It’s around this time of year, every year since our arrival in France in fact, that Les Enfoirés make their appearance on our TV screens. Each year these fifty or so celebrities tour the nation with a show to raise money for the national soup-kitchen charity Restos du Cœur (Restaurants of the heart). All very admirable.
With my rudimentary understanding of the language I had assumed that the reason they were called les enfoirés was because it had something to do with fairs and festivities … because foire is the French word for fayre. I recently discovered however that this could not be farther from the truth.
An enfoiré is someone who is, for whatever reason, “soaked in excrement”.
Translating la bande d’enfoirés into an English equivalent is hard because we don’t have a parallel phrase. Initially I thought “bunch of shit-heads” was pretty close, but I realised that this has connotations of meanness because a shit-head can be a bit shitty, so it needs to be toned down. I surmised that “Bunch of poo-heads” seems to be the fairest translation.
This then begs the question why are this band of celebrities happy to tour around the country under such an offensive title? The answer lies in the back-story to their creation, and in the OTHER accepted meaning of enfoiré: imbecile. While this may not seem a great deal better it is at the very least less offensive.
The charity was set up by entertainer Coluche in 1985 who was known for his catchphrase “bande d’enfoirés” to describe just about any group of people whom he found annoying. Needless to say this took on an endearing quality after his death and so his bande d’enfoirés live on.
One supposes the double entendre is considered appropriate as the excrement implies some connection with the sewers / the gutter which is no doubt where many regulars at the Restos du Cœur are forced to live.
Of course, there is also the chance that Coluche was being ironic and did indeed consider a bunch of c-list celebs touring the country for free in the name of self-promotion une vraie bande d’enfoirés?