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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Facebook deletes (and then restores) the French town of Bitche’s page

The north-eastern French town of Bitche had its official Facebook page removed without any explanation - although many have supposed the reason is its somewhat unfortunate name.

Facebook deletes (and then restores) the French town of Bitche's page
Photo: Thimoty Keefe/Flickr

Local broadcaster Radio Mélodie reported that Facebook’s algorithm picked up Bitche as a crude insult rather than an actual town, automatically deleting the page on March 19th.

“We have signalled it, but for the moment the page remains invisible,” local authorities wrote in a new Facebook post, now under the name “Mairie 57230” – the town’s postcode. 

“The appeal procedure can last several months,” they said.

However after widespread media coverage, Facebook on Tuesday reinstated the town’s page.

Bitche – pronounced ‘Bitch’ – is situated in the north east of France, near the German border, in an area known as Pays de Bitche (Bitche Country), or Bitscherland in German.

In French, the inhabitants of Bitche are referred to as bitchois.

To avoid risking seeing their own pages deleted, several towns in Pays de Bitche have reluctantly changed their own Facebook names.

“We wanted to explain to you the name change on our page,” the town of Rohrbach-lès-Bitche, now just Ville de Rohrbach, wrote on their official Facebook page.

“Far from denying the name of our beautiful village,” they wrote, “it is clear that Facebook seems to be hunting down the term associated with Rohrbach.

“We leave it up to you to imagine the reason.”

Bitche is a small town with some 5,000 inhabitants and a rich military history. It is most famous for the siege of Bitche during the Franco-Prussian war in the 1870s.

While it is far from the only French place with a name that has an unfortunate meaning to English-speakers, it is not the first time Bitche has been the source of controversy.

READ ALSO: The 12 worst places in France you could possibly live

Back in 1881, the United States ambassador took offence at the name of the square in Paris where the American embassy was seated: Place de Bitche, named to honour the town of Bitche’s wartime effort. The square was renamed Place des Etats-Unis.

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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian word of the day: ‘Inchiodare’

You'll nail this word in no time.

Italian word of the day: 'Inchiodare'

What do a carpenter, a detective, and a bank robber screeching to a halt in their getaway car all have in common?

In English, not much – but in Italian, they could all be said to inchiodare (eenk-ee-ohd-AHR-eh) in the course of their professional activities.

In its simplest form, inchiodare simply means ‘to nail’ (chiodo, ‘kee-OH-do’, is a nail) – a picture to a wall, or a leg to a table.

Ha trovato questo cartello inchiodato alla sua porta.
She found this notice nailed to her door.

Inchioderò la mensola al muro più tardi.
I’ll nail the shelf to the wall later.

But like ‘to nail’, inchiodare has more than one definition.

You can use it to describe someone or something being ‘pinned’ in place, without actually having been literally nailed there.

Mi ha inchiodato al muro.
He pinned me to the wall.

La mia gamba è inchiodata al terreno.
My leg is pinned to the ground.

You can be metaphorically inchiodato to a place in the sense of being stuck there, tied down, or trapped.

Dovrei essere in vacanza e invece sono inchiodata alla mia scrivenia.
I should be on holiday and instead I’m stuck at my desk.

Don'T Forger You'Re Here Forever GIF - The Simpsons Mr Burns Youre Here GIFs

Siamo inchiodati a questa scuola per altri tre anni.
We’re stuck at this school for another three years.

Sono stati inchiodati dal fuoco di armi.
They were trapped by gunfire.

Just like in English, you can inchiodare (‘nail’) someone in the sense of proving their guilt.

Chiunque sia stato, ha lasciato tracce di DNA che lo inchioderanno.
Whoever it was, they left traces of DNA that will take them down.

Ti inchioderò per questo omicidio.
I’m going to nail you for this murder.

Thomas Sadoski Tommy GIF by CBS

Senza la pistola non lo inchioderemo, perché non abbiamo altre prove.
Without the gun we’re not going to get him, because we have no other proof.

For reasons that are less clear, the word can also mean to slam on the brakes in a car.

Ha inchiodato e ha afferrato la pistola quando ha visto la volante bloccando la strada.
He slammed on the brakes and grabbed the gun when he saw the police car blocking the road.

Hanno inchiodato la macchina a pochi passi da noi.
They screeched to a halt in the car just a few feet away from us.

Those last two definitions mean that you’re very likely to encounter the word when watching mystery shows or listening to true crime podcasts. Look out for it the next time you watch a detective drama.

In the meantime, have a think about what (or who) you can inchiodare this week.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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