When I went to Brussels just two weeks after the horrific terrorist attacks, I saw it as an opportunity to get the answers to several weighty questions:
Are the people of Brussels, like the people of Paris last year, showing remarkable spirit and resilience in the wake of tragedy? Answer: yes.
Is Brussels, like Paris, still a great place to visit? Answer: yes.
And, most importantly, is Brussels, like Paris, full of odd, funny and just plain bewildering uses of English in commercial signage that I can ridicule in this recurring feature? Answer: a resounding…
“Do you own a store?”
“What’s it called?”
“Wait — what’s its name?”
“You didn’t understand me. What is the name of the store?”
“Can you say anything besides ‘yes’?”
I was also pleased to discover, on a side trip to Antwerp, that Belgium’s other great city is no slouch in the English abuse department either, thanks to shops like:
I imagine the owner at a government bureau registering his new business:
“What’s the name of your store?”
“Is it for women or men?”
“How many employees do you have?”
“Are they regular workers or supervisors?”
“Which form have you filled out?”
I wonder if the same person owns this place:
Since it’s a hair salon, I vaguely suspect that the apostrophe in the name is supposed to indicate that it’s unisex. You know, so that no women will come in, not expecting to see male customers, and exclaim, “Whoa! Men!”
Antwerp is also home to:
“Can I help you?”
“No, I just came in to browse.”
“Hey, this isn’t a museum — either buy something or get out!”
Actually, it’s probably a specialized epilation salon. In case you want to get plucked but not fleeced.
And after you get your forehead shorn there, you can get your feet shod at:
Or rather your foot — judging from the name, there’s a limit of one per customer.
If you really want to buy a pair, you’ll have to go back, perhaps in disguise, to get the second one. But once you have both shoes, you’ll be able to:
In fact, if you’re not feeling…
… you can walk all the way back to Brussels. But it’s a long hike. By the time you get there you might not have the energy to…
… to the door of what has to be the most bizarrely named fashion boutique in the entire country:
Fittingly, they have skeletons in the window. And presumably in the closet.
So I would strongly advise that the first thing you do in Brussels is get some nourishment, preferably fast carbs. Because if you don’t, it might be a choice between…
Given the option, it’s much better to go with cake. Because otherwise your family is going to be:
If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to get your lifesaving cake on the house, in which case afterwards you’ll feel…
… and ready to give the city a…
Later, if you’re driving back to Paris from Brussels, I recommend taking a wrong turn outside of Cambrai and heading southeast instead of southwest so that you end up in Metz, a city that I know nothing about except that it’s home to a store renovation company that I’m dying to stick into this article somehow. And since making fun of its name involves (or rather implies) strong language, I should probably also stick in a:
If you happen to be one of my parents and don’t want to confront the unseemly prospect of your dear son making puerile fun of a proper name that (sort of) contains a “bomb” word, I advise you to read no further.
There’s a whole story here. About 10 years ago I saw a truck from this company drive down my street in Paris, too fast to read the name completely. Specifically, I didn’t see the L’s. Which kind of changed the effect:
As regular readers can easily imagine, the hours that I spent vainly scouring the Internet for such a trade name should have been devoted to a nobler cause.
Now the Flucklinger crew is back in Paris, working on a store in my neighborhood. And inadvertently solving a mystery that has haunted me for a decade.
Advisory for practical jokers who are even more puerile than I am:
The store they’re renovating is on Rue des Martyrs. The L’s in the logo on the truck are exactly half an inch wide and 13 inches tall. The hardware store at the bottom of the street sells half-inch white tape and scissors. You didn’t hear it from me.
Have you seen a ridiculous sign in Paris, or anywhere in France? If so, please send a photo to me in care of email@example.com.
© 2016 Paris UpdateFavorite
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