July 25, 2006
Brand Naming: Fortunately for Microsoft, a Zune is not a Penis in Canada
One of the fascinating things about languages, English, French, and almost all others, is how they evolve and change over time. Languages are very elastic and accommodating.
For instance, if you were to watch the 1940's movies on the American Movies Classics channel, you would hear James Cagney and others referring to women as "dames" and a good situation as "swell." Today, "sweet" has replaced "swell", and I'm not sure what's replaced "dame." Any thoughts here?
Earlier today, I blogged about the possibility of Microsoft's new Zune brand name being considered a profanity in French-Canadian slang.
Our linguist language professor partner in Montreal says otherwise. Some 40 years ago, when a mother referred to their son's penis, she was not comfortable calling it that and substituted a made-up word, zoune. For instance, she would say, "Va laver ta zoune", or "Lche de jouer avec ta zoune", which translates to "Go wash your whatchamacallit" and "Stop playing with your whatchamacallit," respectively.
Times have changed. Language usage has changed. Nowadays, French-Canadian moms are comfortable using the word penis with their sons, therefore zoune has lost its reason for being.
Furthermore, the Canadian French speaker would never pronounce ZUNE to sound like ZOUNE, since U and OU are two entirely different vowel sounds in French, but the American pronunciation of ZUNE to rhyme with TUNE would sound vaguely like ZOUNE to a French speaker.
Keep in mind that the next time you're travelling to Montreal and are talking about your new Microsoft Zune, there may be, there just may be, someone thinking you're talking about your penis.
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