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I should be glad but, curiously, the whole affair feels bittersweet. The good thing is, during Christmas parties, we are not asked any longer whether all Frenchmen have mistresses. No, instead, it is all about the Euro crisis and the war of words against Britain.
If you have missed it, let me explain. France is on the verge of losing its triple-A rating. Instead of doing something about it, our politicians have behaved like petulant children on the verge of being told off by the head teacher in the playground: they have said that Britain was even worse than France and should lose its triple A before France does.
The British didn’t like the comment, which they believed was “not helpful” (what a very British understatement!) and this morning the British press is all about the complicated relationship between the French and the Brits.
It made me wonder: how did this happen? They will of course deny it until their very last breath, but the French and the Brits are more similar than they would ever admit. For starters, London is the biggest French-speaking city outside of France. And to make matters even worse, more than 500,000 Brits have bought a holiday house in France.
Now, let’s talk about language: most of the good words in English are French. The “savoir-faire” is clearly French, as is the “saucisson”, not to mention the “pot-pourri” and the “pousse-café” (the liqueur you have after coffee).
As for the French language, all the trendy, edgy words are English: the “week-end” is of course an institution. “To manage” (manager) is now part of the French lexicon (France is full of manage[u]rs now),  as is “hot dog” and “design”.
I strongly believe that, when two populations are so intertwined, any differences, even if minor, become magnified and take huge proportions. Nothing to worry about. After all, French bashing (and its counterpart in France, British bashing) , is a favourite pastime in both countries. That’s what happens in an old couple.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London
  • really enjoy reading this! I agree with what you are saying about rows about people who are sometimes too close to each other. Great great post!

  • hahaha ‘Now, let’s talk about language: most of the good words in English are French.’
    my husband and I are always sparring about this. My husband would say most of the words in the English Language are derived from French.
    Anyhow the war of words is interesting. I can understand why they feel piqued since we are in a worse position over here but we are not linked at the hip to Greece, Italy and the other sinking ships as closely as France…!

  • So true! We are indeed like two halves of a long-running marriage, niggling at each other but very intertwined. They’d have to seal up the channel tunnel before we could get divorced!

  • The French and the English are like the Irish and the English – They have far more in common than they have apart! As for the Mistress count? Well, let’s face it – this is an area where reliable statistics are hard to find!

  • I’m a brit who used to live in France. My French was good enough that most people thought I was Dutch, I never let on that I was English, since if the shopkeeper or whoever thought I was English they’d talk to me in incomprehensible broken English even though they could understand my French perfectly…. it was like we were in some kind of competition. I tend to think that we have this relationship for historical reasons, not because we are so similar. I’ve lived in Canada and New Zealand too and the Brits are certainly much more similar to the New Zealanders but the relationship is not at all like this. I loved living in France btw and would go back in a jiffy.

  • On which side of the pond did those ‘English’ words originate – UK or US? Which origin would be more acceptable to the French? As Churchill said of the UK/US – two countries separated by a common language.

  • I have found that in times of unstable financial crises, that involve (let’s face it) most of the major financial giants of the world, word slinging is more pronounced, and vehement. Kind of reminds me of the child afraid of the bogeyman in the closet who hollers loudly. It doesn’t scare the bogeyman off, but it seems to make the child hollering feel like they are doing something to make him go away.

  • I am just waking up and thought I read: ‘that’s what happens in an odd couple,’ then realised the word is ‘old.’ It could also be odd! Thanks for telling it like it really is Muriel!

  • I heard this on the U.S. radio station I listen to. One of the few that discusses topics other than spending your money on “stuff” and “celebrities”. Any way I like your approach to explain this “problem” since you see it both ways.

  • MuMuGB

    Thanks Sonia. The funny thing is that all seems over now. As if we had dreamed the whole thing…until next time!

  • MuMuGB

    I think that there is something really complicated and, as you say, odd, about the relationship between France and the rest of the world. Odd.

  • MuMuGB

    I suppose it is all about trying to blame someone else, isn’t it? We are in the middle of it!

  • MuMuGB

    This time it originated from the UK. But you are right, sometimes it can be between France and the US. I am not sure that it makes any difference, apart from the fact that France sometimes seems to resent the US for being a super power!

  • MuMuGB

    I can’t help thinking that France and the UK are like an old couple…congrats for speaking French so well!

  • MuMuGB

    You are so right, David! Anyway, the party season is over and I won’t have to answer such questions any more!

  • MuMuGB

    I know. Sometimes it’s scary!

  • MuMuGB

    Your discussions at home must be…interesting! Do you feel more and more French?

  • MuMuGB

    Thank you! Please come back again!