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French Expression of the Day: Avoir le cafard

The Local France
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French Expression of the Day: Avoir le cafard
Photo: Depositphotos

Want to tell a French friend that you're not in the best of spirits? Then this is the expression for you.

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Why do I need to know avoir le cafard?
 
If you're in a bad mood, this is the perfect way to express that to a French friend before you go into the details over a coffee. 
 
So, what does it mean?
 
Literally, avoir le cafard means 'to have the cockroach'. 
 
But really this informal expression means 'to be in a gloomy mood', 'to be down in the dumps' or 'to feel blue'.
 
Well, wouldn't you be, if you had the cockroach? It's a fitting metaphor, because of the way that a bad mood can sneak into your mind and then take hold, just like cockroaches in a house.
 
So, if you want to express to someone in French that you're having a bad time of things you would say, J'ai le cafard ('I'm feeling down'). 
 
Origins
 
It's thought that poet Charles Baudelaire came up with this expression when writing Les Fleurs du Mal
 
'Cafard' has a long history of being synonymous with negativity in the French language; earlier, it was used to describe people who were traitors, sneaks, or lacking in morality.
 
Some examples
 
Mon frère a le cafard depuis quelque temps et ne veut plus sortir - My brother has been feeling down for a while and doesn't want to go out anymore. 
 
(The above example is from wordreference.com)
 
J'ai le cafard parce que je dois travailler ce weekend - I feel down because I have to work this weekend
 
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