“I’ll be frank with you”

I currently have one very low level student (who would be better off in the morning class, but keeps coming to mine), who is working from the beginner textbook. One early chapter introduces countries, first by themselves, then with people from those. One country is France and one person is Franz (I didn’t note which country, probably Germany). The student noticed the similarity between the names, so I quickly said “They aren’t the same word. France is a country, like China (pointing to her) and Australia (pointing to me). Franz is a name, like [her name] (pointing to her) and [my name] (pointing to me).” She seemed to understand.

Except that they really are the same word. The names Franciscus, Francesco, Francisco, François, Franz and, according to Wikipedia, 192 other variations from 74 languages, all mean “Frenchman/woman”. Famous people with that name include Francis of Assisi, Francis Xavier, Francis Bacon (x 2), Francis Ford Coppola, Frank Sinatra, Francis Drake, F Scott Fitzgerald, Francis Scott Key, Holy Roman Emperors, kings and assorted other noblemen, the current pope, and Francis the Talking Mule. Perhaps surprisingly, given the popularity of the name overall, Pope Francis is the first of his name, compared to 16 Benedicts. I can only assume that more Benedictines have become popes than Franciscans. Pope Francis is, in fact, a Jesuit, but there haven’t been any Pope Ignatiuses. (That looks wrong – Ignatii?) Then there’s the surname Frank/Franck/Frankel/Franco/Franz (and several more variations).

The country name France, in turn, is derived from “the country of the Franks”, a West Germanic kingdom/empire extending across modern-day France, Germany (including Frankfurt, the fort of the Franks, hence the frankfurter, frankfort, frank and Frank N Furter), and northern Italy, but there is no agreement on the derivation of that name. It might be related to Latin francus, free (the French word for free is franc; a free kick is a coup franc), which links it to the adjective (direct and unreserved in speech), verb (to exempt from payment) and noun (a mark of exemption). Further, all the Crusaders were lumped together as “Franks”, and they spoke a “Frankish language” (lingua franca) together. The currency franc/frank is also related. I can’t think of another country name that has become so widespread as a name.

Many years ago I sang in two choirs with a man named Frank. For one choir, another member picked him up, then me. Frank always sat in the front passenger seat, and they were usually deep in conversation by the time they got to my place. One day Frank was absent, so I got into the front seat, then turned to the driver and said “I’ll be frank with you”.

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One thought on ““I’ll be frank with you”

  1. Pingback: Dawid | Never Pure and Rarely Simple

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