French word of the day: Pleurnicher

The French are internationally known as being good at complaining. Here's an expression if ever someone goes a bit overboard.

French word of the day: Pleurnicher
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know pleurnicher?

Because you'll want to know if someone accuses you of doing it.

What does it mean?

Pleurnicher is a variant of pleurer, which means ‘crying’, but while the latter implies real sadness, pleurnicher usually means that someone is acting like a big baby.

Defined as ‘crying for no or little reason’ or ‘pretending to cry’, pleurnicher is what Anglophones would call ‘whining’ or ‘whingeing’. 

It's not a particularly nice thing to accuse someone of, and it's often used as way of discredit someone's chagrin as unwarranted (sometimes accurately so).

Politicians often use pleurnicher to reject opponents’ complaints. A boyfriend could say it to scoff at his girlfriend's crocodile tears (or vice-versa). Adults could say it if kids are being whiny. 

Je n'aime pas les enfants qui pleurnichent tout le temps – I don’t like kids who whine all the time.

Ca fait quatre heures qu’il pleurniche pour avoir une glace – He’s been whining for an ice cream for four hours

You can also change the verb pleurnicher into pleurnicheries, which translates to ‘whinings’ – which doesn’t really make sense in English, but it does in French:

Arrête tes pleurnicheries, je ne supporte pas ça – Stop your whinings, I can’t stand it.


Chialer is another way of saying pleurnicher.

READ ALSO: Eleven phrases that will let you complain like the French

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French Expression of the Day: C’est de la daube

A daube is a delicious and hearty French stew - but this expression is not something that you would aspire to.

French Expression of the Day: C’est de la daube

Why do I need to know c’est de la daube?

Because you might want to express your strong opinion on a movie/book/TV show you’ve just watched in informal but relatively polite society.

What does it mean?

C’est de la daube  – pronounced say de la dorb – translates as ‘it’s a piece of crap’ (rubbish, while a perfectly reasonable alternative, just doesn’t quite cut it) and is perfect for use in discussions about books, films and TV shows … there’s even a book about cinema called C’est de la daube (Chroniques de cinéma)

The phrase can also be used to describe things that have little value and can be discarded after use – or, basically, anything you want to describe as ‘crap’.

Famously, daube is a classic Provençal stew made with inexpensive beef braised in wine, vegetables, garlic, and herbes de Provence, and traditionally cooked in a daubière, a braising pan. The question, then, is how a delicious and hearty stew came to be used to describe something cheap and nasty and best avoided.

It’s thought that this phrase has its origins in the kitchen. According to Gaston Esnault in his “dictionnaire des argots”, ‘daube’ in this less-savoury context is a 19th-century word of Lyon origin to describe fruits and meat as being ‘spoiled’, applied to fruits and meats.

Notoriously, French programmers who like the Linux system often refer to Windows as Windaube…

Use it like this

C’est de la daube cette film – it’s crap, this film

Ton opinion, c’est de la daube – your opinion is rubbish