‘French Kiss’ is Finally a Real Word in France

Why'd it take so long? Perhaps because the etymology of this sensual oral technique is grounded in English

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A jubilant American sailor clutching a white-unifo
Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images

American soldiers first coined the term "French kiss" upon returning from France after World War I. By the time Alfred Eisenstaedt shot this V-J Day photo in Times Square on August 14, 1945, the troops appear to have mastered the sensual oral technique.

In the language of love, the verb “galocher” — to kiss with tongues — has been elevated from gauche street slang to official recognition in Le Petit Robert 2014 French dictionary, which comes out today.

‘La galoche’ is an ice-skating boot, so the new term riffs evocatively on the idea of sliding around the ice, according to the Associated Press.

Much like the terms french toast, french braids and french fries, the etymology of this sensual oral technique is grounded in English: The coining of “French kiss” is commonly attributed to American soldiers returning from World War I, who apparently picked up the technique from the more sexually adventurous French nationals they canoodled with abroad.

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Known for its nudist beaches and supermodel-wedded Presidents, the French are no shrinking violets. Yet the word is just now being formally introduced into the French lexicon. “We always had many expressions to describe ‘French-kissing,’ like ‘kissing at length in the mouth,’ but it’s true, we’ve never had one single word,” Laurence Laporte of the Robert publishing house explains.

It’s been quite a passionate whirlwind for France recently–the naturalistic lesbian drama La Vie d’Adèle won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival and the country finally legalized gay marriage after a bitter political battle.

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