The fidget spinner has been a huge retail success in many countries, and France is now in on the act too.
But wait, what’s that? The ‘Hand Spinner’? Yep! In France, where English words are creeping in despite the efforts of the Acadamie Francais, I guess it should be no surprise that the name changed from English to different English.
But why would the product marketers bother changing ‘fidget’ to ‘hand’? Many French adults learnt that English stalwart song ‘If you’re appy and you know it clap your ands’) at school, and those who can pronounce the ‘h’ often, and understandably, mix up the usage. They might say ‘air’ for ‘hair’ based on the correct pronunciation of ‘hour’, for example, or just invent an ‘h’, such as ‘(h)axe’. In French, an axe is ‘hache‘. It’s why burgers are called ‘steak hache‘ (literally, ‘axed steak’, but realistically, ‘chopped meat’). The ‘h’ isn’t pronounced in ‘hache‘, but some Frenchies like to add it into the English version anyway.
I wondered if it was just a cheap version of the fidget spinner being sold at one supermarket, so I checked some more catalogues.
The very next catalogue had a more expensive fidget spinner, but it was still marketed as a Hand Spinner, complete with an explanation in French on how to use it.
I asked a French friend why she thought the name had changed and she explained it very logically. The English word ‘fidget’ isn’t commonly known in France, whereas ‘hands’ is well understood, even by non-English speakers (probably thanks to that song singing at school).
And for anyone coming to France who is seeking a fidget spinner, don’t think you’re getting offer lightly just because the name is in English. You will need to ask for one with a French accent. Something like ‘Un and spin-nur (s’il vous plaît)’ should do the trick.