, pp. 512 ff.3


1 See also Rimes Guernesiaises for another Guernsey nursery rhyme. In the Star of June 7, 1866, under an article on local grasses, the author states concerning Lolium perenne: 'That zig-zag grass we used to play with and say, Soldiers, sailors, tinkers, tailors, etc., or 'il m'aime,' 'un peu', 'beaucoup,' as we pluck the marguerites and wishing for the 'Beaucoup' stifled a sigh at the 'point du tout.'

2 A nineteenth-century copy of this is held at the Library.

3 For more about insect names, see Bertaux, Jean-Jacques, 'Ethnozoologie: 'maréchal' et 'escarbot'', in Annales de Normandie, 26 (I), 1976, pp. 87-89.