Friday, January 11, 2008

What do you call a drugstore that doesn't sell drugs?

I've been having a little translation problem on the site concerning how to translate "drogerie" from Czech into English. I would like to translate it as "drugstore", but that won't quite work, as it will confuse Americans.

The problem is this: in the Czech Republic, only a pharmacy is allowed to sell drugs. And I don't mean just prescription drugs - I mean basically anything that you can put in or on your body that is supposed to have some kind of therapeutic effect. So, in addition to prescription drugs, you have to go to a pharmacy to buy cough syrup, aspirin, or even vitamins. Pharmacies have a monopoly, and like all good monopolists they don't worry too much about their customers. The pharmacies in my neighborhood of Petřiny all close at latest at 7PM. In the U.S., I could pop into the nearest supermarket for some cough syrup at 1AM, but not in Prague. You're advised to get sick only during office hours.

In American English, I'd expect "drugstore" to mean a place where I can buy cosmetics, some food items, greeting cards, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. But I'd also expect to be able to buy ibuprofen, vitamins, cough syrup, and other OTC medicines. But a Czech "drogerie" is an American drugstore without the drugs. So they have pantyhose, shampoo, candy, magazines, toothpaste, and cosmetics, but they can't sell you something as simple as aspirin. If I translate "drogerie" as "drugstore", I'll annoy a lot of my American users that go looking for Tylenol in a "drogerie" after a long night sampling Czech beers in one Prague's many pubs.

So, the question remains: what do you call a drugstore that doesn't sell drugs?

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