La flemme

I feel too lazy to post today but thankfully I found a French expression that perfectly sums up my mood: j’ai la flemme.

Seems it’s a common enough condition that there’s a song about it. The tune is almost catchy enough to get my foot tapping into a beat that could even lead me to get up and get going. Almost, but not quite. It’s Sunday after all, and we all deserve a day of rest.

Trying to grasp the origin of this rather intriguing expression has perked up my brain a bit. ‘Avoir la flemme’ comes from the Latin word ‘phlegma’ or flegme in French.

However, what feeling lazy has to do with phlegm, as in mucous, or the quality of being phlegmatic, as the British are known to do while keeping calm and carrying on, has me somewhat perplexed.

I’d like to go further in my exploration of this fascinating topic but la flemme is winning out. Ideas, anyone?


  1. phildange · April 28, 2019

    Yes flegmatique and flemme come from the same root but as often one bit escaped from the root and followed a personal divergent direction . Le flegme (britannique) is the quality of placidity, “il a parfaitement gardé son flegme” . La flemme is a punctual access of laziness, in front of a certain task or during a whole day .
    I used to say for the smile “La flemme est la femme sans L, ou sans ailes, ou sans elle ” meaning how we men can lose interest for actions when we lose the main motivation, ha ha .

    • MELewis · April 28, 2019

      Wow, that’s beyond word play to poetry! Bravo! (Although confusing for non-natives as the pronunciation changes between ‘femmes’ and ‘flemme’…

  2. Dale · April 28, 2019

    I had never heard this particular expression.
    Cannot say I shall ever be using it…
    Here, we say “Je me sens vache” – which honestly means the same thing as flemme. Apparently once used in France but no longer in vogue there but still very much in use over on this side 😉

    • MELewis · April 29, 2019

      How very interesting, Dale! In France to say someone or something is ‘vache’ is to say they are mean. Clearly those poor cows get the bad end of the stick either way…😂

      • phildange · April 29, 2019

        Recently I learnt where this vacherie came from . To put and end to the bloody “Guerres de Religions” the crown was offered to the Capetian king of Navarre, the future Henri IV, who was a Protestant and accepted to convert to Catholicism . But for some reason the people of Paris was reluctant so Henri’s army had to besiege the city . For some crazy reason, Navarre flags were bearing a cow’s head, so the cows men were the enemy, so “la vache” became associated to somebody mean .
        BTW, Henri IV was the first Bourbon king and opened the Bourbon dynasty who gave the world so many good beverages .
        BTW bis you maybe know the expression “… de France et de Navarre” used to mean everywhere or everyone in the country, ( eg. …dans toutes les Mairies de France et de Navarre …) . Well this expression too comes from this good old Henri IV, a good guy who left many thins to us as you can see .

      • Dale · April 29, 2019

        Oh, that too. Ma vache! Is no compliment…
        M’évacher sur le sofa… which is great to do on a day off in front of the TV… 😀

  3. Colin Bisset · April 29, 2019

    Loving learning these little idioms – can’t wait for my next French conversation lesson to dazzle my teacher!

    • MELewis · April 29, 2019

      Always good to be a ‘bon élève’. I do hope you make a good impression!

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