When I wrote how Rapha got the French and Italian colours mixed up on their “Country Jersey”, it became the most popular item on here in March, thousands of people visited these pages, including, I think, some people from Rapha.
Well now they have a new item in time for the Tour de France, the Tourmalet Jersey… and this time there’s another blunder.
The Tourmalet is the one of the highest mountain pass in the Pyrenees and was first added to the Tour de France in 1910 . The story goes that the organisers of the Tour de France, the newspaper L’Auto, sent one of their men, Alphonse Steines, to investigate whether the race could cross the Pyrenees.
To cut a long story short, Steines made his way up the Tourmalet but conditions were so bad that he ended up needing rescuing. Yet far from being wary, soon as the hypothermia subsided, he fired off a telegram to Paris saying the road was “perfectly passable”. It’s a great example of how the early editions of the race were not so much sporting competitions but extreme tests of endurance and character. The upcoming Tour de France will pay tribute to the 100th anniversary with two visits to the Tourmalet.
Rapha – always ready to evoke the legends of our sport – have a new jersey to revive this tale. As they put it:
The chest of the jersey is embroidered with a Tourmalet logo, beneath, in French, is Alphonse Steines’s famous assessment of the mountain: ‘Parfaitement Passable.’
Only they’ve got it wrong. Steines never wrote parfaitement passable. The immortal telegram featured the words parfaitement praticable. This is a replica jersey that fails to replicate the original words.
Lost in translation
Not only that, it’s using mistaken French. Passable and praticable are not the same thing. French linguists call some words faux amis or “false friends” because people leap to translate them, it looks as if Rapha has just assumed passable means you are able to pass. Look up passable in the Larousse dictionary and it says “qui est d’une qualité moyenne; acceptable“, in other words passable means something of average quality, something acceptable. It doesn’t mean you are able to pass by, to go over. The correct word here is praticable. Ironically Rapha wanted to celebrate the unique legend of this tortuous pass but the slogan on the front of the jersey translates as “perfectly average”.
Once again I’ll repeat that if you’re going to rip off a foreign culture, do it right. Maybe you’ve seen the website engrish.com, it mocks foreign attempts to appropriate the English language. Rapha are in danger of doing exactly the same.
If you want to cash in on the French heritage of the sport, either employ someone with a precise command of French linguistics… or just email me and I’ll sort you out for a small sum.