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In one of my favorite songs by Gilbert Becaud, “L'homme et la Musique” there is a passage I don't understand:

Breve, nous ne sommes,
Pas des amants catholiques.

I'm confused by the world “catholique.” It's usually a religious reference, but it doesn't seem to be so in this case. Is there another, common, meaning that I'm missing?

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Attention que, d'après paroles.zouker.com/gilbert-becaud/… ou frmusique.ru/texts/b/becaud_gilbert/hommeetlamusique.htm ce n'est pas Breve, nous ne sommes mais **Bref**, nous ne sommes. Qui a raison ?... –  Istao Feb 27 '12 at 6:42
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2 Answers

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Sometimes catholique is used to refer to something that is "the norm", what all people do usually.

"Ce gâteau ne me semble pas très catholique" means that you find the cake does not fit the standards for being called a cake: because it is weird looking, or tasting strange or whatever.

This meaning comes from the history of France to have a majority of Catholics since a long time. (I guess)

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OK, so it means, "We're not the USUAL kind of lovers." That makes sense in this context. Another word I might use in this context is "orthodox." –  Tom Au Aug 18 '11 at 13:58
    
"orthodoxe" is also used the same way, and I think that's the same in English; basically it means "strict" in this context. "Plus catholique que le pape" = as strict as one can be –  Joubarc Aug 18 '11 at 13:59
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@Joubarc: regarding "orthodox[e]": "strict" is the very definition of the word... and the reason it was used for the eponymous branch of christianity... (to be fair, "catholic"/"catholique" also does literally mean "universal", but I doubt it is the reason why the word is used to mean "in the norm") –  Dave Aug 18 '11 at 15:17
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This answer is misleading without mentioning that it's mostly used to refer to moral norm. In this case, it isn't about "the usual kind of lovers" but rather "lovers who do naughty things." It's a reference to their sex life, not simply about how unorthodox they are. –  Borror0 Aug 18 '11 at 16:00
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A mildly equivalent English word could be 'kosher' (at least for the cake, not sure about the lovers!) –  Benjol Aug 22 '11 at 12:16
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Catholique can, by association with the church by that name, often mean "moral" or "correct", hence the common expression Ce n'est pas catholique! Thus the lyrics of this song probably mean that they are "immoral" (i.e., not chaste) lovers.

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Except that they were "L'Homme, et La Musique," Therefore, "abnormal" is fine in this context, "unchaste" (or impudique) is not. –  Tom Au Aug 18 '11 at 21:36
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The sexual connotation of pas catholique does not exist everywhere. We had a short chat about this. It seems to be obvious in Quebec and to exist in some regions of France but not all. I (mostly Parisian) had never heard of it until now. –  Gilles Aug 19 '11 at 14:28
    
Ce n'est pas très catholique! plutôt (sans très c'est ambigu) –  Knu Sep 24 '11 at 1:16
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