Not to be diacritical or anything

I wouldn’t have thought anything brand-name-related bothered Nancy Friedman more than gratuitous umlauts, except maybe for gratuitous umlauts coupled with an egregious -ify or -ly ending. (Should some poor sap come up with a name like “Exëmplïfy” — well, let’s say I fear her wrath.)

But apparently there is one step beyond:

[G]ratuitous acute accents are worse: Even monolingual English speakers are likely to have encountered a few acute-accented French words such as sauté and cliché. (Hello, McCafé!) We know what the accent is supposed to do to a word’s pronunciation; undermine our expectations and you undermine our confidence in your brand.

One example she cites: The Lé Edge exfoliating tool, which scrapes away just enough epidermis for the purpose of “revealing the newer younger cells and more radiant skin.” Now I know of no circumstances in (my admittedly limited) French in which “le” is rendered as “lé”; but given the shape of the corporate logo, I wonder if maybe they thought that without “guidance” we’d pronounce it as a single syllable. (“I live only to serve, my Leedge.”)

The one I never did figure out was Mazda’s Protegé, predecessor to the current Mazda3. If you ask me, they should have either left off the one accent mark, or given the name its proper Frenchification: “protégé.”

1 comment

  1. Dr. Weevil »

    18 July 2013 · 7:22 pm

    I had a hunch there might be more to the lé / le question and there is. According to the first French-English dictionary site that came up on a Bing search, there is a noun ‘lé’ – masculine so ‘le lé’ – that means ‘length, strip of wallpaper, width of cloth’. Would ‘un lé’ have an edge? Surely yes: four of them, at least by the first definition. Would ‘Lé Edge’ make some kind of bilingual sense as a phrase? Not much, but not zero, either.

    As for Protegé, I prefer the one-accent form, as I much prefer ‘resumé’ over ‘résumé in English. It seems to me that the final accent is useful to show that the word is trisyllabic, while the other one is purely decorative and kind of snobby in English. Of course, in English the final accent is more important in ‘resumé’, so we know it’s a noun reh-zoo-MAY, not a verb ree-ZOOM. But it doesn’t hurt to be reminded that the car is a pro-tuh-ZHAY, not a pro-TEZH or a pro-TEEJ.

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