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 !

 

The U.S. Election: A Clear-headed Assessment (Isn’t As Much Fun As Weird English Shop Signs)

This Pretty Much
Sums It Up

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-shopsigns-CRAP Pamela Weber

This Paris shop window seems an apt description of both the French ability to pick trademarks and the American ability to pick equally worthy presidential candidates. (Photo: Pamela Weber.

As I write this, there is an elephant in the room. And a donkey. And an ass. Like so many people, by mid-October I had grown weary of all the scandal-mongering, vicious accusations, desperate rationalizing, empty promises, name-calling and lies. So I stopped eavesdropping on my neighbors. Oh, and the presidential election has been kind of tiresome, too.

By the time this piece is published, the election will be over and, no matter what the outcome, over half of all U.S. voters will be unhappy, bitter and disgruntled, bracing themselves for four years of yelling at the television. It’s not a good time to be an American.

But it’s a great time to make fun of French attempts to cash in on the popularity of American food. As mentioned in earlier installments of this recurring feature (the previous one contains a link to the one before, which contains a link to its predecessor, and so on back to part one, which contains a wormhole to a parallel universe where all public servants actually strive to serve the public rather than their own egos and bank accounts), it is considered trendy in France to give any business an English name.

But it’s apparently considered hopelessly passé to find out what that name really means or implies in English. It makes for some interesting reading in the street.

Exacerbating the trend, American-style bun-borne heart attack food has been a fad here for the past two or three years. Which evidently isn’t long enough to figure out how to make it sound appetizing:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-shopsigns-Terribles hots dogs

Spotted by reader Freda Cameron.

There’s actually a kind of logic to this name: “terrible” in French is (colloquially) a compliment, and adjectives have singular and plural forms — hence the “s” in “terribles.” Of course, to be really grammatical, it should be “Terribles Hots Dogs.”

The owners probably wonder why they never get any Anglophone customers. It’s because they’re all down the street staring at this next place and wondering how they’re supposed to consume a:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-shopsigns-Drink Burger

Judging from the image to the left of the logo, a “drink burger” is an all-in-one meal in the truest sense: a hamburger with a beverage (looks like hot chocolate) poured right over the patty, in there with the pickles, onions and ammoniated beef trimmings.

It’s a concept! Unlike:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-shopsigns-Concept Store Cafe

I doubt that the owner of this little lunch stand has any idea, notion, inkling or apprehension of what “concept store” means.

Or perhaps the concept is simply to name one business concept after another business concept. The possibilities are endless: Concept Store Café, Restaurant Copy Shop, Sawmill Rhinoplasty Clinic, Sweatshop Day Care Center, Shooting Range Dog Kennel, Landfill Nursing Home... Or, more prosaically:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-shopsigns- Delis

However, as cafés go, at least it’s still more inviting than:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-shopsigns-ISIS Cafe

Spotted by reader Ed Kennington.

Considering the notice “since 2002” in the upper right corner (and in English!), I guess we can presume that it’s actually named after the ancient Egyptian goddess of magic. It would be interesting to know whether their business has picked up or slacked off in the past couple of years.

But back to hamburgers. When the English-speaking visitors to Paris aren’t wondering how to eat a Drink Burger, they’re standing in front of this place wondering what the apostrophe stands for:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-shopsigns-So LIke Burgers

Spotted by reader Margie Rubin.

So, like, what’s the full name? “Soy-like”? “Sow-like”? “Sod-like”?

There’s something missing there. And here:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-shopsigns-Snaking

Sometimes you just run out of C’s, you know? (Spotted by two readers independently, Jordan Grossi and Emily Ruck Keene.)

And, assuming that this next place caters to French people who want to emigrate to the United States, here:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-shopsigns-Eurotra

Isn’t that usually a nine-letter word?

But back to apostrophes. Speaking of things that get cut off, one of the most pervasive, and pernicious, uses of English in French business names is in hair salons. This is due to two unfortunate circumstances:

1) Everyone (or nearly everyone) in France knows that “hair” means cheveux, that long, thin stuff that God in his wisdom gave us to keep our heads warm and our bathtub drains clogged, and...

2) “Hair,” when pronounced in French, loses the “h” sound to become “air,” one of the most common and versatile syllables in any language, and especially in French. 

This lamentable coincidence has inspired hundreds, if not thousands, of uninspired, terrible puns in the names of hair salons. Just one quick Internet search yielded places around the country called “Ephem’Hair,” (evoking the French word for “ephemeral”), “Cl’Hair” (French word for “clear”), “Hair’Mine” (“ermine”), “Caract’Hair” (“character,” obviously) and (brace yourselves) “Boobs à l’Hair” (you don’t want to know).

Except that you do: Boobs à l’Hair (“hair” isn’t the only English word that nearly all French people understand) was supposed to be a barbershop featuring topless hairdressers (à l’air means “out in the open”). But, to the surprise of no one but disappointment of many, it turned out to be a hoax.

Just like another salon, supposedly in Strasbourg, whose name made such an atrocious, tasteless pun on “hair” that I won’t even dignify it with a link (except for this one).

But by far the most common “hair” pun in France (68,000 matches on Google, and there’s even one in North Carolina) was sent to me from two different cities by two different readers. There’s this one in Troyes:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-shopsigns-Atmostphair v2 - Troyes, France PK Munroe

Spotted by reader PK Munroe.

And this one in Nice:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-shopsigns-Nice atmosphhair Jake Dear

Spotted by reader Jake Dear.

Note how the apostrophe in the second example actually makes it harder to understand and pronounce. I hope they cut hair better than they split syllables.

But back to the American election. Every presidential race in recent decades has spawned a spate of declarations following the template of: “If [insert name of least favorite candidate] wins, I’m moving to [insert name of most favorite foreign country]!”

France is, deservedly, often cited as a possible destination for émigrés. So for those who are thinking about booking a stateroom on the next Cunard liner to Le Havre, or however people cross the pond these days, let me tell you:

As I have pointed out on multiple occasions (like this one), France is a great country to live in. But it’s not perfect.

I can’t say that everything is peaches and cream, or milk and honey, or, as we say here, champagne and Nutella. But we do have a:

ParisUpdate-CestIronique-shopsigns-Hunky Dory Laboratory

Have you seen a ridiculous sign in Paris, or anywhere in France? If so, please send me a photo in care of This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The next C’est Ironique will appear on November 23rd. I hope.

David Jaggard

An album of David Jaggard’s comic compositions is now available for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music, for purchase (whole or track by track) on iTunes and Amazon, and on every other music downloading service in the known universe, under the title “Totally Unrelated.”

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

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