French expression: avoir le cafard

Who of you feels a bit down and has got a cockroach? “Avoir le cafard” means to be depressed in French. Weird, right? How would you explain the connection between a cockroach and being sad?
I’m curious about your answers!

4 Likes

That’s a good question @stefanierambow !
When I think of avoir le cafard, I see a lot of bad thoughts going round and round, like a bunch of cockroaches invading the head and running all over the place. :cold_sweat:
Doing a little bit of research, I found that it seems that the french poet Baudelaire introduced this word as a synonym for melancholia in Les fleurs du Mal !

Talking about the devil :
« Parfois il prend, sachant mon grand amour de l’Art,
La forme de la plus séduisante des femmes,
Et, sous de spécieux prétextes de cafard,
Accoutume ma lèvre à des philtres infâmes.
»

5 Likes

That’s very interesting, @cloecrettaz!
When I think about cockroaches, I don’t think about sadness, I rather find them gross, hehe!

Oh, so it comes from that poem then! I looked it up in English, here it is:

Sometimes, knowing my deep love for Art, he assumes
The form of a most seductive woman,
And, with pretexts specious and hypocritical,
Accustoms my lips to infamous philtres.

It’s interesting how the English version translates “prétextes de cafard” to “hypocritical pretexts”. Does the translation make any sense, @cloecrettaz ?

2 Likes

The Robert dictionary says that the word “cafard” may come from the Arabic word “kafir”, “with no religion”. One of the first meaning of “cafard” is : “Someone who only pretends to be devout believer but is not” : “Celui ou celle qui affecte l’apparence de la dévotion”… un faux dévot, un tartufe ou… un hypocrite."

3 Likes

I was also confused by the translation - thanks to @Mise I understand better what was meant ! So it seams like Baudelaire used it in another sense than having the spleen… :thinking:

2 Likes

Wow, this is really interesting, @Mise, thanks for clarifying that!