ROCAMADOUR, France – So these are the slogans emblazoned on the T-shirts, jackets and sweatshirts that people — many of them French — are wearing in the heavily touristed Perigord region of France this summer:
— “America’s Highway Route 66 the Mother Road”
— “University of California Berkeley Deluxe Classics”
— “Authentic 77 Stage Shape the Sky”
— “Brooklyn Division Hi Fiber Denim”
— “Good Game Life is a Sport ’96”
These mean anything to anybody? Route 66, perhaps, but “Brooklyn Division Hi Fiber Denim”?
Factories in China or Bangladesh must be working overtime to turn out cheap clothes emblazoned for the most part with meaningless but — overwhelmingly — American-sounding brand names and slogans.
Yes, there are the occasional sweats branded with Quicksilver, Super Dry or Tommy Hilfiger. And almost every nine-year-old boy sports a jersey with the player number and the name of the world’s most popular footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid.
But why are so many people decked out in “faux Americana” — clothes with nonsense slogans seemingly spit out by a machine generating random words that have some American connotation?
“Because that’s all there is in the shops,” said Christelle, the wife of a male nurse from Marseille, who was wearing one. “Everything is English or American.”
That means a total defeat for the French government push that was initiated more than two decades ago, under then President Francois Mitterrand, to try to purge France’s public life of English expressions.
“Parking” — a term the French use to denote a parking lot — was meant to become “parc de stationnement”, “fast food” was to be “restauration rapide” and an “air bag” was supposed to be called a “coussin gonflable de protection”. Ha
“Fast forward” (avancer en grande vitesse) to the summer of 2016 and it can be said that the battle has been well and truly lost. As it has in much of the rest of Europe, and perhaps the entire world.
Blame the outpouring of sympathy for America after the 911 attacks, which meant that almost the entire planet’s baseball-cap headgear sported “NYPD”, “NYFD” or anything with an “NY”. Or perhaps American culture is so prevalent that everyone wants to be part of it.
Then again, not everyone. A man on the return flight to Dublin was wearing a sweatshirt that said “Aerospatiale New York ’87”. It, too, was probably nonsense since the initial New York-bound flight of the supersonic Concorde passenger jet, built by the company that later became Aerospatiale, was in 1977. But at least one of the words was French. Allez les bleus!
— Michael Roddy