Link of the Week

December 27, 2011

Need help with grammar? How about proper punctuation? Maybe you need help with dialogue, style, word choices, or any one of those pesky language rudiments that inevitably trip up even the most seasoned authors.

Look no further than Grammar Girl for “Quick and Dirty tips for better writing”.

This is one resource every writer needs to bookmark.

Pardon my French, s’il vous plaît

August 24, 2011

Song of the Day – Just Can’t Get Enough by The Black- Eyed Peas

Oh, #%*$!!

Oop! Did I say that? Pardon my French!

Pardon my French. Where do you suppose that idiom came from? Really, what does it mean? Under most circumstances, the expression is an apology for when the speaker curses or says something vulgar that might offend people in present company.

But isn’t French the language of loooove, a language of romance? I think of bistros by the Seine, twinkling lights on the Eiffel tower at night, long-legged beauties strolling along with pink poodles, suave men and champagne, love-sick Pepe LePew and mimes. To me it seems if the French curse, it would sound down right silly, or too formal sounding to be offensive.

So where did the expression come from? Why isn’t it Excuse my Swahili, or Pardon my Portugese?

It all started in the 19th century. English and French were dominating languages in Western society.  But from there, many have their own opinions of how the expression became linked to profanity.

Well-educated people spoke both languages. But if one of these intellectual English stiff upper lips spoke French to someone, well, less cultured, they might be using the euphemism to show-off  while looking down their noses.

Maybe the speaker meant the expression as a dig. It goes without saying England and France weren’t always the best of buddies. Could the utterance be linked to the chauvinistic mindset of “us” against “them” and thus the speaker demeaning the one being spoken to? Or is it simply that anything out of a Frenchman’s mouth was considered offensive, thereby when cursing one might pardon themselves for acting like a Frenchman?

Another suggestion stems from the British attributing many of life’s unpleasant misfortunes with the French, most notably that involving sex and the vile diseases that come from doing the naughty. So when something repulsive was said, the speaker apologized (maybe sarcastically) for being representative of France.

photo by Stars Fall Down

The French are pretty laid back people. And from what I understand, cursing is not seen as vulgar as it is expressive. Perhaps when someone let’s loose they are only being frank.

Theories abound, but what do you think? Why Pardon my French and not Pardon my Latin or Excuse my ass-backward Southern drawl? I’d love to hear your reasons.