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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French expression of the day: Caca nerveux

Fear not, this is not a literal expression.

French expression of the day: Caca nerveux
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

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.

Synonyms

S'énerver fortement – get very annoyed

Faire un caprice – freak out

Pêter un cable – to freak out

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Word of the Day: Soixante-huitard

About one in five people of a certain French generation can be described using this term.

French Word of the Day: Soixante-huitard

Why do I need to know soixante-huitard?

Because it references a very important part of French history and culture.

What does it mean?

Soixante-huitard – pronounced swah-sahnt wheat arr – literally means sixty-eighter. While its translation might sound a bit like a sports team (ex. Forty-niners),  this term in French has an important political and social context behind it. 

A soixante-huitard is someone who participated in the famous May 1968 protests in France. With the backdrop of the Prague Spring and the American Civil Rights Movement and anti-war protests, French students and striking workers demanded a more egalitarian world in May 1968. 

This period of civil unrest lasted seven weeks and even forced then-President Charles de Gaulle to temporarily flee to West Germany. The events of this time have had a profound effect on French culture and politics. 

Around 11 million people – 22 percent of the population at the time – was involved in some way or another, and these days, those people are referred to as un soixante-huitard or une soixante-huitarde (for a woman). 

Though the term is typically reserved to refer to those actually involved in the protest movement, it can occasionally be used as a way to describe someone who has held onto the far-left ideas or sentiments from the 1968 movement.

Use it like this

Il a gardé ses convictions d’extrême-gauche longtemps après 1968. C’est un vrai soixante-huitard. – He held onto his far-left beliefs long after 1968. He is a true sixty-eighter. 

Tu pourrais être surpris que ta tante ait une soixante-huitarde. Ses opinions ont certainement changé avec le temps. Tu ne l’aurais jamais deviné ! – You might be surprised that your aunt participated in May 68. Her opinions have really changed with time, you would never have guessed it.

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