Are Parisians Happy All the Time?

The Rules of English Are Different in French

December 13, 2017By David JaggardC'est Ironique!
Paris cafe "happy hours" signs.
Obviously, somebody’s had one too many. Letters, not drinks. Well, maybe both.

Here’s a simple three-step experiment that anyone can do in the comfort of their own home:

Step 1: Go to Paris.

Step 2: Throw a rock.

Step 3: See what you hit.

And here’s the answer: you will hit a café with a sign reading “Happy Hours.”

This is because Paris has lots of cafés and their owners have caught on to the marketing ploy of offering two-for-one drinks in the early evening, but have not caught on to the proper usage of the term “happy hour.”

The reasoning here, being more complex than my rock experiment, involves a four-step process:

1: If your special prices are in force from, say, 5:30pm to 8pm, that’s more than one hour.

2: In French, as in English, the letter “s” is used to denote the plural.

3: So the “happy hour” sign needs an “s.” Somewhere.

4: And since the pluralizing “s” is silent in French, that somewhere can be anywhere (apparently – see below).

Having noticed this phenomenon all over town, I decided to do a survey. In compliance with the time-honored principles of journalistic research, I wandered around at random in the streets nearest my building, checking the signs of the bars and cafés. I found only one that had no happy hour offering, seven with “happy hours” signs and one, in violation of the time-honored principles of Parisian sign-making, announcing “happy hour” correctly rendered in the singular.

And then I found this place on Rue du Conservatoire:

Paris cafe "happy hours" signs.

You can’t imagine how happy this made me.


An album of David Jaggard’s comic compositions is now available for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music, for purchase (whole or track by track) on iTunes and Amazon, and on every other music downloading service in the known universe, under the title “Totally Unrelated.”

Note to readers: David Jaggard’s e-book Quorum of One: Satire 1998-2011 is available from Amazon as well as iTunes, iBookstore, Nook, Reader Store, Kobo, Copia and many other distributors.

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  • Happy hours are for tourists and I try to avoid them. I can manage to find a drink any time, even at 6am, although I might prefer a dose of coffee at that time.

  • I admit that it borders on psychosis, but seeing the plural “s” has always set me on edge, in this case the “edge” comprising everything from undistilled apoplexy to suicidal despair. The very few occasions when I’ve spotted the correct “Happy Hour” sign have actually made my entire week.

  • Monsieur Jaggard, you always make my day when I read your “C’est Ironique”! Today, as always, I read it with a smile, and the last sign made me laugh out loud. However, my hilarity is tempered a bit when I think about how many times I must misuse French words and expressions. And my French friends are so patient and kind!

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