Pepé Le Pew – or Pépé le Putois as we call him in French – was born in 1945 and is probably one of the most famous stereotypical French character in all of American TV… Pepé was a parody of worldwide famous French actors of the time, like Charles Boyer or Yves Montand.
I won’t get into why they ever chose a skunk to represent a French seducer! However his French accent in the English version is hilarious.
As you may or may not know, most American TV and movies seen in France are actually dubbed into French by a professional voice actor.
So when it comes to dubbing in French a character with an obvious French “seducing” accent, it creates an interesting dilemma!
The French will not get the “seducing part” if you just dubbed with a strong French accent. So what does Pepé sound like in French?
Pepé Le Pew in French – Original Voice
In French, Pepé rolls his Rs, says things like “mon petit farfalle“, or “c’est le moment de la mise amore” (play on word with “mise à mort” (death sentence) and ” mi amore” love in Italian – love in French is l’amour). He’s obviously Italian. But his accent is strong, but not that strong… He also sounds like Yves Montand and other sex symbols of that area.
So, his French voice is a mix. He has a voice that would sound sexy to the French!
Here is an extract where you can hear is accent in French. He says “mi amore, ragazza”, “mon petit ravioli joli”… Please press play on the audio player to hear the recording.
It’s fun to think that at that time, when French people thought of a womanizer, a seducer, they would go for a “latin lover” and have the character speak with an Italian accent! I wonder what accent Pépé would have if he was created now.
Well, actually, he wouldn’t be created now at all!
Pepé Le Pew and Censorship
As soon as I find a video featuring Pépé le Putois with its original French voice, it gets removed from YouTube within a few months. So I looked into it and learned that Pépé was at the center of a huge censorship debate! The studios have decided to stop showing this character since his attitude promotes sexual harassment.
I did find a video compilation (that’s were I got the audio sample above) and was surprised to see how agressive Pépé was, physically and verbally. The cartoon is indeed funny because of the comic skunk versus black cat confusion, because of Pepé’s accent, and above all, well, he’s a skunk thinking he’s so irresistible… However, I understand this is not a behaviour we want to advertise, especially to kids who might not understand the comical situation and think that’s how you pursue romantic interests…
Anyway, this is not the subject of this article… Let’s go back to Pepé’s French voice.
Pepé Le Pew in French – Modern Voice
Interestingly, his way of speaking in French actually changed over time: in his current voice, you can still hear the “latin lover” accent (especially his R and U pronounced liked a “ou” sound), but it’s more subtle.
I could only find this official video on YouTube and he sings… so it’s not very clear. Anyway, looks like there’s no future in dubbing Pépé le putois in French…
Pépé is not even “un Putois”!
Looks like Pépé has it all wrong… In French, “Pepé the Pew” was translated into “Pépé le Putois”. But he is not “un putois” (a small brown animal which stinks as well) but “une moufette” (the American black and white skunk which we don’t have in France)… In Warner Bross defense, it’s quite a common mistake.
Obviously, there was a couple of problems with the correct translation:
- Pépé le Putois sounds better with its repetition of P… By the way, to stink is “puer” so… Pépé le putois puant : Pepé the stinking skunk has quite a ring to it.
- “Une moufette” is feminine in French. ‘Pépé la moufette’ would have added a whole new dimension to the cartoon !!!
If you’d like to turn your game on in French, learn flirty opening lines and compliments, check out my article on how to flirt in French.
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