“”"It's French!" — "So is eating frogs, cruelty to geese, and urinating in the street, but that's no reason to inflict it on the rest of us."
|—Blackadder the Third|
France, officially known as the (Fifth) French Republic, is a country in western Europe. The country is known for its national language, French, French food (cheese, bread, snails, horse, frog's legs and of course chocolate, can't forget the chocolate), French houses, French cars, French wine, French maids, and other French stuff. They drive on the right side of the road. They also have mimes, for no readily apparent reason, and they have yet to heed the call of British author Terry Pratchett to "learn the bloody words."
French citizens enjoy universal health care,[note 1] and free or subsidized education. France has (relatively) high incidence of atheists, and a tendency to be a founding member of things such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union and the United Nations. They also like to pretend to be "above" all that racial nonsense, but racism is still a daily part of the world.
- 1 France at war
- 2 French language
- 3 French traits
- 4 French exports and inventions
- 5 French politics
- 6 Famous Frenchmen and Frenchwomen
- 7 External links
- 8 Notes
- 9 Références
France at war
Before the mid-18th century
Nothing of interest occurred in the first millennium or so post Charlemagne. Apart from the Crusades, the Hundred Years' War, the Thirty Years War, the Seven Years' War, the Black Plague, the development of universities, etc.
Seven Years' War
The Seven Years War, also called The French and Indian War, was when France allied with Native Americans in the mid-18th century to fight the Brits over colonial possessions in North America. Ultimately, they lost almost all of what would become Canada, as well as numerous other interests. Arguably, their main mistake (apart from having a much smaller population in the New World) was picking the wrong Indians; they allied with Hurons and Algonquins against the region's mohawk wearing badasses, the Iroquois. The Iroquois then allied with Britain and fought well against both French and Americans for a century or so; of course this did not prevent the British from shafting the Iroquois later.
France then handed over the rights to the Louisiana Territory to Spain, an ally of the French, as compensation for Spain trading Florida to Britain for Cuba and a player to be named later. France then supported the American Revolution on the side of the Patriots. Unfortunately, this nearly bankrupted the country and was one of the major factors contributing to the French Revolution. (It didn't help that the Americans abandoned their allies during the peace talks, meaning France got nothing for saving the Continentals' asses and supplying most of their war materiel.)
In the early 19th century, France managed to terrify the entire rest of Europe by both espousing some radical revolutionary rhetoric (and toppling a few churches), and then by conquering most of it. Napoleon won at least 6 out of 7 wars (enough for an NBA or World Series Championship), and expanded French borders down through Spain and up to the edge of Russia (with a huge German bit in the middle that didn't become a vassal). Napoleon managed something that had been unknown prior to his time - he got Prussia, Austria, England, Russia, and Spain to all agree on something: namely, trying to stop him. It was all going fine until he included Russia in the alliance against him by making the (soon to be classic) mistake of actually invading the largest country on earth.
World War I
There's something to be said about a war from which what was up to that point the most consistently martial country in the history of Europe (possibly in the world) came out more pacifist. (During the Battle of Belleau Wood, the Americans had to fight through the retreating French to get to the Germans. As the Marines were fighting their way through the retreating French, one of the French commanders asked Marine Captain Lloyd Williams why he wasn't retreating. In response, the Marine replied, "Retreat, Hell! We just got here!" [note 2])
World War II
While France fought the Germans for some 4 years during the first world war, in spite of superior and more numerous tanks, during the second the fighting lasted for less than two months before Paris fell. Blaming the Maginot Line is a bit of a folly; France wanted to extend it to the Belgian border, but the Belgians were a bit upset about "plan hide behind Belgium". They knew the Germans would try to go around, so they put their army behind Belgium anyway, but didn't think the Germans could go through the Ardennes forest. Spoiler alert: they were wrong.
For the Nazi collaborationist regime, see Vichy France. While the Vichy regime ruled France from 1940 to 1944, Charles de Gaulle headed the Free French government in exile. Free French troops and underground anti-Nazi resistance within France helped drive the Vichy regime and Nazi occupation troops out of France starting with D-Day (June 6, 1944).
Post WWII, France formed the French Fourth Republic, during which time France's African colonies decided they wanted to be treated as if they were actually humans, the ingrates. The inability of France to hold onto Algeria in particular led to the collapse of the fourth republic, and De Gaulle came out of retirement. In spite of this, France did see large amounts of economic growth and the addition of various public programs.
This country was once part of French Indochina, which also included Laos and Cambodia. After two protracted and costly wars — the first was fought against French recolonization and the second was an internationalized civil war fought between the Communists and their opponents — it fell to the Red menace completely in 1975. Today, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has mended ties with her former foes. And returned all the prisoners of war, goddamn it! Stop feeding that ridiculous conspiracy theory.
Most modern forms of torture were developed by the French in Indo-China (Paola Condor) and Algeria (Philippeville), where their soldiers proved their mettle at fighting opponents tied to a chair, although faring less well against those running around shooting back.
In 1985 French agents sank Greenpeace's ship Rainbow Warrior in Auckland, New Zealand where it was waiting for other ships and boats prior to sailing to Mururoa Atoll in the Pacific to protest French nuclear tests. One man was killed. One cannot say that the activist group did not deserve such a punishment. This naval victory represents more ships sunk by the French than at Trafalgar, the Nile, Quiberon Bay, Saint's Passage, Chesapeake Bay, Vigo, Glorious First of June, Finistère, Ushant (First and Second), La Hogue, and WWII - combined... unless you count French ships sunk by their own men during WWII.
Because of this snub, American right wing extremists didn't like France for a time and renamed french fries "freedom fries" on the Congressional cafeteria menu in retaliation (That'll teach 'em!). Many private establishments followed suit, some maintaining the charade until late 2008. In reality, the Congressional cafeteria was run by Restaurant Associates, a British company that likely was seizing the opportunity to attack its nation's long-time rival, but this ludicrous affair ended years later when a Republican led Congress replaced the Brits with a French contractor.
The most well-known and lasting instance was the curious hack demonstrated by entering "French military victories" into Google - it would then ask if you meant "French military defeats". Unlike other so-called Google Bombs such as "miserable failure", this has lasted, and can still work from most versions of Google.[note 3]
France has laws to maintain the "purity of the French language", and indeed French is mandated by the French constitution as the nation's official language. Moreover, a long-established Academy devotes itself to keeping the mother tongue free of such foreign invasions as: "Web," "CD," and "ROM." French people, however, use "Web", "CD" and "ROM" – and even "Coke" – with an attitude of "I fart in your general direction" to the Academy.
Many parts of France, however, originally had different native languages. These are not allowed to be spoken by teachers in French public schools (which is remarkable in a nation that prides itself on its freedom) and many of these tongues have died out or are dying out. Other native languages in France include:
- Breton - Most ironic, since the French are inordinately proud of their Celtic heritage and this is the only Celtic language still spoken in France
- Occitan - They just can't stand that a Latin language would asiprate the "h"
- Catalan - Probably jealous because it's spoken more in Spain than France
- Dutch - Eww, a Germanic language!
- German - Double eww, a language even closer to High German!
- Corsican - Come on, just because you're an island closer to Italy and with historic ties to Italy doesn't mean you aren't Frenchmen!
- Creole - We no savvy pidgins and creoles. No can do.
- Basque - It's hard to get away with calling an isolate a "dialect" of French
Corsicans are especially offended by mandatory French and insisted on Corsican road signs; which they got, but bilingual with the original native Corsican names in italics to emphasize their unofficialness.
French women (and to a large extent, men) have a terrific sense of fashion, which explains why many fashion houses have grown and prospered there.
Perfume is a very French thing. Any rumours that this is because they hate to immerse their bodies in water is a vile canard.
France denies that races exist. No reference to race ever takes places in the public debate and there's no definition of race in any law. When someone wants to speak about black and Arabic French, he usually uses sentences like "French originated from immigration" or "Muslims" if he's a politician, "those people" if he's an everyday racist. This world view is completely scientifically accurate but can cause a lot of cultural misunderstandings with some other countries where identity politics is the norm, as can be seen in a recent dispute between a South African comedian in the U.S., Trevor Noah, and the French Ambassador to that same country, Gérard Araud.
The idea of having to put one's race on a census is totally alien to the French, and the government does not maintain any statistics regarding the racial or religious makeup of the population. Some events made them a bit reluctant to do so. This renders very difficult any try at affirmative action.
This doesn't prevent France, as stated above, from having pesky little skirmishes pop up in the banlieues.[note 4]
French tend to be quite open-minded about their fellow countrymen's sexuality. François Mitterand served 14 years as a president, from 1981 to 1995, while sustaining two families (on state money), without the media ever finding the fact noteworthy. Nobody except the extreme Christian right much cared when the mayor of Paris turned out to be homosexual.[note 5] And the fuss about now-former president Nicolas Sarkozy divorcing and marrying a model was more due to the bride being
incredibly hot famous. His successor, Francois Hollande, also divorced his wife while campaigning and quickly replaced his girlfriend with a mistress while in office to considerable ridicule in the American media but hardly a mention in the French press. Reportedly, French president Félix Faure (1895-99) died while getting head from his lover, Marguerite Steinheil, in the Élysée Palace; instead of being vilified, he became the butt (no pun intended!) of countless jokes and puns.
A lot of the male politicians have been known for their womanizing ways, and the news were met with reactions ranging from polite ignorance (in the case of them requiring all inclusive accommodations) to pride and admiration (in the case of them being known seducers). Of course, when IMF president Dominique Strauss-Kahn, known to be in the second category, was arrested for sexual assault in New York, that amounted to a kick in the collective unconscious groin of the French by the US. This may be just an honest cultural difference and is not that serious. In any case, he was not found guilty.
Despite this sexual openness, France still didn't act on gay marriage until Spring 2013, only allowing civil unions until then that lack sorely in terms of inheritance or protection of the surviving spouse. In May 2012, newly elected president François Hollande included the legalization of same-sex marriage in his list of legislative priorities. This was passed the next year along with gay adoption, despite some of the biggest protests seen there in recent years (which is saying something).
French exports and inventions
France is the largest producer, consumer and exporter of wine in the world by volume and value. While some wine snobs claim that the only good wine is French, this is a less popular view today even within France. France is also known to make some mass-produced wine of such staggering mediocrity that even wine consumption by the French themselves has been falling in recent decades. Instead it is regularly distilled into industrial alcohol—therefore saying "This wine is only good for stripping paint" now has a certain truth behind it.
A Frenchman invented canned food. An Englishman invented the can opener.
French revolutionaries also invented the Metric system, which was why the meter was originally defined as one ten-millionth of the distance between the north pole and the equator on a line running through Paris.
No, French fries weren't invented there (that was Belgium). Nor croissants (Austria), nor the French horn (Germany), nor French kissing. They also did not invent the largely defensive weapon of guillotine, although they were the last to use it in 1977.
In service with the French Air Force and Navy, the Dassault Rafale delta-winged jet fighter is at present one of the most advanced and versatile warplanes ever designed. True to its designation as an "omnirole" aircraft, it is capable of air superiority, deep interdiction, bombing, close air support, anti-shipping, aerial reconnaissance, and nuclear deterrent missions. It has been exported to Qatar, Egypt, and India, but its formidable price limited the number of sales. Remarkably, France originally joined a multinational project involving the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Spain to develop the Eurofighter Typhoon, but dropped out over various disagreements and pursued the Rafale on its own instead.
France conducted its last nuclear weapon test in 1996. France maintains her own nuclear weapons and a independent nuclear policy. France reserves the right to retaliate against an attack on French soil with nuclear strikes, but she has never actually used her nuclear arsenal in anger, primarily because the attitude of non works spectacularly poorly against the
Evil Empire Soviet Union, an enemy with nuclear stockpiles ten times your size and a truly alarming number of disposable cities. However, France's peacetime use of nuclear power is extensive: a massive 75% of its electricity is nuclear in origin. Unlike neighboring Germany, there is hardly any debate regarding the merits of nuclear energy. It also has the only nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in Western Europe, the Charles de Gaulle. She will likely continue to hold this distinction for decades to come, since the United Kingdom's Queen Elizabeth II-class aircraft carriers are running on diesel. Like the UK, however, France operates nuclear-powered attack (Rubis-class) and ballistic missile submarines (Triomphant-class).
As a whole an average French politician may seem more liberal than their average American counterpart. Even if that is debatable, it's clear than some subjects are almost unheard of in politics. For most French, seeing an American presidential candidate saying that he's anti-abortion or pandering overtly to a religious group is pure and simple madness. In the same bag, the French don't understand the discussion about creationism and the separation of church and state. French secularism dates to the third Republic (they are currently on their fifth) and has survived two world wars, one foreign occupation and several revolutions. Recently, they outlawed ostentatious religious signs in school, and banned face covering, which include burqas, in public places.
There is a pretty strong sense of Islamophobia and antisemitism within French society, although many would argue they're not really secular as opposed to xenophobic. French Christians never have to deal with institutional discrimination, and a common catchphrase is that French Christians "wear the cross on the inside." Interestingly, their societal make-up — immigrants wanting a better life, but being mistreated frequently; a massive influx of refugees and a corresponding hatred of the refugees; religious, cultural, and racial minorities facing disenfranchisement despite being full-fledged citizens; and a political establishment that loves austerity — runs parallel to that of many of its European counterparts, including the United Kingdom.
The Fifth Republic has been dominated by Parti Socialiste and Les Républicains, though third parties have had a far greater role in the system than under first past the post. However, the party En Marche! has come to dominate French politics throughout 2017, being a centrist party, and arguably the most pro-European major party in France. In 2017, its first election, its founder ascended to the presidency, and the party took an absolute majority in the National Assembly.
Famous Frenchmen and Frenchwomen
- René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, André-Marie Ampère, August-Louis Cauchy, Joseph-Louis Lagrange, Pierre-Simon de Laplace, Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier, and Henri Poincare.
- Astérix and Obélix
- d'Artagnan, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis
- Simone Beck
- M. Bigot
- Charles de Gaulle
- Pierre Beaumarchais
- Napoléon Bonaparte and his
Mini-Meeventual successor Napoleon III
- M. Chauvin
- Maurice Chevalier (Sank 'eaven for leetle girrlss -- He had more luck with that than Polanski)
- Anacharsis Cloots
- Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau
- Marie and Pierre Curie (Marie born in Poland)
- Daft Punk (Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo)
- Simone de Beauvoir
Brigitte Bardot Gérard Depardieu
- Georges-Auguste Escoffier
- Michel Foucault
- Victor Hugo
- André the Giant
- Christine Lagarde
- Marcel Marceau
- Louis Pasteur
- Pepé Le Pew
- Jean-Luc Picard
- Jean-Luc Godard
- François Hollande, and
Ségolène Royal, Valérie Trierweiler, Julie Gayet
- Ségolène Royal (rehabilitated April 2014)
- Jean-Marie Le Pen
- Jean-Paul Sartre
- Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and
Hélène Dumas, Brigitte Guillemette, Anne Sinclair, Myriam L'Aouffir and assorted hotel chambermaids
- Zinedine Zidane
- Donatien Alphonse Francoise, Marquis de Sade
Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc, or Jeanne D'Arc in French, is the French national symbol of resistance to foreign tyranny. She was killed by the English after the
French Burgundians sold her to them[note 6] and the very king that she'd helped refused to ransom her, her real purpose in the war having been to become a symbol of resistance to foreign tyranny and thus popularise what had previously been seen by much of the peasantry as an abstract and unimportant political game between lords.
The British electronic band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the
D'Arc Dark also wrote three songs about her that were UK chart hits - you know, the waltzy one with the bagpipes and all the drums called "Maid Of Orleans (The Waltz Joan Of Arc)," and the uhm other one that they called "Joan Of Arc," and the other other one they called "La Femme Accident."
Other notable OMD songs include "Enola Gay Of Arc," "Joan of Architecture and Morality," and "Joanetic Engineering." As if we didn't have bad puns already.
- A $20-billion train blunder. Please learn from their experience!
- The French have a strange obsession with delivering medicaments per anum: Suppositories are the favoured method of delivery.
- Williams was promptly KIA, but on the plus side, got a posthumous promotion to Major and a building on the Virginia Tech campus named after him.
- The relevant page still appears first in a Google Search for the phrase
- Also see the Front National
- (Insert "gay Paree" joke here)
- BBC report on Rainbow Warrior
- France - French Language Law
- Workplace language law
- Mariage homosexuel : Hollande suscite craintes et espoirs. Retrieved 2012/8/1.
- Same-sex marriage: French parliament approves new law. Retrieved 2016/11/15.
- France & The Bomb