Photo of the Week

ParisUpdate-ParisNight

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 15

In French, It’s Pronounced
“Knee Stings”

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-ShopSigns-NiceThings

One of the nice things about this store is that it nicely sums up one of the nice things about Paris: the high concentration of shops with ill-advised English names.

As we enter 2016, France’s future looks dark. The economy is struggling, unemployment is high, extremists of every stripe are finding wider audiences for their messages of hatred, and the historically unpopular government seems powerless to stop the endless spiral propelling the country at ever-increasing speed into a bottomless abyss of recession, rampant violence and despair.

But let’s look on the bright side! With all the stores going out of business, there are lots of new ones opening in their place, and many of them choose dumb English names. Silver lining!

As I seem never to tire of explaining (search for the keyword “ridiculous” in the archive at the bottom of this page to find previous installments of this recurring feature), in the French retail world it’s considered cool, clever and hip to have an English name.

Any English name — even one that an Anglophone would find lukewarm, dim-witted and more closely associated with another body part, near the hip but with decidedly different connotations.

Like the name of this place on Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-ShopSigns-HighSchoolCafe

This is what you could call a “textbook example.”

It happens to be right across the street from a lycée, which is sort of the landmark on that block, and if you look up lycée in the dictionary, one of the definitions is “high school.”

So the owner thinks that his sign here is conveying the message, “This is a trendy, inviting café near a secondary school.” But what it actually conveys is, “This is a café that, for inexplicable reasons, wants to bring back your memories of bullying, acne, stultifying rules and constant burning sexual desire but no sex.”

After having a mochaccino there, and being transported into a scene from American Pie, customers can head over to Rue Vignon for a:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-ShopSigns-PieBreak

I guess the name is supposed to evoke “tie break.” As an obscure pun, doesn’t that take the cake? In fact, no, because on the same street is:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-ShopSigns-HelmutNewCake

An even worse pun on the name of a famous photographer.

And speaking of what people around here eat when they can’t afford bread, a few blocks away we have:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-ShopSigns-CakeBake

Except that no one buys anything to eat in this place. It’s not a bakery — it’s a fashion accessories store. Next door is a bakery called Sews & Bows.

Where you can’t buy a ribbon for your fur-trimmed purple fedora. But you can probably get one here:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-ShopSigns-Pimp

The shop’s slogan is “More than a desire, a need.” Which would seem to be inaccurate given that the store, like an employee of an actual pimp, has gone belly up (the orange poster is a “for sale” notice).

Interestingly, Pimp is on Rue Saint Denis, one of Paris’s red-light districts, which makes it more or less appropriate. Unlike the name of:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-ShopSigns-Kinky

Spotted by reader Mary Shaffer.

Not only is it not in a red-light district, it’s a children’s clothing store. Unless it’s trying to appeal to a particular kind of fetishism that I have mercifully never heard of (I already regret being aware of plushophilia), this is not a good name choice.

Note to the owner of Kinky: you want to know how to properly name a store for kids? Take a lesson from:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-ShopSigns-FingerintheNose

Spotted by reader Barbara Casassus.

You see? Now that’s a trade name that captures the innocence of childhood. Also the repellent obliviousness to hygiene, but it still beats bullying, acne and runaway hormones.

Or maybe it doesn’t. It’s hard to tell. Just like it’s hard to tell what this next trade name is trying to express:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-ShopSigns-ThisIsMyHatCropped

Spotted by reader Margie Rubin.

What goes on in there? It’s not a milliner’s shop. And judging from the look of the crudely drawn figure under the name, it’s not a barbershop either. Or an art school.

Maybe it’s some kind of code. And to crack it, who ya gonna call? The answer is right next door:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-ShopSigns-CodeWomen

I’m lying like Lance Armstrong: it’s not next door, it’s in Arles, 750 kilometers away.

There’s only one possible explanation here: the owner is a Tom Waits fan who operates this place and an English-style pub and wanted to name his two businesses after the song “Warm Beer and Cold Women,” but he had a really bad cold when he met with the signmaker.

Presuming that the women were supposed to be cold, then how cold? The answer is right next door:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-ShopSigns-EyeSee

I mean right next door to whatever is right next door to this optical shop in the fifth arrondissement of Paris.

Okay, now I’m the one making the terrible puns. If I don’t stop now I’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and almost as much as I regret that this place on Rue Milton doesn’t spell out its entire name:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-ShopSigns-PIASCropped

It’s the office of a record label named after a famous Humphrey Bogart line.

As everyone knows, Bogey didn’t actually say, “Play It Again, Sam.” And that’s not the only misquote from Casablanca. What Rick actually said to Ilsa was, “We’ll always have [dumb English signs in] Paris [to be] looking at, you [big] kid[der].”

Have you seen a ridiculous sign in Paris, or anywhere in France? If not, stick around for another few minutes and you will. Then please take a photo and send it to me in care of This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

David Jaggard

Note to readers: David Jaggard’s e-book Quorum of One: Satire 1998-2011 is now available on Amazon as well as iTunes, iBookstore, Nook, Reader Store, Kobo, Copia and many other distributors.

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