Photo of the Week


Left to right: Eiffel Tower, Louvre Pyramid, Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and Ferris Wheel. © Paris Update


Paris Update This Week’s Events

For full details about an event, click on the title to visit the official Web site (in English when available).

Drawing through the ages

"Apples" (1944), by Henri Matisse. Eric Coatalem Gallery.

> Salon du Dessin: 39 galleries showing works on paper, from Old Masters to contemporary. Palais Brogniart, Paris, March 22-27.

Contemporary drawing fair
> Drawing Now: 73 galleries, Carreau du Temple, Paris, March 23-26.

More contemporary drawings
>Ddessin: 20 galleries. Atelier Richelieu, Paris, March 24-26.

Art and design fair
> PAD (Paris Art + Design),
67 galleries, Tuileries Garden, Paris, March 22-26.

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, March 23-May 28.

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Audrey Dana's Si j'Étais un Homme, preceded by a themed cocktail party (€4.50). Studio 28, Paris, Feb. 24.

Documentary film festival
> Cinéma du Réel showcases documentaries from around the world. Various venues, Paris, March 24-April 2.

Suburban blues
> The Banlieues Bleues festival brings major French and international jazz acts to the Paris suburbs. Various venues, through March 31.

Before and after ecological disaster
> The Chic Planète festival presents two types of films, those celebrating the bounty of the earth and science-fiction views of what will happen after an ecopalypse. Forum des Images, Paris, through April 13.




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Yet More Paris Shop Signs: From the Ridiculous to the Sublimely Ridiculous, Part 11

Where Bad English
Goes to Die

Paris Update Ironique 1-UnitedWeArt

To the owner of this design shop on Rue Saint Martin: how clever thou art.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the world is in a sorry state. Economies are struggling, Russia is stirring up ancient hatreds, airplanes are dropping like rain, and the Middle East is going to hell even faster than usual. More than ever, what we all need now is a rational, fair-minded discussion of the key basic issues.

So someone should get busy on that pretty soon. Meanwhile, I have decided to add to the self-serving insanity with yet another batch of inadvertently funny Paris shop signs.

I know that it seems like I wrote on this topic only two weeks ago, but that’s because I did. However, as Ernest Hemingway said in the first draft of his memoir, “Paris is an unimprovable feast of idiotic shop signs.” Its merchants never cease coming up with ridiculous trade names, and I never cease wanting to ridicule them.

But first, before proceeding I should point out, in all fairness, that not all Parisian business names are illogical and risible. Some are perfectly logical. But still risible, like this hotel on Rue de Turbigo, whose name can only be described as “overstating the obvious”:

Paris Update Ironique 2-ParisFranceHotel

I wish I had been there for the brainstorming sessions with the branding consultants. “Okay, so we’re going to open a hotel in Paris, France. But what shall we call it? We need something distinctive, catchy and impactful. Let’s get thinking, people — I want everybody’s A-game on this one!”

I would not be surprised if it was this marketing firm that handled the contract:

Paris Update Ironique 3-BlueMonday

Why is this supposed to be an alluring name for a business? Why not Meatloaf Tuesday, Washday Wednesday, WTFI Thursday, Colonoscopy Friday or Lost Weekend?

Or maybe this is just another of those “free association” names that I’ve been seeing more and more often in Paris. In previous installments of this recurring feature, I have mentioned establishments called Fresh & Bagels, Learn and Fun and Cook & Go.

It seems that when it comes to naming a Parisian business, English words are trendy, and any two will do. Consider these examples:

Paris Update Ironique 4-TeeAndSweet

Actually, this is the result of a simple misunderstanding. It’s a T-shirt and sweatshirt stand at a trade fair, and the French word for “sweatshirt” is sweat, which pronounced through a Francophone pharynx can easily end up sounding like “sweet,” which still sounds a whole lot better than chemise de transpiration, so the sign kind of makes sense.

Unlike this next one:

Paris Update Ironique 5-ComeAndWok

Photo (along with three others in this article) by reader Katie Anders.

And even that makes more sense than:

Paris Update Ironique 6-FolksSparrows

Seriously? What kind of folks? In-laws? And why not wrens? But my nominee for the strangest two-word combo in the entire Paris Trade Register is:

Paris Update Ironique 7-TacoAfro

It wouldn’t be strange if it were a Mali-Mex fusion restaurant, but this is a hairdresser’s shop on Rue du Faubourg Saint Martin. In any case, an African taco sounds a whole lot more appetizing than a meal from:

Paris Update Ironique 8-LivingFood

“I’ll have the monkey brain sandwich and a pizza with double cheese mites.”

Maybe it’s the next big thing in Parisian dining. Fads pop up all the time, after all, in food and in shop names. And sometimes in both at once:

Paris Update Ironique 10-Steaking

A little explanation is in order here. The French seem to think that the suffix “ing” can be tacked onto any English word, verb or noun or adjective, and it will make sense. They were wrong about the Maginot Line, too.

But there’s no stopping them now. One of the most respected (including by me) restaurant guides in France these days is called “Le Fooding.” Perhaps based on that example, when someone wanted to open a fancy, upscale meat eatery in Saint Germain, they figured that “Steaking” was a great name. And they’re staking a huge investment on it, with a whiskey bar (“Whiskeying”) and a voiturier service (valet parkinging).

Meanwhile, names evoking an entirely different food group have been cropping up in the hairdressing sector:

Paris Update Ironique 11-RCod

Paris Update Ironique 12-Carpy-Coiffeur

Photo by reader P.K. Munroe.

No doubt some enterprising coiffeur will soon be inspired to combine the two trends by opening a salon called “Hairing.” I’m pretty sure that this is mentioned in the Book of Revelations as a sign of the end times.

Speaking of divine revelations, I’m still waiting for St. Genou-Gifleur, the patron saint of punchlines, to answer my prayers for a good transition to this next sign, which has been pointed out to me by so many baffled readers I have to stick it in here somewhere:

Paris Update Ironique 13-DriveMyClothes

A note to the owner of this store: I’m not exactly sure how to follow your instruction, but I know I’d rather do that than wear your car.

And, in closing, a note to readers: Paris Update, along with the entire population of France, is about to take its annual August break. I will be back in the fall, perhaps with even more ill-advised shop names. Until then:

Paris Update Ironique 14-ByeBuy

Have you seen a ridiculous sign in Paris? Or anywhere in France? If not, you will eventually. When it happens, send me a photo in care of This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

David Jaggard

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