A modest proposal for US marketing…

Bottle of conditioner labelled 'Aprés Schampooing' where it should be

One fascinating aspect of US society is its relationship with the French language: while people who can actually speak French are pretty rare, there are a lot of french words and expressions. Either marketing people are trying to sell their wares in Canada or they are trying to add a certain je ne sais quoi to up the cachet of their product or the image of their restaurant. Bottom line: it’s full of French.

The problem is: French is full of accents, and while people from the US seem to grasp the idea that there are thingies on top of certains letters on certains word, they have a hard time figuring-out which of the thingies to put, as french has four of them (é, è, ê, ë) they usually get mangled. Which looks horrible if you know a bit of French.

The truth is, getting those accents right is hard, I had to learn this in school and it was not really fun, so I would suggest marketing and those who write menus in fancy restaurant use the same technique I used then: fake-it. To be honest, eventually my teachers found out about my ruse, but we are talking about the general public so it should be fine.

The secret technique is to replace all accents with a macron, i.e. a flat bar, e.g. é, è, ê, ë all become ē. This is, of course incorrect, but it can pass for a graphist’s fancy, in particular if you use a sans-serif font like Helvetica, and in today’s world it is much better to look like an arrogant designer than somebody who does not know french…

3 thoughts on “A modest proposal for US marketing…”

  1. Haha, I’ve also been looking at that same bottle of conditioner every morning for the past few weeks, but my thoughts were always “Why don’t you just write it in English if you don’t know French?” alternatively “If you don’t know French, there is this awesome service on the internet called Google, which makes it super easy to look up things you don’t know …”

  2. @Fredrik you assume that copy-paste works, which sadly, is less and less the case… and systems that can pass around non ASCII data (rare in the US).

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