In the English version of the song “Madeleine,” as performed in Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, there’s a couplet that I always thought went like this:

Madeleine’s my Tisiphe;

She’s America to me.

I’ve been listening to the song, now and then, since the mid-’80s. I had a vague recollection that Tisiphe was someone from Greek mythology, and left it at that.

But today I finally got curious and looked up Tisiphe, only to find that I had misremembered the name; I was probably thinking of Tisiphone, one of the Furies/Erinyes. There doesn’t appear to have been someone named Tisiphe.

So what could the song be talking about? I finally took the daring step of looking up the lyrics. And discovered that the line is really “Madeleine’s my ‘’Tis of Thee,’” as in “My country, ’tis of thee, […] of thee I sing.”

A perfectly reasonable line in the context of the song. But I’m a little embarrassed to have misheard it for 30+ years.

2 Responses to “Tisiphe?”

  1. Will Q

    I can’t let this Words & Stuff post on Tisiphe go by without connecting it to … this Words & Stuff reader comments write-up from February 1999 (“My favorite shaggy dog story is the one about the guy who has been hired to recover a Tizzbottle for an eccentric billionaire…”)! https://www.kith.org/words/1999/02/01/cccornflakes-comments/


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