Destination: Nice

Picture it: A pretty square in Nice’s vielle ville.  One gelateria on one side of a pretty square, and one on the other side.  Check it out:

and

That’s Fenocchio in the first, Pinocchio in the second.  In what universe is this not confusing similarity?  Fenocchio says it’s been there since 1966, while Pinocchio states on its site, which is written in Spanish, that it’s a multinational chain following its Italian tradition for 20 years.  That suggests to me that Fenocchio would have a legitimate bone to pick with Pinocchio, at the very least with respect to a location within eyesight of its own. But this was vacation, so gelato first, then photos.

Based on food writer and blogger David Lebovitz’s recommendation, we chose Fenocchio, and were not disappointed.  Marc had the salted caramel and I had confiture de lait, which their menu translates as “milk jam” and I translate as pure heaven along the lines of the world’s best dulce de leche.  However, looking at the list, next time I may have to try the “pie of overripe.”  I do love creative translations!

Destination: Cannes

This one’s from the Department of Redundancy Department:

Kind of like the American Dodgeball Association of America.  Or not.  In any event, we gave Cannes two thumbs up, for the four hours or so we spent there.

(Fun and wholly irrelevant fact, speaking of “two thumbs up”: In 1993, we saw Gene Siskel in a pizzeria in Paris just after the Cannes Film Festival.  A few months later, we saw Roger Ebert in an elevator at the Four Seasons in Toronto, when he was there for that film festival.)

Ceci n’est pas une pipe

John Welch at the TTABlog (nice to have met you in Seattle, John!) posted today a discussion of the TTAB’s recent decision in In re Helen Trimarchi and Michael Merr, where the Board took up once again the doctrine of foreign equivalents.

The issue here was whether a prior registration for GO GIRL for clothing could bar the registration of ALLEZ FILLES!, also for clothing.  Heaven forbid the PTO should rely on an actual English-French Larousse to find a definition, or even on a French speaker – no, the examiner refused registration under 2(d) based on a Babel Fish translation of ALLEZ FILLES as “go girls.”  Well, technically, yes, but in actual French?  Non.  Allez does mean go, and filles does mean girls, but if you asked an actual French person (or a French major such as yours truly), you would be met with a Gallic shrug of contempt for a stupid American product name that does not translate into anything that makes sense in French.  Now, “allez les filles,” is a real phrase in French – one that I’d use, for example, in a cheery sing-song voice when attempting to herd my girls into the car in the morning, a la “Let’s go, you lazy slugabeds!”  It does not, however, mean “go girl,” or even “you go girl,” which are used more to acknowledge accomplishment, as in “You just scaled that climbing wall at REI in 20 seconds – you go girl!”

So with my actual competence in the French language, I’m mystified at Judge Drost’s dissenting pronouncements in this case of the significance the mark ALLEZ FILLES purportedly conveys to people familiar with the French language:

It should be assumed that people familiar with a foreign language will
translate the words in that language unless there is a specific reason
for not translating the term, such as the term is the name of another
noteworthy object or it has another recognized meaning in the language.

How about the fact that the term has NO recognized meaning in the language?  Thankfully, the majority opinion got this correct:

In view of the lack of equivalency based on the nonsensical translation
from a grammatically incorrect French phrase and the idiomatic meaning
of registrant’s mark, we find that any similarity due to the literal
translation does not outweigh the stark differences in sound and
appearance and does not create an overall commercial impression that is
confusingly similar to GO GIRL. Thus, taking into consideration the
vast differences in sound, appearance, and overall commercial
impression, and the lack of equivalency in meaning, we find the marks
to be dissimilar.

Where an arguable foreign language translation of a mark differs dramatically in sound, appearance, and commercial impression from the prior registration, as ALLEZ FILLES does here, I’m happy to live and let live. I’m more comfortable reserving the doctrine of foreign equivalents for preventing applicants from registering generic terms in a foreign language – the old Weiss Noodle precedent, or from preventing applicants from registering a phonetic equivalent of a competitor’s mark in another language.  And I can see an arguable dilution angle as well, say, if a company sought to register MICROSUAVE for software.

But what I think is most important here is that the PTO should rely less on soulless computer software for its translations and more on real live people who speak the languages sought to be translated.  Case in point: Babel Fish translated the title of this post as “this n’ is not a pipe.”

And everyone knows, it’s not a pipe – it’s just an image of a pipe.

 

Marketing a benefit that just doesn’t sound good

I posted this article on Twitter recently, but thought I’d address it in more depth as I am still reeling from the premise of toilet paper that touts itself as so strong that “1 feulle peut suffire” – one sheet will do.  Now, I am a fan of Lotus products – I love their small tissue packs, with handkerchief-sized tissues that are nice and thick for the serious nose-blower, and a sleeve of them is often one of my main purchases in Paris on a trip to Monoprix.  However, and without probing in detail the factual bases for their advertising claim regarding one sheet, I am giving a thumbs-down on this campaign.  Adding insult to injury is the fact that the name of the product all too explicitly conveys their marketing M.O.: Just 1. 

See?  Even thinking about it makes you not want to buy it.

H/t Why Travel to France

Cross-marketing gone horribly wrong

This is what we call in French a cauchemar:

                                                 
I fondly remember the November of my junior year in Paris – learning what all the signs saying “Il est arrivé” meant – that the Beaujolais nouveau had arrived.  Pretty much the cola version of red wine, it went down quite easily.  

But this?  Only for kitsch value, sorry.

h/t Why Travel to France.
                   

Destination: Paris

I just spent a delightful week in Paris with my parents and daughters, and spent time with old friends and family there too.  Lots of fun brand-spotting, car-spotting, and wining and dining. 

For years I enjoyed coming to Paris and shopping at a store called Jess (no link, it’s not there anymore).  Now, having given my daughters more or less French names, we enjoy spotting souvenir items like keychains bearing their names, and shops with names like “Romeo et Juliet” and the like, in a country where their names are more common than theirs are here in the US. 

However, this one just, shall we say, blew us away:

That’s the sniffer for a perfume called Juliette Has a Gun.  Lovely, no?  According to the website, the English version of which is rather incoherent, several perfumes are planned under the brand.  Miss Charming, for example, is “the perfume of a virgin witch, docile and provocative . . . One instant, holding up the pressures of the world and the next, crying hot tears over the death of Enzo, her bowl fish!”  (I did not make this up.)  Citizen Queen, another of the fragrances, is “not only this edgy lady, or the most glamorous, or the most intimidating, she’s just all that at the same time, a Beauty on her own.” 

I don’t know, when I think of major French perfume houses, I think of “la maison de Guerlain” or “la maison de Dior.”  I just don’t think la maison de Juliette Has a Gun really rolls off the tongue.  Once again, however, I fear I am not the target demographic . . . tant pis alors.

More from Paris tout a l’heure.

Retaliatory branding? Pourquoi pas?

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. A French vintner was frustrated with complaints that the wines of his region, Languedoc-Roussillon, were crap.  So he created “Le vin de merde” – shit or crap wine.  Apparently it’s not half bad, and that fly on the label adds that certain quelle heure est-il, non?

So the irony here is that the wine sold out almost immediately.  But I just love the connoisseurs in this video who taste the wine and pronounce it palatable.  Real French Joe Sixpacks.  And the slogan is nice too – “le pire . . . cache le meilleur” — the worst hides the best.  Hey, a votre santé!

Planning Fall Break

Fall break is fast upon us, so the logistics of our upcoming trip to Paris with the grandparents (yes, we are extremely lucky) are occupying my time.  I was trying to figure out how best to get us from the airport to our apartment, and this slogan caught my fancy:

Translation: “The whole world is our guest.”  Génial!

Turns out my favorite museum, the Jacquemart-André (love the café), has a “buy three, get one kid’s admission free” plan.  That will work!

Stay tuned . . .

Olympics Brandwatch

Watching the women’s bike racing right now, as the peloton slogs through the rain and pollution.  Give me the Tour de France any day for scenery, but one thing that caught my eye was the bicycle brand Cervelo. What a great name: it combines the French words for brain and bicycle, and is not appallingly unpronounceable in English.  Bravo!