Pas une dame



In this song, Carla Bruni says that she isn’t a lady.  However, she had been acclaimed  as the perfect lady in the countries that she had visited officially, as France’s First Lady, during the years when her husband, Nicholas Sarkozy held the office of president.


In the U.K., T.V. viewers saw Carla Bruni as a dignified lady of great elegance and charm, totally composed and confident during the reception of the presidential couple at Windsor by the British Royal family.

Her outstanding beauty, her deportment of the top model that she had been, and her ease with the great and famous who had for long been part of her company showed her off to full advantage. 


Photo above- Carla Bruni during the London visit with Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.


However, from other songs in this collection, we know that Carla revels in being undignified. Against very strong advice, she chose to sing and record, the very unlady-like George Brassens song, Fernande.


Carla Bruni’s close friend and collaborator said of her affectionately: «Au-delà de sa politesse et de sa façon de respecter les gens, elle a un côté canaille» Telling us that beyond her politeness and the respect she showed to others she had her rough side.  Carla tells us: « Je suis un peu hargneuse » - she is somewhat belligerent – see Le Pingouin.

In "Pas Une Dame" she says why she does not see herself as a lady and her evidence has already been voiced in other songs.  She is still the unruly, unfeminine child she once was.  She loves the rough and tumble of life.  She loves freedom and informality and refuses to conform and submit to authority and convention.

YouTube Video


Je ne suis pas une dame, je ne suis pas une dame.

Je ne suis qu'une gamine qui cuve(1) son vague à l'âme(2).

Mes lacets sont défaits, mes ongles noirs de terre

Mes genoux écorchés et j'rêve comme je respire.

Je carbure à la bière(3) et je grille mes gitanes(4)

Et j'aime crever d'espoir au petit matin blême

Et j'aime quand ça roule quand la houle(5) nous prend l'âme

Et j'aime quand ça tangue(6) quand ça croque(7) quand ça crame(8).


Je ne suis pas une dame, je n'ai pas l'air d'une dame.

J'ai plutôt l'air d'un chien, d'une larme, d'un poème.

Je suis l’œil du voisin, je suis l'torchon du barman

La veuve et l'orphelin, le sultan du harem.

Je suis le tout petit matin, la dernière goutte de gin

Et je suis l'assassin qui dort malgré son crime.

Je suis le vieux marin officier gentleman

Et je suis le vaurien que personne ne réclame.


Et quand j'aurai cent ans, et quand j'aurai cent ans

Je vivrai sans programme(9), je vivrai sans programme,

Malgré la mort qui rôde(11), malgré la mort qui rôde,

Je danserai jusqu'à l'aube, je danserai jusqu'à l'aube

Et quand j'aurai cent ans, et quand j'aurai cent ans

Je vivrai de mon charme(12), je vivrai de mon charme.

Dans mon château hanté, dans mon château hanté

On viendra me consulter.


Je ne suis pas une dame, oh non m'appelle pas Madame.

Appelle-moi donc ma douce, ma chatte ou ma sirène(13).

Appelle-moi ma farouche(14) ou Altesse comme une reine.

 Appelle-moi donc ma rousse, ma blonde ou mon ébène

Je suis ton pote(15) Gérard, j'suis ta cousine Irène

Je suis le quai du soir qui veille sur la Seine


Je suis le fruit du hasard, d'existence incertaine

Je suis le vieux clochard qui crèche(16) à la Madeleine.

Et quand j'aurai cent ans, et quand j'aurai cent ans

Je ferai fi de ma canne(17), je ferai fi de ma canne,

Malgré la mort qui rôde, malgré la mort qui rôde,

Je danserai jusqu'à l'aube, je danserai jusqu'à l'aube

Et quand j'aurai cent ans, et quand j'aurai cent ans

Je vivrai de mon charme, je vivrai de mon charme

Dans mon château hanté, dans mon château hanté

On viendra m'consulter



Je ne suis pas une dame,

Oh non pas question d'être une dame

Plutôt mourir d'amour, plutôt louper le tram(18)

Plutôt vivre à rebours(19) ou griller dans les flammes

Plutôt devenir vautour ou bien toxicomane(20)

J’aime mieux faire notaire, j'aime mieux faire garçonne(26)

J’'aime mieux faire sorcière, pucelle ou cul de nonne

J'aime mieux faire idole adulée de(21) ses fans,

J'aime mieux faire marquise qui épouse son majordome

Oh, non, non, non, je ne suis pas une dame,

pas envie d'être une dame

Ce n'est pas dans mes billes(22), ce n'est pas dans mes gênes.(23)

C'est pas dans ma famille d'étranges énergumènes(24),

c'est pas du tout mon style, c'est pas du tout ma carne.(25)

Tant pis si l'on m'accuse, tant pis

Si l'on me damne, tant pis si l'on me juge

et que l'on me condamne,

Tant pis si l'on m'attrape et que l'on m'emprisonne

Au fin fond de ma poche ma liberté ronronne

Pas une dame


I am not a lady, I am not a lady.

I’m only a kid hatching vague schemes in her mind
My laces are undone, fingernails  black with earth
My kneecaps are scratched and I dream same as I breathe

Beer is my choice tipple and I puff cheap cig’rettes

And I like to burst with hope at first pale crack of dawn

Like the boat rocking when the swell grips the heart
Like when it pitches, when it comes to the crunch, catches fire.
I am not a lady, I don’t not look a lady.
I’m more like a dog, a teardrop, a poem.
I am the eye of the neighbour, rag of the barman
The widow and orphan, sultan of the harem.
Im the very early morning, the very last drop of gin
And I’m the murderer who sleeps despite his crime.
I am the old  naval officer gentleman
And I’m the good-for-nothing everybody disowns.
And when I’m a hundred, and when I’m am a hundred
I’ll live without set plan, I’ll live without set plan,
In spite of death lurking, in spite of death lurking,
Ill dance until the dawn, I’ll dance until the dawn
And when I’m a hundred, and when I’m  a hundred
I shall live off my charm, I shall live off my charm.
In my haunted castle, in my haunted castle
They will come to me for advice.
I am not a lady, oh no, don’t call me Madam.
Call me then my sweet, my pusscat, or my siren

Call me my wild lass or Highness just like a queen.
Call me then my red-head, my blonde or my’ebony
Im your best-mate Gerard, I’m your cousin Irene
Im the quay at evening which keeps watch on the Seine
Im the fruit of pure chance, of uncertain existence
I am the old tramp who kips down at the Mad'leine.
And when I’m a hundred, and when I’m  a hundred,
No way will I use my stick, no way will I use my stick,

In spite of death lurking, in spite of  death lurking,
I shall dance until the dawn, I shall dance until the dawn
And when I’m a hundred, and when I’m a hundred.
I shall live off my charm, I shall live off my charm
In my haunted castle, in my haunted castle
They will come to me for advice
I am not a lady,
Oh no question of being a lady
Rather to die of love, rather to miss the bus
Rather live the wrong way or be grilled in the flames
Rather become a vulture or else a drug addict
I’d rather be’a lawyer, rather be a drop-out


I’d rather turn witch, virgin or backside of nun.
Would rather be'n idol adulated by fans
Rather be'n marchioness who marries her butler

Oh, no, no, no, I am not a lady,
no wish to be a lady
It’s not in my marbles, it is not in my genes.
Its not in my family of strange social misfits

It’s not at all my style, it’s not at all my stuff.
Too bad if I’m accused, too bad
If I am damned, too bad if I am judged
and if I get  condemned,
Too bad if they catch me and they throw me in jail,
Deep down in my pocket, my freedom's left running.
Not a lady.


TRANSLATION NOTES for Pas une dame


cuve(1)- cuver has 2 meanings «  ( 1) To sleep off or work off  Cuver son vin/ cuver sa colère. (2) Cuver when talking of grapes or wine means to ferment or brew.

son vague à l'âme(2). Le vague is vagueness, if you said of some-one « Il avait les yeux perdus dans le vague” it would mean he had a faraway look in his eyes.  “Le vague à l’âme” is a set expression meaning a vague melancholy.

Je carbure à la bière(3)  Carburer has a technical meaning of to perform carburation, but in popular language it is used to talk about how things are going or working eg “Alors,ça carbure?” Well how’s it going? Used with a drink it tells your favourite and so “Je carbure à la bière”+ Beer is my tipple.

je grille mes gitanes(4) - gitanes are popular cigarettes

la houle(5) = the swell of the sea


ça tangue(6) tanguer of a boat is to pitch and toss/ of a plane is to experience turbulence


ça croque(7) – croquer is to crunch.  In many expressions it has the sense of consuming greedily and voraciously and not only food – gobbling up.  It is my most unfavourite word when I am translating as it has so many colloquial variants.


ça crame(8).  Cramer is to go up in flames


sans programme(9) Le programme is programme, agenda, syllabus, plan in the sense of “Il y a un changement de programme” – There’s a change of plan.  


la mort qui rôde(11) Rôder is to roam, wander, loiter, lurk, to be on the prowl


Je vivrai de mon charme(12), vivre de is to live off e.g. Il vit d’expédients = he lives off his wits.


ma sirène(13). = my siren but I wonder if it sounds the same in English and if there another English word for a seductive woman, seductress, temptress, enchantress, or a French term Femme fatale

ma farouche(14) means shy, timid, unsociable, or fierce and hostile or inflexible, stubborn , opinionated


Je suis ton pote(15) – le pote means mate, chum, pal, buddy


le vieux clochard qui crèche(160 crécher means to kip down, hang out e.g. Je ne sais pas où crécher cette nuit I don’t know where ia going to kip down tonight


Je ferai fi de ma canne(17), « faire fi de » means to snap your fingers at, to disregard, to treat with contempt, disdain.


louper le tram(18) louper = to miss (train etc) or to mess up (exam etc), to fluff/to bungle (One’s entrance etc)

vivre à rebours(19) - `a rebours means the wrong way round, e.g.Prendre une rue en sens unique à rebours to go the wrong way up a one-way street, or to runn counter to e.g aller à rebours de la tendance générale = to go against the general trend.


toxicomane(20) a masculine or feminine noun that means drug addict.


adulée de(21) aduler is to adulate,  flatter, fawn over.


mes billes(22), marbles, small-sized balls (e.g. crayon à bille= ball point pen) or blocks of wood (billes de bois) or in slang mug or face (e.g. bile de clown means funny face)


mes gênes.(23) le gêne is the gene


énergumènes(24) un or une énergumène is an unruly character.


ma carne.(25) is a pejorative word meaning tough meat, an old horse.  It is also a term of abuse for a person e.g. swine for a man- bitch for a woman


garçonne(26) A girl leading the independent life of a boy (Larousse)






At the time when I was translating “Pas Une Dame” for my blog, a story appeared in my newspaper, The Times of London, which was very relevant to my study of Carla Bruni and to this song in particular.  The date was May 23rd 2013.


The Cannes Film Festival was then taking place and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, the elder half sister of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, was the only female director to find a place in the main competition.  Her new film which she was presenting there was called “A Castle in Italy” which gave a deeply personal account of Ms Bruni Tedeschi’s relationship with her mother and explores events and problems in her family’s past, including the real-life events surrounding the death of her brother from Aids complications in 2006.

(Picture below Valerie Tedeschi)


The production notes to the film reveal that the producers considered bringing into the film an actress playing her younger sister Carla. This idea was abandoned, however and we can imagine the complications of depicting a sister who was France’s First Lady at the time of this shooting of the film.

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, an accomplished film actress, is also the star of the film,  which she includes the story of her on-off relationship with her partner Louis Garrel, who actually joins her to play her boy-friend in the film.   

This detail suggests a very subjective film, presented with the total frankness and sincerity, which is a characteristic of her sister. The critic of “The Times”, Wendy Ide, had given this film in her earlier review, saying that the film had “endearing and charming moments”.

However, I lost all sympathy with Ms Ide after an incident that occurred later.  She along with other reporters had been invited by Ms Bruni Tedeschi’s PR agent to an interview with her on the understanding that there no questions could be asked about the director’s personal life or about her being the only female director in the competition.

About 12 minutes into a 25-minute interview became impatient because she felt that Valerie Bruni Tedeschi’ had only really been giving stock or vague answers to questions and ignoring the terms on which she had been invited, she asked bluntly, whether she was still in a relationship with   Louis Garrel.   At this she stormed out of the interview.  Like her younger sister, she showed that she was no lady when faced with offensive rudeness and breach of faith.  On leaving she shouted that Wendy Ide was “stronza”, which is apparently Italian for shit.

The Times reporter was able to get her own back, with the headline she composed for her column condemning the Italian actress for being stroppy towards her.  I was pleased however that both reader comments felt disgust at this typical media misconduct.  One said:

“and what about Wendy Ides personal affairs? What is her relationship situation at the moment? Does she have a satisfactory sex life? These are fair questions according to her but actually do we care? No we don't and we don't care about Ms Bruni Tedeschi's either but we do care about her ability to direct a movie. “



 Carla's promise to misbehave, when she is a very old woman reminded  me of lines in the poem by Jenny Joseph called "Warning", which was voted Britain's favourite poem in 1996:

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.