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It's a regional thing. Both words mean "potatoes", but "patatas" is more common in Spain, whereas "papas" is used in other Spanish-speaking countries.
I'm a little surprised to see "patatas" as the default translation here, since Duolingo claims to teach a "generic Latin American Spanish", but it's not a huge deal regardless.
Speaking regionally and understood, I think, in most of the US. 1.) American fries=diced or sliced potatoes pan fried. 2.) Hash browns=shredded and pan fried potatoes. 3.)Fries or just as common French fries=long julienne, sometimes crinkle cut fried in a deep fryer. Hopefully everyone can get on the same page now.
They are called French fries because they are julienned (French cut) and as Daniel said they are not necessarily from France. We also have French cut canned green beans in the United States, my favorite.