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Pardon My French


"Pardon my French."


"I apologize for having used vulgar language."


People usually use this expression to apologize after they accidentally

use vulgar language (especially "four-letter words," such as "fuck" and

"shit") in an inappropriate context, like in a business meeting, or in

mixed company, such as in front of children.


Dad:     "Dinner's going to be ready in a minute! Aw, fuck!”

Mom:  "Honey!"

Son:      "Mommy, Daddy said a bad word!"

Dad:     "Pardon my French! I just burned my hand a little."


1. Literature Reference: Author Padma Viswanathan uses this expression in a March 1st, 2017 short story for Granta, "Better Protect America," after a character uses vulgar language: "Me? I’ve been in the service eighteen years. Supervisor for nine or so. Never had any shit like this, pardon my French, not ever."


2. Media Reference #1: Journalist Gabrielle Hamilton uses this expression in a March 25th, 2020 article for The New York Times, entitled "Crepes Don’t Have to Be Fancy to Be Delicious," to apologize for using the word "freakin'" (a polite form of "fucking"): "How did the utilitarian, sturdy, totally accessible crepe come to be thought of as a tuxedo-and-white-glove kind of meal? And how did we come to think of it as something intimidating to make? It’s a pancake, after all. A freakin’ pancake (pardon my French)." (  

3. Media Reference #2: Journalist Geoff Nunberg uses this expression in a March 13th, 2012 NPR piece ("Slut: The Other Four Letter S-Word") to describe how the word "slut" is viewed as vulgar: "But when I look on the internet, I see all these people spelling it with an asterisk or a dash in place of the "u," as if it were too indecent to write out in full. Or, sometimes, people add, "if you'll pardon my French." That's the way you talk about a naughty word, not about something that's just a sexist slur." ( (At 3 minutes and 21 seconds into the broadcast.)

4. Media Reference #3:  Rex Linn's character of "Kevin Watchell" uses this expression in season 4, episode 8 of the television series Better Call Saul ("Slip") to apologize for his use of vulgar language at a business lunch: "I've got a friend, Billy Gatwood. He's a driller, has a small operation over near Farwell. Anyway, the poor bastard's tangled up in some kind of an interstate wrangle between Texas and New Mexico. Now, I can't make heads or tails of it, and neither can he. His lawyer was a local guy, completely over his head. So Billy's fired the guy, but now he doesn't know whether to shit or wind his watch, pardon my French." (At 18 minutes and 6 seconds into the episode. Originally aired June 5th, 2017.)  

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