Paris Shop Signs: From the Ridiculous to the Sublimely Ridiculous, Part 10

Payback for the Norman Invasion

July 16, 2014By David JaggardC'est Ironique!
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“You can find anything in Paris.” “Oh yeah? Can you find a storefront escort service for toe fetishists?”

Despite the fact that it’s downright convenient for me personally, I think English is a terrible choice for an international language. The spelling is fraught with anomalies, the prepositions are treacherous, and the verbal phrases are murder. Do we really expect everybody in Tajikistan, just so they can surf the Internet or export a few bales of goat hair, to master all the nuances of “get around,” “get along,” “get into,” “get down,” “get it up,” “get it on,” “get it off,” “get over it,” and “like all get out”?

Of course, a lingua franca is not chosen by logic but by social evolution, so, thanks to the large population of the United States, its powerful economy and the popularity of its pop culture, we’re stuck with English as the world’s go-to language — instead of, say, Spanish, which has way more native speakers, no tongue-twisting consonant clusters (“twelfths,” “angsts,” “worldly,” “schmorldly”) and what-you-see-is-what-you-say spelling. But apparently that counts for nothing as long as English has The Simpsons, Adam Sandler and “Achy Breaky Heart.”

So, for better or worse (hint: worse), English continues to make inroads into other language groups. This phenomenon can easily be observed in Paris: walk down any commercial street here while keeping an eye on the signs, and you’re virtually guaranteed to step in dog crap. But that’s not the point: you’re also virtually guaranteed to see a large number of English or part-English business names.

As a Francophile, I find this lamentable, but as a humorist I love it — because it gives me the material for this recurring feature (see part nine, which contains a link to part eight, which contains a link to part seven, and so on back to part one, which contains a link to a video of your 10th-grade economics teacher doing a striptease on the beach in Cancun during Spring Break 1994).

In real life, part one contains a photo of “Scarfood,” a restaurant on Rue Pierre Fontaine named as a (cryptic, off-putting) tribute to Al Pacino in Brian De Palma’s 1983 film Scarface. But not all cryptic, off-putting English business names in France are conceived, or rather ill-conceived, out of admiration for American pop culture. Some are ill-conceived out of admiration for British pop culture:

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And others are ill-conceived out of admiration for both American and British pop culture:

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I’m guessing that this furrier on Rue Hauteville couldn’t decide between an homage to the Jimi Hendrix song “Foxy Lady” or the Rolling Stones song “Minky Man.” Whereas the owner of this boutique on Boulevard des Poissonnières is more of a girl group fan:

Paris Update Ironique 4-ShirElles

In recent years the French penchant for cheap, unchallenging American consumables has expanded from movies and music to food items like hamburgers, hot dogs, cupcakes and so on. In the “so on” category, we have this lunch stand on Boulevard des Malesherbes:

Paris Update Ironique 5-FreshBagels

Note that it’s not “fresh bagels,” but “fresh and bagels.” If this is intended to mean “fresh stuff and also bagels,” then the place is accurately named — I ate there once and my bagel tasted like it was old enough to remember the Shirelles.

Like everywhere else, Paris has its food fads. Besides bagels, in recent years we’ve have successive waves of Italian panini, Chinese takeout and sushi joints. I suppose it was inevitable that sooner or later some visionary entrepreneur would try to cash in on two trends at once:

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This one was spotted by reader and devoted sign hunter Katie Anders. Thanks, Katie!

They must have stayed up all night trying to decide between that and “Sushi Jew.”

Of course, an English business name in Paris doesn’t have to be ugly-sounding and borderline offensive. As an alternative, it can be stupid-sounding and borderline braindead, as exemplified by this car rental office on Rue Legendre:

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“How was your trip?” “Oh, very.” “Very what?” “Very, ah, very. And I’m so glad you asked.”

Very confusing, in any case, unlike the name of this lingerie store (also unearthed by Katie Anders), whose name is only slightly confusing:

Paris Update Ironique 8-Pull-In

What is it that needs to be pulled in here? And how exactly is that going to be accomplished? Perhaps it’s best not to know.

The indefatigable Ms. Anders also found, but for some reason refuses to patronize, this hair salon:

Paris Update Ironique 9-Squared-Hair

They also do makeup applications, so you can get your hair and face squared all in one session! Whether that’s going to leave you looking more attractive is a different question. You might end up needing to take the advice emblazoned on the wall of this shop (also Katie’s find):

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It’s a shoe store — I bet some of the customers also patronize Foot Pimp. And if that doesn’t give them a happy enough ending, they can always try this massage parlor on Boulevard Richard Lenoir:

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I’m not sure which concept is more disturbing: a two-fanged “special” massage or a Dracular bikini wax. Or both at once.

I hope I never find out. And I hope they at least change fangs between customers. And, as the saying goes, where there’s hope there’s…

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Hope ’n Life, on Rue d’Alexandrie, no longer has either — it’s out of business. Just like this corporate training center on Rue Saint Sebastien is going to be if they live up to their name:

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My guess: they specialize in training people to make up English business names.

Have you seen a ridiculous sign in Paris? Or anywhere in France? Don’t focop! Send me a photo in care of


© 2014 Paris Update


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.”

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