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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”

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