I am working on an English translation of parts of a sermon given by the Curé of Ars perhaps, nearly 200 years ago.

In the original, I have come across this phrase: Hé! grand Dieu!

Literally, it seems that it should be translated as "Hey! great God!"---but, I have never encountered such an English translation of his words before.

In modern usage, Hé! does seem to translate into Hey!

However, in the French patois of early nineteenth century France, or at least the La Dombes region, might Hé! grand Dieu! be literally translated into something else, such as, a respectful rendition of "O my God!" (which has appeared in English translations of the Saint's sermons);

or perhaps, "Ah! great God!"

or, something else?

What may be the best way to translate Hé! with the given scenario?

  • 1
    More context is needed to pinpoint the actual variant of "hé" (or its strict equivalent "eh"), but it's one of these many subtle nuances of exclamation: cnrtl.fr/definition/eh. It might be a demonstrative way to express causality, contrast, surprise, etc. Nov 24, 2022 at 8:35

1 Answer 1


It's neither ancien français nor patois. The curé d'Ars prose isn't significantly different from contemporary French.

As I understand it, this "Hé !" is not addressed to God but to the audience gathered in the church while "grand Dieu !" is also not the one to whom the priest is addressing but an interjection. (c.f. TLFi: Dieu 2ème section, II.- B-. 3. a) Dieu en interjection ou dans une locution interjective pour renforcer l'expression d'émotions et de sentiments)


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