As I write this, there is an elephant in the room. And a donkey. And an ass. Like so many people, by mid-October I had grown weary of all the scandal-mongering, vicious accusations, desperate rationalizing, empty promises, name-calling and lies. So I stopped eavesdropping on my neighbors. Oh, and the presidential election has been kind of tiresome, too.
By the time this piece is published, the election will be over and, no matter what the outcome, over half of all U.S. voters will be unhappy, bitter and disgruntled, bracing themselves for four years of yelling at the television. It’s not a good time to be an American.
But it’s a great time to make fun of French attempts to cash in on the popularity of American food. As mentioned in earlier installments of this recurring feature (the previous one contains a link to the one before, which contains a link to its predecessor, and so on back to part one, which contains a wormhole to a parallel universe where all public servants actually strive to serve the public rather than their own egos and bank accounts), it is considered trendy in France to give any business an English name.
But it’s apparently considered hopelessly passé to find out what that name really means or implies in English. It makes for some interesting reading in the street.
Exacerbating the trend, American-style bun-borne heart attack food has been a fad here for the past two or three years. Which evidently isn’t long enough to figure out how to make it sound appetizing:
There’s actually a kind of logic to this name: “terrible” in French is (colloquially) a compliment, and adjectives have singular and plural forms — hence the “s” in “terribles.” Of course, to be really grammatical, it should be “Terribles Hots Dogs.”
The owners probably wonder why they never get any Anglophone customers. It’s because they’re all down the street staring at this next place and wondering how they’re supposed to consume a:
Judging from the image to the left of the logo, a “drink burger” is an all-in-one meal in the truest sense: a hamburger with a beverage (looks like hot chocolate) poured right over the patty, in there with the pickles, onions and ammoniated beef trimmings.
It’s a concept! Unlike:
I doubt that the owner of this little lunch stand has any idea, notion, inkling or apprehension of what “concept store” means.
Or perhaps the concept is simply to name one business concept after another business concept. The possibilities are endless: Concept Store Café, Restaurant Copy Shop, Sawmill Rhinoplasty Clinic, Sweatshop Day Care Center, Shooting Range Dog Kennel, Landfill Nursing Home… Or, more prosaically:
However, as cafés go, at least it’s still more inviting than:
Considering the notice “since 2002” in the upper right corner (and in English!), I guess we can presume that it’s actually named after the ancient Egyptian goddess of magic. It would be interesting to know whether their business has picked up or slacked off in the past couple of years.
But back to hamburgers. When the English-speaking visitors to Paris aren’t wondering how to eat a Drink Burger, they’re standing in front of this place wondering what the apostrophe stands for:
So, like, what’s the full name? “Soy-like”? “Sow-like”? “Sod-like”?
There’s something missing there. And here:
And, assuming that this next place caters to French people who want to emigrate to the United States, here:
But back to apostrophes. Speaking of things that get cut off, one of the most pervasive, and pernicious, uses of English in French business names is in hair salons. This is due to two unfortunate circumstances:
1) Everyone (or nearly everyone) in France knows that “hair” means cheveux, that long, thin stuff that God in his wisdom gave us to keep our heads warm and our bathtub drains clogged, and…
2) “Hair,” when pronounced in French, loses the “h” sound to become “air,” one of the most common and versatile syllables in any language, and especially in French. This lamentable coincidence has inspired hundreds, if not thousands, of uninspired, terrible puns in the names of hair salons. Just one quick Internet search yielded places around the country called “Ephem’Hair,” (evoking the French word for “ephemeral”), “Cl’Hair” (French word for “clear”), “Hair’Mine” (“ermine”), “Caract’Hair” (“character,” obviously) and (brace yourselves) “Boobs à l’Hair” (you don’t want to know).
Except that you do: Boobs à l’Hair (“hair” isn’t the only English word that nearly all French people understand) was supposed to be a barbershop featuring topless hairdressers (à l’air means “out in the open”). But, to the surprise of no one but disappointment of many, it turned out to be a hoax.
Just like another salon, supposedly in Strasbourg, whose name made such an atrocious, tasteless pun on “hair” that I won’t even dignify it with a link (except for this one).
But by far the most common “hair” pun in France (68,000 matches on Google, and there’s even one in North Carolina) was sent to me from two different cities by two different readers. There’s this one in Troyes:
And this one in Nice:
Note how the apostrophe in the second example actually makes it harder to understand and pronounce. I hope they cut hair better than they split syllables.
But back to the American election. Every presidential race in recent decades has spawned a spate of declarations following the template of: “If [insert name of least favorite candidate] wins, I’m moving to [insert name of most favorite foreign country]!”
France is, deservedly, often cited as a possible destination for émigrés. So for those who are thinking about booking a stateroom on the next Cunard liner to Le Havre, or however people cross the pond these days, let me tell you:
As I have pointed out on multiple occasions (like this one), France is a great country to live in. But it’s not perfect.
I can’t say that everything is peaches and cream, or milk and honey, or, as we say here, champagne and Nutella. But we do have a:
Have you seen a ridiculous sign in Paris, or anywhere in France? If so, please send me a photo in care of firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next C’est Ironique will appear on November 23rd. I hope.Favorite
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