Winnie the …

In almost every language A.A. Milne’s famous teddy-bear character is known as Winnie the Pooh, except that is, in French. The French do without the ‘pooh’ and know him simply as Winnie l’Ourson (Winnie the bear cub).

Now the word ‘pooh’ in English is dodgy enough, given that it is a widely used synonym for excrement; but down the decades we have all been adult enough to regard Milne’s work as genius rather than potty humour; because as we all know ‘pooh’ is the sound you make while attempting to blow a butterfly from your nose (according to Christopher Robin); so what is it that the French find so vulgar that requires retitling this children’s classic?

In short: head-lice.

In French ‘Winnie le Pooh’ would sound exactly like ‘Winnie le Pou’ – which translates as ‘Winnie the head-louse’. So the French, fearing that their children would grow up thinking that all their teddy bears were in fact head-lice, they took the logical step of changing the name of the book.

But clearly this creates a gap in the French book market for someone to write The tales of Winnie the head-louse and friends … any takers?

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