Pardon My French

Pardon my French

Pardon My French

 

You’ve probably heard, or have even used, this expression which serves to warn your interlocutor that you’re about to use vulgar or inappropriate language. Even though this expression is not meant as an offense toward the French, its origin evidently stems from the enmity between France and England which has existed for more than a millennium.

In actual fact, although the two countries were allies in both World Wars, France and England have been sworn enemies throughout most of their histories. The French have always maintained perfectly friendly relations with the Irish, Scottish, and the Welsh, as testament to the Celtic roots they share with those nations; but with the English, who are of Anglo-Saxon descent, the relationship has always been rather stormy to say the least.

This mutual animosity is clearly reflected in certain idiomatic expressions that exist in both languages. For example, the French “filer à l’anglaise” and the English “Take a French leave” both refer to a person who sneaks out of a social event without saying goodbye to anyone. The French describe menstruation as “les Anglais ont débarqué” which literally means “the English have arrived.” This is in reference to the well-known red uniforms worn by British troops (also dubbed “Redcoats” by the English themselves) in the 18th century. In addition, the French refer to the country of their English rivals as “perfide Albion”, Albion being a literary term for the island of Great Britain and “perfide” (perfidy) being an old term meaning treacherous; and they call its inhabitants “rosbifs”, just to make their disdain absolutely clear. England is considered by the French as a drab country, where it rains constantly and the people are insipid, rigid, and puritanical. As French author, Pierre Daninos put it “It is not unreasonable to say that if England has not been invaded since 1066, it is because nobody wants to spend more time there than they have to.”

Not to be outdone, the inhabitants across the channel from France have no shortage of expressions in their language that make reference to what they perceive as unbridled and bizarre French customs. Two such notable examples are “French kiss”, which is self-explanatory, and the nickname “frogs” given to the French for their strange culinary habits. Furthermore, 19th century Brits referred to Syphilis as the “French disease”.

 

The French and the English: End of the Hostilities?

We don’t have to dig too deep to get a glimpse of how these two countries feel about each other when we consider how they refer to each other in the idiomatic expressions of their respective languages. To this day, a veritable cultural gulf exists between the French and the English with one side being characterized as frivolous, impulsive, disorganized, and loudmouthed; and the other as cold, distant, hypocritical and calculating. Are these stereotypes or cultural identities? The answer is most certainly a bit of both. Either way, there is no doubt that learning a foreign language helps to bridge the gulf between cultures and peoples. Today, globalization and social media have also contributed to bringing different cultures together, and specific to France and England, the Chunnel has bypassed a natural barrier and literally shortened the physical distance between them.

However, old habits die hard and even if they don’t always know why, the French and the English still have difficulty truly getting closer to one another. Luckily, even though there is still quite a way to go in improving political and diplomatic relations between the two, the climate between individual French and English citizens is much smoother. Let’s hope it won’t take another millennium for France and England to let go of past animosities and become real friends. If they did, most of the mutually derogatory expressions would likely go by the wayside. Here’s hoping!

 

Writer: Emmanuelle Guidez
Translated by David Paupelain

hello & welcome.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Search
Explore Categories

Popular Posts

Don't Miss

Favorites from the blog

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

A Freebie just for you!

Free download title here

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.