French expression of the day: Tête à claque

French expression of the day: Tête à claque
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
In French, there's a proper expression dedicated to the phenomenon of having the urge slap someone hard across the face - even when there's no good reason.

Why do I need to know tête à claque?

Because it’s one of those canny French expressions that the English language should have too.

What does it mean?

Tête à claque literally translates to 'head for slap', which is pretty close to exactly what it means. 

Have you ever met someone whose appearance or behaviour just makes your blood boil and your fists clench?

If the answer is yes, that person was – to you – une tête à claque, which is what the French call someone who just makes you want to slap them hard in the face.

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See also on The Local:

Don't take our word for it – the definition of a tête à claque is “a person whose looks or behaviour provokes the urge to slap (them),” according to l'Internaute

It can be a massive know-it-all, a condescending mansplainer, an enormous teacher's pet – whatever triggers your fury.

It's not necessarily even their fault. The French online dictionary explains à tête à claque as someone whose appearance is agaçant ('annoying' or 'provoking').

The expression “seems to have originated at the end of the 19th century,” according to l'Internaute, so it's not even a recent invention.

Use it like this

Je ne la supporte pas, c'est une vraie tête à claque. – I can't stand her, she has a face I want to slap

Quelle tête à claque.. – What a slap-face..

Il est gentil, mais il est un peu tête à claque quand même. – He's nice, but I have a slight urge to slap him.






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