January 8, 2014

"French" fries

I find that the Ore-Ida Potatoes Twitter account (don't ask how I got there) has just published an absurd piece of false etymology:
#DidYouKnow French Fries got their name from U.S. soldiers who tried the crispy treats while stationed in Belgium during WWII #TaterTrivia
The first alarm bell that should go off is the implication that there were no French fries in the USA before 1941.  Of course there were, and the Oxford English Dictionary cites "French fried potatoes" from back in the nineteenth century.  "French fries" shortens that. (I have noticed that pretentious restaurants will occasionally use the three-word "French-fried potatoes" on their menus.  Which brings up--to hyphenate or not to hyphenate "French-fried?")

But why they are French fried is a different question.  The dictionaries and the English translation (1961) of Larousse Gastronomique do not say; but the verb "to French" can mean to cut foods into long thin strips.  So perhaps a French fried potato is Frenched, then fried.

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