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“Jaune” is one of the oldest French memes. It is a song and a set of sentences mocking typical catchphrases used by Asian computer retailers from the Parisian street “rue Montgallet”.
Those catchphrases were turned into a song in 2001 by a person nicknamed “Lorenzo” (1).
About “rue Montgallet” : It is common for customers who live around Paris and have limited income (such as students), who want to buy computers and accessories, to go to the tiny Parisian street “rue Montgallet”. That street progressively concentrated a large number of discount IT retailers since the late 90’s (who even later aggregated into an online sales portal). Most of them are Asian. The street, despite its smallness, displays shop windows full of bright ads and large discount signs. The tiny boutiques have unlikely fancy names like “X computer” or “Y multimedia”. Discount shops get their low prices from the absence of warranty or customer service, and from the fact that the customers should often assemble their computer themselves. Because of this, rue Montgallet has long been a semi-underground place for computer geeks. (2)
About the catchphrases: They are all pronounced with a faked, undetermined Asian accent, in a intentionally racist way. The name of the song is “Jaune” (“Yellow”). The lyrics of the song include :
- “on ne rembourse pas” (no refund) – this is mocking the absence of warranty on most discount products.
- “ni repris, ni échangé, ni remboursé” (no returns, no exchanges, no refunds)
- “on n’accepte pas les chèques” (we don’t accept cheques/checks) – this is mocking the fact that retailers often only accepted cash.
- “999 francs” (the franc was the national French currency before the euro) – this is mocking both the fact that prices were rounded to “999” instead of “1000” to make them sound cheaper (which is a common sales practice) and the fact that the products were sometimes not as “discount” as advertised, especially when the customer had obviously no knowledge in IT. In the song, The seller keeps announcing ridiculously high prices (for the time), no matter what item the customer is inquiring about, the answer is always “999 francs”.
Each catchphrase became popular separately, because they can be used humorously in many contexts (“- Hey man, can you hand me a beer? -Sure, 999 francs”)
- “HOW MUCH?” – the typical horrified answer of the customer hearing about an unreasonable price.
About the song: The song was obviously meant to be a joke, with a poor electro-beat and rhythm. Each sentence is looped several times in a poor attempt at “mixing”. However, this turns out to produce a (potentially) catchy song, due to the flatness of the catchphrases and their dull pronunciation (in the “Asian” accent).
About the medium: This song started circulating at a key period when home broad-band Internet connections started soaring in France. Combined with CD burners, this enabled the exchange of multimedia files such as MP3s. This caused many home-made productions to be released, not all of very good quality (e.g. the amateur MP3 “le titane de carbone”). The fact that the intended audience is computer geeks, and the fact that universities had extremely performant Internet connections, made this song particularly popular amongst engineering students.
The mini-sketch: At some point in the song, the singer plays a mini-sketch consisting in a fictitious dialog between a naive customer and an Asian retailer from rue Montgallet.
Here is the transcript:
- Customer: “How much for a 20MB hard drive?”
- Seller: “999 francs”
- Customer: “HOW MUCH?”
- C: "Hello, I’d like to buy a computer.
- S: “What’s the intended use?”
- C: “Only for typing, printing and browsing the Internet”
- S: “I have what you need: A Pentium IV 2GHz with 768MB of RAM, 100GB hard drive, CD burner SCSI DMA 10112 with video adapter GeForce 3” [Note: At this time this was a very powerful configuration, totally unadapted to the use stated by the customer]
[the seller starts talking much faster, with a stronger accent, and is hardly understandable]
- S: “AGP 4x 128MB, 21 inches screen, CD burner”
[the seller doesn’t even make sense anymore, making up fake technical terms]
- S: “2x 4x 6,8 , 12, 16, 24, 24, 4016 SCSI 2 [jabber] ASUS [jabber] sound card Soundblaster Live Audigy 0×201”
[now the seller talks about items unrelated to the IT field]
- S: “A mountain bike 72x, with ABS, …and a modem”
- C: “…And what about printing?”
- S: “That? Oh, that’s useless.”
- C: “Ah… And,,, How much?”
- S: “23 999 francs”
- C: “HOW MUCH???”
- C: “And, about the warranty…”
- S: “There is no warranty, Sir.”
- C: “I’d like to know… Between the GeForce 2 and the GeForce 3… Is quality really.. better?”
- S: “Ah yes yes yes, the GeForce 3 much much much better. Much prettier. Beautiful graphics.”
- C: “But what about my text? The one I’m going to type.”
- S: “Ah, it will be displayed twice faster! It’s fabulous. Really good quality.”
- C: “And why is GeForce 2 better than GeForce 3?”
- S: “Ah, Sir, it’s better because… because… Hey, Chang! [the accent gets thicker] Why is GeForce 3 better?”
- Chang (seller #2) : “Why is GeForce 3? Because it’s more.. more… [accent becomes impossible to understand] Hey, Chung! [jabber] GeForce3?”
- Chung (seller #3): “Much better”
- Chang: “But Why?”
- Chung: “the price! It’s much more expensive! It’s much better!”
- C: “How much for 128MB RAM?”
- S: “999 francs. D’you understand? No refunds.”
- S: “How do you pay?”
- C: “Cheque”
- S: “Nooooooooooooo!”
Variations: the Meme was an MP3 file, but with the appearance of Youtube, some people created videos based on it :
- #1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJqlbDbHJxs
- #2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cu0K2bXf0vg
- #3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5XkmACDxfw
Where is it going?: It’s become a classic. It’s not very well known since it appeared before the “meme generation”. the sentences pop from time to time on French forums.
(1) Source: See the comment by Youtube user “tontonsorcerer” in this remix video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJqlbDbHJxs
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