When ‘franglais’ in French adverts goes horribly wrong

When 'franglais' in French adverts goes horribly wrong
English phrases are common in French advertising. Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP
Advertisers seem to find it irresistible to drop English words into French adverts - and vice versa - but this can lead to some very awkward translation fails. Here are some of the funniest (and NSFW) examples of 'franglais' going wrong.

In France Burger King’s new advert for its bacon burger has been raising eyebrows – and fits of giggles – among English-speakers thanks to its unfortunate use of English.

The advert is announcing the return of the Bacon Lover burger and attempts a pun on the popular phrase ‘faire son come-back‘ – although come-back is an anglicism, the phrase faire le come-back is widely used in France, especially among younger people.

The advert’s copywriters then attempted to add in a bacon pun and ended up with the strapline Il fait son come-bacon (it’s made its come-back).

Unfortunately, ‘come’ in English is also widely used as a slang term for both orgasm and semen, so for native speakers of English, the advert appeared to be for a ‘semen bacon burger’ – leading to it being widely shared and mocked on social media.

And it’s not the only example of the addition of English words that make French marketing slightly surprising. 

Likewise this French bookstore’s attempt to pun on the English word ‘book’ leads to a rather aggressive ambience.

But it’s not just French copywriters who are prone to this, English-language adverts often contain a sprinkling of French words in order to give a more ‘sophisticated’ image.

This can backfire, however, as in the below advert for a range of frozen canapés.

The original strap-line ‘little bites, big compliments’ makes perfect sense in English, along with a trio of people apparently enjoying a laugh and a bite-sized morsel.

However, the copywriters then attempt to give it a French flavour by substituting petite for ‘little’ – unfortunately une bite in French (pronounced beet) is a slang term for penis, so now the line reads ‘little pricks, big compliments’ and the laughter of the women in the picture takes on a slightly different tone.

The word bite is a frequent offender here, with Marks & Spencer’s range of ‘mini bites’ provoking giggles among shoppers in Paris, where the British products are sold without being translated into French.

Likewise the below Kit-Kat chocolate snacks on sale in Montreal include both the English and the French for the word ‘bites’, but to French-speakers look like they’re called ‘bite-sized cocks’.

Also into the Franglais hall of fame goes British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who attempted to diffuse a cross-Channel row about defence contracts by telling the French to ‘Donnez-moi un break‘ (give me a break).

The phrase from the (fluent French-speaking) British PM, caused some confusion since un break is frequently used in France to mean a family car or station wagon.

So Johnson appeared to be saying ‘Give me a family vehicle’ – which might at least come in handy to transport his unspecified number of children. 

And it’s not just Franglais that runs the risk of this type of translation failing.

The below Swedish advert attempted to make a pun on ‘tea’ and ‘therapist’ and ended up appearing to warn shoppers about the tea-rapist.


Member comments

  1. There’s a Thai restaurant on the edge of La Défense that’s called “Thaïoria”, which may work in French, but the second you say it in English…

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