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Rihanna defends la grammaire française used in new tattoo


Rihanna-tattoo-detail Rihanna expected people would call her out on the content of her new rebelle fleur neck tattoo, OK Magazine says. Indeed, Gawker did just that, pointing out that in French, the adjective typically follows the noun.

In a text message to her tattoo artist that was leaked to OK, the singer allegedly wrote, "rebelle fleur translates to rebel flower, NOT rebelious flower, its 2 nouns so in that case fleur does not HAVE to be first! Fyi, cuz they will ask." (Rihanna, incidentally, is from Barbados, where the official language is English, with a local variation known as Bajan.)

We have to say, despite RiRi's explanation, and unfortunately having been trained in Spanish instead of French, we're still confused -- though an in-house Ministry source explains that rebelle can ...

... be either noun or adjective, plus technicalities aside, it's a poetic expression, so the rules of grammar don't always apply.

But now Billy Idol's tune "Rebel Yell" -- in which the sometimes-noun "rebel" is definitely used as a not-very-poetic adjective, albeit in English, not French -- is stuck in our mind on "play" and won't go away. So thanks for that, tattoo watchers. Plus, if it were in fact Rihanna's intention to proclaim that she's both a rebel and a flower, perhaps a comma would have been in order? Maybe two tattoos? Or the words could have been stacked?

We like to think we would've gone big and invoked the edgy slash: rebelle / fleur.

Too bad we're not rebels. Or, you know, flowers.

French speakers, would you please weigh in, in comments?

-- Christie D'Zurilla

Top photo: Rihanna performs at Madison Square Garden in New York Thursday. Credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Bottom photo: A detail of her new "rebelle fleur" tattoo. Credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Related dispatches from the Ministry of Gossip:

Eminem's new video features Rihanna, Megan Fox and domestic violence -- what's not to love? [polls]

A single Rihanna will go to the Grammys alone (Do 13 tattoos count as a date?)

PREACH IT! Rihanna's haircut of the undead

L.A. Dodgers' Matt Kemp talks Rihanna, baseball and shoes

Comments () | Archives (13)

soooo ghetto

"rebelle fleur" is a grammatical error in french or just makes no sense. Rebel flower translates to "fleur rebelle".
She should definitely add a comma or a dash there. "rebelle-fleur"

you wasted space on this?

R-e-b-e-l-l-e F-l-e-u-r
R-i-h-a-n-n-a F-e-n-t-y

8 - 5 letters + Rebelle / Rihanna

not a coincidence...

Rihanna is as graceful as she is humble. We know what she is saying and we were all commended her when we saw photos of it the other day, for her insight. It cements her clever artistry. Many Rebels are now flowering...in case U haven't noticed...Je parle français parfois. Bravo Rihanna

Most importantly, there is a Flower that has Rebelled for Ages...and Rihanna sings for That, Which Is.

Ce n'est qu'un problem de phonetic; fleur rebelle aurait ete plus sexy. No big deal! It's just a phonetic problem, rebellious flower would have sounded sexier. It would have been a complete mess if you had been trying to have for a new boyfriend instead of "petit ami" you had ami petit.

Well, I'm more irked by the placement on the neck. It should go up a little with the natural line of her neck, oui? That said, I find most neck tattoos icky.

(re)belle fleur...

If this helps some teens to learn a foreign language, why not.

I'm french, rebelle fleur sound weird but if it's two nouns, why not ? and it's for poetic purpose, so I think it's ok.

This is correct! In French, "fleur" can be an adjective, just as peach, or mango, or rose can be in English. As an adjective "fleur" could mean tender, or scented, or delicate, etc., depending on one's poetic mood. Here, the artist may be saying to us "I am a rebel as tender as a flower, a rebel with the tenderness of a flower." In French, it perfectly makes sense. Bravo R, for the sublety!
French Professor

Absolument grammatical! Vous souvenez-vous des yeux revolver?


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