As someone whose life consists mainly of staring at a blinking cursor or the blank page, I know how hard it is to come up with just the right word.
It’s also true that having two languages doubles the hazards.
When I first arrived in Paris, I always thought it was so pretentious, those anglophones who’d drop in French words while speaking English. Please! I thought. Like you don’t know the word in your native tongue!
Well, turns out, I am now one of those people.
And I promise, I haven’t become pretentious. At least, I hope not. (Now is where you jump in and say that I’m as down-to-earth and lovely as ever).
This is just how the brain works. Certain words arrive in French first and I must grasp for the English word. I even have these brain freezes where I simply cannot find it (the word, not my brain, though sometimes I have moments where I cannot find my brain, either).
I hate when people ask for insta-translations. How do you say “such & such” in English? Or, “how would you say “whatchamacallit” in French?” My mind usually does this: zzzzzzzz.
It’s difficult not to feel stupid at this point. Hmm, I know both of these languages and yet I suddenly can’t remember anything in either one.
I know this is normal, though. (Right. I promise I’ve read articles that say this.)
As you can imagine, losing language is a riot for a writer. Living in France has basically meant I’ve become mediocre in two languages: French gets better, but is still bad; English gets worse. (Also, I’ll take a moment to mourn Spanish, which I used to know well. It’s gone, gone, gone. Or at least very well hidden).
So, with these two things in mind – the difficulty of finding the right word and the fact that we mix and match languages, anyway – I forgive awkward formulations and odd word choices.
Doesn’t mean I don’t still do a double-take, though.
I’m sure there are better examples of store names gone awry. But what impressed me was that I found these all within a five-minute walk. One after the other. It was on Rue Popincourt and Rue de la Roquette in the 11th.
My favorite, in the 20th, though has to be this:
I wonder what happens in this bar.
Ann Mah has some great examples over on her blog, too. What signs have made you do a double-take?