Is French kissing really French?

Taken from “the connection” 12 Feb 2014

HERE’S a conundrum for a Valentine’s weekend: why is French kissing considered French?

For English speakers, French kissing has long referred to the practice of kissing with tongues.

Strangely enough, however, it is not a term used by the French themselves, who refer instead to un baiser avec la langue (a kiss with the tongue), a baiser florentin (a Florentine kiss) or, in slang, se galocher.

If the French associate this practice with any nation, therefore, it is the Italians. So why do English-speakers consider it to be a French practice?

American author Andréa Demirjian, the ‘Kissing Expert’, has written Kissing: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About One of Life’s Sweetest Pleasures and traces the origins of the term back to the end of the First World War.

“People have been kissing with tongues since the dawn of time,” she says, “but it was American soldiers who first coined the term ‘French kissing’”.

According to Ms Demirjian, these young soldiers had spent their formative years in Europe, “where French women kissed their lovers generously with their tongues. These kisses were more provocative and sexy than the chaste kisses delivered by their American sweethearts back home”.

The soldiers took a shine to the “French” practices they had experienced and thus the “French kiss” was born.

The French kiss may have been a popular import in the US, but Andréa Demirjian observes that the practice is not yet a common sight on American streets.

“People might kiss publicly with tongues in Paris, but if couples do it on the streets of New York, they are likely to get shouted at,” she says.

Perhaps surprisingly for a woman who started on the path to becoming the Kissing Expert by means of a particularly enjoyable and passionate kiss at a dinner party, and who, for a time, shared a spreadsheet of her kissing experiences widely amongst her circle of acquaintances, Andréa Demirjian herself reserves French kissing for private moments.

Privacy aside, in some parts of the world, French kissing, or indeed any sort of kissing, is completely taboo.

In Nepal, for example, it is considered unhygienic to kiss a person on the mouth.

In China, kissing scenes in American films are censored, and in Japan it is still profoundly shocking for people to kiss in public. When Auguste Rodin’s sculpture “The Kiss” was shown in Japan, it was screened off from the room for reasons of modesty.

Whatever the kissing practices of each nation, one thing is clear: the French still consider themselves world leaders. Andréa Demirjian’s book has been published in several countries and languages but, when her publisher, Perigree Books, made overtures in France, the response came back: “what could an American possibly teach the French about kissing?” – See more at:

FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites