Pardon my French


e all know how well the English and the French get along, but I honestly do not really know if this expression originated from the hate towards the people on the other side of the channel.

I do know when to use this expression though.

When you have said a swearword in a different language, it does not have to be French. You can also use this phrase right before you are about to offend anybody. Apparently the English think it is funnier to offend somebody by first using this expression. But when you think about it, the expression could also be used against the Brits. French people in fact can use it all the time before they insult an Englishman. And that can actually be quiet often, because as I said, we all know how well they both get on with the English.

But why would there be a reason to think that French people don’t like English people?
There are different opinions on why the French and the English do not get along. A plausible point in history would be the High Middle Ages. When in 1066 William the conqueror, duke of Normandy, the battle of Hastings won, a French citizen became king of England. At that point the British elite was replaced by a French speaking elite. The official language for literature, juridical or political issues became Anglo Norman – or as we would call it now: some type of old French. Not only the language of the elite switched from English to French, the power of the king also changed. In fact the power of the monarch grew. He raised taxes and made sure everybody payed them. Now, inhabitants could probably put up with a king that does not speak their language, but raising taxes has never made anybody popular.

Source: 'Bayeux Tapestry', Wikipedia ( Found on 28 September 2015.

This information can make it look as if the monarchs in Britain after 1066 did not do anything positive. But in fact all they did was increase their power. They just reinforced their position. Something the actual French king on the other side of the channel could not accomplish. But even though the English monarch was more powerful than the French one, he still was forced to have some allegiance to France. The reason for that loyalty was a loan on French soil. Loans were pieces of land given by a king to a subject to make sure he was loyal. The vassal, as the subject was called, could use the land and anything he grew on it. The British loan on French soil, called Guyenne or Gascogne nowadays, however was a ticking time bomb. Sometimes one of the two parties would break one of the conditions of the loan and the arguing started. The biggest feud was in 1337, when Philip VI, the French king, wanted Guyenne back. Edward theThird reacted furiously by claiming the French throne. Technically Eduard could do that. His mother, Isabella, was the daughter of the previous French king Phillip IV. So theoratically Edward had the right to sit on that throne. But obviously Pillip VI, the French king, did not look at it the same way. This argument over the loan of Guyenne and the French throne is now called: the Hundred Years’ War.
Source: 'Bayeux Tapestry', Wikipedia ( Found on 28 September 2015.

Historians may have given the conflict that name but in fact the war ended in 1453, which makes it the 116 Years’ War. But even that name is not very precise. Not only is it not quite as catchy as the Hundred Years’ War, there never was one big war. It were all little quarrels between France and England. All these smaller wars had the same cause though: the loan of Guyenne. But sometimes the fighting stopped for a couple of years and then it just started again. French historians came up with the name in the nineteenth Century after the defeat of Napoleon. They wanted to make them feel good about themselves again and what better way to feel better then to win an ‘invented’ one-hundred-yearlong conflict?

So as you can tell, there was a clash between France and England in the eleventh Century, in the fourteenth and fifteenth Century and even in the nineteenth Century. But if you look closer to the history of both countries you will see that there are even more points in history when the two kingdoms did not exactly get along. If you think about it, it is actually quiet remarkable that they have not yet built a wall around their land! That all they do is offend each other with words. Quiet classy of them. So next time you are about to offend somebody, do it in style and say in advance: “Pardon my French!”
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