Cocorico!

‘Cocorico’ is French for cock-a-doodle-doo and a symbol of national pride. I’ve posted before about the Coq Gaulois and why it’s our national mascot. Now, recent events have inspired me to provide an update on the Gallic rooster. Or at least one noisy bird called Maurice.

You may have heard of the feisty fellow. Maurice made headlines around the world this summer as he became the object of a dispute between neighbours on an island off the west coast of France, Île d’Oléron. Joined to the mainland by a bridge on the Atlantic, it’s an idyllic holiday spot.

The rooster “Maurice” stands at Saint-Pierre-d’Oleron in La Rochelle, western France, on June 5, 2019. / AFP / XAVIER LEOTY

Maurice was crowing too early in the day and with too much gusto as far as his city-slicker neighbours were concerned. Roosters can make a hell of a racket. And they don’t just crow when the sun comes up. They can be like watch dogs, setting off their vocal alarm at odd hours of the day or night. This upset the holiday people who had bought a second home in the country to enjoy some peace and quiet.

The problem is that the countryside is not by nature a quiet place. There are ducks and chickens and cows and church bells. The farmers are out from dawn to dusk and their machines also make noise. The court case between Maurice and the city people represented the great divide between urban and rural France. The city mice vs. the country mice.

Translation: ‘Up yours, assholes!’

When justice was decided and Maurice won the right to crow his little heart out, it was like a victory for all of the French cocks. And I’m not just talking about our feathered friends. ‘Cocorico’ is not only the onomatopeia for the rooster’s crow, it’s a word that describes the sound of French pride. One that finds its roots deep in the dusty soil of la campagne.

It sparked a whole series of memes like the one below, warning outsiders to beware of the country village with its noisy church bells and farm animals. Love it or leave it!

I had to look up the meanings of a couple of words from in a French online dictionary to fully appreciate the above meme, which led me to a list of slang words for the Savoie region. A ‘monchu’ is a city slicker or a novice to a sport like skiing. It derives from ‘Monsieur’ and is associated with that most detested of Frenchmen in provincial France, ie the Parisian. ‘Arvi’pa’ means: get out, go away, get lost, ciao!

Here is the story of Maurice from an American point of view:

I’m of two minds about this. Personally, I would not be able to live in harmony next to noisy church bells or an overly enthusiastic rooster. But I understand that they have been doing their thing for centuries, so it’s up to me to adapt.

What do you think about Maurice’s victory? Should tradition stand or French villages adapt to changing times?

10 comments

  1. coteetcampagne · September 26, 2019

    I live quite happily wirh church bells, but not all my visitors are enamoured

    • MELewis · September 26, 2019

      I think there are basically two types of people — those who can tune out and those who can’t. Fortunately you are in the right camp! 🙂

  2. midihideaways · September 26, 2019

    I love the fact that in our village I can hear the church bells – and if I’m lying awake at night I can count the strikes to figure out what time it is! I also love the ducks on our river and the roosters around the village – I don’t love the lorries that make a hell of a racket as they seem to race through the village! That victory is great, common sense has prevailed! In a case like this, it should be buyer beware, if you’re moving to someplace you should find out what it’s like before, and if you have a feeling that you’re not going to like the country noises then don’t move there – simple? I’ve heard of too many cases in the UK where the churchbells are no longer allowed to ring and people have had to abandon keeping chickens. Like you write, nature is not silent…. 🙂

  3. pedmar10 · September 26, 2019

    Exactly that is the way adapt or leave, we have a great way of life in my belle France! I lived not far from farms and the sights are marvelous !

  4. francetaste · September 26, 2019

    Our church bells ring only from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. No middle-of-the-night tolling. And I love hearing the roosters. Much louder than the roosters, though, are the owls and quite a few other birds that I am not familiar with. OTOH I don’t appreciate the incessant barking of dogs. They can go on, without taking a breath, for hours. Are the owners deaf? I’m not much for other people’s loud music, either. The earbud trend is a blessing.

  5. Mary Katherine · September 26, 2019

    People who object to the sounds and smells of agriculture should not buy a house in a subdivision next to a farm. Or complain about getting behind a tractor on the road. Where do they think food COMES from? And a house or apartment in the center of a village, city or town WILL be close to a church and the bells WILL ring. Go back to your glassed-in high-rise apartment in the city.

    • Joanne Sisco · October 1, 2019

      … where they can then complain about the noise of traffic and the sirens from ambulances and fire trucks.

  6. Joanne Sisco · October 1, 2019

    I’ve come to the conclusion that there will be those who will complain, regardless of the circumstance. Surely they didn’t buy property in the countryside before they actually spent time in the countryside to determine whether it suit their purposes?

  7. Jani Teeter · May 19

    I grew up in the (what used to be) productive and rich farmland about an hour and a half away from Toronto. When the 80s real estate boom came, city slickers realized they could build homes in “cheap” and beautiful small town countryside and drive a few hours each way to their slick downtown jobs. There were CONSTANT complaints and town petitions for things like farmers spreading manure (don’t build your monstrous 6000 Sq ft home next to a farmers field?) and tractors towing hay bales down rural dirt roads (literally can’t the cows be fed after the city bound driver rush?), livestock in the street for a few moments when farmers had to move them to graze across the street (the massive inconvenience of a 5 minute wait, did they forget about traffic in the big smoke?) etc. They quickly complained about spring pot holes on those old country roads too and insisted on having them paved. So now there are pavement potholes that are like craters and can’t just be grated after the spring melt. 30 years later the place is ruined with big box stores and rabbit cages (read row houses) left and right. So frankly I stand with Coq Maurice! Wish my folks wouldn’t have culled the roosters by turning them into pullets every spring! And those twits have the nerve to call it “progress”. Some of the finest farmland in the world covered in houses, big box stores, parking lots, noise and light pollution and not to mention the cars!

    • MELewis · June 1

      Hey Jani! Just saw this somewhat belatedly. Agree 100%. This is why the European mixed-use model of development makes sense. Quality of life is so much better in balance between residence, industry and farming, even with the minor inconvenience of tractors, roosters, sheep and cow bells. We’re living in Switzerland now, which has similar features. A million times better than the big-box hell of the Greater TO area! Thanks for commenting!

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