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French Expression of the Day: Perdre la boule

Are the Christmas preparations beginning to drive you mad?

French Expression of the Day: Perdre la boule
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know the expression perdre la boule? 

Because it is a common expression and should not be taken literally. 

What does it mean? 

Literally, perdre la boule (pronounced per-druh lah bool) translates as “to lose the ball/globe”. 

The actual meaning of this expression is “to go crazy”, “to lose it”, or “to panic”. 

It can be used to show exasperation with a situation or to express genuine mental or cognitive illness. 

The expression traces its origins back to the 15th-century phrase, perdre le nord (“to lose the north”). When people back then were unable to locate the magnetic north, all navigation became impossible. Losing the boule (the Globe) therefore signified losing one’s bearings altogether. 

Perdre la boule is a colloquial expression to be used mostly in informal settings. 

Use it like this

Je commence vraiment à perdre la boule – I am really starting to lose it

T’as perdu la boule ou quoi? – Are you going crazy or what? 


There are a number of expressions that you can use interchangeably with perdre la boule to convey the same meaning. Their literal translations are below: 

Perdre la boussole – To lose the compass 

Perdre la raison – To lose reason

Perdre la tête – To lose the head

Perdre les pédales – To lose the pedals 

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French Expression of the Day: Un de ces quatres

The perfect response to that invitation you don't really want to say a firm yes to.

French Expression of the Day:  Un de ces quatres

Why do I need to know un de ces quatres?

Because you will probably hear this phrase while trying to make plans with someone in French

What does it mean?

Un de ces quatres – usually pronounced uhn duh say cat-truhs – translates exactly to “one of these fours.” If taken literally the phrase really does not make any sense in French or English. But in actuality, it means “one of these days,” “at some point,” or just “soon.”

This expression is a shortening of “one of these four mornings to come,” which was first used in the second half of the 19th century. It designates a time that is sometime in the near future, but still rather indeterminate.

In French, the number ‘four’ is often used in expressions to refer to imprecise, or small, quantities. Some people say this is because four is the number for the seasons and cardinal points (North, South, East, West), so saying ‘one of these four’ shows a level of ambiguity. But unfortunately we don’t really know exactly how (or why) this phrase arose.

If you want another way of saying this, you can always stick with the regular “un de ces jours” (one of these days).

Use it like this

J’ai été tellement occupée ces derniers temps mais nous devrons prendre un verre un de ces quatres. – I’ve been so busy lately, but we have to grab a drink one of these days.

Il m’a dit qu’il nettoierait la salle de bain un de ces quatres, donc je suppose que ça n’a pas encore été fait. – He told me he would clean the bathroom one of these days, so I guess it hasn’t been done yet.