A to Z : How to become a true French for the summer : the « F » words 1/3

The « F » words


How come that what is « French » in English is rarely French in French or (and) systematically derogatory ? Some time, the adjective « French » is just a synonym for « sexy ». My advice : please do not translate « French » by « French » into French or you may get « F……d » ( Frenched).


French beans : lets give credit where credit is due and the French beans to the South Americans. Experts have now agreed  that remains of what we call the French call les « haricots verts » (green beans) dating over 7000 years were found in the excavations of ancient Mexican and Guatemala cities.  But the origin of this bean is in Peru and Columbia. The French bean was introduced in Europe by the Spanish conquistadors. At the same time though we have a lot of French expression implying vegetables, please note that « I am full of beans », does not translate « je suis plein de haricots verts », but « j’ai la patate » ( I have the potato) ou « j’ai la pèche »(I have the peach)



To French a bone means to cut the meat away from the end of a lamb, beef or pork rib or chop is to expose that part of the bone for aesthetic reasons. It still happens that the exposed bones are covered with frilled papers. In French, you will ask your butcher to « Pouvez-vous découvrir les côtes s'il vous plaît »which translate quite erotically in « please uncover the chop », that would make you sound very French in front of your butcher !

French Cancan was introduced in the working class ballroom in Montparnasse circa 1830 and was a revolution close to that of Rock’n’roll in 1950. « Cancan » evokes the noise made by ducks « coincoin », which was another name for that « heap-hop » dance and  but  les « cancans » also means « gossips » for French cancan definitely and immediately took an air of scandal. It was originally a dance for couples, who indulged in high kicks and other gestures with arms and legs, with close encounter of bodies as opposed to the modest attitude in ballroom dancing. It was also shocking at the time of crinoline, instead of underwear, ladies would wear open drawers,  which consisted of two tubes of material, one for each leg, revealing occasionally their very intimacy. A daring leap when eroticism had long hence been limited to uncovering an ankle. When cancan became a chorus line style like in the famous Moulin Rouge, dancers were wearing petticoats and black stockings as shown in the sketches left to us by Toulouse Lautrec. The scandalous cancan danced mainly on the music of French composer Jacques Offenbach, was to be christened  « French cancan » by an English producer, Charles Morton, anxious to titillate the English audience in London.


The French Connection is actually the Corsican connection. Right after world war II,  Morphine-base was imported from the East (Turkey, Indochina, Syria) and transformed into heroïne in Marseille’s labs. Corsican drug traffickers exported heroine from Marseille or Paris to the United States,  accounting in the 70’s for 49 tonnes of heroine, that is to say 90% of the traffic. in 1972, the French Connection was dismantled revealing the corruption of New York police department agents, wonderfully depicted in William Friedkin’s eponymous movie . You may mention the French Connection to a French metropolitan, for we, consider Corsica is part of France are French, but not to Corsicans…

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