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‘May contain spider’: horror at language error in French supermarket

A quick translation of ingredients on a packet of biscuits led to an unusual allergy warning

Casually reading the list of ingredients, I was stopped in my tracks upon seeing the words "traces de arachnides" Pic: Robert Kneschke / Shutterstock

Just before Halloween, I got the most terrible fright – and it was nothing to do with fantômes (ghosts) or spookily lit citrouilles (pumpkins).

Casually reading the list of ingredients on a packet of biscuits, I was stopped in my snack tracks upon seeing the words "traces de arachnides". 

Quel horreur! I gasped, imagining a carefree factory worker sweeping up the floor and nonchalantly lobbing bits of deceased spider into the biscuit mix loader.

I had, of course, made the mistake of misreading the word as arachnide instead of arachide – easily done. 

May contain nuts

Arachide is the French word for the genus name for peanuts, Arachis hypogaea, so the cookie maker's warning was for those susceptible to allergies, and means "may contain nuts". 

[Readers should be aware that traces are warned about in many French foods, including cream desserts, cheeses with dried fruit in them, yoghurt with muesli, dairy products containing cereals, ice cream, frozen desserts, cereal bars, galette des rois (eaten over epiphany, January 6) and many plats préparés (ready meals) – so always read the label].

Read more: Sunflower oil replacement in France: What if I have allergies?

French spider phrases

Back to arachnides, joint-legged invertebrate animals (arthropods) of which spiders are just one species. 

The latter are called araignées in French and have inspired various florid expressions, such as this to describe someone as a being mentally disturbed – "avoir une araignée au plafond" (to have a spider living in one's head, ie. on the roof of the skull).

On a kinder note, this from writer Jules Renard (1864-1910): "Quelques gouttes de rosée sur une toile d'araignée, et voilà une rivière de diamants" – "A few drops of dew on a spider's web, and there you have a river of diamonds".

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