Jouets Sont Nous or Toys R Us? Montrealer’s artistic take on Quebec store signs

Jouets Sont Nous or Toys R Us?. Adam Polka

MONTREAL — The debate over whether stores with English names in Quebec should have signs in French isn’t a new one, but it is one that’s been heating up lately.

It pushed Adam Polka, 30, to turn the never-ending argument over language and signs into a personal art project.

READ MORE: Bill 101 changes force French descriptors on corporate signage

“I’m not trying to make a grand political statement,” he told Global News.

“I thought it would be funny to take the argument and absurd approach and literally translate the brands, rather than a more innuendo-ed ‘francisation.'”

The Body Shop. Adam Polka
Canadian Tire. Adam Polka
Chapters. Adam Polka
Costco. Adam Polka

The Montreal anglophone, who now lives in Orléans, a French suburb of Ottawa, pointed out that the debate is unique to Quebec.

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READ MORE: PQ pushing Liberals to reopen Bill 101, insists on French descriptors for English stores

“For the most part [in Orléans], signs are in both French and English because, well, people speak both French and English,” said Polka.

“Sometimes it’s only in French, and sometimes it’s only in English, and everybody gets along. I’ll leave it at that.”

Polka said he’s Photoshopped about 25 store fronts already — a process that can take anywhere from a few minutes to almost an hour.

“Don’t make me think too hard about it — it will make me realize how much time I’ve spent on them,” he laughed.

Curves. Adam Polka
Dairy Queen. Adam Polka

As someone who works in marketing, communications and branding, Polka said he’s sure any company that opens up shop in Quebec would know how to cater to the local market.

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READ MORE: Westmount has the right to bring back bilingual parking signs

“What has become evident is that the visual identity of these brands transcend grammar [for example, Toys R Us] and language,” he explained.
“I didn’t need to provide an answer key to guide comments [on my Facebook] like ‘let’s get our morning coffee at Deuxième Tasse [Second Cup] then buy a TV at Meilleur Achat [Best Buy].’ The power of the brand is implicit.”

READ MORE: Best Buy will now ship English version of TurboTax to Quebec

Polka said the funniest thing he’s learned through the project is just how nondescript store names are, no matter what language they’re in.

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“Word-for-word, whether English or French, Best Buy, Scores and Old Navy do very little do explain what they sell in their stores,” he explained.

WATCH: Language debate in Montreal

So, which are his favourite Photoshopped signs?

“I like the way that ÉCART [Gap] and Deuxième Tasse [Second Cup] turned out from a graphics standpoint,” Polka told Global News.
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“But the discussion that ensued over Jouets Sont Nous [Toys R Us] has to be my favourite.”

“Someone pointed out that Jouets Sont Nous should be Jouets Sommes Nous to make it grammatically correct. I’d argue that’s the same logic, as Toys R Us should be changed to Toys R We.”

Scores. Adam Polka
Second Cup. Adam Polka
Taco Bell. Adam Polka

Despite the debate, Polka said he’s proud to be able to communicate in two languages, “even if not perfectly,” and insisted it’s up to both sides to put the argument to rest for good.

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READ MORE: Bon Cop, Bad Cop 2 starts filming in Montreal

“Why are we only talking about the first sequel of [bilingual comedy] Bon Cop Bad Cop now?” he asked.

“Breaking down linguistic divides and finding a common ground on which to laugh and live – that’s a good focus, no?”

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