Driving back to New York after Christmas with The In Laws upstate, The Special One and I were listening to the radio in a bid to keep ourselves awake. After a number of alt.rock classics, the DJ launched into a tirade against French music, and made a number of jokes at the expense of the French. While The Special One chuckled quietly to herself, I sat in stony silence.
You see, it’s a fact of life that all nationalities have a country that’s the designated butt of their jokes. The Belgians tell jokes about the Dutch, Latvians and Lithuanians make fun of Estonians, and the Austrians poke ridicule at their Germanic cousins. In America, New Yorkers make fun of people from New Jersey, and everybody has a laugh at Canadians.
Whether it’s tongue in cheek or borderline racism I’m not sure, but the basic fact is that every group of people seems to need a whipping boy to convince them that life in their own homeland could be worse.
The British, of course, have been making fun of the Irish for centuries. But over the last few years, maybe as the uneasy peace has come to Northern Ireland, there’s been a noticeable tailing off in jokes made at the expense of the Irish. And that’s where the French come in.
The rivalry between Britain and France goes back centuries. They call us ‘les rosbifs’, laugh at our cooking, and spit on our steaks if we have the temerity to ask for them well done. In return, we collectively sneer at ‘the frogs’, cower in terror at their campsite toilet facilities, and make references to their dubious military record.
The fact is though that we secretly love the French. We’re jealous at their ability to make clothes look good, we wish we could make pastries that taste anywhere near as good as theirs, and we can’t help but admire the romance and passion of their language. I’m in Cannes at the moment, and it’s a non-stop festival of food and fashion that you just can’t help but admire.
As a result, while I’m more than happy to make jokes at the expense of the French myself, if any other nation starts to wade in on them, I’ll get all defensive and start attempting to protect their honour. And the longer I’m away from the UK, the more European I seem to become – I’ll be defending Germans before you know it, mark my words.
For the moment though, be warned America, the French are ours to make fun of, so sod off and find your own target to crack jokes about. But try to be nice about Canada if you can – there’s plenty of French there, after all.