What Makes French Sound Sexy?


There’s just something about French, a certain je ne sais quoi that makes it widely considered to be the sexiest language in the world. The sensuality of the language, however, is not limited to spoken French itself; the French accent, in English at least, is excessively charming. The sex-appeal of this language knows no boundaries. But what is so sexy about French?

It may be that French is sexy only because of its cultural appeal. Of course, Paris is generally viewed as the capital of culture, cuisine, and couture, and French people are famously beautiful, thin, and educated—all shared standards of beauty in the West. It does seem natural that our stereotypical views of France influence our views of the language and this probably plays a big part in the inherent sexiness of French.

But is that all there is to it? Are we such simple beings that we cannot separate a series of beautiful sounds from cultural stereotypes? I did a little speculating, followed by a little research, and found a few more explanations for why we go weak in the knees when confronted by the language of romance.  

Here are three specific aspects of French that could conceivably make it sound “sexy” to us.


French is a syllable-timed language which means that the duration of every syllable is perceived as being equal. English, on the other hand, is a stress-timed language. This means that as English speakers, we divide our stresses, and not our syllables, to be separated by equal amounts of time. Think of it as a machine gun versus Morse code. Formal English poetry differs from quotidian spoken English in this way. For example, iambic pentameter is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable in sets of five, ten syllables in all. A little poet called Shakespeare is pretty much known for his swoon-inducing iambic pentameter.

Shall I / comPARE/ thee TO / a SUM / mer's DAY? 
Thou ART / more LOVE / ly AND / more TEM / per ATE

When we don’t speak in iambic pentameter, we have to cram multiple syllables into the unstressed spaces in uneven ways. In the sentence "Did you NOTice how SHAKEspeare has a WAY with WORDS?" the unstressed spaces have one, two, or three syllables in them. In contrast, the syllable-timed iambic pentameter has a steady, lyrical sound, seducing its listener by its rhythm. French is somewhat similar to this form of poetry. In fact, one of the telltale signs of a French accent in spoken English is an inability to choose where a native speaker would put their stress, causing the speaker to produce that cadence that we find oh-so-charming. Other romantic language superstars Spanish and Italian share this quality with French.


So if French and Italian and Spanish all share syllable-timing, what sets French apart from these other beautiful languages? According to a study out of the University College London, women find “husky” voices and men find “breathy” voices the most attractive. Some of the famous French fricatives, ‘zh’ as in je and ‘r’ as in rouge, mimic these qualities. The voiced alveolar fricative ‘zh’, like in the English word measure, relies on both a low, subtle voicing and the expulsion of a strong airstream. Comparable to a murmur and a whisper, these two things combine to create a husky and breathy quality, coming together in a perfect sexy unison. Perhaps the easiest sound to recognize as French is the uvular trill, the back of the throat French ‘r.’ Husky is a glamorous way of calling someone’s voice throaty and the uvular trill is the throaty sound all throaty sounds aspire to.


Lastly, we have the French ‘u’, as in une. You too can create this wonderfully sexy vowel by simply saying eeeeee, rounding your lips, and voilà! This vowel approximates a face we're all familiar with: selfie face. It’s no accident that young co-eds make this face to make themselves look Internet-worthy; this face accentuates cheek bones and evokes images of kissing. And we all know the French wrote the book on kissing; why else would it be named after them?

Why Are Mugshots Made Public Before a Suspect is Convicted by the Court?

Jennifer Ellis:

Several reasons.

1. Mugshots can help find people when they have absconded, or warn people when someone is out and dangerous. So there is a good reason to share some mugshots.

2. Our legal system requires openness as per the federal constitution, and I imagine most if not all state constitutions. As such, this sort of information is not considered private and can be shared. Any effort to keep mugshots private would result in lawsuits by the press and lay people. This would be under the First and Sixth Amendments as well as the various Freedom of Information Acts. However, in 2016 a federal court ruled [PDF] that federal mugshots are no longer routinely available under the federal FOIA.

This is partially in recognition of the damage that mugshots can do online. In its opinion, the court noted that “[a] disclosed booking photo casts a long, damaging shadow over the depicted individual.” The court specifically mentions websites that put mugshots online, in its analysis. “In fact, mugshot websites collect and display booking photos from decades-old arrests: BustedMugshots and JustMugshots, to name a couple.” Some states have passed or are looking to pass laws to prevent release of mugshots prior to conviction. New Jersey is one example.

a) As the federal court recognizes, and as we all know, the reality is that if your picture in a mugshot is out there, regardless of whether you were convicted, it can have an unfortunate impact on your life. In the old days, this wasn’t too much of a problem because it really wasn’t easy to find mugshots. Now, with companies allegedly seeking to extort people into paying to get their images off the web, it has become a serious problem. Those companies may get in trouble if it can be proved that they are working in concert, getting paid to take the picture off one site and then putting it on another. But that is rare. In most cases, the picture is just public data to which there is no right of privacy under the law.

b) The underlying purpose of publicity is to avoid the government charging people and abusing the authority to do so. It was believed that the publicity would help protect people. And it does when you have a country that likes to hide what it is up to. But, it also can cause harm in a modern society like ours, where such things end up on the web and can cause permanent damage. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a catch-22. We have the right to know issues and free speech rights smack up against privacy rights and serious damage of reputation for people who have not been convicted of a crime. The law will no doubt continue to shake out over the next few years as it struggles to catch up with the technology.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

What Happens When You Flush an Airplane Toilet?

For millions of people, summer means an opportunity to hop on a plane and experience new and exciting sights, cultures, and food. It also means getting packed into a giant commercial aircraft and then wondering if you can make it to your next layover without submitting to the anxiety of using the onboard bathroom.

Roughly the size of an apartment pantry, these narrow facilities barely accommodate your outstretched knees; turbulence can make expelling waste a harrowing nightmare. Once you’ve successfully managed to complete the task and flush, what happens next?

Unlike our home toilets, planes can’t rely on water tanks to create passive suction to draw waste from the bowl. In addition to the expense of hauling hundreds of gallons of water, it’s impractical to leave standing water in an environment that shakes its contents like a snow globe. Originally, planes used an electronic pump system that moved waste along with a deodorizing liquid called Anotec. That method worked, but carrying the Anotec was undesirable for the same reasons as storing water: It raised fuel costs and added weight to the aircraft that could have been allocated for passengers. (Not surprisingly, airlines prefer to transport paying customers over blobs of poop.)

Beginning in the 1980s, planes used a pneumatic vacuum to suck liquids and solids down and away from the fixture. Once you hit the flush button, a valve at the bottom of the toilet opens, allowing the vacuum to siphon the contents out. (A nonstick coating similar to Teflon reduces the odds of any residue.) It travels to a storage tank near the back of the plane at high speeds, ready for ground crews to drain it once the airplane lands. The tank is then flushed out using a disinfectant.

If you’re also curious about timing your bathroom visit to avoid people waiting in line while you void, flight attendants say the best time to go is right after the captain turns off the seat belt sign and before drink service begins.

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