“Pardon my French, but you’re an asshole! Asshole!” –Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
When a very proper person uses foul language or taboo words “accidentally,” they can get away with it carte blanche by using the phrase “Please pardon my French.” This phrase is spoken in an attempt to excuse the user of profanity or curses in the presence of those offended by it under the pretense of that the words being spoken are part of a foreign language. In fact, the speaker and listener are both well aware that the phrase or word is indeed English. So why not “Pardon my Spanish” or “Pardon my Italian”? Why is use of this phrase to disguise an improper “false step” or faux pas, so very French?
“Please pardon my French” may have originated from the constant warfare between England and France. Beginning as early as the Norman Conquest in 1066, the French were looked down upon while also pissing the English off. By 1337 when the two countries began the Hundred Years War, the English opinion of the French was pretty low. Centuries later, the British brought their hatred of the French into the American colonies when anything “French” was associates with indecent behavior – like swearing and kissing or even farting! In the early 1800’s, words like the “French pox” (venereal disease) the “French novel” (pornography) and “French Letters” (condoms) became part of the local vernacular and just the simple word “French” began to be applied to anything pornographic or profane.
Thus, today, we have this idiomatic expression “Please pardon my French” incorporated into our English vocabulary as an apology for using obscene language.You can like us on facebook, join us on twitter or read and contribute to our blog: www.pleasepardonourfrench.com
C’est la vie. Touche!