Graham E sent me some factlets about France for Bastille Day . . . thanks Graeme. The text below is from Msieur Graham, the additions are from moi.
The French typists' phrase:
Whereas the traditional English typists’ warm-up is “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog,” French typists can use the phrase “Allez porter ce vieux whisky au juge blond qui fume un havane,” as it contains every letter in the French alphabet. The phrase translates as, ‘Take this old whiskey to the blond judge who is smoking a cigar.”
The pic above is of the French speed typing champion from the period (1958-61), the photo having been taken at the Paris Fair, 1961.
The international distress code “Mayday” comes from the French M’aidez, meaning “Help me!”
Under the rules of radio signalling code, the word should be repeated three times (“Mayday- Mayday- Mayday”) by a vessel or aircraft in a life-threatening situation. The word as a distress code was coined in 1923 by Frederick Stanley Mockford, a senior radio officer at Croydon airport, near London. Mockford was asked to think of a distress call that would be understood by all pilots and ground staff, and as much of the traffic at that time was between Croydon and Le Bourget airport, he hit on the idea of using the word “Mayday.”
Half the world's roundabouts are in France:
Over half the world’s traffic roundabouts are to be found in France, which, with more than thirty thousand roundabouts, has more round points than any country in the world. But on the other hand until 2012, there was only one "STOP" sign in the entire city of Paris. It was located at the exit of a building materials yard in the 16th arrondissement until it was removed in 2012. That’s it in the pic below.
English slang mocks the French:
More than 75 percent of the slang English language phrases containing the word “French” are connected with sex. They include: French letter (condom), French maid, French pox or French disease (syphilis), French kissing, and the gay term Frenching (fellatio). Interestingly, many of these phrases are reversed the other way: a French slang term for condom is “capote anglaise” (“English hood”), and syphilis was referred to as “la maladie anglaise”.
The King in France still lives:
Thought France abolished monarchy with the revolution? Actually, there are several kings in France, if you take into account its overseas territories. Indeed, one such territory, Wallis and Futuna in the South Pacific, has three kings. These monarchs are paid for by the French state and they have authority over their respective territories.
Monkey business in Space:
France has the most powerful radar ship in the world. Called Monge, it was designed to be able to monitor the course of nuclear missiles. Its most impressive achievement to date: detecting a monkey wrench which had been lost in space by an American astronaut.
Monge, no, wait, that’s the monkey wrench
This is the good ship Monge. It’s painted white because the normal darker grey of warships would heat up the ship more, which could cause malfunctions of the electronic systems inside
In 2011, after a small concert, a piano stayed a few days at Montparnasse station waiting to be packed up again. Passersby began to play it and the whole thing proved so popular, SNCF the French National Railway Company decided to place pianos in other stations. Today, there are about a hundred train station pianos spread across France.
Waving the flag:
There are several "versions" of the French flag. The flag with a bright blue and bright red is common, but there is a version with a darker blue, which is usually displayed by town halls and public buildings. There is also a specific version reserved for TV appearances by the head of state, with a much narrower white part, so that the face of the president should not be surrounded by white when seen in close-up.
Btw, from Wikipedia:
Early in the French Revolution, the Paris militia, which played a prominent role in the storming of the Bastille, wore a cockade of blue and red, the city's traditional colours. According to French general Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, white was the "ancient French colour" and was added to the militia cockade to create a tricolour, or national, cockade. This cockade became part of the uniform of the National Guard, which succeeded the militia and was commanded by Lafayette. The colours and design of the cockade are the basis of the Tricolour flag, adopted in 1790. The only difference was that the 1790 flag's colours were reversed. A modified design by Jacques-Louis David was adopted in 1794. The royal white flag was used during the Bourbon restoration from 1815 to 1830; the tricolour was brought back after the July Revolution and has been used ever since 1830.