"Pardon my French"

Where does the expression “Pardon my French” originate from? Why French?
A few weeks ago, I learned that the French word for “seal” (the marine animal, that is) is “phoque”. My brother tells me the similarity in pronunciation between this word and the English profanity gave rise to the previously mentioned expression. I’m somewhat doubtful… How many anglophones know the French word for seal?

I’ve always assumed it was said for the irony. The French language is considered a sign of sophistication and refinement. Saying “pardon my French” after uttering an obscenity is sort of a way of making fun of oneself for using language that is considered to be on the other end of the spectrum from sophisticated and refined.

Huh. I always figured just the opposite: the French were considered exotic and erotic and uninhibited by English speakers ('specially Americans who went over to Europe during the wars. Any definitive answer?


okay, here’s a website that has an explanation similar to mine; take it for what it’s worth. Here’s what they say:


and this site gives a similar explanation.


More discussion of this question, reaching a similar conclusion.