Víctor Benítez Boned

French language in tango: griseta

lthough the word griseta has a place in the Spanish dictionary when it is defined as a certain gray silk cloth, its meaning in tango pieces undoubtedly alludes to the grisettes, name given to working women in France because of the gray clothes they used to wear.

That is the typical image of the French girl in tango, either those that tango men found in the streets of France or the ones that came to Buenos Aires won over, «between tango and mate», by some Argentinian, like the Mademoiselle Ivonne sung by Cadícamo in 1933 and who ended up being “Madame Ivonne”.

But the Griseta par excellence is the one appearing in the tango with the same name written by José González Castillo and Enrique Delfino in 1924 and recorded by Carlos Gardel that same year. Furthermore, a tango we shall find mentioned many times in this work because of its numerous references to French culture.

The great poet Homero Manzi, who did not make much use of French terms in his tangos, gives us two touching references to Griseta. Not about the unknown young female workers but about the archetypal, the one of the tango that founded the myth. Because of that he names them in capital letters, either in “Ronda de ases”, with music by Osvaldo Fresedo, or in “Tal vez será su voz”, of 1943 with Lucio Demare. In both cases he places them in the level of the also mythological: Malena, the one who «sings tango like nobody else» and María Ester, that is to say, “Milonguita (Esthercita)”, «the prettiest girl on Chiclana».