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I have heard the following dialogue in the movie "Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain":

  • Aux frais de Monsieur Collignon.
  • De ? Monsieur Collignon. Lucien !
  • J'ai pas fait attention, Monsieur Dufayel.
  • Exercice, mon petit Lucien. Répetez après moi. Collignon, crêpe chignon.

Context: Lucien and M. Dufayel are talking about food products which the young man Lucien is delivering to M. Dufayel. Lucien disguised some expensive products as cheap products in the delivery box so that his boss, M. Collignon, would not notice it. Now, Lucien is showing the products to M. Dufayel. Although I don't hear it, I think that Lucien pronounces the GN in "Collignon" incorrectly in the first line. Then, Dufayel helps him to get the pronunciation right with a rhyme. What does "crêpe chignon" mean? I know that "chignon" means "hair bun", but I have no idea what it means in the context of a crepe.

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    Big, big fan of this movie here, and I think you misunderstood the scene: Dufayel does want to correct Lucien's pronunciation of "Collignon": he's actually upset that Lucien refers to him as "MONSIEUR" Collignon, as he thinks Lucien is too respectul towards the bossy Collignon. That's whay he wants him to exercise to repeat the rather chilidsh insults in rhymes like "Collignon, face de fion".
    – Greg
    Sep 3 '20 at 15:30
  • @Greg Thank you very much for pointing that out! Sometimes my rational mind has a hard time with implicit content, especially in foreign languages. Sep 3 '20 at 15:32
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    I guess there is indeed maybe a cultural aspect, you're right, because that's how it works in "traditional" French businesses: employees call the boss "Monsieur Collignon" when he's around, and call him of course "vous", but behind his back, employees will drop the "monsieur" and call him "Collignon" (or worse: nicknames, or addressing him in imagination with "tu" , eg "Colllgnon, tu nous emmerdes...")
    – Greg
    Sep 3 '20 at 15:36
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    And about the pronunciation: the character of Lucien has a weird pronunciation indeed, there are some hints he might be a bit mentally slow, but in case you don't know him, the actor Jamel Debbouze is a famous standup comedian in France, and he uses (maybe a bit too much) this "play-stupid" pronunciation in all his shows and movies. So I guess the French audience was not expected to pick up this weird pronuciation of "GN" in his mouth.
    – Greg
    Sep 3 '20 at 15:40
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It comes from the expression "se crêper le chignon", which means to fight, to argue. It's usually used for women.

Here, it's a vague name calling, probably to say Collignon is annoying or mean.

Also, the correct way to write it to be crêpe-chignon (with a hyphen). Kind of like casse-pieds, which is an adjective or a noun for "quelqu'un qui casse les pieds".

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  • Odd, given that the corresponding noun is crêpage de chignon, not "crêpe chignon", right? Sep 3 '20 at 14:04
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    @AlanEvangelista There's not only one "corresponding noun". There's one for the action, and one for the actor or the object doing the action (like ouvre-boîte, tire-bouchon, croque-mort, bouche-trou, ...) Sep 3 '20 at 14:09
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    @LPH Aucune pâtisserie à la poêle ne s'appelle crêpe chignon...
    – jlliagre
    Sep 3 '20 at 14:27
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    Dans le contexte de cette scène précise du film, "crêpe-chignon" a plus de sens avec sa signification de "personne qui cherche les disputes". Dufayel incite Lucien à sortir de sa réserve et à proférer des insultes en rimes envers Colignon, qui est l'antipathique patron de Lucien. L'insulte suivante est d'ailleurs (de mémoire) "Collignon, tête de fion".
    – Greg
    Sep 3 '20 at 15:21
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    @LPH Oui, c'est ce qu'on appelle un sens figuré, une image qui n'a pas besoin de reposer sur une réalité exacte comme avec pique-assiette, croque-mort, lèche-cul ou casse-bonbon. De plus en plus de femmes disent d'ailleurs ça me casse les couilles :-)
    – jlliagre
    Sep 3 '20 at 19:29
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I have some reading French, but I’m much better at German; however, it is clear from the context, even as a non-French speaker, that niceties of pronunciation have NOTHING to do with Dufayel’s correction of Lucien, which is rather about the undeserved respect Lucien gives “M.” Collignon. Dufayel corrects Lucien with a series of derisive rhymes. In English, “Crêpe chignon” is translated in the subtitles as “down the John.” One fluent French speaker I asked about this tentatively suggested “crepe chignon” referred to toilet paper.

BUT—-I’d really like to know, from a native French speaker what “crêpe chignon” means to them.

I cannot agree that this scene has ANYTHING to do with Lucien’s pronunciation of “Collignon”! That is ENTIRELY beside the point of this scene.

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    Collignon crêpe-chignon was made up for the alliteration and translated into English as Collignon, down the john for the alliteration as a pronunciation practice. It's the sounds that matter here not what the mean of crêpe-chignon or "down the John". Absolutely no relationship between crêpe-chignon and toilet paper. What crêpe-chignon means to a native French speaker is already explained here.
    – None
    Sep 11 at 13:02

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