If you’re a fan of memes and speak a little English, chances are you’ve heard some Americans talk about “omelette du fromage“, often accompanied by their best French accent.
Today, we explain where this expression comes from and why it has become so popular in the United States.
What does the expression “omelette du fromage” mean?
Wrongly, the expression “omelette du fromage” is how a large part of the English-speaking world thinks “cheese omelette” is translated into French. This is, of course, grammatically incorrect since, as you know, our typical dish is called “omelette au fromage”. Because yes, contrary to what many English speakers might think, the term “omelette du fromage” is not a French expression.
By the way, here is a list of the wrong existing spellings from Omelette au fromage:
- Omolette du fromage
- Omlett du fromage
- Omlette du fromage
- Omelette de fromage
Although often used as a joke by English speakers, the cheese omelette is a dish deeply rooted in French gastronomy. Invented in the Middle Ages in Europe, the dish quickly became a popular dish in France, until it was regularly consumed by all the people, from the simple peasant of the third estate, to the writers and bourgeois to the noble, and the royal court.
Later democratized by a French chef named Balzac (we are talking about the chef and not the author here), the dish spread around the world as a French speciality.
In recent years, the query “omelette du fromage” has become one of the most searched French terms in Google by Americans. But where does this translation error come from? Well, as you can imagine, this translation error has been popularized by the magic of the Internet, and more particularly through a meme…
How to pronounce “omelette du fromage”?
In French, the word “omelette” is pronounced quite differently from its English counterpart. In English, the first “e” is silent while in French, all the letters of the word are pronounced: /ɔmelɛt/. The word “fromage”, on the other hand, is pronounced exactly as you read it: /fʁɔ.maʒ/.
Omelette du formage ❌
Omelette au fromage ✅
Why do English speakers say “omelette du fromage”?
As briefly introduced above, the origin of the expression “omelette du fromage” comes from the cartoon Dexter’s Laboratory, which aired on Cartoon Network during the 2000s. In the episode entitled The Big Cheese, Dexter has to study for his French test but procrastinates by concentrating on other tasks until the fateful bedtime.
Being the exceptional inventor that he is, Dexter has a good idea of using a machine to learn his French class while he sleeps. However, the machine blocks the example of the sentence “omelette du fromage” which repeats itself all night long in Dexter’s head. In the morning, the phrase has stuck in his head so well that “cheese omelette” is the only word he can pronounce.
This passage has become a meme that has been so popular at one time that many non-French speakers think it is the name of the famous egg, cream and cheese dish.
The meme has therefore amplified this harmless translation error and made it one of the typical French phrases that an American can say to a French speaker like “oh là là“, “bonjour mon ami“, or “sacrebleu“.
In particular, one thinks of this excerpt that made the rounds the day after Joe Biden’s election, where a French journalist interviews an American citizen who, seeing that it was a French media, begins to say the few French words he knows: “I love escargot”, “I love croissants” and “I love omelette du fromage”!
If we have to find the reason, it’s the creator of the cartoon, Genndy Tartakovsky, and his team of scriptwriters that we owe this incorrect use of the famous French dish, which will remain the common use of the expression for many Americans. In the French version of the episode, the grammatical error was corrected and the title was renamed “Omelette au fromage”.
However, there is another explanation for the popularity of the expression in the United States. Indeed, long before the Dexter episode aired and the meme exploded in popularity, American comedian Steve Martin had used the expression many times in a 1970s sketch where he played someone arriving for the first time in a French restaurant. “Omelette du fromage” was then the only dish he could say.
One wonders if the creators of Dexter did not try to pay tribute to the comedian by using the same grammatically incorrect expression.
Translated into English by Sacha
Photo credit @Cartoon Network