Have you ever noticed how often we label something as “French” in the English language even though it's not French at all?
Here are 12 examples where we figure out what led us to believe they came out of France.
1. French kissing
It’s quite unlikely that the French were the first ones to stick their tongues down each other’s throats seeing that it's only called “French kissing” in English.
One theory as to its origin states that the French were perceived as very sensual and among the first to allow public displays of affection. Hence kissing with tongues was dubbed “French kissing” in the language of the more conservative Anglos. The term “French kiss” is believed to have been introduced by soldiers returning home after World War One.
Photo: David Martyn Hunt/Flickr
2. “Pardon my French”
The expression “Pardon my French” is usually uttered in an attempt to excuse profanities or curses, even though they haven't been said in English. It is suggested that the expression stems from 19th century England when people actually used French expressions but were aware that the person they were talking to may not understand them.
3. French cricket
French cricket is an informal version of the English sport with fewer rules. It’s not clear why the game is called French cricket but some argue it’s to both mock the game and the French. Cricket players don’t seem to hold the French in high regard in general with some apparently calling a poorly executed shot a “French cut”.
Photo: Philippe Leroyer/Flickr
4. French dressing
Whatever you get when you order a salad with French dressing in your home country don't expect to be served the same thing in France. The French usually just mix up a simple “Vinaigrette” out of oil, vinegar and mustard. The French dressing Anglos know may not be French but we have to admit that calling it that makes it sound a lot fancier.
Photo: Andy Melton/Flick
5. French press
There is some debate about the origins of this coffee pot and why it is called French press (in North American English, at least.) Some claim a Frenchman was the first to affix a screen to a coffee pot to keep the grounds out of the liquid but it was Italian designer Attilio Calimani who took out the patent in 1929. Technically, this makes the French press Italian.
Photo: Mark H. Anbinder/Flickr
6. French manicure
While you can’t say with certainty where the natural nail design came from, the story goes it was American Jeff Pink who created the white tip and nude base look while working as a make-up artist in Hollywood. Allegedly, models and designers loved the simple nail design when Pink showed it off in Paris which prompted him to name it French manicure.
7. French bulldog
According to the most common opinion, English lace workers who settled in Normandy in the mid-1800s brought the small bulldogs along with them. The farmers of the area took a liking to them and they also apparently became very popular among Parisian prostitutes. English breeders kept sending over bulldogs they considered too small, and the type ended up being considered a breed and named “Bouledogue Français”. The French bulldog we know today is an international breed and is different from the ones from back then but the name has stuck.
Truffle the French bulldog is not actually French. Photo: TruffleTheFrenchie/Instagram
8. French toast
Yes, we call it French toast but the dish wasn’t invented in France. In fact, the simple recipe can be traced back to 4th century Rome when it was referenced in a cookbook. Just like it’s made today, the Romans soaked the bread in milk and eggs and fried it in oil or butter. Great for using up left-over bread, the dish is popular in many countries including France. But asking for something like “toast à la française” in a restaurant won’t get you anywhere. It’s called “pain perdu” in French.
Photo: Dennis Wilkinson/Flickr
9. French horn
Based on early hunting horns, the French horn may have some roots in France but it is in fact German in origin. The International Horn Society refuses to use the misleading term “French horn” and instead refers to the instrument simply as “horn”.
10. French letters
Condoms have been around for centuries in all styles and forms, but the first rubber condom was invented in America. So why do some people call them “French letters”? The term is believed to have originated during World War I and may again have something to do with the widespread stereotype about the French being overly sexual. Anyhow, better not talk about “lettres françaises” during a steamy hook-up with a French person or they’ll think you’d rather they gave you a grammar lesson.
Photo: Steven Depolo/Flickr
11. French fries
Apparently, both Belgium and France claim French fries as their own, but it is argued that American and British soldiers coined the term when they were stationed in Belgium, naming them after the local language. American politician Bob Ney proved he didn’t care much about the origins of the salty treat when he came up with the brilliant idea of changing their name to Freedom fries in response to France opposing the invasion of Iraq.
Photo: Kirk K/Flickr
12. And lastly… the French plait (or French braid)
French women may have a reputation for being extremely fashionable but they can't claim the invention of this braided hairstyle, which apparently has been around for thousands of years. Women wearing their hair braided this way have been depicted in early Greek and Celtic art, and apparently even engraved in stone in an Algerian mountain range. Though clearly not Gallic, we still call it French plait and the French themselves refer to it as “tresse française”.
Photo: Denise Krebs/Flickr
An original version of this story was published in December 2014.