On Being Called a “Frog”

May 23, 2014 § 30 Comments

I got called a ‘frog’ today.  Every time this happens, it stuns me.  Like stops me in my tracks stuns me.  It’s happened a handful of times in my life, a few times in Ontario and British Columbia and now twice in Massachusetts.  The last time it happened was at the bar of a restaurant in a small town in Western Massachusetts.  I was having an amiable conversation with a guy about hockey.  He was a New York Rangers’ fan and I, of course, cheer for the Habs.  When I told him I was from Montreal, he said, “Oh, I guess that makes you a frog.”  I don’t think he really understood what the word meant.  But it was a conversation stopper, I visibly recoiled from him.

I have asked most of my French Canadian friends about this.  They, of course, have been called ‘frog’ many times in their lives, in Canada, the US, and Britain.  None of my friends is particularly fond of this particular epithet, of course, but most of them are also rather sanguine about it.  Perhaps due to being called a ‘frog’ repeatedly, according to one friend.  One of my tweeps is married to a French guy, as in from France, and she calls him ‘the Frog.’  Clearly, for most people who actually are French or French Canadian, the term isn’t a big deal.  Me, on the other hand, it is a big deal for me.  Maybe because I’m an Anglo.

The term ‘frog’ was actually first applied to the Dutch by the British, who saw the Dutch as marsh-dwellers.  Get it? Frogs live in marshes, too.  But then, in the mid-18th century, the French became the main enemies of the British, so the term got applied to the French due to their propensity towards eating frogs’ legs.  Eventually, the term ended up getting applied to French Canadians, just, I suppose, due to Anglo laziness.  Then again, Anglo Canadians have come up with other names for French Canadians, such as ‘pea soupers’ and ‘Pepsis,’ due to their alleged fondness for pea soup and Pepsi.  One Anglo Montrealer once told me that the Pepsi epithet also worked because French Canadians were said to be ’empty from the neck up.’  And French-speaking Quebecers also have a whole long string of nasty names for Anglos, including my favourite, tête-carré.

But.  I’m not French Canadian.  I’m an Anglo from Quebec.  So when I get called a ‘frog’, it stuns me.  Today I was called a ‘frog’ because I was wearing my Montreal Canadiens ball cap around.  I’m used to the abuse the hat brings me in and around Boston.  I welcome most of it, especially since the Canadiens knocked out the Bruins in the last round of the playoffs.  But usually it doesn’t go beyond “Habs suck” and variations thereof.  I don’t get told to go back to Canada (though I was once told to “Get out of my country” by a guy in Vancouver once), I don’t get called names or anything like that and 98% of the banter is friendly.  Since the Canadiens knocked out the Bruins, most people have even been respectful.

What makes today’s name-calling all the more puzzling is that I’m wearing a t-shirt that makes fun of Irish stereotypes and I have a huge Celtic cross tattooed on my right calf.  So clearly I’m not French Canadian.  And when this guy called me ‘frog’ and dissed the Habs, I actually stopped cold in my tracks.  I was stunned.  I just looked at him, he seemed to realise he’d gone too far and scooted off.

But I do find it interesting how much I detest the term.  And how much it offends me.  Any thoughts on the matter are welcome.


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§ 30 Responses to On Being Called a “Frog”

  • MeglyMc says:

    My kids are half-French (like legit Frenchie French French), and I’m Irish, so we’ve embraced it. We have created a race of McFrogs. 🙂

  • Brian Bixby says:

    Amazing how items of clothing can override everything else. I’ve been called a fag for wearing shorts.

    Funny, I might say some Canadians “speak frog” (not to their faces), but I’d never call them frogs; that’s strictly for actual French people. There are other abusive terms for Kay-beck-ers.

    • Lol! I’ve have my sexual orientation questioned for everything from my piercings to the fact I used to rock nailpolish.

      So many abusive terms for what a friend of mine in Canada calls Q-beckers.

      • Brian Bixby says:

        What surprised me on a trip to Nova Scotia in 1996, not long after another of the “neverendums” for Quebec independence, was how much vitriol Ontarians expressed towards Quebecers; the Maritimers were much more restrained on the matter.

      • Two reasons for that: 1) Maritimers have the most to lose from Quebec leaving, as they’ll be cut off from the Rest of Canada; 2) Ontarians are kinda jealous of Quebec’s independence movement. Generally speaking, Ontario pays the most of all the provinces into Canada and gets the least back, so if any province should want out, it’s Ontario.

        Quebec is a world apart from the Rest of Canada, whether or not the Rest of Canada will ever admit it. It’s a different culture, and not just due to language. Anglos in Quebec have their own culture, their own dialect of English, that doesn’t match up with the ROC.

  • journalistheadline says:


  • I think that everyone in Quebec is upset when they are called <>” I hate that term. I’m french Canadian and I truly and deeply hate this term.

  • Savez vous pourquoi les Canadiens Anglais appellent les Québécois des ”frogs”!??…..Rien a voir avec les cuisses de grenouilles, mais plutôt parce qu’a la première guerre mondiale ils envoyaient le 22 ième régiment Québécois en première ligne pour faire sauter les mines Allemandes!………(Histoire connu chez les militaires Québécois)

  • Eric Gagnon says:

    Boiling frog syndrome……there is it !!!!

  • Some Frog says:

    First time I was ever called a frog, or ever heard the word as a slur to french was this year. My roommate called me it when he was drunk and found out I was french. I felt offended by it. I mean, who the heck wants to be identified as such a gross amphibian never mind they are rather mindless animals.

    He also said the way you kill a frog is by putting it in a pot of water on the stove and slowly raising the temperature till they boil. Explaining that they are too stupid to notice the subtlety.

    However the really ironic thing and reason for posting is that he is DUTCH lol! So I was wondering where you read about the dutch being called frogs because I would love to show him that rather than just a blog that states it. I tried google but no dice.

    • I hear you; I am not obviously French Canadian, I have an Anglo name and English is my first language, and, yeah, the first time I got called that, it stung. I have heard that story, about boiling a frog to kill it because they’re stupid.

      In Quebec, a running joke is that Anglos call French Canadians “Pepsis”, due to their alleged love of Pepsi, and the fact that they, like a Pepsi bottle, are empty from the neck up.

      Anyway, as to where I learned all this, I wish I could point you to a definitive source. What I wrote about in this post comes from a series of sources I have read over the years on French/English histories and relations in Europe, as as well as the Quiet Revolution in Quebec in the 1960s.

      • Loraine Lamontagne says:

        Going back a few decades…. The glass bottles for Pepsi were bigger then Coke’s. Pepsi was cheaper, so more popular with the poorer French. More Pepsi was sold in Montreal’s east-end than west of the main.

      • Indeed, more Pepsi was sold in Quebec than anywhere else in North America at one point.

  • Some Frog says:

    The Pepsi thing is pretty funny, I love Pepsi lol. I actually found a PDF that explained why the Dutch were called frogs.

    “DUTCH NIGHTINGALE: A frog. A humorous and disparaging comparison of these creatures’ songs, along with the traditional dig at the Dutch, implying that they can’t sing. In the 17th and 18th centuries it was not the French but the Dutch who were called frogs for an obvious reason: both the Dutch and frogs are at home in a waterlogged terrain.”

    Click to access DISSING_THE_DUTCH.pdf


    That’s cool you’ve been around Boston, I live in Massachusetts. I’m not a big Bruins fan and don’t really watch hockey(or any sport) but there’s a lot of people in the USA who take someone wearing out of state sports team wear as if they are waving an Isis flag lol. A family member of mine was wearing a Patriots hat in Florida and got jumped by two guys outside a bar who took his hat after. Anyways thanks for the good read!

  • jack says:

    I have recently heard the word “caker” used to describe negatively stereotypical Canadians, especially (but not always) white anglophone Protestant ones. Has anyone else on here heard of this term? It’s sort of like the American term “cracker”, apparently.

    • Funny, I heard that one myself when I was in Vancouver last month. Urban dictionary says it’s a diss of Anglo Canadians, like cracker, but I dug a bit deeper and it appears to have come out of the conservative movement initially, used to diss liberals. Either way, this term just makes no sense in the Canadian context, if it’s an equivalent to cracker, which is a term that arises from the US South in the wake of slavery and the Civil War.

  • Tegan Abear says:

    FROG = Fully Rely On God

  • PAOK says:

    If somebody calls me a frog I’d be like “Hey mister, bolches yarboclos for you!”

  • […] know what amazes me the most about this blog?  That this is consistently my most popular post.  It is almost five years old, and yet, every week, there it is either at the […]

  • Magui says:

    I’m a French Canuck, a frog, a Pepsi. And well… I’m pretty proud of it 🙂 I guess when you know who you are, where you come from and are conscious of what your ancestors went through, all these names people call you are okay. Personally I feel they are part of who I am and who they were before me. And that’s something we can be proud of, French from around the world ☺️

    • Eh, oui. Vraiment, but I still don’t like slurs of any kind, whether I’m called a frog or any other such slur directed at anyone. But, the instance for which led to this blog post was just such a stunning turn of events, the dude didn’t seem to recognize it was a slur.

  • […] each other in tandem over the course of the 19th century. Montreal-based blogger, Matthew Barlow, also sheds more light on the offensive term’s usage in his writings. History aside, the label is now considered […]

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