20 November 2005

Fun with English

The first picture I offer this evening comes from the back of a box of instant chicken noodle soup. This particular brand is basically the bastard child of Campbell's soup and Ramen noodles. It consists of three teeny tiny packages of powder, which, when mixed with a thimble of hot water, produce a shot glass amount of soup. OK, maybe it makes a little bit more than that, but not much.

What caught my eye, however, was the "happy" ending to the instructions. I doubt I'll need to translate, but step one is to open and pour the contents of the packet into a cup; step two is to add 175 ml of hot water; and step three is to stir. After that, you simply smile and say "Hmmm!"

Hmmm?? Why not "Mmmm!"? Just one crunch -- er, I mean, bite -- will tell you why. (Hint: if you ever wondered why Kellogg's doesn't make a chicken soup breakfast cereal, just give this a try.)

My other picture for the day comes from just down the street from us, on the rue Sarrette. This store specializes in very large sizes, as explained in the small print under Big and Nice.

Hold on a sec. What does nice mean? Does it mean that the clothing is both large and pleasant? Does it mean that the store owner is a friendly giant who sells clothing to NBA players and the obese? Or does it mean that only large and kind people are allowed to shop here?

In the case of the last question, what is the criteria for this? Do you merely have to be polite and jovial upon entrance into the store? Or do you have to document your niceness to be allowed to shop here? And how nice is nice enough? I envision a conversation something like this:

"Bonjour, monsieur! I see that you are a man of considerable size. Can you provide documentation of your niceness?"

"Well, I gave some money to that homeless guy out there..."

"Hmmmm. I guess that's a start. What else do you have?"

"Ummm ... I picked up after my dog after he did his business this morning."

"Yes, but that is the law. You are expected to do that."

"Doesn't the fact that no one else in the entire country does make me a nice person?"

"No, it merely makes you a law-abiding citizen. And a bit of a goody-goody, if I might say so. What else do you have?"

"OK, OK, I have a letter from my mother that indicates my niceness in her presence."

"Let's see. [looks over letter] I'm sorry, monsieur, but there is no official stamp on this paper to indicate that your mother actually meant it. Do you have anything else?"

"No, that's all I have."

"Then I'm sorry, monsieur, but I cannot sell you my garments of unusual size. Please come back after you have saved a drowning child or resisted honking your horn while driving in Paris."

I suppose that if this scenario rings true, then the owner of Big and Nice should really invest in the "red light/green light" doorbell system that the banks use. I sure as heck wouldn't want to be the one who has to turn away a big and not nice person without some kind of bullet-proof glass between the two of us!


At 21/11/05 15:43, Blogger JODSTER said...

Terrific post. Although I did laugh when the store owner started to enjoy his soup in the middle of his conversation... "Hmmmmm."

this is the one part of French culture I couldn't get my head around. Why call a store Big and Nice in English words? Why not just call it "Tres Grandes Tailles"?

The need to stick with French language but the continued use (or mis-use) of the English language is a head shaker..

At 21/11/05 19:37, Anonymous keely said...

you know, the archaic meaning of nice is extremely precise and accurate.

perhaps one needs to be big and precise. precisely big?

accurately described as big?

bigly described as accurate?

eh, i got nothing.

At 22/11/05 20:46, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a French woman, I'll venture to try to explain what possibly went through the owner's mind when he/she decided to name his store "big and nice".

As jodster rightly pointed out, we, French people, tend to mis-use the English language which -unfortunately - does not keep us from using it everyday to the point of altering its meaning sometimes...

This store's name might actually be a good example in this matter. As I understand it, "big & nice" means that you can be big AND nice at the same time thanks to the clothes they sell. My understanding is based on the fact that being fat in Europe is always associated with uglyness. Moreover, French people are very proud to be regarded as slim abroad.



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