It’s that time of year. The time of year when we all get that old familiar feeling. The feeling that comes from enduring week after week of cold days, long nights and relentless rain and snow. The feeling that makes you long for spring. That makes you restless. That makes you edgy. That makes you swallow every pill in the medicine chest, shave your head, spray-paint your face and run naked down the Champs Elysées screaming obscenities and smearing passers-by with overripe camembert.
At least that’s what I usually do. But to ward off those nasty old “winter blahs,” what could be better than a new round of inadvertently funny Paris shop signs?
Well, let’s see: a case of Cristal, hitting the trifecta at Longchamp, sex on the observation platform of the Montparnasse Tower, another case of Cristal, finding four unused Métro tickets in an old coat, any kind of sex, really…
Actually, the list of answers to that question is so long it’s probably better just to get on with the article.
As I seem never to tire of pointing out (see parts one, two, three, four and five of this recurring feature), many businesses in France choose an English name because they think it sounds evocative and dynamic. In many cases, they’re right about the “evocative” part, but what the name evokes is not so much dynamism as bewilderment.
Like this temp agency on Rue de Belzunce:
It’s a bilingual pun, you see. The French word for “strong” is “fort,” and the “t” is silent. And that’s why their logo in the middle of the sign shows two muscular hernia candidates in an acrobatic pose:
So this is an agency “for” hiring “strong” interim staff! Get it? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! I’ll certainly keep them in mind if I ever need an assistant who can take dictation, type 100 words a minute and bench-press a piano.
Speaking of uplifting cultural material, I must digress here to offer an enormous public thank-you to reader Katie Anders, who sent me the next nine (yes, nine!) photos. Thank you, Katie — if only everyone were like you!
Come to think of it, if everyone were like you, my entire hard disk would be full of JPEG files, and it would take so long to sort through them all I wouldn’t have any spare time to ride the elevators at the Montparnasse Tower asking women if they’ve heard of the 13th-of-a-mile-high club.
But anyway, speaking of puns that aren’t worth the plywood they’re painted on…
I looked at this one about 15 times before I realized that it’s a play on the word “accessories.” You know, like “fash’s tons and access’s stories.” As Katie comments, “Go on, say it 10 times fast!”
This next one is easier to say, but harder to fathom:
At least it’s not a hair salon, a ticket agency or, worst of all, an antique trophy dealer.
Speaking of detached hunks of keratinized tissue, this shop near Gare de l’Est sells hair extensions and wigs:
Also cosmetics, access’s stories, and, apparently, Brazilian wax jobs. (It’s probably better not to ask where they source their extensions.) What any of this has to do with either the supreme deity or mineral formations is anyone’s guess. Maybe there used to be a bakery next door called “God’s Roll.”
Speaking of popular music, was the name of this next store inspired by that unbearably sappy 1976 hit song “Afternoon Delight”?
Considering that it’s for girls ages 0 to 14, I hope not. And I hope that it’s not located anywhere near this leather wholesaler:
Katie informs me that this sign has now been painted over. They were probably getting too many walk-ins expecting a sex toy shop. Which would never be a problem at this next place:
The presence of the word “genetic” makes me wonder: what exactly are they selling here? Human embryos? Vintage human embryos? Like, that have been frozen since 1963? And “made in used” what? Test tubes?
After a sign that raises so many questions, it’s nice to find one that is perfectly, instantly understandable:
You have to admire their honesty. Just like this travel agent:
I bet they have branches called Language Barrier, Customs Hassle, Currency Ripoff and Immodium Panic.
Speaking of how much fun it is to travel, the next one is not Parisian, but comes from my other favorite city in the world, Barcelona:
I don’t know about you, but I feel that I can sleep a little more soundly at night knowing that somewhere out there someone is doing something to stop all those video bums.
And I find it even more comforting to know that somewhere out there someone, perhaps at this very moment, is filing another ill-conceived, ill-advised or just plain idiotic English business name with the Paris Trade Register.
So will the City of Light continue to be an inexhaustible source of luminously ludicrous shop signs? This design boutique near the Canal Saint Martin says it all:
Seen a ridiculous sign in Paris? Or anywhere in France? Or another country? Or in the images sent back by the Mars rover? Send a photo to email@example.com.
Reader Steven Kolpan writes: “‘Alcool’ is the original Arabic, which became ‘alcohol’ in English. In Arabic it literally means ‘like a monster,’ which could be the reason it’s proscribed for Muslims.”
Reader Owen McGowan writes: “The travel agency in Chiang Mai must have been told it wasn’t good for business to name itself ‘The Final Journey,’ because I saw the shop last year and it had a new name.”
© 2013 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.