"Pain Quotidien" and "Raid the Larder"

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From a post entitled "Paging Victor Mair" on his blog, Karl Smith sent me the following photograph:

At first I was suspicious of the photograph for the following reasons:

a. the spaces below the items on the board — judging by analogy from the material to their left — would originally probably have had numbers on them

b. "Pain Quotidien" seems to be printed slightly larger than "Raid the Larder"

c. there is a black line at the left side of the panel containing these two expressions which is not matched by a comparable black line on the ride side of the panel to their left

So I asked Karl whether the photograph had been doctored somehow. His reply:

Absolutely not Photoshopped — just my lousy cellphone and poor photography. I took that picture this afternoon at the cafe on the first floor of the Taipei Maritime Museum. (Speaking of which, that museum is a lot more interesting than the name would lead you to believe. They have a full sized dhow in the lobby)

Granting that the wording on the photograph was genuine, I set about analyzing it.

The Chinese reads:

lèhuó qīngshí 乐活轻食 ("happy snacking")

kuàiyì hōngpéi 快意烘培 ("joyful baking")

N.B.:  lèhuó 乐活 is a topolectal expression meaning the same thing as kuàilè 快乐 ("happy") in Modern Standard Mandarin.  See Hanyu da cidian, 4.1290b.  The folks at Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability felicitously chose lèhuó 乐活 as the Chinese transcription of their acronym LOHAS.

So how do we get from "happy snacking" to "Raid the Larder" and from "joyful baking" to "Pain Quotidien"?

The first one is really not too hard to figure out, since "raid the larder" means to go into the pantry and take whatever one wishes, i.e., to snack merrily.

When I initially glanced at "Pain Quotidien", I thought that it referred to a daily dose of suffering, but then I noticed that "Quotidien" was spelled with an "e" as in French rather than with an "a" as in English, so I immediately shifted my interpretation of "Pain" from "suffering" to "bread". Hence, "Pain Quotidien" means "daily bread", not "daily suffering". How does that match up with the Chinese? Not bad, inasmuch as kuàiyì signifies "pleased; satisfied; delighted; elated" — hence the baker would bake whatever he pleases on a given day.

As to where in the world the cafe of the Taipei Maritime Museum picked up "Pain Quotidien", it most likely comes from the Belgian firm Le Pain Quotidien. Le Pain Quotidien explains the meaning of their name and how to pronounce it here. This Belgian bakery has shops in a dozen different countries (including two within 8 blocks of each other in Center City Philadelphia), but none that are in Chinese speaking countries, so the folks at the Taipei Maritime Museum cafe probably picked up the name while traveling abroad.

Writing about "Pain Quotidien" in this post brings back pleasant memories of "les baguettes" in this earlier post. It also reminds me of Mark Liberman's recent ruminations on "Believed ham". In all three of these cases we see interference between English and French, but in today's case we have in addition Chinese thrown into the mix.


  1. Theodore said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 7:20 pm

    Reminds me of a second-hand story from a friend visiting an Ecuadoran museum with "flautas de pan" over-translated as "bread flutes".

  2. Joffré said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 7:37 pm

    The actual origin of the phrase "pain quotidien" (or, where most french speakers actually come across it) is actually in the french version of the Lord's Prayer. I doubt the Belgian chain had much to do with it.

  3. Bruce said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 8:09 pm

    "pain quotidien" is a part of the Lord's Prayer in French:

    Donne-nous aujourd'hui notre pain quotidien.

    Give us this day our daily bread.

  4. Observation said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

    Is 'pain quotidien' used in francophone menus to denote the same thing? If not, why has the translator picked up this phrase when it is only seen in a company name and a prayer?

  5. Chaon said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 9:38 pm

    Where I grew up in Florida, we did not use the word "larder" (or at least not that I remember). So the phrase "raid the larder" sounds especially weird and alien to me.

  6. David Moser said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 10:05 pm

    This is the fun and enlightenment of Chinglish; the "translations" skew out unpredictably in all directions, from archaic to modern, colloquial to formal, and even outside of the supposed target language. One of my favorite English-Chinese slang dictionaries was a slim tome titled The Usage of English Slang and Colloquialism, which I purchased at a tiny Xinhua bookstore near Peking University in the 1980s. The examples of supposedly current English slang were phrases like "to flutter the dovecotes", "a damp squib", "speak in Ti-Ti passwords", "cut the cackle and come to the horses", "to queer s.o.'s pitch", etc. I suspect "to raid the larder" was taken from some source that retains these types of quaint, out-dated examples. (I myself know the phrase "raid the larder", but I'm pretty antiquated. I'm sure few under 40 know the phrase.)

  7. Chaon said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 11:14 pm

    I'd like to write more on this subject, but I'm pretty busy fluttering the dovecotes over here.

  8. Adrian said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 6:41 am

    "Queer the pitch" and "damp squib" are current slang on this side of the pond.

  9. Victor Mair said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 6:57 am

    My parents still used to say "raid the larder", and some of the older children in the family did too.

    David, thanks for the wonderful, off-the-top-of-your-head collection of delightful Chinglish expressions.

  10. John Palkovic said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 8:38 am

    "Pain Quotidien" seems to be printed slightly larger than "Raid the Larder"

    My intuition is that the apparent difference in font size is perspective, nothing else. The camera view is angled up towards the menu on the wall, so the "Larder" is farther from the camera than the "Quotidien." Most lenses have different magnifications for different object distances.

  11. Ted said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 9:07 am

    What do they mean, Adrian? Both sound vaguely familiar, if perhaps archaic, but neither is comprehensible to a westpondian.

  12. Victor Mair said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 11:46 am

    @John Palkovic

    After thinking about the disparity in size between "Pain Quotidien" and "Raid the Larder" for awhile, I came to the same conclusion you did.

  13. julie lee said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 11:47 am

    Victor, thanks for "pain quotidien". David, thanks for the list—"damp squib", "queer the pitch", etc.

    When I was sixteen, a pretty freshman foreign student at a Chinese university, I received a quaint letter from a Chinese boy. He wanted to tell me he liked me, and since he knew I had very little Chinese, he wrote in English. One of the things he said was, "I like the cut of your jib." I had to go to the dictionary for that. It's from boating. "Jib" is some sort of forward sail. And here's what the dictionary says:

    "cut of one's jib":
    the general appearance of a person.
    one's outward appearance.
    – Sir W. Scott.

  14. Jerry Friedman said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 11:55 am

    @Ted: I believe a damp squib is something that fizzles out, and queering someone's pitch is a lot like cramping their style (if anyone still says that).

  15. Mr Punch said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 12:13 pm

    All of these expressions seem perfectly clear to me, although I'm not sure I see the point of translating the Chinese into different languages. Unless there are other sections of the menu with headings in French or in various languages, I have to conclude that the name of the Belgian chain (which operates in English-speaking countries) may indeed come into play.

  16. Faith said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

    In my family what you raided was the pantry, notwithstanding we never lived in a house with an actual pantry.

    When I lived in New York, Le pain quotidien (the bakery) was called "the daily pain" by those who couldn't stand the service at breakfast, when it's always busy and uncomfortably crowded.

  17. CuConnacht said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 5:53 pm

    What does "to speak in Ti-Ti passwords mean?"

  18. Hans said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 9:58 am

    I don't know, to me the translations look too "neat" to be "translation accidents" – perhaps the translator tried to be witty?

  19. Joe1959 said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 12:30 pm

    To elaborate on Jerry Friedman’s comments:

    A “pitch” is (in the UK at least) the place (in a street, or showground, or marketplace) where a busker, or showman, or trader performs or puts out his stall, so I think “queer (spoil) the pitch” originally meant “to do something to distract a rival’s audience or customers, so increasing your own profit”. Nowadays, as Jerry said, it means to “cramp someone’s style”.

    A “squib” is a small pyrotechnic device, so a “damp squib” (or “damp squid” if you a lover of eggcorns) would indeed have been something that failed to ignite.

    “Cut the cackle” (“enough talking, let’s get on with the job at hand”) I haven’t heard in a long time, and I’ve never heard the “and come to the horses" part.

    "To flutter the dovecotes", and “To speak in Ti-Ti passwords” are utterly meaningless to this eastpondian…

  20. Glen Gordon said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

    That's so funny. I speak English and French but my mother tongue is English having been schooled in French since 5.

    Yet reading "pain quotidien", and considering the English elsewhere here, I likewise assumed an English reading of "pain" as in "suffering", all the while my fully capable French side of my brain was curiously blocked.

    Upon being told it's to be read in French, I cringe in my own humiliation for having not understood it. As others have said, we find it in the French Lord's Prayer.

    Strange and fascinating how the mind works. How many other things do we read with only one perspective in mind, only to find that our focus was distracted. Wisdom in the mundane. Our daily bread indeed.

  21. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    August 30, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

    To cause a "flutter in the dovecote(s)" is to provoke excitement or anxiety. A dovecote is home to doves or pigeons, and when anything untoward happens the birds flap around.

    The phrase is sometimes used in novels set in the Regency period in England. The uses I recall seem to equate "dovecote" with groups of women, so the arrival of a wealthy and handsome male marital prospect on the social scene causes a "flutter in the dovecotes." I don't consider the slang complimentary, since pigeons and doves aren't renowned for their intelligence.

    I've always imagined the bird flapping as a kind of organized chaos, as when large flocks change course, but it might just be that the birds perch on the edges of the many boxes in the dovecot and vocalize and flutter. Contemporary breeding operations recommend housing that includes an enclosed flight area.

  22. Doug Henning Jr. (@likethemagician) said,

    August 30, 2012 @ 12:46 pm

    In Florida, you can't have a larder. Everything just rots.

  23. Vickie Gottlob said,

    September 1, 2012 @ 9:23 pm

    Could "queer someone's pitch" have to do with cricket?

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