Last December 31, I happened to be riding on a train along the coast of southern France. As I was gazing out the window, contemplating the year just past, the year to come, the sorry state of the world, the uncertainties of life and whether that odd abdominal sensation was related to the out-of-date yogurt I had had for breakfast, I happened to see, somewhere near Sainte Maxime, a large construction supply store with an English name. Or rather what some French person thought was an English name. The sign read: “Father & Stone.”
This buoyed my spirits considerably. It was heartening to be reminded that, no matter how much uncertainty we have to face in the unsteady course of our unpredictable lives on this precarious planet, there’s one thing we can always count on: unintentionally ridiculous English on French shop signs.
I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo from the train window and couldn’t find the place on Google Street View, but just to prove that it exists, here’s its website.
Father & Stone, and its menswear affiliate Uncles & Pants, are examples of a phenomenon that has served me well over the past three years (see part eight of this recurring feature, which contains a link to part seven, which contains a link to part six, which contains a link to part five, and so on back to part one, which contains a subliminal hypnotic message that will turn you into my unwitting zombie pawn forever).
As anyone who has walked down any shopping street in Paris (or read any of those C’est Ironiques) knows, English business names are very popular here. This is because an English name is supposed to sound modern, sophisticated and cosmopolitan. It’s not supposed to sound odd, cryptic and, especially if you’re British, obscene:
Or, for a restaurant, odd, unappetizing and obscene:
Or obscenely unappetizing:
Or torturously unappetizing:
The “Grand Inquisitor” is in the medieval village of Roquebrune, near Monaco. It seems to have a lot of Yelp reviews. Tip: don’t go on Poker Night.
Or explosively unappetizing:
Or just plain weird:
Yes, a restaurant in Paris called She’s Cake. Where you can shoes from a menu that includes she’s burgers made with ground shuck, topped with grated shedder and Swiss shard, served with shilled wine and chérie pie. But you can’t pay with a chit.
Another desired effect of an English trade name is that it’s supposed to sound cool, with-it and trendy. This doesn’t always work either:
If you want to stay at a hotel on Rue des Batignolles, you have to choose between this place and its rival establishment across the street, B There. It’s one or the other.
Speaking of states of being:
This is a fashion wholesaler on Rue Saint Denis, which, perhaps not coincidentally, happens to be one of the city’s main red-light districts. The presence of “Heartless Jeans” at the same address is perhaps not a coincidence either.
Of course, if people want to dress like B-girls, it’s their privilege. And then they can fill their apartments with equally tasteful furnishings from this homeware specialist on Rue Legendre:
Just the place for decorators who want to achieve that “early double-wide” ambience.
And probably a better choice than this design shop on Rue Rochechouart:
I guess everyone has an “oops moment” sooner or later. Like the founders of this music school:
In addition to guitar instruction, Learn & Fun also offers a lesson in branding: be sure to think and smart so you don’t choose and favorite a dumb and laugh trade name.
Indecent, distasteful, hopelessly unhip, just plain nonsensical… What kind of business owner registers a name like that? This butcher’s shop in the lovely Burgundian village of Pommard has the answer:
Seen a ridiculous sign in Paris? Or anywhere in France? Don’t be a heartless moron — send me a photo in care of firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2014 Paris UpdateFavorite
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