6/03/2013

Why do we call anything a bit dirty 'French'?

It has been a long time coming, but the French language - more carefully guarded than a bank vault and more frequently abused than (Fifty Shades's) Christian Grey's paramour - has opened its doors to admit a new word. Until now, the language of love has lacked a verb for French kissing. Now from the Champs-Elysees to Calais, our Gallic cousins can finally adequately describe a rite of passage that has enchanted teenagers since the dawn of time, and/or the dawn of teen literature.

Sadly, they have not preserved the 'French' in the kiss, choosing instead 'galocher' - to kiss with tongues - which sounds a bit too close to 'galoshes' for my liking, which are something a bit like Wellington boots, only they go over your shoes instead of in place of them, and is very definitely Not Sexy.

The modifier 'French' has an odd history in the English language, though it's usually associated with sexual activities, and not always in a flattering way… think 'French letters' for prophylactics, and the 'French disease' for syphilis which is grossly unfair - why not 'the Spanish disease'? After all, they were the ones who brought it from the New World to the Old in the late 1490s. Or perhaps even 'the Aberdonian disease,' as Aberdeen, the fair granite city of Scotland was the location of its first serious outbreak on British shores.

‘Frenchy’ from Grease was obviously going to be the well-dirty one, probably while sporting ‘French knickers’. ‘French dressing’ is an abomination unto salads. French cuffs should never be worn in public without an accompanying-sized ego, and so on.

If old Gaul was divided into three parts, so too is the perfect French kiss: the tender parting of the lips, the first tentative meeting of tongue, and the unhinging of the jaw to remove food from the back teeth.

Still, there is something touching and lovely - if a bit overwhelming, when you're 13 - about French kissing. It is also a test-drive of mating rituals in general. So many details to be negotiated… whose tongue goes where? What about all those teeth? What if I have to breathe? It foreshadows the endless body-space negotiation that accompanies coupled life - from puzzling out (and then abandoning) weird sex positions to trying to share a too-small bed and a terrible mattress with someone whose idea of a comfortable sleeping temperature could only be described as 'Antarctic'. ...more at The Telegraph