Last week, bottled water made the international news for printing offensive phrases under the cap. Someone thought it would be good marketing to print random French and English on the cap liners. Well, you know what you get when you have a thousand monkeys pounding on a thousand typewriters: something offensive.
In French retard means late. Pair that with a random English word you, and you get two little words that insult people on many levels at once.
“When French appears in an English-language manuscript … it must often be treated differently from either English alone or French alone.” That’s what it says in the “French in English Context” chapter of Editing Canadian English. “One consideration for the editor is how the work’s intended audience might react to the presence of French.”
Now, I’m sure we’d all be fine with finding French under the cap of our vitamin water. And every naughty eighth grader knows that retard is a perfectly respectable way to say “late” in French. But there was no indication that the words offered were in different languages. Even if there were, the most French of francophones in the world probably know the phrase “you retard” is offensive.
The editors’ snicker senses would be twigged, at least. Quality control in randomized systems must be a whole new layer of linguistic hell.
The words were reviewed before going out to store shelves, said Shannon Denny, director of brand communications for Coca-Cola Refreshment Canada. The problem? The words were reviewed in their French context, not in both French and English.
“When you look at the same word in English, it takes an offensive connotation,” Metro News reported Denny as saying.
Pardon my French.