Exactly a year after the historic Brexit referendum, a British MP looks likely to achieve her goal of seeing another major change in citizenship in Europe — in a popular English expression. A bill has been steered through Parliament by the Conservative MP for Anglebury, Avril Berner, who has called for the expression “French leave” — meaning “absence from work or duty without permission” (OED) — to be changed to “English leave” in dictionaries and school textbooks throughout the UK. In a four-page document, which was reported by Parliament Today to have reached Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s signature on Thursday, the anniversary of the landmark 2017 vote, Berner argued that the word French has no business holding its place in standard British English, especially as the island nation continues to negotiate its economic and legal separation from the European mainland. Interestingly, the French equivalent for the phrase is “filer a l’anglaise” — meaning literally “to leave English-style”. The nearly 250-year-old phrase “French leave” is first recorded in 1771.
Other English terms that contain the names of European nationalities are:
- Spanish fly: an aphrodisiac, made from the dried blood of Spanish beetles
- Dutch cap: a contraceptive diaphragm
- French letter: another contraceptive, a condom