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Why Do We Call It 'French Kissing'? (28 hits)

The English language contains many “French” terms: fries, manicures, braids, toast and the trčs s*xy “French kiss.”

While all of these have compelling backstories, the “French kiss” origin question is particularly interesting. Indeed, why do we call this kind of open-mouthed smooch a “French kiss”? Did this style of kissing start in France?

References to open-mouthed kissing and kissing with tongues reportedly date back thousands of years in different parts of the world. The association with the French is a more modern phenomenon.


The most popular explanation is that American and British servicemen in France during World War I were struck by the more passionate way French women kissed. When they returned home, they introduced “French kissing” to their compatriots.

Others believe the term simply came to be due to the French people’s general reputation for adventurous and lustful s*x practices. Paris is the “City of Love” after all.

In her book, “The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us,” writer Sheril Kirshenbaum posits that the term “French kiss” entered the English language around 1923 (the year noted in the Oxford English Dictionary). She writes:

The precise reason we use this term is unknown, but it’s possible that “French kiss” was adopted because American travelers were impressed by the affectionate nature of French women, who were more comfortable with open-mouthed kissing than their counterparts. According to anthropologist Vaughn Bryant, this led to a popular saying: “While in France get the girls to kiss you,” which later turned into “get a French kiss.”

So while servicemen didn’t necessarily coin the term, Kirshenbaum believes that they helped popularize the practice of tongue-kissing after returning home from Europe. As a result, French kissing appears to have become more common after World War II.

(Interestingly, the “French kiss” has also been called the “Florentine kiss” so we would be remiss not to give the Italians a shoutout as well.)

The below graph from Google Books Ngram indicates that references to “french kiss” in published literature began after the 1940s, which would track with the theory of returning World War II soldiers popularizing the practice (and thus the term). A search of “French kiss” with a capital F indicates a similar upward trajectory after the 1940s.

See image & video: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-is-it-called-french-kissing_l_5c86bd34e4b0ed0a00164384

By Caroline Bologna
Posted By: Elly Moss
Monday, September 9th 2019 at 5:02AM
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