We don’t do accent marks in English. The truth is we hardly need to, not in a language that has (quite literally) 396 words for ‘penis’. However, early this morning Billy Get A Grip of the NTI newsroom had to grapple with French, which was never a kind mistress to him at school. It’s not that he wasn’t interested in travel, he trod the route to the headmaster’s office from his classroom countless times, it’s just that he always felt the homeland of Pierre and Marie-Clare (dans la salle de bain) was too far away to overly bother about.
Billy and his team (of imagined aliens) were on the early shift in the newsroom this morning, in case the high street lost anyone in friendly fire overnight and, lo and behold, Côté Brasserie hit the headlines in the dark hours.
”Where’s the little hat you put on the o?” he asked Aarati on the phone at 5.00am.
“Billy! Have you been smoking again? You know what Neil says when you do that in the office.”
Actually he hadn’t been smoking. It turns out he was hunting down the little accent mark over the ‘o’ in Côté on his keyboard. Its amazing how much difference it can make. Take the words côté, cote, and côte, for example. It’s the same four letters, but depending on the accents, both the meaning and the pronunciation can change.
Côté is a two-syllable word, while côte and cote are one-syllable words, each with its own unique pronunciation (though in some regions of France there may be little distinction in pronunciation). So ‘Côté’, (meaning ‘side’) Brasserie is in a spot of bother this morning (Tuesday 29 September); the restaurant chain owned by the private equity firm BC Partners, is seeking to shut down a number of restaurants which trade under the Limeyard and Jackson & Rye brands that the company bought in 2016.
The casual dining chain was acquired by new investors via a pre-pack, securing almost 3,150 jobs in 94 restaurants. It was sold to Partners Group, a private markets investment manager, for the loss of only 56 jobs
The main chain is said not to be endangered and, in fact, the plans would affect a relatively small number of outlets, and would not include the main Côté branded operation, which is said to be performing resiliently in tough market conditions.
It is thought that a CVA would be poorly received by the landlords of the group, who know 230 of the possible words for penis and are prepared to use them. We asked Billy for a comment, but it appears he has knocked off for the morning, exhausted by doubling his French vocabulary by a factor of deux.