Apart from the ones that make us English-speakers chuckle (such as “Condom”), there are many French place-names that make you wonder why they didn’t save themselves undue embarrassment and just change the name. I suppose the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.
At some point in time, towns in France with funny or curious place-names realised that they need not take umbrage at people laughing at them but could instead cash in on the phenomenon. The town of Chirac in the Lozère department, for example, found that mock-ups of the sign at the entrance to their town sold like hot-cakes during President Chirac’s twelve-year term of office and that when Chirac left office in 2007, sales of the town sign with the line across it as you leave town sold even better.
There is now even a website dedicated to hilarious and curious place-names in France – a site founded by representatives of strangely-named communes across France in 2003. There are now some 1,282 communes in 39 different categories on the list of the Association de Communes de France aux Noms Burlesques, with more towns adding to the national register each year. Some names have pleasant connotations like Croissanville in Calvados (which sounds like a good place for breakfast), while others are simply hilarious.
Below is a sliding list of some of the better ones as chosen by Tootlafrance:
Literally meaning “Naked Body” and twinned with Kildare town, this Breton town gets people so worked up, that they often take off their clothes to photographed in front of the sign.
There seems to be a wealth of brilliant place-names in Brittany and this one is arguably the one that tickles the French most – at least if the number of thefts of its sign is anything to go by. Poil means “hair” in French and if you’re in Poil, then in French you’re à poil, which means you’re “b***s naked”!
Arnac la Poste
Any sign that clearly says “Post Office Scam” (as this village in Haute-Vienne does) is bound to get photographed and laughed at, thanks to the fact that “Arnac” is pronounced the same as the word “Arnaque” (to rob or scam).
The place chosen for the most recent gathering of funny/curious place-names in France was this little place in the Drôme department in South-East France. It means “Sober wine”.
This is a purely phonetic one and it’s also the straightforward unintentionally rude of all of them. The name of this town in the Côte d’Or department in Eastern France is pronounced exactly the same as “baise” – a direct order to fornicate.
In Aveyron in the south of France, this pretty town bears an even more endearing name meaning “neck kiss”. Surely, an ideal romantic destination.
Why on earth this little commune in the Lot-et-Garonne department in the South-West is called “My Nipple” is anyone’s guess, but it provides endless entertainment.
La tronche is a slang word for the head or the face, which is why many French people can’t resist stopping by the sign to the entrance of this Limousin town and get their photo taken wearing a particularly silly grin.
“Aujourd’hui, pour la première fois, je suis heureux de vous montrer mon cul à la télévision!” or in English, “Today, for the first time, I have the pleasure of showing you my arse on television!”. French television audiences in 1976 at first gasped in shock and then fell about the place laughing when they realised that the television presenter was not going to present his backside but rather this hamlet in the midi-pyrenees which is pronounced exactly the same.
The name of this town in Maine-et-Loire is exactly the same as a great slang term meaning “cocked up” or “messed up”.