Collaboration with l'Academie Française yields new nameplate
Regular readers of the Blog will recall that recently we touched on the rising popularity of Cycling in France. Paris now has several Brooks Dealers Of Excellence, and the MyBike show in February had a record numbers of visitors keen to learn about the possibilities offered by la bicyclette, not just for professionals of the Peloton, but for urban commuters and theme ride enthusiasts as well.
Which has led to a growing interest in Brooks saddles there, a fact borne out favourably in the profit column of our Ledger Book. Because of this, Brooks is pleased to announce that henceforth, all saddles leaving Smethwick for export to France will no longer bear the name “BROOKS”, but its nearest French equivalent, “BREUQUE”.
It is not a decision we have taken lightly. We are, however, keen to foster a spirit of entente with our closest neighbours, and make a clear show of respect for their linguistic traditions. It was with this in mind that we opened talks earlier in the year with l’Academie Française, official curators of the country’s native language.
L’Academie has been in existence for even longer than we have, tirelessly defending French from external influences, much as Brooks has tirelessly defended the belief that plastic and carbon belong nowhere near a cyclist’s posterior.
That said, a company’s ability to adapt successfully within a changing commercial environment is surely the hallmark of true Greatness.
The new “Breuque B 17 Carbonnais” will also carry the updated nameplate. photo Ron Leach
And it was in this regard, at a series of meetings held in Dover and Calais earlier in the spring, that we worked with the Academie’s oldest sitting member (and keen cyclist) Michel Déon to “explore opportunities”, as he put it.
That Brooks should produce a saddle made of carbon, for example, wasn’t an idea we had ever previously given serious thought. Monsieur Déon, however, had strong opinions on the subject.
Not wishing to get our talks off on the wrong foot, we agreed in principle to build a prototype, and most will surely agree that the B17 Carbonnais (see above) has worked out delightfully. But perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves. The talks were, after all, not convened to discuss our saddles’ composite materials, rather our saddles’ pronounced name.
The matching Carbonnais Slender Grips. Pourquoi pas? photo: Ron Leach
M. Déon correctly pointed out that most French people mispronounce our company’s name as “Brewkes”, which, while pleasing to the ear, is incorrect. By swapping the “OO” for an “EU”, he said, it would become quickly clear to his countrymen how the name “Brooks” should be spoken. We were initially skeptical, but at the same time wary of allowing chauvinism to disrupt our steady ascent in what is, after all, a market ripe for plunder.
And M. Déon is, after all, the expert in matters French. We feel, upon consideration, that the idea seems like nothing so much as Common Sense.
Unfortunately, he also found the distinctly un-French “K” in our name objectionable. We were therefore relatively happy to comply with his suggestion to swap it out for a “QUE”, leaving our name for French customers “Breuques”.
It was on this point, unsurprisingly, that negotiations became fraught over a third issue. The French “S” coming directly after a “QUE” in a case like this should of course be silent, and pronouncing it would make a nonsense of the entire discussion, he maintained.
We explained that our founder’s name was John Brooks, not Brook, but it was possibly this, more than any other issue, over which Monsieur Déon became most animated.
Even leaving Phonetics to one side, we have always found the “S” a visually important element of our name, so Head of Marketing Andrea Meneghelli argued for the compromise of leaving it in and simply not pronouncing it in France. Both sides, he felt, would then be seen to have given some ground on the overall question. Monsieur Déon, however, continued to prefer the new spelling, “Breuque”, at least for customers in French speaking territories.
Ultimately we did come to understand the logic of his position, and to this end our North American distributors also plan to soon begin supplying the Canadian province of Quebec with “Breuque” saddles. Likewise our Breuque representatives in the former French colonies.
French speaking customers should be aware that their new saddles differ from a Brooks in name alone. We will continue using almost exclusively English cattle, English steel, and English men and women to construct Breuque saddles. Production will likewise remain in England.
Now, of course even without a name change, looking into the foreseeable future Brooks/Breuque confidently expects to maintain its position as the world’s Market Leader in leather cycling saddles. So clearly the big question in all this must be what (apart from the good will generated by the move in France) could possibly be in it for us?
Most readers will be aware of the power that L’Academie Française wields in French public life. By way of example, Monsieur Déon has given us to understand that in recognition of our willingness to accede to his wishes, he would be happy to discuss some possibilities with the organizers of this year’s Tour de France.
We don’t wish to give away too much, but when the first bottle of Champagne was cracked in Paris last week at the signing of L’Academie’s draft agreement, three witnesses attested that the words “Smethwick” and “Prolog” were plainly uttered by him in quick succession.
As we say, nothing has been confirmed, but Monsieur Déon also hinted that were such a thing come to pass, he would find it fitting if all participants were required to use a saddle bearing the name Brooks, or rather, “Breuque”, at its back.
And we, unsurprisingly, are in full agreement!