Posts Tagged ‘Frenchmen’


Today’s word is frog. It’s not a particularly unusual word. It’s not even hard to spell or pronounce. However its use as British slang for Frenchmen has an intriguing history.

The negative term frog for a Frenchman didn’t come from British sources and was long seen as a positive, even victorious nickname.

King Clovis (466-511) united and then ruled the kingdom of the Franks, but when he converted to Christianity in 496, at the behest of his wife, his German neighbours weren’t too happy with him and war broke out. On his way to battle, he crossed the River Main and made camp for the night. He dreamed his heraldic banner of three golden toads changed into three lilies. He woke, had a new banner made (the now famous fleur de lys), and won the day, and the war.

That Frankish kingdom became what we now know as France. Their early kings used the toad banner and Jean Crapaud (Johnny Toad) became a generic name for a Frenchman as a result. By 17th century Versailles the courtiers now serving kings named Louis (a name derived from Clovis) referred to themselves as toads and Parisians as frogs. The idea was that toads were bigger and more impressive. Visitors to the court heard this nomenclature and adopted it.

The crapaud term persisted and gave a new name “Crapaud’s Dice” to the popular gambling game of the time, hazard. In modern times we call it craps.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (Wordfoolery)




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