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Reader question: What do the French call a ‘French kiss’?

In English if you want to describe a passionate kiss, you invoke the French. But in French it is not 'une bise française'.

Reader question: What do the French call a 'French kiss'?
Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP

Question: If a passionate kiss with tongues is a ‘French kiss’ in English, what do the French call it? An English kiss?

Unbelievably for the nation that apparently personifies the passionate kiss (linguistically speaking, at least), for many years the French language had no specific word for a ‘French kiss’ – people would use embrasser to describe all types of kiss, with the context suggesting whether that was a kiss on the cheek for your granny or a passionate snog with a lover.

There were also some slang words for a sexy kiss.

‘French kiss’ is an Americanism which has been around since at least the 1920s, and may date to the 19th century.

Older English words for a passionate kiss including snogging, pashing and making out.

For many years the French have understood and used the term ‘French kiss’ – and plenty still do – but it has never been popular with French language purists.

It wasn’t until 2014 that the French dictionary Le Robert included a French verb that means to ‘kiss with tongues’.

This is galocher – pronounced ga – losh – ay.

This wasn’t a new verb in 2014, in fact the word itself is very old, but the secondary definition of kissing was new.

It comes from “galoche” – an overshoe with a leather upper and a wooden sole that is worn over slippers or shoes to protect them – it’s where the English word ‘galoshes’ comes from.

From that, there’s the verb galocher which means to walk around noisily in galoshes, and which now has – thanks in part to its addition to Le Robert dictionary – its second, more intimate meaning.

The link between shoe and kiss is not immediately apparent, and we’re carefully ignoring possible noise-related suggestions, but a phrase rouler des galoches may help. The verb rouler – to roll – which, according to Les 1001 expressions préférées des Français, describes the movement of the tongue during a sensual kiss. 

The verb is galocher and a French kiss is feminine – une galoche.

Use it like this

Elle s’est fait galocher par un prince charmant – she was passionately kissed by a prince charming

Love Island France: Gabriel galoche Camille… sous les yeux d’Anna – Love Island France: Gabriel French kisses Camille . . . right in front of Anna

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Reader question: Who was Roland Garros and what is his connection to French tennis?

You might know it as the French Open, but in France it is simply 'le Roland Garros' tennis tournament - but who was Roland Garros?

Reader question: Who was Roland Garros and what is his connection to French tennis?

Question: I’ve noticed that the French always refer to the French Open tennis tournament as simply ‘Roland Garros’, after the name of the venue in Paris. But who was Roland?

The tennis tournament is named after the venue it is played at – Stade Roland Garros at Porte d’Auteuil in the west of Paris, close to Bois de Boulogne.

But Garros himself is best known as an aviator, not a tennis player.

Hear the team from The Local talk about Garros – and France’s sporting calendar this summer – in the latest episode of the Talking France podcast. Download here or listen on the link below

In fact, he doesn’t seem to have had much interest in tennis – during his life he played football, was a keen cyclist and played rugby for Stade Français (which still exists and is now a professional rugby club in Paris) but there’s no record that he played tennis regularly or even enjoyed watching it.

He’s best known as a pilot, one of the small group of daredevils who took up the new sport of aviation.

In 1913, at the age of 25 he became the first person to fly across the Mediterranean, which made him very famous in Paris. When World War I broke out he joined up as a pilot and took part in many missions before being shot down and killed in 1918.

Roland Garros (4th from right, in civilian clothes) pictured in Tunisia after his record-breaking 1913 flight. Photo by STAFF / AFP

Fast-forward 10 years to 1928 and the sports venue that now bears his name was nearing completion.

The Stade français multi sports club, which owned it, was run by a man named Emile Lesueur who had been a close friend of Garros, and it was him who pushed to have the stadium named after Roland Garros.

Often in history ‘close friends’ is used as a euphemism for lover, but there is no other suggestion that either man was gay, so it seems that they were just friends, and Lesueur wanted to honour the man whose life had been snuffed out by war.

By 1928 Garros still had some name recognition in France as a famous pilot and war hero, so it wouldn’t have been a totally left-field choice for the new building, albeit with no tennis connection. 

As the official Stade Roland Garros site puts it: “Yes, Roland Garros had tenuous links with tennis. But few stadiums in the world bear the name of a man who has shown so much willpower, intelligence and courage. Cardinal values for those who aim for the supreme title at the Porte d’Auteuil venue.”