Du sparadrap sur la bouche!

Du sparadrap sur la bouche!

dew spah-rah-drah sewr lah BOOSH! Click below to hear this.*
A Band-Aid on your/my mouth!

Thus Céline exhorts herself at every turn. Du sparadrap sur la bouche, ma fille! That’s because she tends to open her mouth and say the first thing that comes to mind. You could call her honest and straightforward, or rude and tactless, whichever you choose. Either way, I think you’d be right. Céline is a prime example of “Open mouth, insert foot.”

Why du sparadrap? Isn’t it a little odd to think of pasting a Band-Aid across one’s lips? I suppose it’s no odder than duct tape or “zipping your lip”.

But here’s the oddest part: This is a very old word. It first showed up in medieval Latin as sparadrapum, then in Old French around 1314 as speradrapu. (Don’t ask me where the Latin comes from, because no one seems to know. It looks as if it ought to have something to do with cloth or fabric, doesn’t it?) The English translation of the definition in my Petit Robert dictionary is “adhesive, often with a small bandage attached”. Sounds like a Band-Aid to me.

But when was adhesive invented? How did people keep their bandages on their skin–the shaving nick, the walked-into-a-door forehead cut? I’m old enough to remember fabric Band-Aids, but what about the sticky stuff? What, in the Middle Ages, distinguished a small bandage from any other scrap of cloth?

Yet another of life’s mysteries, which will remain unsolved. In the meantime, if you tend to speak first and think later, try to remember Céline and her sparadrap. It could save you all sorts of pain.

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:


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