For members


French expression of the day: Crise des nerfs

It's something many of us probably will have experienced in the months following the coronavirus epidemic.

French expression of the day: Crise des nerfs
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know crise de nerfs?

It's useful both in the moments of minor life crises (like discovering you don't have any shampoo left) and bigger ones (like getting dumped or losing your job).

What does it mean?

Crise de nerfs means 'crisis of nerves', and it's the French equivalent of having a 'nervous breakdown'.

Like its English sister expression, crise de nerfs is a real thing – a quite serious psychological condition actually – but the French use it for everyday more minor incidents.

Use it like this

You can use crise de nerfs when someone at the office drank the last coffee and you feels like you're au bout de ta vie – just dying. 

Or when you're in lockdown and someone just used the last of the toilet paper.

Or when you're in lockdown, full stop.

J'en peux plus de confinement, je fais bientôt un crise de nerfs. – I can't deal with lockdown anymore, I'm going to lose it.

You can use crise de nerf whenever you're stressed out or upset. In this case it's the same as pêter un plomb or pêter un cable – 'freaking out, 'losing it' or 'blow a fuse'.

Il faut que j'y aille, si je te rentre tard ma femme va encore taper une crise de nerfs. – I have to go, if I get home late my wife will have a meltdown.

Ah, ne commence pas avec ça ou sinon je te jure que je vais faire une crise de nerfs ! – Oh, don't start with all that again or I swear I will blow a fuse!

Mon chef m'a stressé toute la journée au boulot, j'étais au bord de la crise de nerfs. – My boss was stressing me out all day at work, I thought I might have a breakdown.


Member comments

  1. Good to know, thank you. During this lockdown, my wife has been so “Intolerant” with me, I’m thinking of changing my name to “Lactose” ! 🙂 How do you say that ?

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For members


French Word of the Day: Bordéliser

This French expression is not the kindest, but it will certainly get your point across.

French Word of the Day: Bordéliser

Why do I need to know bordéliser?

Because when things feel chaotic, you might want to use this word.

What does it mean?

Bordéliser roughly pronounced bore-del-ee-zay – comes from the swear word “bordel” which means brothel.

In popular usage, bordel is used to describe a mess or a chaotic environment, and bordéliser turns the bordel into a verb – meaning to make or create disorder, disaster or chaos. 

During periods of unrest in France, you may hear people blame one group for causing the problem by using this expression. Keep in mind that bordéliser is not polite language – the English equivalent might be to “fuck (or screw) something up”.

One popular theory says that the root word bordel comes from medieval French – at the time, sex workers were explicitly not allowed to work near the ports, so they were relegated to wooden huts or small houses – or bordes, in French –  away from the city.

You may also hear another French expression that uses the same root word: “c’est le bordel”. 

This literally translates to “it’s a brothel” but it is used to describe a situation that’s untidy, messy or chaotic, both literally and figuratively as in  ‘what a bloody mess!’ or ‘it’s mayhem!’ or ‘what a disaster!’

Use it like this

Le militant accuse le gouvernement de bordéliser le pays avec sa réforme impopulaire. – The activist accuses the government of “fucking up” the country with its unpopular reform.

Tu as bordélisé l’appartement et notre dynamique de colocation en achetant le singe comme animal de compagnie. Qu’est-ce qui t’a pris ? – You have screwed up the apartment and our roommate dynamic by buying the monkey as a pet. What were you thinking?