When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

The Meaning Of Macron’s Special "Merde" Delivery For The Unvaccinated

The French President used a rather vulgar verb to tell us how he feels about those who refuse to get the COVID vaccine. It’s a linguistic and political stink bomb with a message that has a history of its own.

The Meaning Of Macron’s Special "Merde" Delivery For The Unvaccinated

The French president at a news conference in Brussels

Rozena Crossman

In the rich and intricate French language, merde has a special place. The not-quite-profane word for "shit" is used across society, in a variety of circumstances with a range of meanings. You might blurt it out in anger or frustration, or offer consolation, or even wish someone "merde" as good luck.

Beginning in the 15th century the prefix em, meaning "bring into," and the suffix er, which creates a verb, were added to expand merde into a most unhygienic term: literally translated as "to cover in excrement." Today, emmerder is a crude and handy slang used to mean "to bore," "to annoy," "to bother."

Needless to say, all forms of merde have been applied to describe how COVID-19 is making francophones feel. In an article this week for the Paris-based daily Les Echos, philosopher Gaspard Koenig invoked a term coined in the 1970s by then French President Georges Pompidou, micro-emmerdements, to criticize some of the current restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of the virus.

Health pass required to enter a hospital in France

Marie Le Ble/ZUMA

The new rules, these "micro-emmerdements"

These "micro-hassles," which in the France state has stood out for its paternalistic heavy hand since the first lockdown in 2020, have include plenty of obnoxious, hypocritical protocols that allow customers to take off their masks in restaurants but ban the consumption of food or drink on six-hour-long train rides. To get to the linguistic essence of Koenig’s argument: these rules are rather shitty.

But emmerder made it into headlines around the world this week for another reason: French President Emmanuel Macron used it in an interview with newspaper Le Parisien to describe how he felt about citizens who refuse to get vaccinated — and what he planned to do about it. His precise words were “les non-vaccinés, j’ai très envie de les emmerder,” meaning he really wants to make life unpleasant for the non-vaccinated. That may include banning them outright from all bars, restaurants and trains, or who knows what other micro-emmerdements Macron may have in mind.

France has spent the past week debating the political intentions of its President (who is up for reelection in May) in using such an aggressive expression — or the actual effect on trying to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Either way, the spirit of the showdown is reminiscent of the famous Monty Python sketch where a French knight tells his adversaries, "I fart in your general direction."

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

“I Am Palestinian” — When History Calls Us To Stand In Their Shoes, To Say Who We Are

There are certain watershed moments where the world comes together in defense of an idea or a people, or maybe both. A call from afar to stand up in the name of the Palestinian people.

Photo of a pro-Palestinian demonstrator in Berlin

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Berlin's central district on November 4 for a pro-Palestinian rally.

Ranjani Iyer Mohanty


CALGARY — Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 film “Spartacus,” starring Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier, is based on a true story of the leader of a momentous slave rebellion against the Roman empire circa 70 BC.

Near the end of the movie, when the slaves have been captured, the Roman general offers to let them all live if they reveal their leader, the gladiator Spartacus. In a show of solidarity and final act of bravery, the slaves stand up one-by-one, to declare: “I am Spartacus.”

And with that, all are crucified.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest