A la Queue Leu Leu or a Month of French Idioms From A to Z

One of the nicest experiences during this crazy A to Z challenge is to meet new people and to strenghten the virtual friendships with loyal readers. And sometimes along the way someone gives you a small gift that makes you warm and happy.

My friend Claire writes about books, places, and books that take you places. For the letter P she chose Paris and my novel Trapped in Paris. Talk of a nice Pat on my back.  I encourage anyone who loves picture books, middle grade novels and YA novels to pay Claire a visit. I bet you’ll decide to subscribe to her blog. Her A to Z challenge theme Read Your World With Kids’ Books will take you through a unique and very well researched field trip.

Thank you, Claire!


My French idiom du jour doesn’t have a literal translation but an easy English equivalent.





Mothers who raise their children away from their native land know how complex it can be. I am no exception.

On one hand, I wanted my children to speak fluent English. On the other, I also knew that bilingualism is a terrific asset.

So until my children entered preschool I spoke French and only French at home. And once in a while, a song, a story, and sometimes just an expression hit a chord with my children.

A la Queue Leu Leu became an instant favorite.


Embed from Getty Images


In the French folklore wolves play a large role. These animals travel in pack and often one behind another. It appears that the noun “Leu” in the expression could be an old form for “Loup,” or “Wolf.” The noun “Queue” means “Tail.” So it would make sense that a wolf walking right behind another would also follow its tail.

In any case, despite the old age of this expression, I don’t think “A la Queue Leu Leu” has died yet.

Etes-vous d’accord les français?

Recently my oldest daughter, who is part of an early childhood education program on a college campus in California, told me that her group of three and four-years-old enjoyed French words and songs.

“They love the expression ‘A la Queue Leu Leu’ most,” she said. “So when I want them to stand in single line that’s what I say. Now they even use the expression after recess, when they have to get back in class.”


You never know what your children will remember of your teaching.  Sometimes a simple but fun-sounding expression can leave its mark and transcend linguistic barriers.


A to Z Challenge


See you tomorrow!


  1. Sisyphus47 says:

    Un souvenir tendre de l’école maternelle… 😉

  2. Oh I do love that, and I’ve never heard that one before! I taught my children to walk behind me like little ducks walk behind the mama, so my go-to phrase was always, “Walk like a duck.” Either my husband or my oldest would be at the rear, keeping the queque in order 🙂

  3. A great one Evelyn – loved the theme of Paris! Beautiful shots btw and “single line” oh so many at these wonderful venues.

  4. It sounds like part of a children’s song 🙂

  5. I like that so much better than “line up, single file” – which is what we always heard in elementary school.

  6. cardamone5 says:

    Wonderful, Evelyne. Thank you.


  7. Love the song, and the story. How cool. We spoke only French to our children when they were young as well, and we lived here in the states. They are both Bilingual and enjoy that fact now that they are older. Lisa, co-host AtoZ 2015, @ http://www.lisabuiecollard.com

    • Speaking two languages at home is never easy but it’s also fun and stimulating. Good for you if your kids are also bilingual. À la Queue Leu Leu is a sweet reminder of my school day. See you, Lisa.

  8. C’est mignon, ça ! Your kids are very lucky to be bilingual !

    • In fact, they haven’t always been happy about that. Having a mom who stand out isn’t something teenagers appreciate a lot. However, growing up with parents who came from another country has taught them a lot about acceptance, and I’m proud of their ability to embrace anyone coming from anywhere without prejudice and assumptions. Being bilingual is an asset but being open to other cultures is an even better asset, I think.
      As always I love your visits and I have a really good time visiting your blog as well.

  9. Je voulais te le dire: j’adore tous tes billets de décryptage des expressions françaises ! C’est vraiment étrange, drôle de regarder ma langue comme un sujet extérieur, presque exotique !J’utilise beaucoup ce genre d’expression, j’aime bien l’argot aussi !J ‘aime ce langage imagé, vivant, expressif, ludique ! Je ne sais pas s’il y a autant d’expressions de ce genre en anglais ou si c’est-ce typiquement français?Le sujet est vaste et c’est, en effet un vrai challenge ! Peut on te proposer des expressions ???Avoue ce serait drôle de les dessiner ! Dommage, je n’ai le temps de rien mais cela me donne des idées !!!! Bises bises

    • C’est super gentil de passer me voir, Kali. Merci de m’encourager. J’aime aussi l’argot et les expressions plus contemporaines. J’ai saisi l’occasion de ce challenge alphabétique (en fait c’est une de mes amies qui m’en a parlé) pour faire cette série dont j’avais eu l’idée il y a quelque temps. Je réfléchis au futur de cette série. Je sais que je vais faire une section sur mon blog et m’enregistrer en lisant les expressions car mes amis américains me l’ont demandé. Il y a moins d’expressions de ce style aux US. Tes dessins seraient super pour illustrer un petit livre…
      Bises bises.

  10. I am woefully mono-lingual; however, I’d really like for my son to learn at least one language in addition to English. He’s just a toddler, but reading through your blog has given me the idea of getting some audio children’s books and music from other languages. He won’t understand it yet, but like your daughter’s school kids, he might pick up on a sing-songy phrase. I’m off to the library to see what I can find!

    • Thank you, Trista, for your visit. I’m glad if this little series of mine triggered your desire to expose your son to foreign sounds. Kids are so good at picking up new languages. It’s too bad that we don’t start before high school in most places in the US. It’s already late in terms of accent. Songs are a great choice for a toddler since most exist in different languages. He will have fun to discover new words on a melody he already knows. I wish you both a great time and hope to see you again.

  11. How special it must be to see your children carry on the traditions you began. Sometimes we don’t think our children are watching and listening and then we realize how much they were paying attention.
    It was fun interviewing you. I love your book Trapped in Paris.

    • I was very happy when my daughter shared this with me. In all honesty I had forgotten about this expression, which is used for and with kids in most cases. I thank you for the interview and your constant support.

  12. Well, we use ‘single file’, but of course we use queue – which I never knew meant tail! The English are famed for queuing, whereas other cultures aren’t as strict about it 🙂 This also reminds me of an old game where one person stands at the front with their back turned to the others. The rest of the children creep up on the ‘wolf’ calling ‘what’s the time Mr Wolf?’ who quickly turns around and says a time, but then eventually will shout ‘feeding time’ and try to catch one.

    • It’s always funny to me when I hear the word “Queue” here! A French word with the American accent, close to the meaning and yet used slightly differently. The English and American people amaze me with their civil ways. The French are terrible when they have to stand in a single line! I know this game, but in the US it’s not Mr. Wolf but Mr. Fox. Isn’t it funny too? Thank you, Andrea, for this fun comment.

  13. You wrote: I don’t think “A la Queue Leu Leu” has died yet.

    You are right. Last summer I found it among the texts of my French books.


  1. […] of the most popular French expressions is A la Queue Leu Leu. I wrote about it last year in my Series French Idioms from A to Z. You can heard from my blog post […]

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