Thursday, August 1, 2013

Coucou, tu as pris le pain?

In another sad sign that French culture is being dragged down to American levels, the French bakers and millers lobby has started a national campaign modeled on our "Got Milk?" program to reverse the declining consumption of bread in France. The slogan, Coucou, tu as pris le pain? means “Hey there, have you picked up the bread?” and their hope, in the words of a spokesman, is that "when you see the word coucou, we want it to be a reflex for consumers to say to themselves, ‘Ah, I have to buy bread today.'"

Really? My discussion on my baking blog, All Things Bread, discusses the bread aspects of this odd campaign, but here we want to explore thisu outrageous attempt to appropriate the word coucou.

I first ran across this word when my French pen pal greeted me with Coucou! in one of her e-mails, sending me running to my dictionary. Where I learned that coucou meant "cuckoo"! Yes, as in the bird. Or the clock. But it's also become a casual greeting among young people (sort of "hey there!") and you have to admit, it's really cute, even in English: "Cuckoo! What's happening?"

The bread lobby now wants this word to mean, or at least invoke, "bread." To which the only possible response is, of course: What are they, cuckoo?