Mr Speaker

Translating marketing garbage

French is a beautiful language, so of course it makes sense that some right-wing crazies would fight like heck to keep English from ruining it. That's exactly the intent behind Toubon Law - which mandates that any commercial publications written (or containing text) in another language also come with a visible French translation.

This usually just means you have to properly internationalise software and that Open Source licenses are completely null and void as they are only written in English... but it becomes much more fun when you realise that advertising - despite containing no literal meaning whatsoever - also counts as "text". Meaningless catch phrases, and shallow one-liners are not exempt!

How do you translate drivel into drivel? Here's one example:

Some smart people (jeez, I hope it was people) thought the Windows Phone needed a sincere and poignant statement to emphasise the beauty and meaning inherent in their life-changing product: Put people first.. Ermmmm, okay. Will do.

Now, nobody needs to be told that advertisement is dangerous and will actively make you stupider if you accidentally read it - but here's the nice part: this particular piece of nonsense is written in English. Which is completely unacceptable in France thanks to loi toubon.

So somebody else gets paid to take this meaningless phrase and turn it into French nonsense.

And the result? "Soyez au cœur des contacts"... Be at the heart of (your) contacts. Ah, it's beauuutiful! I'd like to see this in some kind of translation loop... would it reach an equilibrium? Or would it create a sentence so banal as to instantly hebetate any who read it?

Toubon Law is great fun - though somehow the movie biz are kind of exempt from it... Rather than translating the movie titles from English to French, they can translate them from English to weirder English as long as they awkwardly work in the words sex or sexy. Peculiar loophole, that.


  1. Yes such as the movie “No Strings Attached” translated into the movie title “Sex Friends”; which somehow given French culture and language I would’ve thought, there’d be a far more appropriate French translation for that title.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 10:45 am | Permalink
  2. For translation loop fun, you can try sticking the phrase into It does Japanese instead of french, though.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 2:48 am | Permalink
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