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Letter to Client: On being ‘happy’ versus ‘satisfied’

by Catherine Jan on November 21, 2011

Dear Client,Happy Fleuriste Paris

The words “happy” and “satisfied” have led to some disagreement, so I’d like to clarify the different notions of happiness.

  • Yes, Happy Birthday (or as you say, Happy Birz-day) is Joyeux Anniversaire.
  • Yes, there are flower shops called “Happy” and beauty salons called “Happy Cosmétologie” that employ smiling, good-spirited staff.
  • Yes, Happy, one of the seven dwarfs, is called Joyeux in French.

Hence, when I translate “satisfait” intoHappy Cosmétologie Paris “happy” instead of “satisfied” in a text about customer service, you become unhappy/unsatisfied.

Happy is too joyful, too gay, according to you.

Coincidentally I just received a short email from Moo.com, the company that will set you straight on what it means to be happy. I had bought cards from Moo for the first time.

Moo wrote:

I hope you’ve received – and are happy with – your first purchase with us.

They requested customer feedback and continued:

We like to think our customers are happy with the things they’ve made at MOO.

Moo did not use “satisfied” in either sentence, because English-speaking customers expect to be made “happy” (but not in cheery, upbeat way).

Client, ever since the day you raised doubts about the word “happy” and whether or not being happy requires smiling, I’ve been seeing “happy” everywhere. To my surprise, “Happy Hour” has strangely become plural in most Parisian bars.

Bruno, like his fellow restaurant and bar owners, highlights his three-hour deal and good grammar to attract passers-by:

Chez Bruno - Happy Hours with an s

Bruno may have deformed the expression "Happy Hour" but at least he knows that plural nouns take an s.