Oh là là : Learning French with Léon Marchand


There wasn’t a family in Southern California who didn’t know the Lepesant sisters were swimming when they heard that cry from the stands. So let me help you cheer on Arizona State sophomore Léon Marchand, like a native French speaker, as he attempts to rewrite the NCAA record books (again) this weekend.

You might want to start by dusting off your oh là là because you will probably need it a lot this weekend. You might even find yourself saying oh là là là là and shaking your head in disbelief. But there’s more.

Let’s start with the final of the 200 IM tonight, where you will find your favorite French swimmer in couloir cinq (lane 5) because he had the second temps des séries (qualifying time in heats) this morning, with 1:38.33, just .01 behind Cal’s Destin Lasco.

When he steps up to the plot (starting block), you can yell in unison, “Allez, Léon!” just before it gets quiet for the start.

Then, when he comes up for his first stroke just shy of the 15-meter mark, you can turn to your neighbor and remark, oh la belle coulée, which translates vaguely to “holy smokes, look at that underwater!”

Next, when you want to admire his butterfly, you can say joli papillon (if you’re really cool, you just say joli pap). On the backstroke, you’ll probably note his excellent virage (flip turn). Then, when he pulls a body length ahead of the field on the breaststroke, you can say with authority, c’est une sacrée brasse (“heck of a breaststroke”) and no one will argue with you. But when he begins his nage libre (freestyle), you may want to get to your feet and scream allez! allez! alleeeeeeeeeeeeeez! because that’s when he’ll need you most.

When watching ASU’s relays, you will be flabbergasted by his temps de passage (splits), such as last night’s 22.27 breaststroke (oops, brasse) and 1:28.42 on the end of le relais 4×200 nage libre (the 800 free relay) as the anchor relayeur (relay swimmer).

Remember, when in doubt, just shake your head and say oh là là (wow) and/or mon dieu (wow) and/or purée (wow) and sacré Léon (that Léon!) and not only will you help the Sun Devil Toulousain (from Toulouse) but you’ll also begin your fan training for Paris 2024.


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Pesci Detales
2 months ago

Important to note the appproriate pronunciation for plot / “starting block” is “Ploh”… saying it with a hard “T” is an extremely vulgar slang word in a few key parts of the french world. Careful! haha

2 months ago


2 months ago


2 months ago

Did the MadTV “Can I Have Your Number” sketch go viral anywhere else about 15 years ago?

To this day when anyone speaks French all I can think of is “Yvonne? That’s a French ass name Yvonne, my little croissant!”

Henceforth I’ll think of Leon as mon petit croissant

2 months ago

Oui oui baguette forks up

2 months ago

as a Frenchman and on the behalf of Bobo Gigi, this is so cursed

2 months ago

Switching languages for next semester might consider French for Paris 2024.

2 months ago

C’est magnifique

About Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant is the mother of four daughters, all of whom swam in college. With an undergraduate degree from Princeton (where she was an all-Ivy tennis player) and an MBA from INSEAD, she worked for many years in the financial industry, both in France and the U.S. Anne is currently …

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