French leave


French leave

French leave is "Leave of absence without permission or without announcing one's departure", ["Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable" (Millennium Edition; London: Cassell, 1999)] including leaving a party without bidding farewell to the host. The intent behind this behaviour is to leave without disturbing the host. The phrase was born at a time when the English and French cultures were heavily interlinked.Fact|date=February 2008

In French, the phrase "filer à l'anglaise" (English leave) means the same thing. [Anu Garg's A.Word.A.Day, September 8 2008. http://wordsmith.org/words/chinese_puzzle.html]

The term is especially used to mean the act of leisurely absence from a military unit. This comes from the rich history of Franco-English conflict; as Spain has a similar saying concerning the French, it may have come from the Napoleonic campaign in the Iberic Peninsula which pitted the French against an Anglo-Portuguese & Spanish alliance. The phrase has a perfect French and Italian equivalent in "filer à l'anglaise" and "filarsela all'inglese", literally, "to take the English leave".

The actual derivation may have its roots in American history during the French and Indian wars. About 140 French soldiers were captured near Lake George in New York and ferried to an island in the lake. The French, knowing the area better than the British, waited until near dawn and quietly waded ashore leaving their captors bewildered on arising. Though its role as such didn't last a day, the island has been named Prison Island.

In Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson, the main character, Jim, refers to taking "a French leave" when he leaves the shelter unbeknownst to the captain.

In the movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Senator Smith is accused of taking "French leave" when he fails to show up at his office in a timely manner upon first arriving in Washington, D.C.

References


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  • French leave — Leave Leave, n. [OE. leve, leave, AS. le[ a]f; akin to le[ o]f pleasing, dear, E. lief, D. oorlof leave, G. arlaub, and erlauben to permit, Icel. leyfi. [root]124. See {Lief}.] 1. Liberty granted by which restraint or illegality is removed;… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • French leave — French French (fr[e^]nch), prop. a. [AS. frencisc, LL. franciscus, from L. Francus a Frank: cf. OF. franceis, franchois, fran[,c]ois, F. fran[,c]ais. See {Frank}, a., and cf. {Frankish}.] Of or pertaining to France or its inhabitants. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • french leave — To take French leave is to leave a gathering without saying goodbye or without permission …   The small dictionary of idiomes

  • French leave — French′ leave′ n. a departure without ceremony, permission, or notice: Taking French leave, he evaded his creditors[/ex] • Etymology: 1765–75 …   From formal English to slang

  • French leave — n. [< 18th c. custom, prevalent in France, of leaving receptions without taking leave of the host or hostess] an unauthorized, unnoticed, or unceremonious departure; act of leaving secretly or in haste …   English World dictionary

  • French leave — n. (obsol.) leaving without saying goodbye to take French leave * * * (obsol.) [ leaving without saying goodbye ] to take French leave (obsol.) [ leaving without saying goodbye ] to take French leave …   Combinatory dictionary

  • French leave —    If you leave an official or social event without notifying the person who invited you, you take French leave.     Is Bill coming back for the closing speech or has he taken French leave? …   English Idioms & idiomatic expressions

  • French leave —    unauthorized absence    Originally of a soldier, implying a propensity in French soldiers for desertion. Some civilian and figurative use:     We could still, if we wished, take French leave of Vietnam. (M. McCarthy, 1967) …   How not to say what you mean: A dictionary of euphemisms

  • French leave — {n.} The act of slipping away from a place secretly and without saying good bye to anyone. * / It s getting late, Rob whispered to Janet. Let s take French leave and get out of here. / …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • French leave — {n.} The act of slipping away from a place secretly and without saying good bye to anyone. * / It s getting late, Rob whispered to Janet. Let s take French leave and get out of here. / …   Dictionary of American idioms