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January 22, 2013 1:04 AM   Subscribe

For non-anglophones, the English names of worldwide brands, music bands and other cultural items are both ubiquitous and slightly mysterious. Here what the English (plus some German, Spanish and Japanese) names of 52 brands/logotypes and 30 musicians/records look like when very loosely and somewhat lazily translated in French. Some extras can be found in the comments (note: annoying pop-up at the start).
posted by elgilito (72 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
L'Americain Pressé? That can't be right! That's like, expressed American, like coffee! (A quick check of the dictionary seems to confirm this.)
posted by Michael Roberts at 1:11 AM on January 22, 2013


It reminds me of my attempts while living in Puerto Rico to construct alternate histories by translating the town names into Hungarian. Like, the name of the island (which was originally San Juan, with the main port naturally being Puerto Rico - nobody's sure how they got inverted) would have been Szigetszentjános.
posted by Michael Roberts at 1:13 AM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Laughing out loud at "Grand magasin de vierges". Perfect. Literally, yes, "Virgin Megastore". As in, megastore where you can buy virgins.

On preview: "L'Américain Pressé" (American Express) is using widely-known slang for being stressed/pressured for time. "Je suis pressé" = "I don't have much time." So you'd need an express lane, for instance. It is a bit more roundabout than the others, probably because "express" is already so close to the actual French and Latin from whence our English comes.
posted by fraula at 1:16 AM on January 22, 2013


J'adore "Pouf Papa".
posted by MartinWisse at 1:17 AM on January 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


I think Old El Paso should just be Vieux El Paso. Its not like anglophones know what El Paso means either.
posted by vacapinta at 1:27 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


A bit of the purpose has been lost in translation (sorry, couldn't help it):
Ces marques sont partout, tout le temps, et sont presque devenues des noms communs. Symboles d’un acceptation totale de la société de consommation, ces marques ont même, pour certaines, éclipsé la véritable signification, parfois ridicule ou inexplicable, de leurs noms. Traduisons donc, avec une pointe de mauvaise foi, ces noms de marque et nous devrons faire ce constat douloureux : devenir une marque internationale avec un nom français, c’est pas facile facile.
Translation : "These brands are everywhere, all the time, and have nearly become common words [in French]. Symbolizing full acceptance by our consumer society, some of these brands have even surpassed the true meaning of their names, which is sometimes ridiculous or inexplicable. Translated with a touch of bad faith [said this way in French it strongly implies "to take them down a notch" playfully], these brand names help us come to a painful realization: it ain't easy to become an internationally-recognized brand name in French."
posted by fraula at 1:34 AM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Grêve chanceuse" is rather wrong. It should rather be "coup chanceux" or "coup de chance" if we are not being finicky. I'm pretty sure that the marketers who first conceived the name of "Lucky Strike" were not thinking of labour conflicts...

(Also some of the original brands are probably also rather enigmatic to the non-French: not many people outside "l'Hexagone" know that there's an ISP called "Free", a popular radio station called "Skyrock", or a chewing gum called "Hollywood")
posted by Skeptic at 1:34 AM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


These are quite amusing! Pêcheur-Prix made me laugh. But there are a couple of logos/brands I can't figure out: what is #33 (Pêle-Mêlr)?
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:38 AM on January 22, 2013


"devenir une marque internationale avec un nom français, c’est pas facile facile"

Which makes it even funnier that some of those brands actually aren't at all international, but more French than a baguette (which was originally called "pain viennois", now that I think of it...).
posted by Skeptic at 1:38 AM on January 22, 2013


what is #33 (Pêle-Mêlr)

Flickr. A "pêle-mêle" is a scrapbook.

Free may be an ISP in France only, but its history is well worth reading about, as a sort of Robin Hood of internet access and now mobile service. (And yes, they are absolutely making fun of how even French companies go to English for snappy brand names.)
posted by fraula at 1:42 AM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Old El Paso should just be Vieux El Paso

Judging by their treatment of Nike the approach is to put everything possible into French regardless of what language it started in. So probably Metafilter would actually be "Au delà du filtre", or something like that.
posted by Segundus at 1:51 AM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


"D'accord Ordinateur" and "Londres à l'appareil"... brilliant.
posted by Decani at 1:53 AM on January 22, 2013


what is #33 (Pêle-Mêlr)

Flickr. A "pêle-mêle" is a scrapbook.


Nope, it's Tumblr (look at the logos). Which makes more sense, in terms of translation ("pêle-mêle" meaning mixed, tumbled...)
posted by Skeptic at 1:56 AM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Granted for tumblr! Still, the mixup is also due to the actual definitions of the word: pêle-mêle : 1. en désordre, 2. cadre où l'on met plusieurs photos.
posted by fraula at 2:01 AM on January 22, 2013


I like the non-English ones, like Samsung (Three Stars) and Mitsubishi (Three Diamonds).

Also, anytime I find myself thinking about brand names in a just-too-literal way l'm reminded of this and I am happy.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:03 AM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Stéphane Merveille" is sublime. He should have released his B sides under that name.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:24 AM on January 22, 2013


I can think of a couple of brands that have succeeded with a French name - the Sportive Cock, or Sniggering Cow for example,to reverse the process.
posted by Segundus at 2:28 AM on January 22, 2013


the Sportive Cock, or Sniggering Cow for example
It seems that the Vache qui rit is usually known outside francophone countries by its localized name. The Sportive Cock would be problematic indeed.
posted by elgilito at 2:48 AM on January 22, 2013


Bon.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:56 AM on January 22, 2013


Also worth noting that Henkel/Unilever's flagship laundry detergent brand "Persil" translates as "Parsley" in French. So the brand is marketed as "Le Chat" instead. I get that parsley doesn't sing clean clothes to consumers. But as scrupulous as my cat is about hygiene her cleaning routine sees her typically licking her butt and then her fur, in that order.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:18 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heh. On that note, car manufacturer Citroën's name derives from the Dutch for "lemon".
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:27 AM on January 22, 2013


Pomme.
posted by brokkr at 4:10 AM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


# 30 made me laugh because just the other day the husband and I were eating at a grocery store food court here in Brazil. On one side of us was the obnoxiously ubiquitous Subway, on the other, with a very similar logo, was "Metro".

But yeah, foreign names sell. We laugh at some of our store names that are meant to be classy just by virtue of being in English. The clothing store Mr. Kitsch is my favorite. (Then again, I'm sucker for any store name that starts with Mr...)
posted by wallaby at 4:28 AM on January 22, 2013


Also worth noting that Henkel/Unilever's flagship laundry detergent brand "Persil" translates as "Parsley" in French. So the brand is marketed as "Le Chat" instead.

Actually, Unilever does use the "Persil" brand in France, but for Marseilles soap, rather than detergent.

Unilever and Henkel are different companies, and both claim rights to the "Persil" trademark. Henkel used it in Germany from 1907 (incidentally, "Persil" also means "parsley" in German), whereas a Frenchman, Jules Ronchetti, sold Marseilles soap under the "Le Persil" trademark in France from 1906 (and ultimately sold it to Lever Brothers, which would become Unilever after merging with the Dutch Margarine Unie). After WWI there was a long legal battle about ownership of the "Persil" trademark, which ended with an agreement by which Lever Brothers got the rights for Britain and France, and Henkel those for the rest of the world. Unilever's laundry detergent brand in France is "Skip", whereas "Le Chat" is a Henkel brand.
posted by Skeptic at 4:49 AM on January 22, 2013


It is funny how many of them come out sounding like fragrances. I mean "Eau de chameau" - it sounds plausible!.
posted by rongorongo at 4:52 AM on January 22, 2013


Oops,..."parsley" in German is in fact "Petersilie". Henkel created the name "Persil" from Sodium PERborate and SILicate, the two main components of its original laundry detergent.
posted by Skeptic at 4:57 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bruits de Pets.

Nice disc.
posted by Wolof at 5:06 AM on January 22, 2013


Bowling!
posted by graphnerd at 5:07 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't believe it's been 30 years since Marvine Homosexuel died.

I always thought Punk Idiot were overrated.
posted by item at 5:26 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is exactly the kind of stuff we used to do back in high school French class.
posted by padraigin at 6:16 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nintendo Oui
posted by dephlogisticated at 6:17 AM on January 22, 2013


Yeah, I was having trouble with the Franglais translations - it really grated badly and I had to take a mental step each time to think "right, that's the point".
posted by plinth at 6:18 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's something I keep meaning to ask: when I was in Paris, I saw a lot of posters with English phrases or words on them. These weren't for international brands, but for local products and events. I thought initially that this was just because foreign languages look cool (half of Primark's offerings appear to be emblazoned with French or Japanese phrases) but then I noticed each slogan had an asterisk directing me to a French translation at the side. Given how proud the French are of their nationality, what's the deal here?

I did wonder if it was something to do with the Academe Francais being slow to add new words to the language - if you hear Welsh speakers, English words bubble up all the time as there is no Welsh word or transliteration for some things so a lot of word-borrowing goes on - but then there'd surely be no translation into French?
posted by mippy at 6:21 AM on January 22, 2013


Then again, 'Jeux de Peau' sounds much nicer than 'Skin Games'.
posted by mippy at 6:22 AM on January 22, 2013


Also, if you like French brands, and point du croix, then this is right up your alley.
posted by mippy at 6:26 AM on January 22, 2013


But no matter what you do with his name, GG Allin remains GG Allin.
posted by not_on_display at 6:38 AM on January 22, 2013


I happened to be in Paris with my daughter when there were lots of posters for "Inglourious Basterds" and she still believes the French are disgracefully sloppy about English.
posted by Segundus at 6:53 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was once asked, in all seriousness, whether 'The Pursuit of Happyness' was so called because that was an American spelling. I think we can blame HOLLYWOOD rather than the French.
posted by mippy at 6:57 AM on January 22, 2013


Given how proud the French are of their nationality, what's the deal here?

It's the conflict between pretentiously English-loving marketers and the "Allgood Law".
posted by Skeptic at 6:57 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was in Strasbourg when The Hangover Part 2 was released, and was surprised to see posters for a movie called Very Bad Trip 2. It looked like it had gone into Google Translate and come back out again, a little worse for the ride. Weirdly, the Quebecois title was in French (Lendemain de Veille 2). I don't remember any other movie at the cinema I passed that had an English-language title, and couldn't help but wonder what about "Very Bad Trip" appealed to the French audience (or the demographic they were trying to get into the theater) better than "The Hangover" (or a French translation) would have done.
posted by mcoo at 6:58 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have to say that one of the highlights of living in a Francophone place is the interesting (and sometimes hilarious) translations of English movie titles. Heck, even some TV shows, too.
posted by Kitteh at 7:06 AM on January 22, 2013


But yeah, foreign names sell. We laugh at some of our store names that are meant to be classy just by virtue of being in English. The clothing store Mr. Kitsch is my favorite

My favourite example of this the menswear chain "Dressmann" - found throughout the Nordic countries. It is so nearly an appropriate name to translate into English - and yet so 100% evocative of Eddie Izzard.
posted by rongorongo at 7:11 AM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


heh, Al Green becomes "tout vert" or "All Green" in french.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:23 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hadn't looked at the articles yet, so I was sure #33 was going to be Rolling Rock.
posted by Curious Artificer at 7:33 AM on January 22, 2013


mcoo: Ohoho, you must have missed "Sex Friends" starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher... One of my favorite movie posters ever, I kind of wish I'd torn one down to take home with me.

Michael Roberts: "pressé" also means "rushed/in a hurry", so I think they're parsing "Express" as "done quickly"
posted by Mooseli at 7:39 AM on January 22, 2013


Skeptic - thank you! Mystery solved.

We have a similar mandate for Welsh language in Wales, but only official signs and government/council paperwork is mandated to be bilingual.
posted by mippy at 8:26 AM on January 22, 2013


When I was in Amsterdam last year the tagline for 'The Inbetweeners' (which I never expected to play well abroad as I'm not sure what the correct translation for 'clunge' or 'bus wanker' woul be) was 'Too many chicks and too many drinks', which I couldn't resist repeating to myself in a rubbish Dutch accent and giggling.
posted by mippy at 8:37 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


The scary thing is this is pretty much what Quebec wants to do to stores like Walmart and Best Buy, I mean really, "Meilleur Achat"?
posted by Hazelsmrf at 9:01 AM on January 22, 2013


Not sure why, but XBoîte made me laugh
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:08 AM on January 22, 2013


mcoo: but wonder what about "Very Bad Trip" appealed to the French audience

Trip and bad trip are used in colloquial French while hangover is not. It is also possible that the marketers based it on Very bad things, a movie with a similar theme that was released in France under its US title. My guess is that French marketers keep the US title or replace it with a vaguely US-sounding one whenever they want to emphasize the "Americanness" of the movie. The French don't have (yet) a binge-drinking+visiting strip joints tradition so the pitch of the movie is rather foreign to them. If translated literally, the title would be La cuite but that would evoke the image of a raving drunk Depardieu pissing in the aisle of an Airbus.
posted by elgilito at 9:14 AM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, one thing that always amused me as an American in Quebec is how KFC became PFK, Poulet Frit Kentucky.
posted by Devika at 9:15 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hazelsmrf, not to derail the thread, but I think Quebec is going to be surprised at the fight on its hands if it tries to enforce that.
posted by Kitteh at 9:15 AM on January 22, 2013


I was once asked, in all seriousness, whether 'The Pursuit of Happyness' was so called because that was an American spelling. I think we can blame HOLLYWOOD rather than the French.

*HOLLIWOOD
posted by solotoro at 9:28 AM on January 22, 2013


The scary thing is this is pretty much what Quebec wants to do to stores like Walmart and Best Buy, I mean really, "Meilleur Achat"?

No, that it is not what Quebec is trying to to. The law just required a french prefix to describe what kind of business it is. Just like "Costco wharehouse" is legally known in Quebec as "Entrepot Costco". Corporation are free to translate their whole name if they wish, just like KFC/PFK did, but not mandatory.

That it, no scary stuff.
posted by racingjs at 9:36 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is exactly the kind of stuff we used to do back in high school French class.

MC Marteaux

Ca suce le grand un.

Je ne care pas
posted by beau jackson at 9:37 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Mozilla Pandaroux" works just as well as the original.

"Trombinoscope" is inexplicably hilarious.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:42 AM on January 22, 2013


The scary thing is this is pretty much what Quebec wants to do to stores like Walmart and Best Buy, I mean really, "Meilleur Achat"?

Mais au Québec, Skittles doit être quilles, non?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:44 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Interesting that the possessive "Ben & Jerry's" was interpreted to mean "Ben & Jerry's House" as opposed to their ice cream. (Or is "chez" used as sort of a catch-all term for making words possessive?)
posted by ShutterBun at 9:58 AM on January 22, 2013


Tim Hortons famously lost their apostrophe so that they could have a single name/logo throughout Canada.
posted by ODiV at 9:58 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll give them Marron for Brown (despite the existence of brun), but there is absolutely no way James translates to Jean.

Jacques, maybe.

*scrolls down* Tout Vert? Oh, ffs.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:01 AM on January 22, 2013


So many of these made me laugh out loud. I won't be able to look at a B&J container again without thinking of Jérôme. And "trombinoscope" is just fantastic.
posted by mayurasana at 10:25 AM on January 22, 2013


Power plant = Kraftwerk = Centrale électrique
Hall and Oates = Halle (oder Flur) und Hafer = Salle et avoine (pas exactement, mais une bonne approximation! :D)
The Dream Academy = Die Akademie um Traum (?) = L'académie de rêve

Ach, Ich sollte wieder an die Arbeit.
posted by droplet at 10:50 AM on January 22, 2013


Huhn, a friend and I had thought about how YouTube could localize and most of the names sounded pretty plausible. In German it would be "DuTube", French (and Spanish) "TuTube". Of course, those are the familiar versions, for cat videos and family picnics. For more formal videos (political panel discussions, etc.) the French would use "VousTube" and the Germans would be stuck with the less euphonious "SieTube". The Russians would be happy with "TыTube" and "BыTube", and that's as far as we got.

But most of these translations reminded me too much of the bad translations I'd do in high school French, where I'd get the individual words right, but get the overall feeling completely wrong.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:12 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


But no matter what you do with his name, GG Allin remains GG Allin.

Except the first part of his name would be pronounced "zhay-zhay", which takes some of the edge off.

But it's better than my first take, that it would be pronounced "zhee-zhee", like the film Gigi. Which leads to the horrible concept of an indy film remake titled Gigi Allin — I'm afraid to think about what the second line of the song "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" would become.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:18 AM on January 22, 2013


Mister Snack!
posted by dabug at 11:39 AM on January 22, 2013


"Trombinoscope" [for Facebook] is inexplicably hilarious.

I really want that translate to something like "to toot your own horn."
posted by cosmic.osmo at 12:27 PM on January 22, 2013


This is exactly the kind of stuff we used to do back in high school French class.

Did this with classmates when we were in Barcelona...QTF! (Que the fuck!) is used to this day.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:27 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Power plant Power Station = Kraftwerk = Centrale électrique
posted by Sys Rq at 2:50 PM on January 22, 2013


The scary thing is this is pretty much what Quebec wants to do to stores like Walmart and Best Buy, I mean really, "Meilleur Achat"?

Not true. What the OLF wishes is that the name be accompanied by a French descriptive, such as Best Buy, produits électroniques or Walmart, pacotille pas chère (obviously I kid in the second case). Many retailers are already doing it.

Talking of the use of "exotic" language backfiring, my favorite is petpourri, which tranlsates in French as "rotten fart"
posted by bluefrog at 2:57 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


If all circumstances leading to the name Mozilla had taken place in France, perhaps the successor to Mosaïque would instead have been Mosilleine — inspired by the 1954 monster movie Gorilleine?
posted by mubba at 3:39 PM on January 22, 2013


I'm just happy to have learned what Mitsubishi and Samsung translate to.
posted by aubilenon at 4:47 PM on January 22, 2013


BOWLING
posted by Scattercat at 9:03 PM on January 22, 2013


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