Okay, this is stupid.
I have a Québécois friend who has been good enough to share with me the existence of the kids’ show Passe Partout. (Don’t ask why, please.)
When I ask her what “Passe Partout” means, she says it doesn’t mean anything and is untranslatable. Previous experience has taught me, however, that “untranslatable” has a much narrower meaning for word nerds, and most people aren’t word nerds, no matter what their natal tongue is.
I know this means something – it’s not just a sound without referent. If I look at it with a Joycean polyglot/nonglot eye, it suggests "Moves everywhere, " but of course I’m illiterate in French so I have no idea if there’s any actual connection there.
What’s driving me nuts is that I’ve been listening to a lot of Gogol Bordello lately, and one of my favourite songs is “Start Wearing Purple,” which contains the lines:
…then it switches to Russian… or Czech… or nonsense, I can’t tell.
So my question has a couple of subdivisions: What (if anything) does “Passe-Partout” mean, and am I hearing Gogol Bordello correctly or is this going to turn out to be an embarrassing mondegreen?