Polish Joke

February 16, 2016
Posted by Jay Livingston

I am not all familiar with Freeman beauty products, but I am somewhat familiar with the French language. So I wonder: how did this happen? (Note the English and French lines below “Goyave.”)

(Click on an image for a larger view.)

The translation gaffe was soon corrected (I assume that the Salt Scrub on the right is the later version*). But how could polishes ever become les polonais (Polish people)?

Google Translate had no problem with it, though it preferred softening the skin to smoothing out the wrinkles.


The linguists at Language Log haven’t checked in on this one, and until they do here’s my guess: Freeman is a privately held company. I imagine it as a family operation – a mom-and-pop beauty products company. Old Mr. Freeman the founder ponders the new product, and says, referring to his grandson, “Little Ryan is taking French – they start ’em in fourth grade nowadays – let’s give him a shot at this one.” So Ryan, a not-so-adept student in Beginning French, looks up polish and finds polonais, pl. polonais.


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My keen-eyed colleague Lois Oppenheim points out that in the somewhat-corrected version the accent on protége [sic] is aigu when it should be grave.

Hat Tip: Polly-vous Français

1 comment:

Jay Livingston said...

Lois Oppenheim asked me to post this comment for her (she's really good at French -- blog commenting, not so much):

And my colleague, Laurence Jay-Rayon, related that she recently saw on the packaging for two food items "Polissez les saucisses" for Polish sausages and "Fabriqué en dinde" for Made in Turkey. The list is endless....