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6 Things You Didn't Know Were French

At France Tax Law, we love all things France. Whilst French law is undoubtedly our expertise, we also greatly admire French culture and everything else it offers. That's why we are always excited to help people buy property in France and begin their journey in such a wonderful country.  

And in this post, we wanted to take a moment to appreciate some of the fantastic things that are surprisingly French. France has made countless contributions to science, music, food, fashion and much more. Many of these contributions are widely celebrated. But many go completely unrecognised as being French at all. So we decided to shed some light on them. Here are six things you probably didn't know were French. 

The Calculator

The 17th-century French theologian, philosopher, writer, physicist and mathematician Blaise Pascal made many contributions to his various fields. Pascals, the unit of pressure, is named after him, and many modern theories of probability are derived from his work. And on top of all of this, he invented the calculator. Though German scholar Wilhelm Schickard had made attempts, he abandoned the project after encountering faults that caused malfunctions. Pascal solved the problems a few decades later, in 1642.

The Oboe

The oboe (called "hautbois" in French) was created by French musicians Jean Hotteterre and Michel Danican Philidor in the 17th century. "Hautbois", the French name for the instrument, means "high wood" or "loud wood".

The Modern Pencil (and Pencil Sharpener)

During the Napoleonic wars, English and German pencils were barred from being exported to France. This led army officer Nicholas-Jaques Conté to create the lead pencil filling we still use today in 1795. This was followed by the first patent for a pencil sharpener in 1825 by French mathematician Bernard Lassimonne. A more recognisable design of the sharper appeared a further 19 years later. This, again, was created by a Frenchman, Thierry des Estivaux.


When we think about french food, there are so many examples that come to mind. The country is renowned for its culinary excellence. However, one of its less credited contributions to the world of food is mayonnaise. The original mayo was created in 1756 by the personal chef of Duke de Richelieu. The original recipe was intended as a sauce made from cream and eggs but turned into a mix of olive oil and eggs - similar to what we have today.


Whilst mayonnaise may not be to your taste; you have almost certainly enjoyed French inventor Nicholas Appert's contributions to food. Like the invention of the modern pencil, Appert's innovation was a product of the Napoleonic war. A 12,000 franc reward was offered to anyone that could find a solution to feeding the country's growing army throughout the seasons. Brewer and confectioner Nicholas Appert developed a method for sealing food in jars to preserve them. After the war, the idea spread across Europe and to the United States. 

Taxi (Horse-Drawn Carriages)

Surprising French contributions are not limited to inventions; musical, culinary or otherwise. They also have a history of business innovation. For example, the first "taxis" were French. The French didn't invent carriages (or horses). But offering horse-drawn carriages and drivers for hire to the public was pioneered in Paris by Nicholas Sauvage in the 1640s. 

Nothing Everything "French" Is From France

The above are just a selection of the surprising french contributions. There are many more. And countless, more well-known french creations too. But whilst many amazing creations that came out of France are often not recognised as French, they also get credit for a few that aren't French. Many things have been popularised in France or brought to other countries from France. This and a myriad of other explanations have resulted in a slew of things being assigned the "French" label when they don't actually come from France.  

Here are a few examples of these imposters you may have thought originated in France but didn't: 

  • French toast 
  • The french horn 
  • French dressing 
  • French fries 
  • French mustard 

 And the origins of the French press are disputed too. It may be an Italian creation. 

Enjoying France Firsthand

If you love France as much as we do and want to experience the birthplace of braille, hot air balloons, and crepes (as well as the six inventions in this post), you may consider working or even living in France. We can help you with that. We are a dedicated team of French-qualified Notaires providing expert advice in French and international law. We can assist you with buying property in France, or our France business law experts can help you expand your company into France. To learn more about how we can help, call us on 020 8115 7914 or make an online enquiry.

Learn More About France

The incredible history of France, its inventions, and its culture go way beyond just a handful of innovations. And we've explored what sets France apart in great detail in our blog. If you want to learn more, read "France vs England: Differences in Business Culture" or learn more about french law with our many guides, including "What Is A French Notaire, And How Can They Help You?".

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