To take French leave; to go off without taking leave of the company.
The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue
French Leave refers to the act of leaving a party without bidding farewell to – and thereby not disturbing — the host. The term is also used to mean the act of leisurely desertion from a military unit or to go away or do a thing without permission.
OK, this one is confidential so lean in close. SP is a big fan of the French Leave, or the French Goodbye as my friends in the Deep South say. Many a night at many an event– when the good time has peaked – SP has been known to sneak away from a fete undetected. I always call in the AM (or whatever time one awakes) to assure the host that a grand time was had. To be clear, we are taking French Leave at big parties here, not intimate gatherings at which you are required to say farewell and thank you to your host. You know the difference.
But at big parties (more than 40 guests) – whether you are in a house or out and about on the town — it is often preferable to simply leave. It is ridiculous for people to make a big showy performance of leaving a party. This act always seems to me to be an indulgence in the exhibition of self-importance, as if the lack of your presence will be so glaring that the party will surely suffer by your absence. You know these types. They swan around the room making a big to do about taking their leave and wanting to be begged to stay. Don’t interrupt the flow of the guests who are having a great night out and appear in no way ready to leave. First of all, goodbyes are depressing. Nobody wants to hear them. Nobody likes them so why must we inflict them? Just leave, for Pete’s sake.
Here’s a tip on the correct execution of the French Leave. Upon arrival at the big party, make your way to the host first. Always. Before getting a drink, before taking a bite, certainly before falling into a conversation, you should make a beeline to the host and say hello and tell her what a wonderful party this is. The reasoning here is two-fold. One, it is correct. Two, in case the party turns dull, or more likely, the crowd grows too large to fight the salmon in the swim upstream to get a drink at the bar, you can take your French Leave and no one will notice, especially the host. Also, if in the case that you must leave — getting too drunk, an emergency beckons, you meet a remarkable person you want to spend more time with — you won’t have to search the crowd to find the host for a goodbye. Just hellos please, save the goodbyes.
Now of course, if everyone left French there would be no party, so keep this one under your hat. We are a small coterie here, no need to worry about this getting out. If our paths happen to cross the next time you are sneaking out, you don’t have to say anything. SP will understand.