“When in doubt attribute quotes to Mark Twain”, so said Mark Twain. So believable, right? Yet, rest assured he never said it and it is entirely untrue.
You walked with us along the journey of the American stereotypes of French and their authenticity. Visions of berets and baguettes seem to engulf their idea of life in France. While you can count on straightforward (implicit: rude) French waiters and a strike of some sort ruining schedules, there are plenty of things that the English language prefixes with being “French”. But are these really French?
Here are a few things we found labeled “French”…not really “French”. Brace yourself for a sarcastic laugh the next time you hear one of these mentioned out loud.
1. French Kiss
We, the French have no issues in being given credit for this one. Yay for the national pride. 🙂 Come to think of it now, we don’t really have an equivalent for this expression. We are not hand shakers or huggers and have lived by the tradition of “faire la bise” (air-kissing on both sides of the cheek). “Did you French kiss her?” is “Tu lui as roulé un patin?” which literally means: “Did you roll her a skate?” But then again, who’s complaining…let’s all call it a French kiss.
2. French Fries
Aha! Didn’t know this, did you? French fries actually originated in Belgium and we, French call them “frites”. Maybe the US army got confused by the Belgians speaking French and brought the French fries home. Fortunately or not, the lame attempt of calling them “Freedom fries” never really took off. So, enjoy those “French (not) fries”.
3. French Toast
Totally yummy, and our favorite, yet not really French. Apicus, a Roman from the 5th century is said to have come up with this toast.
For us it is: stale bread brought back to life using eggs and sugar. We normally buy fresh baguettes during the week and by the time weekend arrives, the baguette is stale. These baguette left-overs are then ready to be savored as what is known to you as “French toast”. In French it is called “pain perdu”, which means lost or wasted bread. Assuming “bread” was translated as “toast“, how did “wasted” become “French“?
4. French Bulldog
Where this came from, even we would like to know! Of all the dogs in the world, the breed called French is the bulldog?!!
Is it because of their wrinkly faces or the fact that they are short and fat? It would make sense if they at least smoked…anyway, it is not a French dog. And it has Greece to thank for its origin.
5. French Maid
From bad to worse and completely off the mark. French maid, again why French? Why not call her a cleaning lady “femme de chambre”? Call it like it is, or as we say “Let’s call a cat, a cat”. Assuming that the French maids from back in the 19th century wore the same uniform, the 20th century sure did some job at modernizing (read- shortening n tightening) it and overusing it in American media.
6. French Letter
This one doesn’t get any better, but sure does work as a sequential blow after the under dressed Halloween French maid. For those who didn’t know, a French letter is condom. We are not too sure how to interpret this, nor whether we want to understand it, but anyway, Durex is an English brand. Nothing French about it. 😛
7. French Beans
We call them “haricots verts” (green beans). And just for the record, we only eat green beans that are cooked (not crunchy or uncooked ones). An American who cooks and eats the beans the way we do sure will be a pin in a haystack. Another cultural mystery!
Granted there could be more additions to this “French” trend like French windows or French roofs and so on. But we found the listed ones more amusing and intriguing. Who knew! The English language (mis)use of the “French” label would become iconic and defining in the world.