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I see encore utile fallu que je but I can't really make much sense of that, nor can I get anything out of lesus. Les "us"? Le "sus"? Les use ?

Still useful needed that I use them... ?

This is a Roman prefect's name in Astérix, of course.

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  • Side note, is it jeu de mots or jeux de mots? The dictionary has it as jeu but the site tag is jeux. Is this just singular vs plural, as in one or more than one play on words? It's a little odd just because in English it's normally singular only, "plays on words" would generally be replaced by "wordplay." Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 23:05
  • Except for the spelling of "susse" at the end, I'd guess, without really knowing what any of it means, that it's a phonetic rendition of "Encore eût-il fallu que je le susse".
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 23:27
  • Ah ha! There's no question, you're right. But according to your link there's a double entendre there....what is it? I do not see it. Quote: You should also know that such an expression is widely used among "erudite" circles because of its delightful double-entendre. Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 23:36
  • The double-entendre is je le susse (subjunctive imperfect of savoir) which is pronounced exactly the same as je le suce (indicative present of sucer).
    – jlliagre
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 0:03
  • @jlliagre i was under the impression imperfect subjunctive was literary only. Is that not so? Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 0:40

1 Answer 1

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The full phrase is as follows:

Encore eût-il fallu que je le susse.

Meaning roughly “Would that I had known”. Conjugated verbs are avoir and savoir in subjunctive imperfect form (avoir is used as an auxiliary to obtain plusqueparfait, here used as a past conditional).

Avoir or être may occasionally occur in imperfect subjuntive form in set phrases, but the use of this tense with other verbs is seldom found outside literature, which makes the utterance atypical.

Also, "susse" generally sounds funny because of the homophony with "suce", present tense for sucer (suck), but it's likely not the main intended effect here. It was primarily chosen in reminiscence to the latin inflection us.

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  • 4
    Never underestimate the amount of jokes intended for older crowds in cartoons and comics !
    – ApplePie
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 11:40
  • I would add that nowadays usage of the subjonctive imperfect has a pedantic connotation, often intended (for comical effect).
    – Yves
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 18:45

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