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?


2 Answers 2


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)

  • 1
    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, 2011 at 13:58
  • 1
    "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, 2011 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, 2011 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, 2011 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, 2011 at 12:16

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.

  • 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, 2011 at 21:36
  • 3
    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. Aug 19, 2011 at 14:28
  • Ce n'est pas très catholique! plutôt (sans très c'est ambigu)
    – Knu
    Sep 24, 2011 at 1:16

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