French expression of the day: Caca nerveux

French expression of the day: Caca nerveux
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Fear not, this is not a literal expression.

Why do I need to know caca nerveux?

Because it's an hilarious expression that makes a lot of sense once you learn what it means.

What does it mean?

Caca is French for 'poo' and nerveux means 'nervous'. So faire un caca nerveux, which is the usual phrasing, means 'to do a nervous poo'.

It sounds like a metaphor for something you do when you're really anxious or scared, like feeling the urge to vomit just before a stage performance or an important exam.

But caca nerveux isn't really about being nervous, it means 'to freak out', 'get angry' or 'lash out' for little or no reason. 


The expression's origins are pretty funny. According to French online dictionary l'Internaute, it dates back to the 20th Century and is a reference to the red, seemingly angry face a baby makes when it struggles to poop.

The idea is that someone who does a caca nerveux is getting unnecessarily hotheaded usually without it having the wanted effect.

It is often used to shrug off criticism during an argument or to make the other side seem foolishly outraged.

As you might have understood from the origins of the expression, it's very colloquial and you should not use it if, say, your think your boss is being out of line or overly dramatic.

Use it like this

Tu fais encore ton caca nerveux ? – Are you still freaking out over nothing?

Je lui ai dit que je voulais une relation ouverte et il a commencé a me faire un caca nerveux. – I told him that I wanted an open relationship and he completely freaked out.

Si je ne rentre pas avant 21h ma femme va encore faire un caca nerveux. – If I don't get home before 9pm my wife is going to go mental again.


S'énerver fortement – get very annoyed

Faire un caprice – freak out

Pêter un cable – to freak out

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