An interesting Olivier Razemon piece (in French) in Le Monde solves the mystery of bar-tabacs with semi-exotic names like Maryland, Celtic, and Brazza:

For Jean-Louis Vaxelaire, author of a number of writings on proper names, the only plausible explanation was “the link with the sea, as for Jean-Bart or Maryland. Such names are probably linked with the business of the tobacco store and the café.”
The answer was provided by Jean Biron [who was in the industry]: “It has to do with the tobacco brands formerly marketed by SEITA [the former French state tobacco monopoly],” he explains. During the ’50s and ’60s, the monopoly offered retailers a substantial incentive to choose for their sign the name of a brand of cigarettes or cigars.
Among the most popular products at the time were Gauloises and Gitanes with dark Maryland tobacco, light Balto, and Week-End cigarettes “with English flavor”… The monopoly’s tobaccos inspired hundreds of bars called Royale, Marigny, Chiquito, and Diplomate as well, the last two designating brands of cigars.

(The French is below the cut. Incidentally, does anybody know the rationale for italicizing quotes? It seems superfluous.) I love getting a precise answer to this kind of odd question. Thanks, Paul!

Pour l’universitaire Jean-Louis Vaxelaire, auteur de plusieurs écrits sur les noms propres, la seule explication vraisemblable repose sur “le lien avec la marine, comme pour Jean-Bart ou Maryland. Ces noms sont probablement liés au commerce du tabac et du café“.
La réponse est fournie par Jean Biron, ancien président de la chambre des cafetiers à l’Union des métiers de l’industrie de l’hôtellerie (UMIH). “Il s’agit des marques des tabacs autrefois commercialisés par la Seita“, explique-t-il. Dans les années 1950 à 1970, la régie, en situation de monopole, offrait aux débitants une aide substantielle pour peu qu’ils choisissent, comme enseigne, le nom d’une marque de cigarettes ou de cigares.
Parmi les produits les plus populaires figurent alors les Gauloises et Gitanes brunes Maryland, les blondes Balto ou les cigarettes Week-End “au goût anglais“, créées par la Seita à l’époque du Front populaire. Les tabacs de la régie ont aussi inspiré les centaines de bars Royale, Marigny, Chiquito ou Diplomates, ces deux derniers désignant des marques de cigares.


  1. I wasn’t aware of the convention of using italics for quotes, but when did French writers stop using chevrons to indicate direct quotation? Maybe the italic convention dates to the time they adopted the inverted comma.
    (NB: I’m pretty sure that neither inverted comma nor chevron are the technically correct terms for the punctuation marks in question. I’m also pretty sure that you know what I mean.)

  2. Ack. Guillemets, of course. I taught myself this a couple of years ago, and promptly forget. Always confused them with guillemots.
    So, any connection between Le Monde‘s use of italics for direct quotation, and the abandonment of the guillemet?

  3. rootlesscosmo says

    Great find–thanks. And I’ve learned the construction “pour peu que” which I take to mean roughly “provided that.”

  4. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    Here in Marseilles we have a Jean-Bart, but none of the other names you mention (not in the Yellow Pages, anyway), and I only find two with an obvious link to the sea, Brise Marine and Le 20.000 Lieux (Le is not a mis-type on my part — I would have expected Les). Nowadays bars tend to be called things like Connolly’s Corner, O’Brady’s Irish Pub or The Red Lion.
    I’m about the only person in our institute who systematically uses guillemets in French. I don’t think it’s so much that they’ve become obsolete as that people don’t know how to type them. I have a French keyboard on my computer, but no guillemets are marked on the keyboard, though they can certainly be typed. I have defined a custom keyboard so that if I type Option-è I get « and if I type Option-Shift-è I get ».
    If anyone can explain the conventions professional typesetters use when setting quoted matter in French (are you there Marie-Lucie?) I’d be very pleased to know. Sometimes they use guillemets; sometimes they use a » where I’d expect a « (for example, this seems to happen at the beginning of a continuation paragraph when a quotation spans more than one paragraph); sometimes they don’t use guillemets but start each statement in a dialogue with an inset en dash on a new line; sometimes they mix en dashes and guillemets in what seems to me to be an indiscriminate manner. When they use guillemets phrases like dit-il are set off only with commas, not by closing and reopening the guillemets, even though are obviously not part of the quotation. (Maybe it’s because it’s obvious that it doesn’t need to be indicated explicitly.)

  5. “When they use guillemets phrases like dit-il are set off only with commas, not by closing and reopening the guillemets”
    …neatly bringing us back to where we started, since the Wikipedia article LH cited claims that this practice is the reason for the italics: to distinguish the actual quoted words (italicised) from these phrases (inside the guillemets but not quoted).

  6. Roger Depledge says

    Le Monde‘s own copyeditors appear to agree with LH, calling their newspaper’s usage “redundant” and “unnecessary overmarking”, unlike the practice at L’Humanité and Libération.
    Interestingly, they apply a house style whose rationale even they do not understand. When will the guilty have to answer?

  7. “I only find two with an obvious link to the sea, Brise Marine and Le 20.000 Lieux …”
    I found that name very odd, so I googled it, turns out that google maps got it wrong and that it’s actually “Le 20.000 Lieues” inspired by the Jules Verne book.

  8. bruessel: do you know happen to know sites from which Verne’s works can be downloaded (for free, natch)? Or French literature / sociology / philosophy in general (say: Balzac, Comte, Tarde)? All I’ve ever found was some Zola.

  9. Well, it’s certainly inspired by the Jules Verne book, but lieux is in the name of the bar. I haven’t got a Yellow Pages here to re-check, but a page that I can’t cite because your server thinks it’s indecent agrees with my spelling, and says Le 20.000 lieux c’est un pub qui est aux Goudes (cad le trou du cul du loup de Marseille).
    However, I tend not to know whether French words are masculine or feminine, or whether they end in e or not, so whether or not it’s spelled correctly in the Yellow Pages is a point I would probably not notice. On the other hand lieu is a word that comes up more often in modern French than lieue, so I quite likely would have noticed if it had been spelled lieues.
    I drive through les Goudes from time to time (though mainly when we have visitors) and I’ll try to remember to see how it’s written on their sign.

  10. Very odd. The server refused my comment as original written on account of questionable content. I though it didn’t like trou de cul, but it turned not to like in the Y*llow P*ges *t w*rk. I find that baffling.

  11. Sorry, in my struggles with the server I forgot to reinstate the URL for the page I quoted. It’s at

  12. OK, I deleted “” from the MT-Blacklist. Sorry about that; it should have been obvious that banning that would cause problems.

  13. Athel,
    you’re quoting somebody’s blog. I gave you the URL of the bar itself. Why that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know, but here’s also a picture:
    And the first page of my Google search:

  14. Grumbly Stu,
    I always go to You can browse by author or title and they seem to have a lot of Jules Verne (Balzac strangely enough mainly in English).

  15. bruessel — it’s not that I didn’t believe you, but that I failed to follow your link, as I failed to realize that it was a link to the bar itself. I tend not to think of bars as having web sites, so it didn’t occur to me to think that that was what it was. I was a bit thrown by your saying that “google maps got it wrong”, because I didn’t get my spelling from google maps (which I wouldn’t trust to get something like that right), but from the Yellow Pages.
    Now that I’ve seen the photo that you linked to I recognize exactly where it is — more or less where I thought it would be.

  16. Here‘s a direct link to the photo. Doesn’t look like my kind of bar.

  17. Yeah, I was pretty shocked. What is an Irish bar?

  18. Not my kind of bar either. Doubtless that’s why I’ve driven past it on numerous occasions wihout being tempted to inspect it more closely. I’m a little surprised that an Irish pub decided to call itself “Le 20.000 Lieues”; they’re mostly called things like “Connolly’s Corner”.

  19. An Irish bar of soap

  20. mollymooly says

    It says “Irish Pub”, not “Irish Bar”. The bar is French, the ad is Irish.

  21. mollymooly says

    I notice from the copy-editor’s blog that ‘sigle’ “initialism” has encroached on ‘acronyme’ “acronym”; whereas in English the reverse has happened.

  22. I don’t understand why they’re eating soap at a picnic. Does it deter bears?

  23. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    For what it’s worth les Pages Jaunes do indeed spell it “Lieux”, so it looks as if the owners of the bar didn’t proofread their entry. I also checked with the Wayback Machine to see if they have always spelled it “Lieues” on their website, and, at least since 2001, they have.

  24. I suppose Irish pub just means they serve Irish beer.

  25. I suppose Irish pub just means they serve Irish beer.
    Now that there are so many of them, probably yes, but when one of the first opened here about 15 years ago it was owned and run by Irish people.

  26. I have just started reading Le Clézio’s Ritournelle de la faim, and find that it’s full of the different ways of indicating dialogue that I referred to earlier. It has a lot of dialogue that is contained in a single paragraph. It has other bits laid out with each statement starting on a new line, sometimes starting with a « and sometimes with a —, sometimes closed with a » and sometimes not closed at all. If there is a logic behind all this I haven’t detected it.

  27. Athel, the Wikipedia article on non-English quotation mark conventions, that MMcM found:
    …in French, a guillemet may be used to initiate running speech, with each change in speaker indicated by a dash, and a closing guillemet to mark the end of the quotation.
    Is that what you’re talking about?

  28. AJP: Yes, up to a point, but I find that French typesetters switch between the various things they may do without much rhyme or reason. Hart’s rules (39th edition, p. 100) say a lot about punctuation, including guillemets, in French, prefaced by the remark that “in general, French punctuation is rhetorical , not logical”, and I suppose what I’m puzzled by is an example of rhetoric rather than of logic.
    As a separate query, more addressed to our American colleagues than to French speakers, is that I have the impression that in American usage I should have written “[i]n general, French punctuation is rhetorical, not logical” to make it clear that I was changing the case of the first letter. I don’t normally do that, because unless the case is plainly relevant to the point being made I don’t regard it as part of the quotation, and using [ ] seems unnecessarily precious. However, am I right in thinking that [some] Americans regard the [ ] as necessary?

  29. Only in scholarly contexts, where every character is potentially significant. In normal usage, I would unhesitatingly lowercase a letter to fit the grammatical context without bothering with brackets.

  30. John Emerson says

    Yes, up to a point, but I find that French typesetters switch between the various things they may do without much rhyme or reason.
    God bless them. I really hate those stupid style sheets.

  31. I don’t think it’s stupid at all. If you’re writing something you just get it down the first time and then you don’t have to think about it again. I’m thinking of switching to the French dash for a change, though. Especially if Joyce did it.

  32. Especially if Joyce did it.
    What is with Joyce and those dashes? Weren’t quotation marks invented yet? I switched from Ulysses to Stephen Hero (being in need of an appetizer) but I can’t seem to lose those dashes. And always with an indent first.

    —There is an art, Mr Daedalus, in lighting a fire.
    —So I see, sir. A very useful art.
    —That’s it: a useful art. We have the useful arts and we have the liberal arts.

    And he throws in those arrow thingies too:

    …Stephen trained himself to hear all this out without moving hand or foot but at the same time he was amused to learn that the president had refused to allow two of the boarders to go «to a performance of ‘Othello’ at the Gaiety Theatre on the ground that there were many coarse expressions in the play.»

    Oh, wait that’s the editor’s code. It means, let’s see,

    Joyce evidently went through the manuscript with a red or blue crayon in his hand and slashed strokes beside, under or across certain phrases, sentences and paragraphs. [No Oxford–or Harvard–comma for editor Theodore Spencer here.-Nij] Presumably he did not like them and intended to change them or get rid of them. Some indication of where these slashes occur is obviously necessary if an accurate presentation is to be given of the manuscript and of Joyce’s feelings about it. Consequently I have indicated these slashed passages by enclosing them between the marks « ».

    And while I’m at it, what about this “Mr Daedalus” stuff? Is mister not a word and Mr. not an abbreviation, requiring a period? Infernal Brits.

  33. David Marjanović says

    Only in scholarly contexts, where every character is potentially significant. In normal usage, I would unhesitatingly lowercase a letter to fit the grammatical context without bothering with brackets.

    I do hesitate, because of all the quote-mining creationists out there who quote sentence fragments and pretend they’re whole sentences…

  34. As I say, if it’s a context where it could be significant, go ahead and be picky; as an editor, I’m all for pickiness. I don’t think any creationists are looking for quotes to mine in these parts.

  35. Christophe Strobbe says

    I don’t know what name I would choose for a tobacco bar. “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” is too predictable, especially in Belgium.
    However, if I had a betting office, I would call it Pascal.

  36. To put it crudely, we should wager that (horses) exist because it is the best bet. Ryan 1994 finds precursors to this line of reasoning in the writings of Plato, Arnobius, Lactantius, and others; we might add Ghazali to his list — see Palacios 1920. But what is distinctive is Pascal’s explicitly decision theoretic formulation of the reasoning. In fact, Hacking 1975 describes the Wager as “the first well-understood contribution to decision theory”

  37. If I remember rightly, the rule is:
    If the abbreviation does not include the last letter of the original word (that is, it cuts off in the middle of a word), you need the full stop. Examples:
    Dec[ember] –> Dec.
    Phys[ical] Ed[ucation] –> Phys. Ed.
    (I made these up because I can’t think of any good examples off the top of my head)
    If the abbreviation includes the last letter of the original word (that is, it leaves out a string of letters in the middle of the word, then you don’t need the full stop. Examples:
    M[iste]r –> Mr
    D[octo]r –> Dr
    S[tree]t –> St
    S[ain]t –> St
    I happen to like my “Mr” without an “r”. It looks nice and civilised.

  38. I do St[reet] –> St.
    How do you know which T is included, Robe?
    I remember reading a long time ago that street signs in New York abbreviate ‘Avenue’ as Ave., whereas (I think) Boston and other cities use Av. I’m not sure about the full stop in those cases.

  39. Thanks for clearing that up, O Flying Punctuation Crusader. Not quite sure about the civilized part, but it’s good to know the Brits have a reason and aren’t doing it just to appear abrupt.
    For some reason I thought “Ave.” was just an older abbreviation. And what about Mass Ave.? Massachusetts Avenue is a huge street that runs all through Boston. I seem to remember the street signs abbreviating it with “e”, although at my age I should probably rely on photos.

  40. A.J.P. Crown:
    I guess you don’t know which “t” it is. But I always write St for “Street”, the same as I write Rd for “Road”. Do you write Rd., A.J.P?

  41. No, I only put a dot if the prior letters are consecutive. I use the same system as you, in other words. I often write ‘AJP’, but not always. It’s nice to have systems so that you don’t have to agonise about every little mark, but I don’t like to be too rigorous. It’s not always helpful.

  42. John Emerson says

    If there’s one thing Chronos is a stickler about, it’s the correctness of names. He’s an Ezra Pound confucian that way.

  43. AJP Pound isn’t a bad name.

  44. Le 20.000 lieues: looks like some poor speller either didn’t know or didn’t remember the word lieues “leagues” and its unusual spelling, and wrote lieux “places” either from ignorance or to correct what they thought was a mistake.
    The le refers to the bar, a masculine word. It looks like a much fancier place than most French bars.
    Pour peu que does not quite mean “provided that” – it is more “even if [they do] as little as”, or “[they} merely have to”. “Provided that” is pourvu que. It looks like the writer is mixing up the two expressions here.
    Quotation marks: When I started to read English novels I was surprised at the very precise indication of who was speaking in a conversation and what was said (eg excluding “he said”, etc). I found it distracting at first., and confusing without the dash (longer than en) at the beginning of the line to indicate the change of speaker. Lately I have noticed that English-type quotes are often used in French newspapers – another creeping anglicism. But for one thing, they take less space than the guillemets.
    I notice from the copy-editor’s blog that ‘sigle’ “initialism” has encroached on ‘acronyme’ “acronym”
    The word un sigle has been used for a long time for the acronym that serves as the name of a company, etc., as in SEITA or IBM. Un acronyme is a much more technical linguistic word, not an everyday one.

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