June 29, 2011

Chier – Not Always To Poop

Often times when growing up in America, one is told to not have a potty mouth. We are discouraged from talking about all manner of bodily functions.

In France, there is no such thing as a potty mouth, and if there were, every French person would have one.

They take toilet related talk to the next level by using it nonchalantly in everyday speech.

Instead of saying, “this person or this object annoys me, ”

(Which could be said in accurate French as follows:
Cette personne ou cet objet m’embête)

They say, “ça me fait chier!

Which literally translates into, “it makes me poop!”

Can you imagine saying this in English? “Jeez, I really can’t deal with so-and-so today. She makes me poop.”

And this isn’t the only situation where poop comes into play.

  • Instead of saying, “I am so frustrated by this situation/object,”
    (Je suis frustré à cause de celle-ci, celle-là OR Celle-ci, celle-là m’ennerve)
    They say, “ça me fait chier!
    “I can’t get the computer to work! It makes me poop!”

  • Instead of saying, “that really sucks/that’s a disappointment/that’s a bummer/etc,”
    (Quel dommage!)
    They say, “oh, ça fait chier
    Which, as it's missing the me becomes a more general sentiment,
    "Oh, it makes poop that you got a parking ticket."

  • Instead of saying, “this person is annoying,”
    (il/elle est embêtant/e)
    They say, “il/elle est chiant/e.”
    Which could translate to, “he/she makes me want to poop.”
    "God, Sandra makes me want to poop. She's always talking with her mouth full."

  • Instead of saying, “darn/drat!”
    (zut OR mince!)
    They say, “fait chier!
    Which is slightly different from ça me fait chier, and translates better as “make poop!”
    "Oh, make poop! I forgot my car keys."

And if you'd like to be a little stronger in your word choice, just add France's favorite: putain.

"Putain, fait chier! J'ai oublié mes clés de voiture."


  1. HAHA that is too funny! When I was in Asia- I don't speak Chinese but we had friends that did and we would walk into a place or walk by people and they will stop and stare and just say Fat... its always interesting to me the cultural level and the ok level..

  2. Did you ever see the movie "French Kiss" with Kevin Kline and Meg Ryan? My parents and I still joke with each other a line from that movie when something's annoying us: "My ass is twitching. You people make my ass twitch."

  3. Just be careful, chier is a lot stronger than poop - it's more like shit or even a little stronger than that.

  4. I just hate the mental image of it all. Ughhh

  5. Erika: Wow I can't believe they just said "fat" at you guys! There are definitely different levels of culturally okay. I just love the lost in translationness of it all. FBF didnt' even realize the mental image that comes along with fait chier, and there are lots of English expressions that I didn't realize how graphic they were until he pointed it out to me!

    Joshua: I've seen parts of it. But as for the authenticity of that being a French phrase, I checked with FBF. He hasn't heard of it before, haha.

    MilkJam: Maybe that's true in Normandie! Up here I hear it all the time, and among my friends back home we don't drop the s-bomb all that often, so in my experience fait chier doesn't seem to be that strong. I think it has to do with the fact that we censor words in the US and they don't over here.

    Linds: I know! Logically they can't be translated literally, but still it cracks me up.

    Kaley: In total agreement!

  6. Yeah, with friends you say it all the time but it's not a bomb you drop in front of the beaux-parents/ little kids/ anyone you want to be respectful to.

    I say it with my friends ALL THE TIME but would never use it in the above situations. Just as you probably wouldn't say in a job interview, "I had a shitty year"...

    It's definitely not "poop".

  7. Laura, I get what you mean about the north being more okay with vulgarities. My nanny, who is a Ch'ti, refers to Victor's backside as his "cul" which shocked me at first! I was like, what is this woman saying about my son's ass but it turns out that expressions like that in the blue-collar less-educated north aren't meant to be vulgar at all, but just "familiar". sure you won't say it to your family in law, but if you did since they are from here, they probably wouldn't interpret it as being vulgar. It's like a guy I teach who called me "petite salope" one day and when my jaw dropped, his eyes got all wide and he said, "I swear to you, in my family it's a term of endearment".

    Just another thing to learn about the Ch'tis!

  8. Amber : I don't think chier is that bad up in the north, they say "putaing" like whatever in the south of france, which is stronger to me !

  9. MilkJam: I'll take it we're just more vulgar up here! I've heard people use it in front of children many times, and I've said it in front of FBF's mother.

    I guess at the end of the day, everybody has their own personal rules for which words are "bad" and which words are "good." Maybe "fait chier" is a bit stronger than poop, but people use it to say they have to go to the bathroom, and I usually don't say "I'm going to take a s***" even though I know there are some people in the US who do.

    The point I was trying to make was that it's funny if we try to literally translate things, but "fait chier!" does not actually mean "make poop!" It's just an exclamation like any other.

    Thanks for looking out for me though!

    Amber: Yeah everybody uses cul over here! They told me it was "butt" and I didn't realize it could mean ass. I think it's interesting that he called you a salope, because FBF told me that salope is still very vulgar! I guess that just ties in with the point I made above, and that at the end of the day everyone chooses their own rules for what's really vulgar and what isn't.

    Vivian: That reminds me of that video about how in order to speak like somebody from Marseille, you say "putain(G)" whenever there would be a comma!


    In all honesty I think French people are more vulgar than Americans, but I'm probably biased!

  10. Yeah the student (one of my professionals) said that because it's "petite" salope and not just salope, that it's endearing. I was pretty shocked though!!

  11. Yes, when we add the "petite" before, it's juste to show affection or cuteness. We say that "tout ce qui est petit est mignon, tout ce qui est grand est con" ("which means everything tiny is pretty, everything big is dumb" for non french speaking people).

    Altough I'm not trying to find him any excuses because I still think "salope" is pretty strong but as Laura said, everyone has his own notion of strength for words.

  12. It kind of reminds me of the expression, "Are you shitting me?" which I've never understood.
    But saying, "that totally makes me poop" is so my new thing.

  13. Sara Louise: I hadn't thought of that! It is very similar, and I agree "are you shitting me?" doesn't really make any sense.... haha.

  14. Discovering your blog right now, and smiling a lot. :-) "Chier" and "putain", two of my favorite words! That's all the fun of speaking French, you know. Once you master the art of using these words properly, you're able to express pretty much anything. It reminds me of a text by Stephen Frye that I read some time ago. I feel the need to share:

    "Swearing is a really important part of one’s life. It would be impossible to imagine going through life without swearing, and without enjoying swearing. There used to be mad, silly, prissy people who used to say swearing was a sign of a poor vocabulary. It is such utter nonsense. The people I know who swear the most tend to have the widest vocabularies, and the kind of person who says swearing is a sign of a poor vocabulary usually have a poor vocabulary themselves. The sort of twee person who thinks swearing is in any way a sign of a lack of education or a lack of verbal interest is just a fucking lunatic. I haven’t met anybody who’s truly shocked at swearing… really. They’re only shocked on behalf of other people. Well, you know, that’s preposterous. Or they say, "It’s not necessary," as if that should stop one doing it. It’s not necessary to have coloured socks, it’s not necessary for this cushion to be here, but is anyone going to write in and say, "I was shocked to see that cushion there, it really wasn’t necessary"? No. Things not being necessary is what makes life interesting. The little extras in life."

    He's so right, putain!

  15. Emilie: Glad you like it! Love the quote :)

    Alexandra: Thanks!

  16. Hi ! I'm a Belgian (flemish speaking) medical student and i did an internship of 9 weeks in Lille. I heard the expression "elle est chiante" a lot, but my collegues couldn't really explain to me what it meant. Now i finally understand !

  17. Marieke: Glad to have been of service!

  18. to be clear, they weren't saying it about me :). I understood it was negative, but now i can even better understand ! :)

  19. I agree with Milkjam; I recently wrote a post regarding my mistake in saying some not-so-polite words over dinner with my French family.. needless to say, just because we hear the words dans la rue does not mean that it's appropriate French.

    We do not say, ça me fait chier, in front of older people, professional settings or in front of families. We say, simply, ça m'énerve. Like in the song by that one weird German dude. If you translate it, it's more like, "That makes me so annoyed I'm shitting myself."

    Trust me. I totally worded out 'putain' at the table and 6 beady French eyes stared me down and taught me better! ;)

  20. I have to disagree.

    Chier isn't that much of a big deal and I use it like 100 times a day. (and I'm French)

    I even say it in front of family, teachers, university professors (and they constantly say it too).

  21. Sasha S.: I'm going to have to disagree with you. I noticed you're living in Lyon, so it might just be a regional difference. It could also be a class difference.

    For family: FBF and I use it in front of his family (including his 11 year old nephew), and the family also uses it in front of us.
    For professional settings: My French boss has said it in front of me and it was no big deal.
    I can't say for older people, as I've never hung out with them.

    While it might be slightly more offensive/stronger than poop, I do not believe it us up there with shit, which I think comes down to censor laws in the US vs. France.

    Of course, there are other ways of conveying the same concept without using the slang of ça fait chier, and for the sake of humor I made it seem as if these were never used. French people vary their vocabulary and use many expressions, not just this one.

    That said, if your French family reprimanded you, then I would avoid using it in front of them! Ditch them and move up to Le Nord where we can curse like sailors!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...