Paris Shop Signs: From the Ridiculous to the Sublimely Ridiculous, Part Three
- Published on Tuesday, 13 March 2012 00:00
- Written by David Jaggard
What Were They Thinking?
Were They Thinking?
It’s on Avenue MacMahon, just down the street from Targète, La Grange de la Poterie and Aliments Entiers.
When I was in undergraduate school in Texas, I used to frequent a wine bar called “Le Carafé.” Apparently they were looking for a French name and thought this sounded cool.
Apparently what they weren’t looking for was a French dictionary, because if they had looked up “carafe” they would have noticed that the noun is feminine (so it should be “la” and not “le”) with no accent at the end, and thus avoided making two oiseau-brained mistakes in just two words. Professionally painted on a big huge sign for all to see.
Then when I was in graduate school in Connecticut, there was a bar just off campus that I never frequented called “Chez Est.” Why, I don’t know — the phrase makes no sense (East’s Place?), doesn’t yield any discernible pun, and the bar wasn’t arguably on the east side of anything.
I mention all this merely to point out that the French don’t have a monopoly on boneheaded business names that try to cash in on the mystique of foreign words. But they do quite a good job, as I have pointed out in Part One and Part Two of this recurring feature.
For example, there’s this specialty foods shop-cum-cooking school on Rue Lafayette:
Go where? Home? At a sprint to the restroom, praying it’s not occupied?
Perhaps it’s a chef trained at Cook & Go (or its sister institution Heat It & Beat It) who opened this crêpe joint on Rue Galande:
They probably wonder why they don’t get any American tourists. Or maybe it’s to keep the American tourists out. In contrast, here’s a sign that would tend to bring them in:
This is a children’s clothing store on Rue du Faubourg Saint Martin. “Mommy, does this pinafore make my ass look big?”
Even with its creepily pedophilic-sounding name, I bet it’s more attractive to most Anglophone parents than its neighbor:
Well, at least you know what you’re getting. Which is more than you can say for this next place, yet another children’s clothier on the same street:
Happy little what? Femy boy? If the three stores merge they could call the new business Little Femy Fanny.
Since we’re veering into sexual innuendo, perhaps it’s time to consider this plaque for an engraver’s shop on Rue Dupetit-Thouars:
So the family happens to be named “Labia.” No big deal. They didn’t choose it. But did they have to name their two sons Stéphane and Michel? And did they have to go into business together? And list their initials in that order? At least they didn’t open a bikini-wax salon.
Speaking of unfortunate name-career combinations, this next one is the plaque for a lawyer’s office:
She specializes in suing people who make tasteless slanderous jokes about lawyers being jerks.
This Asso is actually in Nice. And since I’m straying beyond the city limits, I’d like to close with one of my all-time favorite ill-advised, but not Parisian, business names:
It’s a Tex-Mex restaurant in Chinon, a wonderful wine town in the Loire Valley. (The “T” in “Tex” got scraped off the car window but is visible on the façade of the building.)
As far as I know this place holds the French national record for confused evocations of North America: a restaurant called Le Tennessee hopes to lure customers for its Tex-Mex cuisine with the image of a Native American wearing a kind of headdress originally worn only in the Great Plains. I bet their signature dish is clam chowder.
Many thanks to reader Paul Scott for his keen eye for irony and photographic contributions to this article.
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Reader Stephen O'Shea writes: "'Le Carafe' is just fine for the name of a café, which is masculine. One of the major hotels in Montreal is Le Reine Elisabeth, as 'hôtel' is masculine."
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