For members


French Expression of the Day: Charger la mule

"Charger la mule" is a useful French expression when it comes to exaggerating.

French Expression of the Day: Charger la mule
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know charger la mule?

It’s a handy French metaphor to describe someone who’s prone to exaggeration; who lays it on thick…

What does it mean?

charger la mule – pronounced shar-jhay la mewl – translates as load the mule.

It’s a 20th-century adaptation of the 18th-century phrase chargé comme une mule (loaded like a mule), and expresses the idea of exaggeration, just as one could – back in the 1700s – overload even a beast of burden.

It can also be used to describe having a bit too much to drink, or – in sports, notably cycling – illegal doping of athletes.

Use it like this

Faut pas charger la mule – don’t exaggerate.

Tant qu’à charger la mule, autant le faire à fond ? – if you’re going to exaggerate why not go all the way?

Je pense que vous chargez la mule – I think you’re exaggerating.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
Paywall free


French phrase of the Day: Etre en PLS

This one can actually save someone's life.

French phrase of the Day: Etre en PLS

Why do I need to know être en PLS? 

Because it’s not quite as life-threatening as it sounds.

What does it mean 

Être en PLS or je suis en PLS – roughly pronounced zhe swee en pay el ess – literally means ‘I am in the PLS (Position Latérale de Sécurité)’, which is the medical position you put an unconscious victim in. In English you would usually say ‘the recovery position’.

However it’s real meaning is ‘I am tired’ or ‘I am disappointed in a situation’ or sometimes ‘I have a terrible hangover’ – it’s roughly equivalent to saying in English ‘I’m knackered’, ‘I’m broken’ or ‘I’m destroyed’ – but crucially it’s not used for really serious situations that might genuinely destroy your life. It’s an exaggerated complaint. 

This is a phrase common among young people. ‘En PLS‘ is used in its original form by rescue teams trying to save lives, but has recently entered Gen Z’s vocabulary to emphasise a complaint.

Use it like this 

Après cette réunion, je suis en PLS – I’m knackered [British English] after that meeting

J’ai trop bu hier soir, je suis en PLS – I drank too much last night, I’m broken

J’ai perdu mes clés de voiture, je suis en PLS – I lost my car keys, I’m so pissed off. 

You can also say 

Je suis au fond du gouffre – I am at the bottom of the abyss (another dramatic one, it means being disappointed)

Je suis dans le mal – I’m in trouble

Je ne me sens pas bien – I don’t feel good

Je suis KO – I’m exhausted [from the English sporting term KO – knock out]