The French Formula for Business Names: Bad Pun + Bad English


French seem to give a lot of thought to names. For instance, there are no “first avenue”, “second avenue”, “third avenue”, etc. here—each road, street, alley or pathway is most often named after a famous person or a significant historical event. Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, avenue Victor Hugo, quai François Mitterrand, etc. Close to my parents’ place, there is even a tiny two-square-meter back alley ironically (?) named “Cour de Versailles”… I’ve always wondered if it was a republican joke because it’s anything but Versailles-like!

Bus stops and tramway stops have names too. You don’t get off “at the corner of Baseline and Merivale” or take a bus at the “stop 2225”, but you ride the “ligne Bellevue” until you reach the “arrêt Cour des Cinquante otages”.

On the Atlantic Coast, many houses also display cast-metal signs with names such as “mon plaisir” (“my happy place”), “ouf on y est” (“phew, we’re here”) or “L’espérance” (“Hope”).

And of course, most small businesses choose a name too. I think I figured out the recipe: bad pun plus bad English. Walk down the streets of Nantes and you will notice the many English signs (because English sounds cool, right?) and the terrible double-entendre meaning. Bars, restaurants, and hair salons are probably the worst offenders, while fast food joints almost always go for 100% English names.

Widespread use of English in business names wouldn’t bother me so much if at least, the language was used properly. Unlike most Québécois, I don’t mind a few loanwords—I’d rather say “le plugin” than “le module d’extension” or “marketing” than “mercatique” like the Office de la langue française recommends. Yet, I can’t help wondering why French don’t realize that “services copy” doesn’t actually mean anything in English, and why so few people, especially foreigners, get the “bilingual” jokes!

The name of this bar is "You", which makes for a weird Franglish sign

The name of this bar is “You”, which makes for a weird Franglish sign

This pub's name is a weird Franglish mix of "au plaisir" ("be seeing you") and "here" in English

This pub’s name is a weird Franglish mix of “au plaisir” (“be seeing you”) and “here” in English

Frip' in Shop, meaningless Franglish

Frip’ in Shop, meaningless Franglish

"Bed & School" apparently sounds cooler than "Lit et école" (it should actually be "Logement et études"...)

“Bed & School” apparently sounds cooler than “Lit et école” (it should actually be “Logement et études”…)

Welcome Service Copy, not sure why this is in English

Welcome Service Copy, not sure why this is in English

"Atout'h" is a play on "à toute heure", which means "anytime"

“Atout’h” is a play on “à toute heure”, which means “anytime”

"Burolike" is Franglish, "bureau" ("office" or "desk") and "like"

“Burolike” is Franglish, “bureau” (“office” or “desk”) and “like”

"Le Fast"... for a fastfood joint

“Le Fast”… for a fastfood joint

"Chicken Place" for a fastfood joint

“Chicken Place” for a fastfood joint

"Naan'tais" is an Indian fastfood joint, playing on "naan" (Indian bread) and "Nantais", i.e. the people living in Nantes

“Naan’tais” is an Indian fastfood joint, playing on “naan” (Indian bread) and “Nantais”, i.e. the people living in Nantes

"Fast food number one"

“Fast food number one”


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Oh I see this in Germany too! Every now and then I see on patisserie windows the phrase “Delicious back!” and that always strikes me as weird. You’ll only get what it means if you realize that “backen” is the German verb for “to bake” (“bakery” is “Backerei”). In fact, there is a chain of bakeries here ( whose name means “delicious baked (goods)”. Once you convert it to English, then it becomes sexual and weird…

    A related thing brought to mind by the previous comment has something to do with what Americans do to English words, making it look more foreign. So instead of simply saying “Linda’s Flower Shop” it becomes “Linda’s Flower Shoppe”. I thought it was an effort to make words more “French”. I mostly see these in “cutesy” rural and small towns in the USA.

    • This is so funny! Without your explanation, I would have never guessed the original meaning.

      I also saw this “old English” (“olde English”) trend on signs in Ontario, and yes, mostly in rural settings.

  2. Here, the streets used our national Heros, specially in the main avenue. In case you traveled to my country and in Jalan Jendral Sudirman (Jalan = Road) , you basically in the downtown of the city. (in any city. Mr. Sudirman was the Chief Commander Officer during Dutch’s colonial —

    about the shops’ name, the similar practice too. The owner of the business put foreign language (usually English) to make it looks cool. you can find baby’s apparel under “Le Monde” brand. I thought it was from your country, it’s local! 😀

    • That’s interesting, I know very little about the country’s history. I had forgotten it was under Dutch colonial rule, for instance. Any obvious sign of this colonial heritage?

      • yes, of course. In Jakarta, you can see many old buildings in Kota Tua (Old Town) area as well as other big cities like in Medan and Surabaya. The biggest church in Indonesia , Cathedral, is constructed during Dutch colonial as well.

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