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Mademoiselle from Armentières

"Mademoiselle from Armentières" is an English song that was particularly popular during World War I. It is also known by its ersatz French hook line, Hinky Dinky Parlez-vous (variant: Parlay voo).


"Mademoiselle from Armentières" has roots in a tradition of older popular songs; its immediate predecessor seems to be the song "Skiboo" (or "Snapoo"), which was also popular among British soldiers of the Great War.[1] Earlier still, the tune of the song is thought to have been popular in the French Army in the 1830s; at this time the words told of the encounter of an inn-keeper's daughter, named Mademoiselle de Bar le Duc, with two German officers. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the tune was resurrected, and again in 1914 when the British and Allied soldiers got to know it.[citation needed]

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of December 4, 1939, reported that the historical inspiration for the song had been a young Frenchwoman named Marie Lecoq (later Marie Marceau), who worked as a waitress at the Café de la Paix in Armentières at the time of the war. Despite the obscenity of many popular versions of the song, it was reportedly quite clean in its original form.[2]

The song's first known recording was made in 1915 by music hall baritone Jack Charman.[3]


"Mademoiselle from Armentières" was considered a risqué song and not for 'polite company', and when sung on the radio and TV, as in The Waltons, typically only the first verse was sung. The lyrics on which this opinion is based are recorded in the Gordon "Inferno" Collection.

It is also the third part (the first two being "Has Anyone Seen the Colonel?" and "It's a Long Way to Tipperary") of the regimental march of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

Mademoiselle from Armentières was also the name of a 1926 British film directed by Maurice Elvey and starring Estelle Brody.

During World War II the comic duo Flanagan and Allen had a hit with "Mademoiselle from Armentières" [a.k.a. "If a grey-haired lady says, 'How's yer father?'"] (1940), with other music and lyrics written by Ted Waite, referring to the original song.

When Lindisfarne played their song "We Can Swing Together" on stage in the early 1970s, it developed into a lengthy harmonica medley which included a verse and chorus from this as well as several other songs, some also traditional.

"Three German Officers Crossed the Rhine" is a song with much more ribald set of lyrics, popular on rugby tours but sung to the same tune or to that of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home". It was originally sung in the allied trenches during the First World War.[4]

A reworked version known as the “fart song” or as “an old lady of 92” was popular in schools particularly in the UK with lyrics celebrating a flatulent journey including Bristol and Rome.[5][citation needed]

A reworked version of the melody was used in the Israeli songwriter Haim Hefer's song "בחולות" ("Bacholot" or "Bakholot", "In the Sands"), best known for its performance by the singer Yossi Banai. The song consist of six stanzas telling of a tendency among the narrator's family males to take out the beloveds into (and conceive their children in) the titular sands.[6][7]


There are several claims to having written the lyrics for this song:

  • Edward Rowland and a Canadian composer, Gitz Rice
  • Harry Carlton and Joe Tunbridge
  • British songwriter Harry Wincott
  • Alfred Charles Montin supposedly wrote "Mademoiselle from Armentières" while stationed in France and composed the music for "The Caissons Go Rolling Along" at Fort Sheridan, Ill., shortly before his unit was transferred to Fort Sill. The lyrics for the artillery march were written by Brig. Gen. Edmund L. Gruber, when he was a second lieutenant. Montin was born and raised in Nice, France. He migrated to the United States and started a tour of duty as an army band director in the days when the band was an important regimental organization. Also included in his music career was a tour with the famed John Philip Sousa Band.”,[8][9]

Television referencesEdit

  • On I Love Lucy, within whose context Fred Mertz (William Frawley) was a veteran of the First World War, the song is referenced several times including the episodes entitled Equal Rights and The Passports.
  • Lucy Carmichael (Lucille Ball) references the song in "Lucy and the French Movie Star," the third episode of the sixth season of The Lucy Show.
  • In season 3 episode 3 of Malcolm in the Middle, Roy the truck driver makes Francis sing this song while wearing a red clown wig.
  • In episode 113 of The Golden Girls, titled "Ebb Tide," Sophia sings a variation of the song with a group of guests, to whom she is renting rooms while Blanche and Dorothy are out of town.
    • "The first marine, he found the bean, parlez-vous.
      The second marine, he cooked the bean, parlez-vous.
      The third marine, he ate the bean and blew apart the submarine.
      Inky dinky parlez-vous."
  • The song is sung at the very end of the serial Parade's End.
  • In episode 612 of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the song is started by the "United Servo Academy Men's Chorus," only for Mike Nelson to try and stop them from singing the song just as the show goes to commercial break.
  • The song was the tune of Clarabell's theme song from Howdy Doody.
  • A variation of the song's tune was the theme song for the 1972 cartoon series Around the World in 80 Days.
  • On season 1, episode 11 of Cheers, a garbled first verse was attempted by the gang of Cheers to lighten the spirits of a World War I veteran who had realized that he was the only member of his unit to appear at their scheduled reunion.
  • In Season 8 Episode 12 of M*A*S*H*, a suggestion is made to find a song to describe the Korean War, to mirror the songs from World War II and World War I. B.J. Hunnicutt comically suggests a variant of this song, changing the lyrics to "There's mademoiselles in Panmunjom, Uijeongbu."
  • Fred Sanford sings the song in the season 2 Sanford and Son episode "Whiplash."
  • The song was referenced in "Murder in Montparnasse," an episode of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, which begins with a flashback of Bert and his cronies singing an abridged version with the lyrics "Madamoiselle from Montparnasse, parlez-vous."
  • A variant is sung at the end during the end credits of the second episode of the Australian ANZACS, miniseries using names of Australian regions.
  • An elderly woman sings the song on season 8, episode 17 of Quincy.
  • In the Ed, Edd n Eddy season 4 episode "Hand Me Down Ed", Ed references the song near the end.

Use in filmsEdit

The song is used for the closing credits of the 2018 World War I documentary film They Shall Not Grow Old by Peter Jackson.[10] To achieve the proper British accents, Jackson used members of the staff at the British High Commission in New Zealand to sing the song. The song briefly appears in the film “Beneath Hill 60” as a background ambiance to the scene involving the command and the tunnelers discussing plans. The song was featured in 1937 film "Good Morning, Boys".


  1. ^ Laffin, John (2016-07-11). Tommy Atkins: The Story of the English Soldier. ISBN 9780752466941.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "First World - Vintage Audio - Mademoiselle from Armentieres". Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  4. ^ "The First World War Poetry Digital Archive – Three German Officers crossed the Rhine".
  5. ^ "The Fart Song".
  6. ^ Bacholot - בחולות Yossi Banai - יוסי בנאי
  7. ^ "Haim Hefer". Discogs. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  8. ^ "In Years Past - - News, Sports, Jobs, Community Information - Jamestown - Post-Journal".
  9. ^ "Eureka Humboldt Standard from Eureka, California · Page 7".
  10. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (16 October 2018). "They Shall Not Grow Old review – Peter Jackson's electrifying journey into the first world war trenches". the Guardian. Retrieved 16 October 2018.

External linksEdit