As a foreign learner of English, I wonder how come “Excuse my French” and “Pardon my French” are “phrases mumbled insincerely immediately after or before one swears a blue streak within earshot of the elderly, the young, or the simply uptight” as explained in a dictionary I have. I thought these two phrases are intended to mean “Excuse me for my poor French.”
YAMAOKA Michio
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As a foreign learner of English, I wonder how come ?Excuse my French? and ?Pardon my French? are ?phrases mumbled ... in a dictionary I have. I thought these two phrases are intended to mean ?Excuse me for my poor French.?

It has nothing to do with the French language. The speaker is trying to imply that the words used were not really swear-words, but words of a foreign language and the speaker is therefore not guilty of swearing. The phrase could well be "Pardon my Dutch", but "French" caught on and became the saying.
Not to mislead...the speaker is well aware that he is not fooling anyone by claiming the words were from a foreign language.

I should add that the above is from a US perspective. French is not a foreign language in France or in some other places.
As a foreign learner of English, I wonder how come ... are intended to mean ?Excuse me for my poor French.?

It has nothing to do with the French language. The speaker is trying to imply that the words used were ... the above is from a US perspective. French is not a foreign language in France or in some other places.

If I were to guess when "Pardon my French" started, I would guess that it came from World War I, when American doughboys who had never been twenty miles from the farm were introduced to things they found to be (delightfully?) shocking, such as risqu postcards that one would never think of sending through the US mail (and "French postcards" today is still recognized by Americans as a reference to something which was meant to be salacious).
Another term involving the French and something (potentially) shameful is "French kiss," dated to 1923 by MWCD11.

Raymond S. Wise
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
E-mail: mplsray @ yahoo . com
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Yamaoka Michio said,
As a foreign learner of English, I wonder how come Excuse myFrench and Pardon my French are phrases mumbled insincerely ... explained in a dictionary I have. I thoughtthese two phrases are intended to mean Excuse me for my poor French.

The literal and original meaning of the two sentences is, as you said, something like "excuse me for my poor French." They could still be understood that way, given the proper context. Suppose a friend of mine who doesn't know French has just read a translation of a French book, and suppose my friend has never heard the author's name pronounced. If he started talking to me about the book, he might feel embarrassed about not knowing how to pronounce the author's name and so say "Pardon my French." I think he would be more likely to say something like "I don't know if I'm pronouncing it right," or maybe "Is that how you pronounce it?" if he knows that I know French. But he might just say "Pardon my French."
I don't quite agree with your dictionary. I don't think the phrases are usually mumbled, they don't have to be insincere, they don't have to follow (or precede) a blue streak, and the improper word or words do not have to have been uttered in the presence of the elderly, the young, or the uptight. I would say the phrases are used as a mild, somewhat but not wholly jocose, apology for having just used (or being about to use) language that the listener might find somewhat improper. I suppose this usage began as a joke, with the speaker pretending (humorously) that what he said was a mispronunciation of an inoffensive French expression.
Why French rather than some other language? My guess is that French was the most commonly known foreign language in England (or the U.S. ??) at the time.

Dan Amodeo
E-mail: take my last name, all lower case, put a seven in the middle, then add at earthlink dot net
Another term involving the French and something (potentially) shameful is "French kiss," dated to 1923 by MWCD11.

I prefer the Australian kiss.

Michael DeBusk, Co-Conspirator to Make the World a Better Place Did he update http://home.earthlink.net/~debu4335 / yet?
Another term involving the French and something (potentially) shameful is "French kiss," dated to 1923 by MWCD11.

I prefer the Australian kiss. Michael DeBusk, Co-Conspirator to Make the World a Better Place Did he update http://home.earthlink.net/~debu4335 / yet?

And hence make wise women exceedingly leery, so I'll revert back to unchanging my mind. I am engaged in making my new neighbor with cerebral palsy my new item, in any case.
Joanne
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And hence make wise women exceedingly leery,

I can't tell by this response whether or not you know what an "Australian kiss" is, so I'll only say that I've yet to get a complaint from a recipient, and therefore am not certain of what a wise woman should be made leery in this situation.
so I'll revert back to unchanging my mind.

Wow. This is an interesting phrase. A very short trance induction. Would you mind if I were to appropriate it?
I am engaged in making my new neighbor with cerebral palsy my new item, in any case.

Good luck to you both.

Michael DeBusk, Co-Conspirator to Make the World a Better Place Did he update http://home.earthlink.net/~debu4335 / yet?
There are two different meanings. What you thought is one of them, and a request to be excused for the coming profanity is another. It has to be different from the one you have in mind, because it's usually in a sentence entirely in English. I find the request phoney, because he needn't use profanity in the first place. And it's not as if it just slipped out, in cases where he had the time to say "Pardon my French" in the first place. If he said it afterwards, also possible, that might be a different story.
The literal and original meaning of the two sentences is, as you said, something like "excuse me for my poor ... with your dictionary. I don't think the phrases are usually mumbled, they don't have to be insincere, they don't have

Yes, right about mumbled. See my opinion above about insincere.
to follow (or precede) a blue streak, and the improper word or words

One profane word is sufficient to generate the comment.
do not have to have been uttered in the presence of the elderly, the young, or the uptight.

Definitely right.
I would say the phrases are used as a mild, somewhat but not wholly jocose, apology for having just used ... as a joke, with the speaker pretending (humorously) that what he said was a mispronunciation of an inoffensive French expression.

The others have posted with other possible explanations. Why I say that I don't know, since we've all seen them. Emotion: wink
Why French rather than some other language? My guess is that French was the most commonly known foreign language in England (or the U.S. ??) at the time.

s/ meirman If you are emailing me please
say if you are posting the same response.
Born west of Pittsburgh Pa. 10 years
Indianapolis, 7 years
Chicago, 6 years
Brooklyn NY 12 years
Baltimore 20 years
Okay, I have just reminded myself that you are as many leagues removed from the publishing industry as I am from your urban legends about hot dog filler, but let's get one thing straight: I may fly off the handle online in a variety of ways, in a variety of places, and when I am in pain some of the *** I've posted in the last seven years may come back to haunt me most recently my dog fight in Yahoo Groups with the *** Argentine who was kind to me and then flipped a birdie on me because of my lesbian ally who got nasty with him about five seconds after I told her she was probably my best disabled friend I guess she wanted to show me I couldn't trust her any more than the local vanguard gimps I thought I could trust but, I NEVER POST ANYTHING IN USENET WHICH I VALUE AS A PUBLISHING COMMODITY.

That also goes for message boards and list servs, SO, don't ask, just appropriate the idea.
It happens all the time. I stole a castration idea from Zola for a short story, but no one would ever know it, which is why plagiarists are basically imbeciles.
Now that I've had my vent for the day (and I really wanted a shot at the Argentine, even if he was a caustic pompous knight errant behind his empathy; I wanted that and not some naive spastic virgin who worked for the IRS for three months fifteen years ago, which for him counts as having lived, so by Christ I should count myself lucky).
I can hear the slammers aiming at me, and right now I don't care a twit and a half.
Joanne
(growling)
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