[lit-ideas] "Made in France" (Was: "Dr. Condom, I presume"

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2007 23:18:57 EDT

Thanks to R. Paul for his reference to the online etymological guide. One  
reference to "My Secret [sic] Life" below. I say 'sic' because everybody is  
talking about it. 
We are discussing 'things French'. 
c1888-94 My Secret Life III. 324  

What Jenny's sister paid for French letters I  dont know, I used to pay nine 
pence each. 

R. Paul, who is 'of French-Canadian extraction', cites: 
French letter "condom" (c.1856), French  (v.) "perform oral sex on" (c.1917) 
and French kiss (1923) all  probably stem from the Anglo-Saxon equation of 
Gallic culture and  sexual sophistication, a sense first recorded 1749 in 
We may add further uses of 'French' from the  OED:

1931 'D. Stiff'' Milk & Honey  Route xiv. 152 
At one time the hobo enjoyed almost exclusively  the ‘French post cards’ 
(called ‘American cards’ in France). 
I suppose that is what the Frenchies (no derogation here -- call me  "Argie") 
call "Titte for Tatte". 
1959 G. ENDORE Detour  through Devon 166 
And in our slang, French means ‘perverted’. 
but we are not told whose 'our' -- Endore, not a Devonian, I  would think --
The quote which the ref. provided by Paul is 1856 becomes  "c1856" for the 
OED, and the actual quote is from 1955!
c1856  Paul Pry in C. Pearl Girl with  Swansdown Seat (1955) vi. 256 
French letters..prevent the spread of venereal  contagion in casual 
intercourse between the sexes, and in the marriage state,  the increase of the 
c1857  Amours, Intrigues, & Adv. Musical Student  144 (Advt.), 
How many industrious men have been crushed by  poverty..through ignorance of 
the existence of French Letters. 
1886 R. F. Burton  Arab.  Nts. X. 239 

Of the penis succedaneus..every kind abounds, varying from a  stuffed ‘French 
letter’ to a cone of ribbed horn. 
c1888-94 My Secret Life III. 324 
What Jenny's sister paid for French letters I  dont know, I used to pay nine 
pence each. 
1960 B. ASKWITH  Tangled Web 162, 
I daresay he would have liked to give me a  I dabut he always used a French 
1960 M Spark, Bachelors x. 181 They fumble about  with their french letters 
or they tear open their horrible little packets of  contraceptives like kids 
with sweets. 
1968 J. R. Ackerley My Father  & Myself vi. 49 My elder brother Peter was  
the accident. ‘Your father happened to have run out of french letters that day.’
The rather irrelevant ref. to Baroness Orczy  is:
  Scarlet Pimpernel xii. 117 
We seek him here, we seek him there, Those Frenchies  seek him everywhere.  

************************************** See what's new at http://www.aol.com

Other related posts:

  • » [lit-ideas] "Made in France" (Was: "Dr. Condom, I presume"