4 French startup names that really don't work in English

Nov 15, 2012
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It’s been quite a serious week with article topics – governments and Google and all that – but my day is often lifted by the occasional email pitches by French startups. Just like any country (I hope), I often receive emails from startups with very poorly thought out pitches – “i’m a 3rd year university student trying to change the way 3rd year university students prepare for their 4th year of university.”

Occasionally, though, only ever so occasionally do I receive emails from startups with names so hilarious & poorly chosen that I pee myself. Just a little. French startups choose English-sounding names for all the right intentions – they want to think globally, they want to be seen as not just a French startup; however, the execution falls short when the name has such hilarious undertones in English that it is clear they are lacking fluency.

Let me make it clear: these startups are all (potentially) interesting – but as an anglophone reading a French startup name meant for anglophones, I am so totally blocked by the name that I can’t even consider the business opportunity. So without further ado, I present the 4 worst Franglais startup names:

Eat Your Box LogoEatYourBox: This subscription box food service puts me in a very uncomfortable position, name wise. I’m not sure if their threatening me “Eat your vegetables,” or if Box is some metaphor for a Justin Timberlake parody music video. While, ultimately, this is just a replica of Gastronomiz and every other subscription box, I find myself giggling at every “Verb Your/My Noun:” BeMyApp, Allmyapps, CheckYourMetro, etc. – it just doesn’t sound like a company.

DooDoo.com: The email I have been receiving from DooDoo.com has been shared with almost every American I know. The email starts “I would like to introduce you Doodoo, a content social engine with a great bookmarks manager.” It follows up with what I would call a “zinger,” but not in the way the author intended: “No no this not a new social bullshit app. Let me tell you more.” Now, I’m as surprised as you that DooDoo.com wasn’ taken (after all, poop.com, caca.com AND dung.com are all already taken!) – but frankly, I just can’t believe that someone who wrote an email that appeared to be so well thought out didn’t stop to ask one friend “We’re thinking of calling ourselves Doodoo.”

Shioube logoShi(t)oube: this one caught my attention at Dublin Web Summit just a month ago – I had heard of the startup before, but had never seen the logo. A colleague at the event came up to me and said “Why is their a startup from France called Shit Tube?” Looking at the logo, it’s surprising this hasn’t been caught yet – The two-leaf clover really looks like a T, and when pronounced, it’s giggle-worthy.

edjing logoedjing: here’s the game – try pronouncing this startup. You’ll probably get something near “edging,” which makes sense. Now, when I tell you this is a startup for “social mixing” online, try pronouncing it again. Yep, this startup is called “E-Dee-Jay-Ing,” and it may break the record for concentration of syllables to letters. A tongue twister of a name, there definitely has to be a better name to sell this service.

I lot of these mistakes could’ve been fixed by getting feedback from an American, or just by Googling the name – seriously, google Doodoo on google.com. The first result is a video about poo. Funnily enough, doodoo is a term used for a stuffed animal by a baby, like “baba” means bottle in ‘baby-talk’ in English. This isn’t related to social bookmarking, but it isn’t as bad as the English counterpart.

France has always been lacking in the international naming department: Vimeo & Dailymotion were never quite as catchy as “YouTube,” and Viadeo just doesn’t roll off the American tongue like LinkedIn. One entrepreneur said that the problem lies in trying too hard to get the point across of what your product does in the name; names like “twitter” don’t focus on the social, or the chacter length, of the following mechanism – they just tell you to tweet out a few sounds like a bird, and the rest works.

The unfortunate part is that all of these startups are interesting enough – they’ve at least made enough noise to get my attention. I will continue to keep an eye on their progress, but I hope they will reconsider their name choices.

What’s in a name? Let us know your thoughts below!