Northern Baker v Southern Linguist

Southern Linguist and a couple of English friends, in a bakery in Northern France a few months ago:
Southern Linguist: "Bonjour, 15 chocolatines, s’il vous plaît."
Northern Baker: "Pardon?"
English friend: "Je pense qu’elle veut dire "pains au chocolat"."
Northern Baker: "Ah, 15 pains au chocolat, bien sûr."
Northern Baker 1, Southern Linguist 0. Céline, professional English to French translator, learns age 35 that "chocolatine" is mainly used in the South of her childhood and loses all linguistic credibility amongst her English friends.
Southern Linguist in a Leeds bakery, last week:
Southern Linguist: "Hi, can I have a baguette, please?"
Northern Baker: "A what, love?"
Southern Linguist: "A baguette," I say, pointing at it.
Northern Baker looks at me and says: "That’s a French stick, love."
Northern Baker 2, Southern Linguist 0. Céline, professional English to French translator, resorts to pointing at things in a shop and learns how to say "baguette" in Northern.
This isn’t over, Northern Baker.

By | 2008-11-05T10:18:15+00:00 November 5th, 2008|Culture|8 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Neij November 5, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Brilliant! Words for bakery products are notoriously unstable within the “same” language – I remember a friend from Coventry receiving disbelieving looks when he asked for “twelve batches” in a bakery in Oxford (in Coventry a batch = a bread roll; in Oxford a batch, if it means anything, would be interpreted as a whole loaf of bread)!

  2. Jemima November 5, 2008 at 11:37 am

    15 chocolatines between 3?! Good going 🙂

  3. céline November 5, 2008 at 11:46 am

    15 what? Oh, pains au chocolat you mean. There were 15 of us. We also bought 15 croissants and 10 baguettes. The village starved that weekend. Like a plague of locusts, we were.

  4. Bela November 5, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    LOL! Love those stories.
    I spent my youth in Nice and I’ve never heard the word ‘chocolatine’. It looks like it belongs to the South *West*, C. I don’t think it’s in common usage beyond Marseille.

  5. Circeus November 5, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    For what it’s worth, they are called strictly “chocolatines” in Quebec. A “pain au chocolat” would probably get you a literal one (the “pain aux bananes” is a fairly common preparation).

  6. Kevin Lossner November 18, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    We have the same problem in German – the regional variations for food words are so extreme that pointing is often the only way to be sure of getting what one wants. Weck, Semmel, Brötchen, Schrippe – I just want a damned roll to go with my sausage! As for what the sausage should be called….

  7. Victor Dewsbery November 25, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    @Neij: Wot’s wrong wi’ batches then? Good and proper English word for soft longish bread rolls, that is. (OK OK, so now you know where I grew up!)
    @Kevin: What about Kaiserbrötchen, Schusterjunge, Splitterbrötchen, Laugenbrötchen, Marathonbrötchen, Hertha-Brötchen and all the others? In Germany we have more actual products to choose from than in the UK (where the choice is basically between soft white and soft-almost-white)).

  8. Laurent November 26, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    LOL. It took me several months to erase “chocolatine” off my vocabulary after moving to Paris… Céline, you will notice next time you go back to the SW that your baker perfectly understands “pain au chocolat”.

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