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Posts from ‘November, 2017’

It’s as French as…


Each year many of my students are surprised, disappointed, or even shocked that things that we call “French” in English are not really French at all — or their “Frenchness” is questionable at best. I decided that it was time for me to do a blog post about some of these things. Prepare to be at least a little surprised.

Here are 12 expressions in English where we use the word “French” for things that are not French.

French toast
What we call “French toast” (pictured above) is a not typically eaten in France. Its French name is pain perdu (meaning “lost bread” because the bread gets lost in all the goodness of the coating, I guess). So if you go to France, don’t expect to find a pile of French toast waiting for you for breakfast. You can’t order it in restaurants. The recipe for “French toast” can be traced all the way back to 4th century Rome where it was made just as it is today.

French vanilla
Vanilla is a bean from a tropical plant not grown in France. “French vanilla” is not a type of vanilla, but rather a type of vanilla ice cream, one made using a French technique that starts with an eggy, custard base.

French dressing
Somehow during the early 20th century “French dressing” came to be the name for a sauce made pinkish-red by adding ketchup, but it’s totally American. The French usually just mix up a simple vinaigrette out of oil, vinegar, and mustard. I don’t blame people for deciding to call it “French dressing” — naming anything “French” does make it sound a lot better. 🙂
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