If there is anyone that has a love-hate relationship, it is Britain and France. Having fought each other for centuries, the two countries now find themselves allied on most issues, despite themselves.
Gone are the days of the War of Roses, the 100 Years War, Joan of Arc, the Napoleonic Wars, etc… These days it is a war of words, with funny insults and plenty of jokes flying back and forth across la Manche (aka the English Channel).
From the Brits calling the French “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” and the French referring to the English as “roast beefs”, no one is ready to let that traditional rivalry rest.
As Shakespeare once said, “They have the same climate. The same religion. Their languages are almost identical. So why don’t they like each other?”
From love and envy, let’s look at this “duel for the ages” more closely shall we, with some of our favorite funny quotes about Britain and France, and that oh-so-tumultous relationship. Allons-y!
1. Between France and England, the best thing is the English Channel.
Original in French: “Entre la France et l’Angleterre, la meilleure chose est la Manche.” – Douglas Jerrold
English writer Douglas Jerrold notes that it could be much worse: the two countries could be right next to each other.
2. The only point on which the British agree perfectly with the French is to drive in the left lane.
Original in French: “Le seul point sur lequel les Anglais s’accordent parfaitement avec les Français, c’est de conduire sur la file de gauche.” — Anonymous
Ah, those Brits and the French: can never agree on anything. (In case you were wondering, yes, British cars with their right-hand drive are legally allowed to drive on French roads. )
3. The French and the English are such good enemies that they cannot help but be friends.
Original in French: “Français et les Anglais sont de si bons ennemis qu’ils ne peuvent s’empêcher d’être des amis. ” — Peter Ustinov
Going back into English and French history, for all those conflicts, we have English actor Peter Ustinov’s quote about the past, present, and future.
From the Guillaume de Conquérant (William the conqueror) who set sail from the shores of Normandy, France, to all their subsequent intermarriages with the French royals, there’s a reason we say “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer!”
4. The English are a people of almost superhuman tenacity. They never admit defeat. And they always end up not being.
Original in French: “Les Anglais sont un peuple d’une ténacité presque surhumaine. Ils ne s’avouent jamais vaincus. Et ils finissent toujours par ne pas l’être.” — Robert de Roquebrune
French Quebecois journalist Robert de Roquebrune had this to say about the British, having been born in the land that the English and French fought over for so long.
5. The English like love, the French make love.
Original in French: “L’Anglais aime d’amour, le Français fait l’amour.” — Anonymous
Commenting on a stereotype about both the French and the English, whether or not it is true. You can read more about the French views on love and love-making here.
6. England built London for its own use, France built Paris for the whole world.
Translated quote in French: “L’Angleterre a bâti Londres pour son propre usage, la France a bâti Paris pour le monde entier.” — American Ralph Waldo Emerson, philosopher
The American philosopher lived in Paris for several years. You can read more quotes about Paris here.
1. Water is a staple of English cuisine.
Original in French: “L’eau est l’élément fondamental de la cuisine anglaise.” — French singer Daniel Darc
A reference to the English love of tea, compared to the haute gastronomie of French cuisine 😉
2. I now know why the English prefer tea: I just tasted their coffee.
Original in French: “Je sais maintenant pourquoi les Anglais préfèrent le thé: je viens de goûter leur café.” — Pierre-Jean Vaillard
3. The French have wine, the English have humor.
Original in French: “Les Français ont du vin, les Anglais de l’humour.” — Roland Topor
4. I bet what motivated the British to colonize half the world was that they were just looking for a decent meal!
Original in French: Je parie que ce qui a motivé les Anglais à coloniser la moitié du monde, c’est qu’ils cherchaient juste un repas décent! — Anonymous
English food may be getting better these days, with all those multi-cultural influences, but to the French, it will always be affreux (meaning “dreadful”).
1. The English invented football, the French organized it, the Italians put it on the stage.
Original in French: Les Anglais ont inventé le foot, les Français l’ont organisé, les Italiens le mettent en scène.
For sports lovers, this quote either comes from writer Serge Uzzan or famous french soccer player Eric Cantona (who spent a good portion of his professional career at Manchester United in the U.K.)
2. You had to be English to invent rugby. Who else would have thought of an oval ball?
Original in French: “Il fallait être Anglais pour inventer le rugby. Qui d’autre aurait pu penser à un ballon ovale?” — French novelist Pierre Mac Orlan
Who would think that an oval ball would be so entertaining? If you are interested, you can read about actual French inventions here.
3. You French people are fighting for money. And we Englishmen are fighting for honor. Everyone is fighting for what they lack!
Original in French: Vous, Français, vous vous battez pour de l’argent. Et nous, Anglais, nous nous battons pour l’honneur. Chacun se bat pour ce qui lui manque! — Robert Surcouf
Robert Surcouf was a French privateer (aka pirate) roaming the seas from his base in the port city of Saint-Malo, looking for enemy ships he could prey on. He was so successful, he was awarded the French legion of honor.
1. A man who speaks three languages is trilingual. A man who speaks two languages is bilingual. A man who speaks only one language is English.
Original in French: “Un homme qui parle trois langues est trilingue. Un homme qui parle deux langues est bilingue. Un homme qui ne parle qu’une langue est anglais.” — Claude Gagnière
French writer Claude Gagnière obviously had a way with words, and of insulting the English. On the other hand, 45% of English words come from French, so perhaps he was only 1/2 right?
2. When you travel without knowing English, you have the impression of being deaf and dumb and stupid from birth.
Original in French: “Quand on voyage sans connaître l’anglais, on a l’impression d’être sourd-muet et idiot de naissance.” — Philippe Bouvard
French tv presentator Philippe Bouvard, speaking of the colonial expansion of English beyond the borders of England. You can read more French travel quotes here
3. English, it is just badly pronounced French.
Original in French: “L’anglais, ce n’est jamais que du français mal prononcé.” – George Clemenceau
Former French prime minister George Clemenceau, putting English back in its place, noting that approximately 45% of words in English are rooted in French.
Since much of the English royal court (from William the Conqueror and beyond) was originally French, it is this influence that has seeped into English. You can read more about the English and French royals here.
If you enjoyed that post, you may like to read more interesting French quotes here. A bientôt!