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French word of the Day: Chialer

If things aren't going to well (for example you're contemplating the roughly 1,000 extra people all trying to squeeze into your Metro carriage) you might be tempted to do a bit of this.

French word of the Day: Chialer
Why do I need to know chialer?
Chialer is part of the everyday language and is very common in informal situations.
What does it mean?
Chialer is more or less a synonym for pleurer (to cry), but chialer has a derogatory undertone. In fact, chialer implies that you are downplaying (or even mocking) a person's grief. In brief, you are not showing much empathy when using this word. An English equivalent might be blubbing or even whining.
Pierre n’arrête pas de chialer depuis que sa copine l’a quitté  – Pierre has been constantly blubbing since his girlfriend left him.
Mon gosse n’arrête pas de chialer  – My kid won’t stop crying
Chialer can also be used as a synonym for complaining, so you might translate it as whining or whingeing.
Arrête de chialer tout le temps! – Stop whingeing all the time!.
In this specific case, you might also use pleurnicher instead of chialer. Both words are informal and interchangeable (although French Canadians only use chialer in this specific context).
Origin of the word
The origin of chialer is quite unclear. According to French dictionary Larousse, this verb might derive from the Middle French word chiau meaning puppy. In short, chialer means “to weep like a puppy”.
You can replace pleurer with chialer in any expression involving the first one.
For example the relatively common but bizarre phrase Pleurer/Chialer comme une madeleine –  To cry like a madeleine.
If you wish to express your total absence of empathy, you might say to your friend in tears:
Chiale/Pleure, tu pisseras moins – Cry, you will pee less.
However, we strongly advise you to refrain using this expression unless you want to give the impression of being a complete sociopath.
By Jean-Baptiste Andrieux

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

This might look like a mix of Spanish and French, but it is definitely not Franish.

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

Why do I need to know mettre le holà?

Because you might need to do this if your friends go from laughing with you to laughing at you. 

What does it mean?

Mettre le holà – pronounced meh-truh luh oh-la – literally means to put the ‘holà’ on something. You might be thinking this must be some clever mix of Spanish and French, but ‘holà’ actually has nothing to do with the Spanish greeting. 

This expression is a way to say that’s enough – or to ‘put the brakes on something.’

If a situation appears to be agitated, and you feel the need to intervene in order to help calm things down, then this might be the expression you would use. Another way of saying it in English might be to ‘put the kibosh on it.’

While the origins of ‘kibosh’ appear to be unknown, ‘holà’ goes back to the 14th century in France. Back then, people would shout “Ho! Qui va là?” (Oh, who goes there?) as an interjection to call someone out or challenge them. 

Over time this transformed into the simple holà, which you might hear on the streets, particularly if you engage in some risky jaywalking. 

A French synonym for this expression is ‘freiner’ – which literally means ‘to break’ or ‘put the brakes on,’ and can be used figuratively as well as literally. 

Use it like this

Tu aurais dû mettre le holà tout de suite. Cette conversation a duré bien trop longtemps, et il était si offensif. – You should have put a stop to that immediately. That conversation went on for too long, and he was so offensive. 

J’ai essayé de mettre le holà à la blague sur ma mère, mais ils étaient sans pitié. – I tried to put a stop to the joke about my mother, but they were merciless.