Speaking a Foreign Language

Orangeville, ON (Jason Mead) In some markets, foreignness has cachet.

In the beauty business, French implies time-tested desirability, so we have brands like Theorie, with a tell-tale non-English accent mark over the first “e.” We also see fake French, as in the suntan lotion Soleil, French for “sun” but spelled with the bonus of a circumflex over the “o,” and Juvederm, a madeup name for injectable wrinkle reducer with a Frenchified accent mark on the first “e.”

To English speakers, German implies technical precision, so double dots (an umlaut) over the “e” in Lole base layer clothing suggests quality. Some heavy metal bands also affect umlauts to convey Teutonic toughness.

Note that many people don’t know how to type special characters, so brand names with accents, circumflexes, umlauts, tildes and o-slashes often get butchered in writing. (I left them out here.)

To understand a bigger risk of foreign spelling, consider that many Americans, when seeing the word, do not know that “cachet” is pronounced “caSHAY” or when hearing it, think it’s spelled without the “t” and with an accent on the “e.”


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