Untranslatable French Word of the Day: ‘ras-le-bol’ (for when you’ve had enough)
You'll often see "ras-le-bol" in news headlines and hear it out and about in France... but unfortunately for those learning the language it falls squarely into the 'untranslatable' category. Here we tackle the meaning and interesting originals of this unusual French word.
Published: 14 September 2018 09:55 CEST
Photo: Deposit photos
Why have we chosen it?
This is one of those words which always pops up in headlines because it's suited to so many situations.
And it can trip up language learners because it is a word that you definitely won't learn in school despite the fact that it is used all the time in France.
What does it mean?
This delightful little word means something along the lines of gloominess, despondency, despair, bleakness, “fed-upness” or discontent in general.
It is most often used as part of the phrase “en avoir ras-le-bol” which when put into the first person form would be: “j'en ai ras-le-bol”.
That literally means “my bowl is full” and even though this might seem like it could be a good thing, it actually means “I've had enough”.
This expression, which is an informal one, can be used to express everything from general discontent to extreme frustration depending on the context.
The French often talk about the “ras-le-bol fiscal” (tax malaise) to refer to their all round fed-upness with having to pay so many taxes.
It is disputed where “ras-le-bol” come from although some sources claim that has very vulgar origins
Apparently “bol” used to be slang for “ass” so if you said “j'en ai ras-le-bol” it literally meant that you needed to relieve yourself (to put it politely) and so it seemed a natural fit for it to figuratively mean you were fed up or frustrated.
Here are translations of the examples in the newspaper above:
1. Drome, Ardeche: ras-le-bol des moustiques!
Drome, Ardeche: fed up with mosquitos!
2. “C'est le ras-le-bol general!”: tout un service de police se met en arrêt maladie pour protester
“Everyone is despondent“: A whole police department goes on sick leave to protest
And some more examples:
3. Après l'augmentation des impôts, du prix de l'essence et du gaz, il y a eu une sorte de ras-le-bol général.
Following the increases in taxes and the prices of petrol and gas, there was a kind of general despondency.
French Phrase of the Day: Syndrome de la bonne élève
Why being a good pupil can sometimes be … bad.
Published: 3 February 2023 13:53 CET
Why do I need to know Syndrome de la bonne élève?
Feeling under-valued at work despite doing everything – and more – asked of you? You may have ‘good student syndrome’.
What does it mean?
Syndrome de la bonne élève – pronounced sin-dromm de la bon ell-evv – translates, as we’ve already hinted, as good student syndrome.
You may well also see it written as syndrome du bon élève (pronounced sin-dromm doo bon ell-evv) – but this is predominantly a female issue.
It refers to someone in the workplace who tries their hardest to work to the rules, do all the jobs asked of them – and more – and yet is overlooked in favour of co-workers who don’t necessarily put in the same hard graft.
It’s not an official ‘syndrome’, but mental health experts do recognise it in many people – particularly women.
It is a hangover, according to features in magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, from school days when girls are considered to be harder workers and less trouble than their boy counterparts.
Marie Claire labelled it a “destructive perfectionism … which affects the mental health of the women they become, while preventing them from embracing positions of responsibility’.’
Use it like this
Le syndrome de la bonne élève touche essentiellement les femmes dans le monde occidental. – Good student syndrome mainly affects women in the Western world.
Cette question d’éducation est d’autant plus marquante que le syndrome du « bon élève » affecte généralement les femmes – This question of education is all the more striking because “good student” syndrome generally affects women
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