For members


French expression of the Day: filer à l’anglaise

While many expressions of the English language allude to French people, you should know some French expressions are dedicated to their neighbors from across the Channel. For a start, here is filer à l'anglaise.

French expression of the Day: filer à l'anglaise
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

renchWhy do I need to know filer à l'anglaise?

The expression filer à l'anglaise stands as an obvious testimony to the everlasting squabble between France and England, and feels kind of appropriate on a day that involves British people leaving.

What does it mean?

Filer à l'anglaise is the French version of 'to take French leave' and means leaving a place or sneaking out of a party without saying goodbye to anyone.

Il file à l'anglaise, personne ne le voit jamais partir. He takes English leave, no one ever sees him going.

And it's not considered a polite thing to do, tempting as it might to just slip away and avoid taking formal leave of every single person around the dinner table.

Another French expression to signify this kind of behavior is partir comme un voleur – to leave like a thief.

So, who started it?

The question of who started this passive-aggressive spat is yet to be answered, but some reports date the origin of French leave back to the 1850s and closely tie the expression to the Napoleonic campaign and the supposed cowardice of French soldiers.

On the other hand, filer à l'anglaise has two stories.

Some French language experts explained this expression was only aimed at creditors, who were called les Anglais in the 1500s. People then used to leave quickly when les Anglais were around, resulting in filer à l'anglaise.

In the same vein, the 19th century verb anglaiser – which has totally disappeared today – used to mean voler, to steal.

Of course, there is still a theory claiming the expression is a small French revenge towards the English people and the French leave, but still to this day, no one knows for sure who started this squabble. 

For more French words, phrases and expressions, check out our French word of the day section.





Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

This expression is more than just your last order at the boulangerie.

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

Why do I need to know tarte à la crème ?

Because if someone uses this phrase to describe you, you should probably be a bit offended.

What does it mean?

Tarte à la crème – pronounced tart ah lah krem – literally refers to a cream filled tart, or a custard tart, in English. However, this expression has more to do than just baking. It is another way of describing something that is boring, predictable or commonplace.

This expression comes straight from Moliere himself. In the 17th century, there was a popular rhyming game called “Corbillon.” The phrase “Je vous passe mon corbillon” (I pass you by corbillon) is said, and then it is followed by “Qu’y met-on?” (What does one put on it?) To keep the rhyme up, people must respond with something ending in an -ON sound.

In the play, “L’Ecole des Femmes” (The School of Wives), one character says the ideal woman would respond to the question with “tarte à la crème” which is obviously the wrong answer. The right answer would be tarte à la citron (lemon tart). Molière did this on purpose to poke fun at the fact that disgruntled fans would send poor actors cream tarts to express their frustration.

It was a way of ridiculing his critics and showing he was unimpressed by their method of showing discontentment at his plays. Over time, the phrase went on to describe things that are commonplace or boring. It is often used to describe entertainment related topics, such as books, movies, or plays.

A synonym for this phrase in French might be banal and in English you might say something is ‘vanilla’ to describe something that is fairly unexciting.

Use it like this

Le film était vraiment tarte à la crème. Je ne recommande pas d’aller le voir au cinéma, vous pouvez attendre de le voir une fois qu’il sera gratuit en ligne. – The movie was really boring. I don’t recommend going to see it at the movies, you can simply wait to see it once it is free online.

Je pense que l’album est tarte à la crème. Elle a pris tellement d’idées d’autres artistes que ce n’est vraiment pas original du tout. – I think the album is predictable. She really took plenty of ideas from other artists and it was not original at all.