A derogatory term used by citizens of France
to describe people from the United Kingdom
. The term “Les rosbifs” (the roast beef
s, if you couldn’t tell), came about as a reference to the British
way of cooking bee
f in the 17th century. The dish became heavily identified with the people from across the English Channel
(La Manche or the Sleeve). British-French relations have always been somewhat shaky, since the 1700’s, when the two nations
fought over trade agreements, through modern day conflicts over politics and European Union
treaties. The insult
became antiquated until the late 1990’s, when an argument between the UK and France over importing English beef during the Mad Cow
scare resurrected the insult. Today, it largely remains the equivalent of the “frog
” insult, a somewhat offensive, though mostly facetious term.
With credit due to a BBC programme on the subject I heard in March 2003 during the "freedom fries" incident in the US.