The French are a very talented folk. We owe it to them for coming up with some of the most brilliant ideas and genius innovations, like: photography, antibiotics, Braille, the discovery of Radium and Polonium, and the initial launch of automobile. Not to mention, perhaps less genius but all the more delicious creations, like: Champagne, Camembert, mayonnaise and the nationally treasured (and daily fondled) baguette.
We can give them credit for the concept of cabaret, the hazardous roulette, as well as the cinema. Not counting the parachute, the first airplane, the hot air balloon and the submarine.
Moreover, we can attribute to the French the invention of the bicycle, the taxi and last but not least the sewing machine.
I told you, the French were some gifted folk, and you wouldn’t believe!
Yet nothing beats the most recent inventions, like: the bikini, the polo shirt, neon lighting, the hairdryer and the pencil sharpener.
Apparently, the creator of bikini, Louis Réard, named his 30”- small pièce de résistance after Bikini Atoll, the spot where initial atomic bomb testing took place. He hoped for his creation to become equally shocking and explosive as the nuclear tests. He chose the name deliberately to spite his rival Jacques Heim, who intended to call a similar garment Atome, in honor of the recently discovered atom.
Allegedly, Réard had to hire an exotic dancer named Micheline Bernardini, working at Casino de Paris to model the suit, as no respecting herself Mademoiselle was ready to present the scandalously tiny swimsuit as early as 1946.
The story behind the polo shirt is equally interesting. Although it’s a well-known fact that the British team wore similar shirts to play polo before, it was René Lacoste in 1926, the French seven-time Grand Slam tennis champion behind the first tennis top, as we know it today.
He felt that his usual stiff attire was way too uncomfortable, and as a result designed a short-sleeved shirt made of piqué knit cotton, with a flexible collar and a tennis tail, familiar to all players of the world nowadays.
Similarly, the circumstances behind the first neon sign are as fascinating. It was George Claude, a French engineer, chemist and inventor who inspired by the Geissler tubes (an early gas discharge tube used to demonstrate the principles of electrical glow discharge) developed neon tube lightening to display in the Paris Motor Show in 1910 (eight years after he lighted his first neon light in his laboratory).
The blow dryer as we know today is attributed to another French, Mr. Alexandre Godefroy, who took inspiration from a device previously used to dry hair, (a device, which as it seems, has multiple uses, like inflating a mattress and sucking in spiders among others, unless you never lived in Australia), the household vacuum cleaner. He created the first hair salon dryer, in from of a dome being put over one’s head (Hello 1950’s).
Another French genius, the mathematician Bernard Lassimon, to counteract the tedious act of sharpening pencils with a knife, came up in 1828 with the idea of two small metal files tilting at ninety degrees in a block of wood, working to whittle, scrape and grind the wood off the pencil to create a tip. If not genius, then I don’t know what you would call this?
See, I wasn’t fooling around (please take note Bill Spencer, in reference to the first post) when I said the French were some talented and canny folk. I like to think I kept my promise?