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See You Soon On The Bus – Saying Goodbye With A French Expression Posted by on Aug 28, 2019 in Culture, Vocabulary

Idioms showing up when you least expect them is one the best parts of becoming un francophone (a French speaker). The shift from finding something completely incomprehensible to clearly identifiable is an incredible feeling for anyone learning le français.

Image from Pixabay. Licensed under CC0.

Of the many expressions I’ve misunderstood over the years, there is one that recently came up that particularly stands out. L’expression itself is actually easier to understand than others that are dripped in metaphors or tied to specific cultural references:

À plus dans le bus!
See you later on the bus!

Even though the dans le bus (on the bus) part makes absolutely no sense when you’re unfamiliar with l’expression, it’s easy to accept that it’s just une blague (a joke). Pushing the limits of le second degré (sarcasm) even makes some sense in a dry humor kind of way.

This saying came up while I was talking with un collègue (a coworker) the other day. After our brief exchange, they said what was for me une nouvelle phrase (a new sentence): à plus dans le bus.

Bien sûr (of course), I didn’t understand it and immediately gave a puzzled « quoi » (“what?”) as a response. However, unlike what usually happens with les nouvelles expressions, once mon collègue repeated it, I understand what it meant and how it was tied to l’humour (humor).

Satisfied with a basic understanding of l’expression, I gave a quick smile and returned to mon bureau (my desk).

After sitting down though, I suddenly realized why something absolutely nonsensical made so much sense to me. Growing up, I often used a similar joke with ma mère (my mother) all the time:

See ya later alligator!
After a while crocodile!

Remembering the silly saying, I immediately got up and asked mon collègue about it to see if my childhood expression also exists en français:

Salut !
Salut John !
Tu te souviens de ce que tu viens de dire ?
Non ?
À plus dans le bus !
Ah oui ! Tu ne comprends toujours pas qu’est-ce que ça veut dire ?
Non, non, ce n’est pas ça.
Alors, qu’est-ce qu’il y a ?
Je viens de me rendre compte d’une expression similaire en anglais !
Ouais ?
À plus l’alligator ! À bientôt le crocodile !
Quoi ?
Est-ce qu’on a la mème expression en français ?
Haha ! Non, pas du tout !

Hi John!
You remember what you just said?
See you soon on the bus!
Ah yes! You still don’t understand what it means?
No, no, that’s not it.
Then what is it?
I just realized that there’s a similar expression in English!
See ya later alligator! After a while crocodile!
Do you have the same expression in French?
Haha! No, not at all!

While it turns out there isn’t an equivalent French idiom involving les alligators et les crocodiles, a lot of laughs were shared as we both struggled to understand new expressions.

I was still curious about l’expression française and why it mentions le bus so I decided to look it up once I had the time. I couldn’t find l’origine (the origin), but I did learn something better.

À plus dans le bus is actually part of many similar sayings that take on the same format:

A plus dans le bus !
A bientôt dans le métro !
A demain dans le train !

See you soon on the bus!
See you later on the subway!
See you tomorrow on the train!

There’s even one for when you’ll never meet again:

À jamais sous le tramway !
Never again on the tramway!

Le jeu (the game) is all about finding some form of transportation that rhymes with a unit of time. The joke and the fun from rhyming two unrelated words is completely lost when translated into English, but remembering the equally nonsensical see ya later alligator makes it easy to appreciate.

There are more variations that involve rhyming les prénoms (first names) or referencing les pubs (advertisements), but the main goal is always the same:

Dire au revoir avec humour.
Saying goodbye with humor.

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.