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Pourquoi mon shampoing en français?
August 4, 2012 10:39 PM   Subscribe

Why do so many bathroom/toiletry product labels have (usually poor) French translations (in US markets)? No other household products have these translations - just bathroom stuff.
posted by dmd to Shopping (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Canada. In the UK, you'll sometimes find toiletries with Scandinavian languages alongside English because they can be sold there without any other change to the packaging.
posted by holgate at 10:43 PM on August 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Blame Canada.
posted by pantarei70 at 10:43 PM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


It may not be that the translations are bad. It may be that you are getting Canadian products that are translated into Quebecois French.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:15 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some of it's Canada, I'm sure, but I think some of it simply has French translations on it to make it seem fancy. In my experience the bilingual-for-Quebec products have a different style than the mysteriously-in-French-bathroom-products.
posted by hattifattener at 11:21 PM on August 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Some of it's Canada, I'm sure, but I think some of it simply has French translations on it to make it seem fancy. In my experience the bilingual-for-Quebec products have a different style than the mysteriously-in-French-bathroom-products.

This also happens in Australia, where there is no reason at all for a bathroom product to be labelled in French other than pretension. I think it's just a marketing thing - French cosmetics, perfumes, toiletries etc are supposed to be classier, somehow.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 11:35 PM on August 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


If it's the ingredients list, you might be mistaking standard INCI names as mentioned in pantarei70's link ("ACQUA", "PARFUM") for bad French.
posted by holgate at 11:50 PM on August 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's also that so many toiletry brands are, in fact, French. L'Oréal is "the world's largest cosmetics and beauty company." Check out their list of brands, it's impressive. What you think are "bad" translations may actually be perfectly fine ;-) Shampooing, for instance, is in fact the word used for shampoo in France.
posted by fraula at 2:00 AM on August 5, 2012


Speculation: I know that Kimberly-Clark (big toilet-paper brand) clear-cuts a lot of Canadian old-growth forests, so they must have a big presence up there. I assume they have a lot of other bathroom products besides paper.
posted by rikschell at 5:16 AM on August 5, 2012


So, about a hundred years ago, and even lasting up to the sixties in some cases, French was used for "naughty" words or passages. Books written in English will break into French for these things and then turn back to English. This included in some cases things having to do with toiletries, because they were dirty dirty things that actually touched and involved your BODY.

Some vestiges of this still remain - "Excuse my French" to apologize for "bad" language is one, and french terms for products is another.

At this point, it's likely most of the manufacturers don't remember why they're doing this - but they've done it for so long, they keep it up anyway.
posted by corb at 9:55 AM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some of it's Canada, I'm sure, but I think some of it simply has French translations on it to make it seem fancy.

This is really it. Most packaging for the same products (even toiletries) is not actually the same in the U.S. and Canada. For instance, shampoo sold in the U.S. has to have the volume in U.S. fluid ounces listed before any other unit of measure. Shampoo sold in Canada usually has the volume in milliliters only.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:17 PM on August 5, 2012


How about lightbulbs? No glamor effect there.
posted by bad grammar at 3:33 PM on August 5, 2012


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