Word of the day: Mal barré

Word of the day: Mal barré
It used to be a sailor's expression, but today it probably just means that you're in trouble.

Why do I need to know mal barré?

You may want to use it to say (fondly) that someone is screwed.

So, what does it mean?

At its origin, être mal barré was a way for French sailors to say that the captain wasn't steering a straight course. 

Today the expression is more commonly used in French language (also by those who have never set foot on a boat) as a way of expressing that something is going wrong, or that someone is in (deep) trouble.

Je suis mal barré – I'm in trouble.

C'est mal barré – things are looking bad.

Ce mariage commence à être mal barré – This wedding is starting to look iffy..

In these cases, the être mal barré takes the same meaning as another common expression: c'est fichu – it's over/it won't work. (Another, very informal, option is c'est foutu.)

Any other options?

Etre mal barré can have different meanings depending on the context.

It can be used to say that someone is in bad shape physically, like in this (slightly dramatic) paragraph from the book Sauve-toi, Lola (Save yourself, Lola), taken from a French online dictionary:

Jeanne ignorait si les malades sélectionnés étaient ceux qui avaient le plus de chances de s'en sortir ou, au contraire, les plus mal barrés, ceux sur qui les autres traitements avaient échoué. – Jeanne didn’t know if the chosen sick people where those with the highest chance of surviving or, on the contrary, those in worst shape, the ones where all medical treatments had failed.

Being mal barré isn't necessarily this dramatic, though. You may also want use the expression to kindly tell a good friend that they're a little crazy. For example:

Tu espères devenir Président de la République en passant tes journées sur le canapé? Tu es mal barré mon pote. – You think you can become the President of France by spending your days slouching on the couch? You're nuts, mate.

For more French words and expressions like Mon pote, head to our French word of the Day section.

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