I’ve always been fascinated by language and how it works. One of the things I love most about France is the language and all its anomalies. For example, there are many nouns, in English, that we preface with being ‘French’ but are they actually French? I can remember being asked how French doors got their name which resulted in a blog post on French doors:
There are many other things that we call ‘French’. Let’s start with:
- French Fries
This must be one of the most used examples of a food item that is French (or is it)? Are they actually Belgium in origin? My research tells me that some historians claim that fries originated in Belgium. This is because villagers living along the River Meuse used to eat fried fish but in winter, when the river was frozen, and fish unavailable, they fried potatoes instead. This dish was then discovered by American soldiers in Belgium during World War I and, as the main language of southern Belgium is French, they named the tasty potatoes “French” fries. Whether this is fact or fiction I can’t be sure, but I do know that when I was living in Eastern France and used to drive through Belgium, on route to the UK, I became a fan of ‘friteries’, roadside vans selling chips with mayonnaise. Delicious!
Photo by Dzenina Lukac on Pexels.com
- French Toast
This is what we call ‘eggy bread’, in the UK, but in France is called ‘pain perdu’, which means lost bread. Whatever the name, it’s a great way to use up stale bread, assuming you’re not calorie counting! Here’s a recipe, should you need it!
And here’s the French version:
- French Cricket
This Is definitely not French! Have you ever played French Cricket? My experience of the game was both as a teacher and a parent. As I only have a distant memory of the rules, which are quite flexible, I did some research! The equipment needed is quite simple, a tennis racquet or a cricket bat and a soft (tennis) ball will suffice. Six players is probably ideal but it can be adapted for different numbers.
The rules – there does appear to be quite a lot of variation in these. We used to play our version of this game on holiday (remember those?) often on the beach. One player stands with their legs together, and holds the bat in front of their legs which act as stumps. The person bowling tries to hit the legs below the knees, hence a soft ball! All the other players stand, usually in a circle, around the person batting.
The batsperson is out if the ball hits their legs below the knees, or if they are caught out.
The ball must be bowled from wherever it stops or lands. If the person batting ,hits the ball they can turn to face the next bowler. They cannot turn around if they do not hit the ball.
They score a point for every ball hit. Are you still with me?!
I did struggle to find a suitable clip to illustrate my explanation. Hopefully, this one will give you some idea!
- French Bulldogs
Despite their name, the French Bulldog does not come from France but are descendants of British bulldogs. British bulldogs were originally bred for bull baiting until the sport was outlawed in 1835. After this date, smaller bulldogs were bred and were popular in some parts of the UK. It was Nottingham lace makers who, impacted by the Industrial Revolution, moved to Normandy and took their miniature bulldogs with them. The popularity of these small dogs spread from Northern France to Paris.
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com
- French Leave
This is an interesting one! The definition of French Leave is a ‘ Leave of absence without permission or announcing one’s departure’. Interestingly, in France there is the expression ‘filer à l’anglaise’. It means to run away ‘English Style’, ‘do a runner’ or ‘sneak out’. It’s fascinating that the English and French use the other nationality in the same expression! I’m guessing that you might have left somewhere without saying ‘Goodbye’ at least once… I know I have!
Photo by Julia Khalimova on Pexels.com
Of course, these are just a few examples of things that are called French but are not actually French. I can think of others. A second blog post, perhaps?!