Why do I need to know avoir la niaque?
French people use this colloquial word quite often and the more you use it the better, because it means that you're full of beans.
What does it mean?
Avoir la niaque means to be lively, determined or full of energy as in:
J'ai bien dormi, j'ai la niaque! — I had a good night's sleep and I feel great!
Sur un terrain, j'ai la niaque, mais je ne suis pas une brute. — On the pitch, I'm full of energy, but I'm not a brute (ex-football champion Zindane told Le Parisien in a recent interview).
Ce joueur est trop mou, il n'a pas la niaque — This player is too slow, he's not lively enough!
Where does it come from?
According to the respected Larousse French dictionary, niaque originates from the word gnaque in the Gascon dialect (from the region of Gascogny in southwestern France) meaning bite.
Its use was then extended in French slang to mean to 'have bite' (which is where the 'zingy' comes in!).
How do I use niaque?
It is used with the verb avoir (to have):
J'ai la niaque! — I'm full of beans!
Ces jeunes ont la niaque, ils ont envie de réussir — These young people are very determined, they want to succeed.
L'équipe française de rugby n'arrête pas de perdre, elle n'a plus la niaque — the French rugby team keeps losing, it no longer has what it takes.
What about alternatives?
A couple of good alternatives in French that are also used with the verb avoir are avoir la pêche and avoir la patate. Again they mean roughly the same thing: being up for it, on form etc.