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Avoir le cafard is a very common French proverb for the very depressed French person among us 🇫🇷 😂 !
This one is a bit scary if you don’t like the creepy crawly type ! 😊 Now what do you think this very popular French expression means in English: let’s have a look at the picture :
Some bug 🐞
the verb “to have”
Two French words :
“cafard” = cockroach
“have” = avoir
It literaly means “to have a cockroach” ?!?
What can it possibly mean ? Is it destined to cockroach lover ? To find out let’s have a look at the origin quite “beurk” French expression ! 😧
Avoir le cafard : origin
This popular French idiom is supposed to be introduced by Charles Baudelaire in 1857 in Les Fleurs du mal, just like the anglicized version of “spleen”, this expression thus designates dark thoughts that can settle in the head, just like cockroaches in a house. Source : l’internaute
Avoir le cafard means thus to have dark thoughts. Suffering from a bad reputation, this little beast is as much hated in the houses it invades as in our thoughts. But what has the most unloved of bugs to do with being depressed?
To understand the origin of this expression, we must take a closer look at the evolution of the word “cockroach”. Derived from Kafir Arabic, it first appears in the 16th-century dictionary to denote a deceitful disbeliever, without faith or morality.
These people with no faith and no morality, displaying this lack of values are known to work in a sneaky way. We imagine them seeking to blend into the darkness with dark clothing, thus hiding their malice.
It didn’t take much more to make the link between these cockroaches, lovers of the darkest corners of the house, and these false devotees. The French verb “cafarder” will only reinforce the negative aspect of the term, also amplifying its connection with a certain hypocrisy.
However, it was not until 1857 that the cockroach become a symbol of sadness. The poet Charles Baudelaire would have introduced it in his collection of Fleurs du mal, at the same time as his famous spleen.
The French language definitely likes to have fun to the detriment of insects. The cockroach, however small it may be, is forced to carry the burden of sadness. Fortunately he can count on the help of the ” bourdon” drone to feel a little less alone …
Because “avoir le bourdon” in French also means to be low ! 😩
Source : Le projet Voltaire
Avoir le cafard : French definition
Ne pas avoir le moralFeeling low
💡 Note you can also be “hit” by a cockroach = “un coup de cafard” = which means you suddenly felt low 🙁
Avoir le cafard : Example in French
“I am not feeling well, I think I am feeling low. “
💡Note: “avoir le cafard” and “avoir un coup de cafard” is the same really ! 😊
Avoir le cafard : Translation in English
There might be several ways that you could express this French idiom in English such as “to feel depressed”, “to feel low”. One of them that I like in particular is :
French GCSE Idiom
How could you use this idiom in your GCSE French speaking exam ?
Edexcel Theme : Local area, holiday and travel
GCSE French speaking question : Comment est le climat dans ta région ? How is the weather in your area ?
GCSE French speaking answer : ‘Dans ma région, je pense que le climat est plutôt tempéré, cela veut dire qu’il ne fait pas trop froid mais par contre il pleut beaucoup. Parfois, il y a du brouillard et cela me donne souvent le cafard. Quand j’ai le cafard, je vais voir mes amis et cela me remonte le moral.’
Translation in English : In my region, I think the climate is temperate, which means that it is not too cold but on the other hand it rains a lot. Sometimes there is fog and it gives me the blues. When I’m down, I go to my friends and it cheers me up.
Why is this a good GCSE French speaking answer :
✅ Expressing opinion in French ☞ Je pense
✅ Developing ideas in French ☞ cela veut dire que
✅ Using intensifiers in French ☞ plutôt, pas trop, beaucoup
✅ Using frequency adverbs in French ☞ parfois, souvent
✅ Using a subordinate in French ☞ Quand …..
✅ Using complex vocabulary in French ☞ tempéré, brouillard (weather and climate in French)
✅ Adding French idiom in French ☞ Cela me donne le cafard, j’ai le cafard, cela me remonte le moral.
✅ Using more than one tense in French ☞ Je pense, il pleut (present tense in French), je vais voir (futur proche French)
Please note that : cela me donne le cafard is another way of using the French expression ‘avoir le cafard‘, here we say, ‘it gives‘ me the blues instead of ‘I have‘ the blues. Cela me remonte le moral, it cheers me up, is another French idiom good to know !
Voilà, this was today’s French idiom in English, I hope you liked it. Click here to find out about the challenge of 50 French idioms in English.
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