A Poodle is a Poodle is a Caniche

What’s more French than a French poodle?

When one thinks about the cliché of Paris one often thinks of the Eiffel Tower and people wearing berets and carrying baguettes and walking poodles.

When one thinks about the cliché of Paris one often thinks of the Eiffel Tower and people wearing berets and carrying baguettes and walking poodles.

That’s why I was surprised to learn the other day that many French people don’t know what a poodle is. I spoke to a French person, who even owned a poodle, and they did not know what a poodle was.

“Poodle” is actually an English word.

In French “the poodle” is «le caniche» (pronounced kan-ish-a).

The caniche gets its names from “canard” (duck).

Duck = canard (kan-ard)

Dog = chien (she-awn) (remember chien, by thinking that a dog bites a the mailman on his shin.)

The Caniche/poodle were originally bred for hunting ducks.

As a duck-dog you can imagine that a caniche would love water. This is where the name “poodle”comes from.

Poodle is the Old English name and it comes from the word meaning “swimmer”. The word poodle comes from the same root word as puddle.

“Puddle” in French is «flaque» pronounced flack.

Prince Rupert and his Poodle.
Prince Rupert and his Poodle.

Famous Poodles of History

During the English Civil War Prince Rupert, who fought on the side of the king had a pet poodle named “Boye”.

* (Prince Rupert of the Rhine 1619 – 1682, was German, He was the nephew of King Charles I of England.)

In this drawing, you can see that Prince Rupert’s poodle looks more like a lion than a dog. The traditional hair cut of a poodle was based on that of a lion.

The traditional haircut of a poodle was intended to look like the mane of a lion.
The traditional haircut of a poodle was intended to look like the mane of a lion.
A drawing of a lion, looking more like a hound, from the Book of Kells. Created around 800 A.D.
A drawing of a lion, looking more like a greyhound, from the “Book of Kells”. Created around 800 A.D.

Lions are mentioned in the bible and the Roman and Greek texts, but I have often wondered if the people of Medieval Europe knew what a lion really looked like. Some of the early pictures from the “Book of Kells”, which was made around the year 800 A.D., the lions look more like greyhounds than big cats.

The Crusades may have changed things as many European soldiers traveled to the Middle East and North Africa and saw lions first hand. The first Crusade started in 1069 A.D.

Lion Rampant
Robert the Bruce’s pet lion on his Lion Rampant

After returning home from the Crusades many of the European kings even kept lions as pets in their own personal menageries.

King Robert the Bruce of Scotland (1274 – 1329) had a pet lion which appears on his Lion Rampant flag.

I guess for the common people, owning a poodle (or a caniche) would have been the next best thing to owning their own personal lion.

We own two cavoodles. A cavoodle is a cross-breed of a Poodle and a King Charles Cavalier – Spaniel. My daughter picked them out because I am somewhat allergic to dogs. The cavoodles are low allergic. I love dogs but our last dog I could not even pet without getting allergic.

Big Ollie and little Thistle having a nap in the sun shine.
Big Ollie and little Thistle having a nap in the sunshine.

It worked and I’m not allergic to Ollie and Thistle our two black cavoodles.

I never saw myself as a person that would own a poodle, but these guys are great dogs. They are amazingly fast, they are also great jumpers and spend a surprising amount of time walking on two legs.

If they want to see over or on top of something they stand on two legs, unsupported and can walk around like this. This isn’t a trick that they have been taught. (I wonder what Charles Darwin would say about this.)

I have been in the park and met other dog owners including purebred poodle owners. A full-size poodle has almost the exact build as a greyhound.

I’m no expert but when you see a full size poodle and a greyhound stand side by side they both have the same rounded chest and slim hips and long legs (see the picture of Ollie the larger of the two cavoodles above). They also have the same pointed upturned nose of a greyhound. And both breeds have long thin tails.  Poodles, in my opinion, are basically greyhounds with afros.

Their personalities seem to change with every hair cut. Where the dogs that I have had in the past have always had hair that didn’t need to be trimmed  poodles (cavoodles) doesn’t shed. Which is good for allergies, however, their hair just keeps growing.

Our cavoodles have had some very interesting experiments in hair styles. We tried the more traditional poodle styles on Ollie. Which made my daughter and me break into laughter when we picked him up at the dog groomer.

Ollie had changed so much! It was as if our happy little puppy was suddenly appearing on a Paris catwalk.

Ollie had the shaved nose which made him look a little stuck up. And he had shaved paws which made him look like he was wearing gloves and a puffy shirt.

Ollie with his Teddy Bear style hair cut.
Ollie with his Teddy Bear style hair cut.

Ollie now gets what is known as the Teddy bear look. The hair on his snout is left a little longer and cut rounder.

We don’t go to the dog groomer anymore as it’s cheaper if I do it myself.



French Quote Fingers

French quotation marks are called – guillemets.
Pronounced (gee-yee-may).
And they look like this – « ».

Quote fingers.
Anglo-American quote fingers are used in France.

I was surprised when my French friends said that the French use quote fingers (or air-quotes) in the same way that they are used by English speakers.

I think it’s time that the French should have their own quote finger sign, or should we say «guillemets des doigts».


French quote fingers.
Proposed French quote fingers.


Guillemets quote fingers will of course be easier for Star Trek fans to make.

I am thinking of creating a proposal for the Académie française, pertaining to the use of «guillemets des doigts» (quote fingers) or should they be called « guillemets de l’air »” (quotes of the air).

The Académie française (French Academy) is a council that deals with matters concerning the French language. They from time to time vote to make changes in French, recently removing an accent mark.

The Académie française was founded in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, whom you might recognize as the antagonist in the Alexander Dumas historical novel «Les Trois Mousquetaires» (The Three Musketeers).

There are forty members on the Académie française are called «les immortels» (the immortals) and hold their positions for life, or until they retire. They are the sort of supreme court of the French language.


I’m not sure how the Académie française would react to French air quotes. I’ve tried it out on a few of my French friends, none of whom are Star Trek fans, so they had difficulty making the signs. «C’est la vie.»


On PC’s the short cuts for guillemets are.

ALT + 174 = «

Alt +  174 = »

Mac short cuts for guillemets

 Option+Backslash = «

Option+Shift+Backslash = »





Adventures in Franglais – the State of Oregon

La syllabe perdue.
{The lost syllable.}

My home state of Oregon was in the news earlier this year when a group of militia from bordering state Nevada crossed the border. A number of mèmes began to appear on the internet comparing a pentagon, hexagon, octagon to Oregon. There is even an add online for a T-shirt with the Pentagon, hexagon Oregon joke. But somehow I don’t think many people in Oregon will have bought the T-shirt.

Statue of a man with an umbrella in Portland.
Statue of a man with an umbrella in Portland.

It’s not that we Oregonians can’t laugh at ourselves. It’s just that the joke doesn’t make sense in Oregon.

The problem with this joke is that it only really works on the East Coast where Oregon is pronounced with three syllables “or-re-gone”. On the west coast “Oregon” is pronounced with two syllables “ore-gun” or “ore-gin” (with a hard ‘g’). Hexagon just doesn’t rhyme with ore-gin.

The extra syllable used to confuse me. I’d watch the news or a talk show from New York and hear about a place called “Or-re-gone” which seemed strangely failure and yet I couldn’t quite place it. It sounded like some kind of Italian spice or something. But then I’d realize it was Oregon with an extra syllable.

The hidden message in the title spells out CAT.
The hidden message in the title spells out CAT.

One of my favorites movies is to “To Catch a Thief” in which Carry Grant, a retired cat-burglar John Robie In the movie John Robie pretends to be from Portland Oregon. I still remember the commercial advertising when “To Catch a Thief” was going to play on a Portland TV station as the movie of the week. The commercial was a montage of Grant, who was from Manchester England and had a very charming blend of English and American accent, had a very unique pronunciation of Portland, Oregon that was all his own.

No one is quite sure where the name Oregon comes from. It’s not a Native American name. It is believed to be Anglicized French.

With respect to the Native peoples that had been living in the Pacific North West, Oregon it seems was first made known to the rest of the world by explores that traveled by ship to the Pacific Ocean.

Many of the early explorers were Spanish and British.  Spanish explorer sighted what would later be named Oregon in 1543. In 1579, Sir Frances Drake sheltered in Oregon’s Nehalem Bay (85 miles {137 Km} west of where Portland would one day be located). In 1778 Captain James Cook also explored the Oregon Coast.

The French exploration of Oregon is harder to track. There is evidence of a French Canadians leaving behind French place names; Malheur River and Malheur Lake (Malheur is French for Misfortune).

In my teens I canoed down the Deschutes river. A river full of falls and rapids. I didn’t realize it then but Deschutes is French for “falls”.

Chances are the French Canadian explorers would have entered the state from the North or from the coast by ship. If you have ever been to the Oregon coast you will find it very very windy.

Windsurfing in the Columbia River Gorge by Alex Kerney
Windsurfing in the Columbia River Gorge by Alex Kerney

The Columbia River gorge up near Portland is considered to be one of the best wind surfing spots in the world because of the consistently high wind that blow in from the ocean.



Maverick - TV Series 1957–1962
Maverick – TV Series 1957–1962

“Wild as the wind in Oregon, blowin’ up a canyon, Easier to tame. Maverick is the name.”

Lyrics to the TV show Maverick
by Paul Francis Webster
(from New York)


The Maverick lyrics also confused me as a child as Oregon isn’t really known for its canyons. But I guess the Columbia River gorge could be a shallow canyon. But for a real canyon one needs to go east to Idaho’s Snake River canyon.

Most of the population of Oregon lives in the protective Willamette Valley formed by the Coastal and Cascade mountain ranges. We get a lot of rain but the mountains protect us from the winds that hammer the coast almost constantly.

Oregon doesn’t really have hurricanes. However it would be understandable that the early French explores who tried to sail up the Columbia River the wind seemed like a hurricane.

The French word for hurricane is «ouragan» pronounced ‘ore-a-gon ’.

And there it is the extra syllable!

It is believed by many that Oregon gets it’s name from the French word «ouragan».

Perhaps our friends on the East Coast aren’t mispronouncing the state’s name, they are just using an earlier pronunciation. For generations the extra syllable has been past orally from one generation to the next never changing.

Where as in Oregon, where people have to say the states name almost every day, to save time shortcuts have been taken and the middle syllable has been dropped like the final ”t” in Monet.

French Pirates

Probably the most famous French Pirate is Jean Lafitte ( c. 1780 – c. 1823). But there are a few others that you might recognize. Star Trek fans might recognize the name Captain Picard.

Pierre le Picard (1624–1679?) was a French pirate. He had worked with the famous Welsh pirate Sir Henry Morgan at one time before becoming the captain of his own pirate ship.

Pirates crews were quite often of mixed nationalities all speaking different languages. Pirate slag was developed to help crews understand a captain’s orders.

Before the creation of radios ship to ship communication was done with flags. This is why the command ship in a fleet was called the flag ship. Orders could be spelled out using a flag alphabet. However there were some flags that had special meaning, such as the red battle flag.

The red battle flag was the signal to attack. This was true for armies on land as well as at sea. Santa Anna’s army flew the red battle flag when they attacked the Alamo.

“By late afternoon Béxar was occupied by about 1,500 Mexican soldiers. When the Mexican troops raised a blood-red flag signifying no quarter, Travis responded with a blast from the Alamo’s largest cannon.”

From “The Battles and men of the Republic of Texas”
by Arthur Wyllie

It is believed the French pirates had a special name for the red battle flag calling it the «jolie rouge» or the “pretty red”. This was a very catchy name as and it soon was adopted even by the English speaking pirates who Anglicized jolie rouge to the name we know today; the “Jolly Roger”.