This particular way of preparing potatoes most likely originated in Belgium in the early nineteenth century, but it quickly made its way south. The dish was introduced to America by Thomas Jefferson, who may have eaten them while he was ambassador to France. Nevertheless, the "French" in their name does not originate with the tres chic Jefferson. Instead, it refers to a cooking term: to French is to cut food into narrow strips. In the 1870s they were known as French fried potatoes, but by the 1920s the name was shortened to French frieds, until the letter "d" defected in the 1930s and they became French fries. Since the 1960s they've been referred to as "fries," a turn of events which may finally free the greasy spud from its mistaken association with French cuisine.