Among the French expressions I love most is ‘à la queue leu leu’. It means to move in single file, one after another or ‘les uns derrières les autres’…
The poetry of those words! I alway imagined they had something to do with elephants, moving in their elegant yet clunky way from head to tail, but it seems the etymology of the expression goes back to wolves (‘leu’ being an old word for ‘loup’ or wolf).
‘Queue’, of course, means tail or something else which I will leave to your imagination.
‘A la queue leu leu’ is often used to describe things that come in a series, like bad news or the long lines of traffic that characterize French life during strike season.
However, it is most often associated with happy occasions and the song of the same name. You will hear it played in the salles des fêtes around France at the end of every festive event from New Year’s Eve to weddings. I’ve also seen it at school fêtes, when even the most staid and stuffy of the teaching staff gets a little silly and everyone ends up snaking around the room in a congo line.
There is something in the air this morning — Spring, I think — that makes me feel like dancing.
Go on, I dare you! Everyone, ‘à la queue leu leu!’
To take French leave (or go AWOL as we say in North America) is known in France as ‘filer à l’anglaise’. Like the humble condom (variously known in French and English as a ‘capote anglaise’ or a French letter), this is another example of something that neither side wants to take credit for.
As the year draws to a close, it’s important to take a step back and reflect on what’s been accomplished – and what’s been left undone. So I’m taking a time out – to recharge the proverbial batteries, spend precious time with my family over the holidays and think about where I want to go next year.
I started this blog back in January with the vague notion of sharing my experiences of life in the land of the Gauls while venting twenty years of pent-up frustration over culture clashes and feeling like a stranger in a strange land. It has been cathartic. Also educational: I’ve learned a lot – about myself and the wonderful world of blogging – along the way.
Living in a foreign land means there’s an endless supply of material. Especially one as rich and wonderful as France. I’ve barely begun to exhaust my treasure trove of humorous, embarrassing and sometimes outrageous examples of how things work (or don’t) in this country.
As I clear away some of the clutter from my mental shelves, I find myself struggling to distinguish very clearly what is of interest to anyone but moi.
I feel inspired to hold up different facets of life in France to the light. The tiny nuances of behavior, of mindset and of what makes the French, well, French. And the rest of us, well, foreign.
So, what do you think? Should I continue in the same vein, attempting to decode the culture cues? Do you find the observations of language as interesting as I do? Or would you like to see more positive examples of beautiful things and places that la belle France has to offer?
I would love to hear your thoughts, so please share them in the comments! And the meantime, bonnes fêtes de fin d’année!