French expression of the day: Fou rire

French expression of the day: Fou rire
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
In French, having the giggles literally makes you crazy.

Why do I need to know fou rire?

Because it's hilarious.

What does it mean?

Fou rire directly translates as ‘crazy laugh’, which is the very canny French way of saying 'getting the giggles' or 'cracking up laughing'. It's not just a polite chuckle, it's when you cannot stop laughing.

Having the giggles – which for some reason sometimes tends to happen at the worst possible  moments – does indeed make you seem like a crazy person, which the French language has embraced.

If you've never had the giggles, it looks like this:

Sometimes fou rires become even more fou when you try and control them. That was the case for French MP Valérie Boyer back in 2015, when she was caught by uncontrollable giggles as she tried to give a speech in the French parliament. 


In 2019, BBC anchor Simon McCoy did a quite impressive job of – nearly, but not quite – suppressing his fou rire when telling the absurd, but true, story of a Swiss yodelling festival being interrupted by Swiss Army Jets.


Use it like this

J’ai eu un fou rire comme jamais avant, je n’arrivais pas à m'arrêter. – I was laughing like I've never laughed before, I couldn't stop.

Elle a eu un tel fou rire qu'elle a dû quitter la salle de reunion. – She was giggling so hard that she had to leave the meeting room.

Quand il est tombé sur la scène j'ai eu le plus gros fou rire de ma vie ! – When he fell onstage I laughed the hardest I've ever laughed my entire life.

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