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


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!

10 Responses

  1. Pierre Etienne Favre

    You made my day 🙂
    Sidenote: you’re implying that Vimeo is a french company?

  2. thibauld

    I thought “scoop.it” would make it in the list… but I guess their traction in the US is proving me wrong 🙂

  3. Louis Dorard

    Funny you mention Viadeo and LinkedIn, because the latter has got to be one of the most difficult English names for a French person to pronounce — I am suspecting that this is the main reason people here have profiles on Viadeo?

  4. Eric Larcheveque

    How does sound “Prixing” in English? Something like “Prick-sing”? 🙂

  5. dan

    “Eat Your Box” is hillarious – absolutely the funniest from the list. I can’t tell if it’s a threat, or a promise, or an order, or what – also, “box” as a sexual metaphor makes it even better !

  6. Phil Waknell

    I’ve helped a number of French start-ups avoid names that really wouldn’t work in English. Reminds me of the GM/Opel car called the Nova, which didn’t exactly work in Spanish (no va = doesn’t go).
    The rather oo-er overtones of EatYourBox and eDJing (look up ‘edging’, go on) are somewhat matched by another French start-up, TribWay, which sounds nothing to do with tribes but everything to do with, well, something else they should look up.
    There was another French startup which aimed at kids but which chose the same name as porn sites – luckily they changed before launch!

    • Elsa

      Hum Phil, that’s not the exact story, we chose a name (it was just a school project at the moment) and THEN a fake porn portal got our .com ! Anyway, still a bad choice, and thank you for your help on that 🙂
      Choosing a name is a really tricky thing, and I think there is no startup name that work in every language everywhere in the world !

  7. diwann

    Or perhaps those were wisely chosen to make english spoken people giggle ?
    After all, isn’it better to catch attention with a silly name than not to be featured on rudebaguette ?

  8. WILL

    Super Marmite – got to think they’ve spent some time in the aisles of a local Sainsbury or Tesco in Shoreditch.

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