How Do You Say "Hot Topic" en Français?

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Dec. 9 2009 5:44 PM

How Do You Say "Hot Topic" en Français?

When a Slate writer sees one of her pieces rendered into French on Slate.fr , she feels a frisson of excitement. Our European sister publication, which launched in February 2009, runs original stories as well as translations of pieces that first appeared in Slate . Since the only stories worthy of the translator's time and trouble are those focused on topics with global appeal, seeing your piece in French is like being told that it is cosmopolitan and somehow universal, not just some provincial American dead end.

So I was excited—and a little surprised—to see my own debut in the pages of Slate.fr earlier this week. Their skilled translators (they really are superb) transformed " Shirt-Buttoning Styles of the Weird and 'Special'  " into " Du boutonnage de chemise des gens bizarres ." I had cause to mention Forrest Gump and Sling Blade 's Karl Childers as well as nerdy characters from television, such as Urkel, Monk, and Artie from Glee . The translator, Peggy Sastre, left in all these references, which is kind of formidable —it suggests that the French are really au courant on American pop culture.

Advertisement

Apparently, though, some things just cannot be translated. In the original, I said that parents are "more likely to stick to stores like JCPenney rather than venturing into Hot Topic." In the French version, that's rendered as " ils ont plus tendance à s'en remettre à C&A plutôt que d'aller s'aventurer chez American Apparel ." JCPenney became C&A, and Hot Topic became American Apparel. I'm not sure what to draw from that, but as a lapsed European, let me assure you of one thing: The worst imaginings of a French translator are far nicer than the cold reality of American mall stores.

Click here to comment on this post .

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.