Writing on the Wall

December 4, 2006 at 11:55 am | Posted in art, vie quotidienne | 8 Comments

Even though I know French, live in an apartment (as opposed to a hotel), and have spent large chunks of my life here, there are certain things about France that will always make me feel like an outsider.

Case in point: graffiti.

In America, I usually have a pretty good idea what’s going on with the graffiti. Aside from the basic “Kilroy was here” type tags, I recognize the pink triangle with “Silence = Death” written underneath: gay liberation and support for AIDS research. And when I see that Andre the Giant has a posse, I know who he is, and in fact I know that this particular meme was started by an art student in Providence, as a statement against consumer propaganda.

But in France, I’m much less aware of the issues and in-jokes. So when hand-written signs like this one pop up in my neighborhood, I suddenly feel like I’m on Mars.

Attentats Potagers

Onions make strength, long live the vegetable attacks, squat your world?

Uh… I dont get it. Can anyone tell me what the hell this is about? Knowing the French as I do, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that this is probably a series of puns on some ideological slogan. But even though I know all the words, I have completely missed the message here.

I also noticed this one recently:

Recherche du Desastre

— And where does your father work?

I have to admit, when I first looked at this flier, I translated the bottom as “let’s stop researching disaster.” And I thought, why? Don’t we need people to research disasters so we can prevent them in the future? But then I thought about it some more, and decided my current translation made more sense.

Still, I have no idea what it’s a reference to, and the girl with the green tongue is giving me precious few clues. It would probably help if I knew what the CEA was. Can anyone help?



  1. LOL squat your world
    the green tongue is cool

  2. I heart Google. CEA is le Commissariat à L’Énergie Atomique. Your first instinct, “research,” was correct. 🙂

  3. Ah! Thank you, Alison. I didn’t even try to google CEA, since I figured a million things must go by that acronym.

    I think research was correct in a way, but I suspect the author intended the double entendre (search for disaster/potentially disastrous research)… This being the land of double entendres, and all.

  4. I used Google France. Figured that would narrow things down a bit. 😉

    And you’re probably right about the double entendre. I’m still trying to figure out the meaning and sarcasm behind the first photo you posted.

  5. Oh, gosh. That’s twice I’ve used smileys! Ack!

  6. Héhé.
    “L’oignon fait la force” is et word game with “L’union fait la force” : “United we stand”, and “attentats potagers” refers to that movement that leeds people to turn city lawns into kitchen gardens, a way to say that every cultivable ground should be free.

    Also “CEA” is the french Atomic Energy Office. Click here


  7. Hey, thanks for the translation! I knew I could count on a real French person for help.

  8. […] As ever, I am fascinated and mystified by French vandalism; it always seems to operate on a much higher level than its American counterpart. The poster on the right here caught my eye while riding the metro — basically, it’s an ad promoting some kind of exhibition which is itself promoting the Rugby World Cup, held in France this year. […]

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