French word of the day: Cracher

French word of the day: Cracher
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad if the coronavirus crisis eradicated this habit.

Why do I need to know cracher?

Because it's frowned upon more than usual right now. One town in France has even made it a punishable offence.

What does it mean?

Cracher is the not-so-noble art of projeter de la salive et des mucosités par la bouche – 'projecting saliva and phlegm in the mouth'.

It is, what we in English know as 'spitting'. 

Cracher par terre – 'spitting on the ground' – is not something that has every made anyone particularly popular in France.

But, like in most societies, it has been tolerated as a slightly unhygienic bad habit. 

However since the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic it has become one of the ultimate symbols of transmission des bactéries – 'spreading bacteria'.

In one small commune near Lille in the north of France, spitting now means risking a €68 fine.


Use it like this

Tu craches par terre comme ça devant tout le monde? Mais tu es dégueulasse ! – Did you just spit on the ground in front of everyone? You're disgusting! 

Tu as fini dans la salle de bain? Faut que je crache le dentifrice dans le lavabos – Are you finished in the bathroom? I need to spit the toothpaste into the sink

Désolée, j'ai craché sans refléchir – Sorry, I spat without thinking


Cracher can be used about spitting other things than saliva.

Un volcan crache de la lave – a volcano spits lava

Un dragon crache du feu – a dragon spits fire

Un serpant crache du venin – a snake spits poison 

Or, you also have cracheurs de feu – fire eaters – the performers you sometimes spot on holiday.

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