Referring to another person as a “frog” isn’t a particularly nice thing to do. However, sometimes, British people will call French people “frogs.” The exact reason for this can be explained with a couple of theories, which we’ll explore in this article.
Why Are The French Called Frogs?
The reasons why the French are called frogs are possibly due to them eating frogs’ legs as a delicacy. It could relate to the wet, marshy land of the Low Countries or La Grenouillère (a hamlet outside of Paris.) It may be a reference to counter-revolutionaries in the French Revolution.
In this article, we want to explore exactly where this term came about. Of course, it’s not a nice thing to say, and we want to tell you that now. However, as far as derogatory and rude terms go, it could be a lot worse!
Your best bet is not to use this word. It’s great to learn about the origins of it, just like any other word in English, but we wouldn’t recommend it because of the discriminatory connotations it comes with.
Theory 1: Frogs’ Legs
Many British people believe this theory to be the case. It’s much more “recent” compared to some of the other theories on this list. A lot of the theories are related to historical things, while frogs’ legs are still enjoyed in most parts of France.
Frogs’ legs are a delicacy in France. Whenever you think about France and its food, you’ll often think about the frogs’ legs and the snails that they eat. This may have led to them being known as “frogs” to the British people.
Of course, this theory is a stretch. We don’t typically refer to other countries by their most famous delicacies and dishes. For example, we don’t call Italians “pizzas” or Americans “burgers.”
Also, most of the people who eat frogs’ legs are probably curious tourists. They are very small and don’t offer much by way of taste when you try them. The chances are that a lot of native French people don’t often eat frogs’ legs themselves, making the tourists more obsessed with it.
Theory 2: Low Countries Marsh Land
The Low Countries is a name given to the northwestern coast of Europe (notably the Netherlands and Belgium). These countries are very close geographically to France, but the name “frogs” may have originated there.
While not a Low Country itself, French people may have picked up the name frogs due to the influence of the Low Countries and their marshy lands. They would often attract hordes of frogs with their bountiful marshes, which may have led people to name them such.
This is one of those cases where the original meaning is lost in translation. British people may have referred to the Dutch as frogs since the Dutch were part of the Low Countries. Over time, those Dutch people might have migrated to France, and thus French people earned the name too.
This is another stretch for a theory and might not be relevant.
Theory 3: La Guernouillère
This theory adds on slightly more information than the one about the Low Countries. It’s closely related, but La Guernouillère is a small hamlet located on the outskirts of Paris, France.
La Guernouillère is a small hamlet just outside of Paris. It’s known for its wet and marshy land and is another place where frogs were commonplace.
Just like the theory that we stated above, it seems that people would attribute the congregation of the frogs in La Guernouillère to the people living there. Over time, that word also started applying to the people of Paris.
There was no real way for British people to tell them apart, after all. Paris and La Guernouillère were neighbors. Anyone from that general area was now known as a frog, and it was only a matter of time after that until every citizen of France was a frog.
Theory 4: The Counter-Revolutionaries
One final theory we want to share with you dates back to the French Revolution between 1789 and 1799.
It’s a well-recorded historical event, where France basically had a revolution in itself, and a lot of citizens wanted to see a change in how things were governed. This led to a branch of people opposing the revolutionaries, known as “counter-revolutionaries.”
The counter-revolutionaries adopted the frog as their mascot or badge. They would have it on flags and let it represent them. This is because the frog was rare compared to other animals used by revolutionaries, like pigs, cats, and dogs.
The rareness of the frog is what made it so attractive to counter-revolutionaries. They wanted to make a statement and found the frog to be a sufficient way to do that.
It didn’t take long after that for the British people to pick up on the use of the frog by the counter-revolutionaries. Of course, all of this is still just a theory. It might not be the exact reason why British people refer to the French as frogs, but it seems to be one of the strong contenders.
No one knows exactly how or why this word came about.
Is It An Insult To Call The French “Frogs”?
While the origin of the word is up for debate, the meaning of the word is not.
It is insulting to call the French “frogs.” It’s a derogatory term that is used to refer to them as something other than people.
Generally, there are worse words out there that you can use, which make “frogs” slightly less impactful than other words. Just because there are worse words out there doesn’t mean it’s still a good idea to use.
The fact is, you shouldn’t have to refer to the French as anything but “the French.” If you know them personally, then you should use their names instead. There is no reason to use an insulting term like “frogs” if you can avoid it.
Since we don’t know the exact origin, we’ll never know exactly what it was supposed to mean. However, it’s widely accepted that it’s used to dehumanize the French, which is insulting on every level.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.