Rire la Rémumligne!

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Phonetics to the rescue (for francophones only, alas):


I haven't seen an English version, or a transcription/translation of the French one, but the alternative textual versions that are circulating may be helpful:

Rire la Rrance ! from rance

Update — In the comments, Vince points us to Sima Asadi et al., "Effect of voicing and articulation manner on aerosol particle emission during human speech." PloS ONE 2020:

Previously, we demonstrated a strong correlation between the amplitude of human speech and the emission rate of micron-scale expiratory aerosol particles, which are believed to play a role in respiratory disease transmission. To further those findings, here we systematically investigate the effect of different ‘phones’ (the basic sound units of speech) on the emission of particles from the human respiratory tract during speech. We measured the respiratory particle emission rates of 56 healthy human volunteers voicing specific phones, both in isolation and in the context of a standard spoken text. We found that certain phones are associated with significantly higher particle production; for example, the vowel /i/ (“need,” “sea”) produces more particles than /ɑ/ (“saw,” “hot”) or /u/ (“blue,” “mood”), while disyllabic words including voiced plosive consonants (e.g., /d/, /b/, /g/) yield more particles than words with voiceless fricatives (e.g., /s/, /h/, /f/). These trends for discrete phones and words were corroborated by the time-resolved particle emission rates as volunteers read aloud from a standard text passage that incorporates a broad range of the phones present in spoken English. Our measurements showed that particle emission rates were positively correlated with the vowel content of a phrase; conversely, particle emission decreased during phrases with a high fraction of voiceless fricatives. Our particle emission data is broadly consistent with prior measurements of the egressive airflow rate associated with the vocalization of various phones that differ in voicing and articulation. These results suggest that airborne transmission of respiratory pathogens via speech aerosol particles could be modulated by specific phonetic characteristics of the language spoken by a given human population, along with other, more frequently considered epidemiological variables.

Although the publication date  was 1/27/2020, when everyone but the White House knew that a respiratory-virus pandemic was coming, the article's date of submission was July 17, 2019, three or four months before the first cases in China.



  1. Chris Button said,

    May 1, 2020 @ 7:01 am

    Ha ha. And French plosives like /p/ aren't even aspirated like in English! If the vowels are the innocent ones then its those aspirated ones that are the worst offenders!

  2. Vince said,

    May 1, 2020 @ 7:49 am

    An English version can be found on PLOS ONE:


  3. Gregory Kusnick said,

    May 1, 2020 @ 10:00 am

    "Our measurements showed that particle emission rates were positively correlated with the vowel content of a phrase"

    So "people who eat peppermint and puff it in your face" are off the hook?

  4. Dimskip said,

    May 1, 2020 @ 10:29 am

    It occurs to me that ventriloquism might be a good skill to develop at this time since I assume that, as a general rule, the less one opens one's mouth, the less risk there probably is of emitting airborne particles. I wonder if Jeff Dunham uses his skills more now while he's just out shopping at Walmart? As an added fun bonus he could make people think the toilet paper is talking to them.

  5. Julian said,

    May 1, 2020 @ 10:47 pm

    My French is not fabulous but, inneresningly, toward the end I found the audio easier to understand than the writing, presumably because of clues from intonation.

    The author clearly has some phonetic smarts, as the correspondences make sense, except that week 3 K & hard G should really be replaced by the ‘ing’ sound not by the French palatalised ‘n’.

    Quick and dirty English version (in week 4, I’ve added TH and omitted S and Z, where the joke doesn’t really work in non-rhotic English):

    [introductory material about how transmission of the virus through droplets can be reduced by eliminating plosive and fricative consonants according to the following plan]

    Week 1: The labial plosives P and B are replaced by the nasal M. More than seventy mer cent of airmorne dromlets are eliminated, and furthermore, we find that diction mecomes much more fleximle.

    Week 2: it’s the turn of the dental mlosives D and T, which are remlaced my the nasal N. This is a min more nifficuln an nakes a linnle nime no mecome familiar with, mun one week shoun me enough.

    Week 3: The lasn mlosives nisammear: the velar K ann harn G (as in ‘gen’). They are remlacen my the nasal ‘ng’. Thus we omnain a much safer ningtion, which shoun allow the social nisnance noo me renucen no nineny-noo cennimenres.

    Week 4: Noo ngonnglune, the mosn nrasning measure ngonsisns of eliminaning the fringanives F, V, an TH an the affringanes J an CH, which will me remlacen my the laneral R. Ran’s anminnenly a min niresome, mun in ran way we will omnain a ningtion of unmarallen rluininy, whir will me re mrine or re rranngorone ngounries.

    Long lire re remumling! Long lire Rrance!

  6. ASG said,

    May 2, 2020 @ 7:19 pm

    This (in Julian's translation) is MUCH more fun to read aloud than I anticipated. I highly recommend it. And you really do feel the swallowing-up of air in the "improved" choked-up text.

  7. AJ said,

    May 5, 2020 @ 8:17 am

    Surely Rire la Rranre?

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