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16 Facts about France of dubious verity.

Continuing the grand, almost two week old tradition of inventing interesting facts about whichever country is a year older that particular day, to celebrate Bastille Day, here are several interesting facts about France that you will be shocked to find out are all true, providing you agree to do no research on the subject yourself. And be sure to check back in a couple weeks time for our salute to Turkmenistan's Melon Day.

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1) Inventions: France is the birthplace of the Tour de France.

2) Cooking: French cooking is known for being exceedingly old fashioned, and makes little use of modern super-ingredients like Ms. Dash or Chipotle Mayo.

3) Relations to the English: Across the ages, the French have fought the English, ruled the English, forgot about the English, fought more with the English, and finally ended up as close friends with the English. If you'll allow me to use a neo-neo-neo-classical allegory, they are the Ross and Rachel of Europe. (The English are Ross.)

4) Headwear: The beret was invented in the 1880's by a Frenchman to keep his head warm while he was riding his bicycle and wearing a stripey shirt. For this reason in American culture the beret is regarded warily - it also forever being attached to that one Prince song (I Would Die 4 U) and for those 4 months when Samuel L. Jackson was into them. But also recall that berets are worn in great numbers by military men, which as a rule, are a group that doesn't take much shit from Cracked bloggers. So as I was saying, berets are fine hats.

5) Military History: In popular culture, the French military is widely remembered as getting beaten like a red-headed stepchild in two out of two World Wars. But that's being a little unfair to France, because anyone that spawns that close to the Germans twice in a row is a bit unlucky.

6) Not theirs: Jean Claude Van Damme is not French, and is not their responsibility.

7) Relations to America: As most people understand it, the American Revolution was won when British General Reginald Fancydan was killed on top of Mount Rushmore by Mel Gibson and a Harley motorcycle. However, this ignores the contributions of the French, who supported the Americans during the Revolutionary War. In fact, the final act of the war occurred when the French built the Statue of Liberty, delivered it to the gates of America and tricked the British into taking it inside, at which point the French troops concealed within poured out and won America. If you go to Ellis island today, be sure to find the commemorative plaque reading "To the Lady that had One Hundred and Fifty Frenchmen up in her: Our Nation is Forever Grateful." I'm told it's hard to find.

8 ) Wine: The French didn't invent wine - that probably happened one night thousands of years earlier in a cave when an idiot ate some old stepped on grapes, got into two fist fights, then declared he "could fuck up a leopard." (Karaoke was invented in similar circumstances later that week.) But in present times, the French are definitely known for both the quality of their wine, and their liberal attitudes towards it's consumption, as evidenced by their national motto: "Libert, Equalit, Fraternit" (loosely: "Let's drink wine right now brothers.")

9) Work Life: The French have a legendarily short work week, with the average Frenchman working only 35 hours a week. On top of that is the 6-8 weeks of vacation they get every year. And when you add on the 14 national holidays and two weeks of mandatory annual labor unrest, the typical Frenchman works 23 minutes each year. This is why the phrase "Industrious as a Frenchman" has fallen out of common usage.

10) Metric System: France is the birthplace of the Metric system, which unlike the French, actually works.

11) Iraq: France famously opposed the 2003 Iraq War, because in their words "Iraq? What are you crazy?"

12) Nuclear Power: France has invested hugely in nuclear power, both for civilian energy production and in terms of military weapons. With over 300 warheads, France is the world's third largest nuclear power, a stunning fact when you consider that they still don't get respect from anyone.

13) Ancestors: The ancestors of the French were the Gauls, most famously depicted in the pages of the Asterix comic books. These comics told the story of a group of friendly and cheerful Gauls who got into all sorts of hilarious mishaps, and used the powers of homemade amphetamines to viciously brutalize any approaching Italians. These comics are very popular in France.

14) Eiffel Tower: The Eiffel Tower is probably the most famous symbol of France, and was originally constructed in 1889 to give a jump start to the French postcard industry.

15) Mascot: The national mascot of France is the skunk, to honor the annual French pastime of finding a cat that accidently got a white stripe painted on its back and then trying to have sex with it.16) Architecture: In the 17th century, the French King Louis XIV (pronounced "chiv") commissioned the building of Versailles, an enormous complex of mansions and parks, and probably the most opulent place ever conceived. Seriously, it makes whatever Puff Daddy is living in these days look like a place ducks go to shit.

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Chris Bucholz

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