metromania the french

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The Independent Culture
The fortnightly column that puts words into your mouth. This week: Citizens of south London, and Crystal Palace fans in particular, shouldn't imagine that Matthew Simmons - who so famously chested down Eric Cantona's free kick - was the first to tell a Frenchman to f*** off back to France. King Harold, a palace fan himself, greeted William the Conqueror with these very words, for which insult he took an arrow in the eye.

And so began a thousand years of Anglo-French envy and enmity, in which many of the same epithets have been traded back and forth.

Just as we take French leave, they filer a l'anglaise, and while we seek the shelter of a French letter, they huddle under a capote anglaise (English raincoat).

William conquered, but when a Frenchwoman announces that les anglais ont debarques (the English have landed) it doesn't signal the start of an international incident; she only means she's got her period.

We don't real1y see eye to eye on sexual practices. Oral sex may be French to the Spanish and ourselves but anglaiser is to have anal sex, which is all Greek to the English, of course. Nor do they respond to French kisses or ticklers and in Spain anyone who enjoys el ingles likes to be tied up and beaten.

Now at this point I should be a Dutch uncle and caution any of you men who, with all this talk of sex, are getting harder than Chinese algebra (if you'll pardon my French), that these days it's a game of Russian roulette and a night out on the Spanish fly or Dutch courage could end with you taking French lessons (the clap) or worse.

You must know by now that these are not just Chinese whispers so be a good German and play it safe if you don't want to wind up wearing une canadienne en sapin (wooden overcoat). Many these days are so scared of ending up in Dutch they restrict themselves to Irish weddings (masturbation) but this diet could become austere after a time, like a Mexican breakfast (a cigarette and a glass of water).

French horn or cor anglais? It's been a Mexican standoff for years and with the likes of Miguel Portillo (side entrance, in Spanish) to help out it can't be long before some Frenchman says to the English Europhobes what William said to Harold: Fume! C'est du Belge! (Tobacco! It comes from Belgium). Or in other words, piss off.