As we enter 2016, France’s future looks dark. The economy is struggling, unemployment is high, extremists of every stripe are finding wider audiences for their messages of hatred, and the historically unpopular government seems powerless to stop the endless spiral propelling the country at ever-increasing speed into a bottomless abyss of recession, rampant violence and despair.
But let’s look on the bright side! With all the stores going out of business, there are lots of new ones opening in their place, and many of them choose dumb English names. Silver lining!
As I seem never to tire of explaining in this recurring feature, in the French retail world it’s considered cool, clever and hip to have an English name.
Any English name — even one that an Anglophone would find lukewarm, dim-witted and more closely associated with another body part, near the hip but with decidedly different connotations.
Like the name of this place on Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière:
It happens to be right across the street from a lycée, which is sort of the landmark on that block, and if you look up lycée in the dictionary, one of the definitions is “high school.”
So the owner thinks that his sign here is conveying the message, “This is a trendy, inviting café near a secondary school.” But what it actually conveys is, “This is a café that, for inexplicable reasons, wants to bring back your memories of bullying, acne, stultifying rules and constant burning sexual desire but no sex.”
After having a mochaccino there, and being transported into a scene from American Pie, customers can head over to Rue Vignon for a:
I guess the name is supposed to evoke “tie break.” As an obscure pun, doesn’t that take the cake? In fact, no, because on the same street is:
An even worse pun on the name of a famous photographer.
And speaking of what people around here eat when they can’t afford bread, a few blocks away we have:
Except that no one buys anything to eat in this place. It’s not a bakery — it’s a fashion accessories store. Next door is a bakery called Sews & Bows.
Where you can’t buy a ribbon for your fur-trimmed purple fedora. But you can probably get one here:
The shop’s slogan is “More than a desire, a need.” Which would seem to be inaccurate given that the store, like an employee of an actual pimp, has gone belly up (the orange poster is a “for sale” notice).
Interestingly, Pimp is on Rue Saint Denis, one of Paris’s red-light districts, which makes it more or less appropriate. Unlike the name of:
Not only is it not in a red-light district, it’s a children’s clothing store. Unless it’s trying to appeal to a particular kind of fetishism that I have mercifully never heard of (I already regret being aware of plushophilia), this is not a good name choice.
Note to the owner of Kinky: you want to know how to properly name a store for kids? Take a lesson from:
You see? Now that’s a trade name that captures the innocence of childhood. Also the repellent obliviousness to hygiene, but it still beats bullying, acne and runaway hormones.
Or maybe it doesn’t. It’s hard to tell. Just like it’s hard to tell what this next trade name is trying to express:
What goes on in there? It’s not a milliner’s shop. And judging from the look of the crudely drawn figure under the name, it’s not a barbershop either. Or an art school.
Maybe it’s some kind of code. And to crack it, who ya gonna call? The answer is right next door:
There’s only one possible explanation here: the owner is a Tom Waits fan who operates this place and an English-style pub and wanted to name his two businesses after the song “Warm Beer and Cold Women,” but he had a really bad cold when he met with the signmaker.
Presuming that the women were supposed to be cold, then how cold? The answer is right next door:
Okay, now I’m the one making the terrible puns. If I don’t stop now I’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and almost as much as I regret that this place on Rue Milton doesn’t spell out its entire name:
As everyone knows, Bogey didn’t actually say, “Play It Again, Sam.” And that’s not the only misquote from Casablanca. What Rick actually said to Ilsa was, “We’ll always have [dumb English signs in] Paris [to be] looking at, you [big] kid[der].”
Have you seen a ridiculous sign in Paris, or anywhere in France? If not, stick around for another few minutes and you will. Then please take a photo and send it to me in care of firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2015 Paris UpdateFavorite
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.