Photo of the Week

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The view from the Théâtre de l"Odéon at dusk. Photo: Françoise Deberdt-Meunier

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Paris Update What’s On

Links to events happening this week in Paris.

Left Bank gallery crawl
> Open house at 50 galleries for Art Saint Germain des Prés. Various venues, Paris, May 18-June 3.

Gold in galleries

ParisUpdate-CarreRiveGauche-Passage AH 0

“Passage” ((2017), by Aude Herlédan. At 1831 Art Gallery during Carré Rive Gauche.

> The Carré Rive Gauche, an association of Left Bank galleries, celebrates its 40th anniversary with an event called ExtrORdinaire, featuring gold in works of art. Various venues, Paris, May 18-June 3.

Literary evening
> The Nuit de la Littérature in Belleville and Ménilmontant presents 20 foreign authors reading their work in French. Various venues, Paris, May 27.

 English-language theater festival
> Paris Fringe returns for its second year of English-language theater and comedy. Various venues, Paris, May 18-28.

Hollywood glam
> Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner, Marlene Dietrich and more in classic films from Hollywood's Golden Age for the Glamour cycle. Forum des Images, Paris, May 3-31.

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Etienne Comar’s Django, preceded by a themed cocktail party (€4.50). Studio 28, Paris, May 26.

Virtual reality
> Drop in on Saturday or Sunday from 2pm to 8pm for a free virtual trip at the VR Express festival. Forum des Images, Paris, through June 30.

Dance in historic sites
> Monuments en Mouvement offers free dance performances in national monuments like the Pantheon in Paris, the Abbaye de Cluny and châteaux. Various locations, through Oct. 21.

African culture festival
> The 100% Afriques festival showcases dance, theater, music, fashion, design, art, food and more from all over the continent. La Villette, Paris, through May 28.

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Hot Topics - C'est ironique !

 

Paris Shop Signs: From the Ridiculous to the Sublimely Ridiculous, Part Eight

Pathetic Puns,
Myriad Mysteries

Paris Update shops

Illustration by Charles Giai-Gischia. Visit his blog, Traits-Drôles, for a larger version and more drawings.

Even though it’s right in the middle of the Right Bank, the Sentier is probably the least famous, least popular, least visited district in town. Ask a thousand people to name their favorite Paris neighborhood (seriously — go out and do this right now; I’ll wait), and you’ll be lucky to find even one who says, “Oooh! The Sentier!”

And then your luck will run out, because that one person will be me. The reason that this particular bolt of the urban fabric appeals so little to visitors and so much to Alexandres intelligents like yours véritablement is that it’s the Garment District, which makes it a dull place unless you happen to work in garments (I usually work naked), but also gives it a disproportionate concentration of ill-advised business names.

I’m not sure why, but it seems that companies in the rag trade succumb more easily to the temptation of picking an English — and therefore supposedly “international” — name. And a lot of them succumb even more easily to the apparently even greater temptation of picking an English name that doesn’t make whole yards and skeins of sense to someone who actually speaks English.

This, of course, is exactly what I like to find for this recurring feature (see part seven, which contains a link to part six, which contains links to all the previous parts). And why one recent Sunday found me roaming the actionless, visitorless, point-of-interest-less streets of the Sentier, with a gleam in my eye, a camera in my hand and hope in my heart.

Oh, and garments on my back. I make certain concessions when working outdoors.

At the risk of sounding like Donald Rumsfeld, the shop signs that I found fell into four categories:

1) Names that I know I understand,

2) Names that I know I don’t understand,

3) Names that I don’t know if I understand, and

4) Names that, like Donald Rumsfeld, I wish I had never seen in the first place.

Category 1 includes some trademark choices that are not exactly wrong, but just seem kind of odd. Consider these three examples:

Paris Upate The-One

“How many men’s labels do you own?” “Just The One.” “And what’s it called?”

Paris Upate Be-Fun

“What are you going to call your women’s wear shop?” “I think it will be Be Fun.” “Be fun to call it what?”

Paris Upate Art-of-Pants

“So you specialize in trousers?” “No — dog collars. My poodle’s name is Arthur.”

Speaking of puns that should be punishable by law, still in Category 1, we have this footwear label:

Paris Upate Show-Sur

As Ed Sullivan would have said, “The shoe must go on.” [Note to readers who don’t happen to know enough French to follow this one: sometimes ignorance really is bliss. Trust me.]

And that’s not the sole example of this kind of ped-antics:

Paris Upate Shoes-and-the-City

A word of advice for Parisian business owners: If you absolutely must indulge in wordplay based on the title of this particular sitcom, the first word in your phrase has to sex-act-ing rhyme with “sex.”

You could start a towing service called “Wrecks in the City,” a yacht dealership called “Decks in the City,” a walking tour agency called “Treks in the City,” a Franz Kafka fan club called “Czechs in the City,” a live poultry stand called “Pecks in the City,” a hair salon specializing in anti-dandruff treatments called “Flecks in the City” or a currency exchange bank for Russian and Urkainian tourists called “Kopeks in the City.”

Another word of advice for Parisian business owners: Don’t.

Now then, what’s next in the city? Oh, yeah:

Paris Upate Nexty

Is it a necktie shop? Or is it just trying to sound leading-edgy?

Which brings us to Category 2: shops whose names leave you wondering what the hell they sell. Here’s another one:

Paris Upate Grey-Gory

My guess is that the owner’s name is Gregory. And that his siblings own stores called Kim Burly, Rich Herd and Low Rinse.

But ol’ Greg doesn’t give us any hint of what he sells in his bloody boutique, unlike this next place, which brings us to Category 3:

Paris Upate Fashion-Coffee

I see two possibilities: either it’s an apparel shop whose owner thinks that “coffee” is a good metaphor for fashion (keeps you warm, many people make it badly, its basic color is black, etc.) or it’s a purveyor of hot potable stimulants whose owner thinks that “fashion” is a good metaphor for coffee (produced by low-wage labor in Third World countries, gets people excited without providing actual nourishment, etc.).

Which doesn’t bring us to Category 4, but I’m going there anyway:

Paris Upate Picky-Poo

You want to know what this place sells? I don’t either, because that’s a terrible, horrible, just plain repellent name for any kind of retail operation. Or sewage treatment plant.

Thus repelled from the Sentier, we exit the world of the wearable and enter the purlieu of the purportedly edible with an interesting Parisian restaurant sign spotted by helpful reader Karen Greenbaum-Maya:

Paris Upate Eat-Japan

Limit one per customer. Photo by Karen Greenbaum-Maya

That’s a big meal. So big that anyone who dines there would have to subscribe to the philosophy upheld by this next eatery on Rue Blanche:

Paris Upate I-Heart-Eat

If they decide to specialize in organ meats, they can keep the same sign and just move “Eat” to the middle.

Apparently not enough people (heart) I (Heart) Eat, because it's out of business, I (brain) because its sign (eye) dumb: it doesn't (mouth) “Eat what?”

Here’s another restaurant, also spotted by Karen, whose signage at least gives some idea of what to expect on the menu:

Paris Upate Rhubarb

I said “some,” not “a clear.”

And, in the case of this soon-to-open bistro at the entrance to Passage Prado, I sincerely hope that the name does not reflect the cuisine:

Paris Upate Dog-Burger-Cafe

“Hey! Let's go get some chow!”

My theory: I think the name was chosen in an attempt to cash in on the current trend in Paris for American-style hamburgers and hot dogs. Then again, maybe they really are going to serve ground hound. On a pure-bread bun with cur-y mustard and a pinscher of salt.

I have a pointer for that café owner: you — and any of the businesses mentioned above — would have been better off adopting the name of this café on Rue Chaptal:

Paris Upate BlaBla

Seen a ridiculous sign in Paris? Send a photo to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

David Jaggard

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Reader Christine Taylor writes: "The Rhubarb wasn't a restaurant but a bar, long defunct. I lived on the same street for years and never got an answer to my first reaction to the name: WTF! Love your articles,"

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