Posted by The Fallen on February 23, 2002
In Reply to: "Excuse my French" posted by ESC on February 23, 2002
: : : For "Excuse my French", Phrase Finder gives the definition as the origin. Has anyone an idea of the actual origin?
: : : Meaning
: : : Please forgive my swearing.
: : :
: : : Origin
: : : A coy phrase where someone who has used a swearword attempts to pass it off as french.
: : : Thanks
: : : m.
: : I think this
goes back to an age-old rivalry between France and the UK.
: : In the UK, anything considered a bit risque or off-color was considered to be of French origin.
: : For instance: "French kiss" "French tickler" etc.
: : So if someone used a swear word then they would attribute that word to the French as in "Excuse my French, but what the f**k happened to that report I was supposed to have this morning??".
: : Can anybody east of NY confirm this?
: "FRENCH - The prejudice that anything French is wicked, sexual, and decadent has let Frenchmen in for more than their fair share of abuse in English. Many such expressions date back to 1730-1820, the height of Anglo-French enmity, but some are current and others go back even further." From the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Fact on File, New York, 1997).
The French are of course a nation for which there is no excuse. Having said that, there are a few examples of presumed decadence in reverse. Old-fashioned English slang for a condom is "a French letter". Similarly, outmoded French slang for the same thing is "un capot anglais" (literally, an English cap").