the word décomplexé

Intraduisible #17

«Les Intraduisibles»

Too French for translation…

#17 Décomplexé

The adjective décomplexé is taken from the infinitive form décomplexer, whose meaning is formed from the prefix dé-, connoting removal or separation, and the noun complexe, which refers to a personal timidity or lack of self confidence. This verb is used to describe the action or process of freeing someone of their inhibitions. It is rarely employed in a transitive sense, so a sentence such as il sait décomplexer son ami (‘he knows how to get rid of his friend’s inhibitions’) would sound strange to a native French speaker. Rather, one might say je suis une personne décomplexée (‘I am an uninhibited person’), or ils utilisent une approche décomplexée (‘they use a laid-back or open-minded approach’), taking the past participle of the verb and using it as an adjective. As the translations of these phrases show, in English we can attempt to render the meaning décomplexé using several different words or phrases, but all of these create different nuances and connotations in the resulting sentence. For example, while the word ‘uninhibited’ suggests a lack of restraint, the term ‘laid-back’ is more closely related to a relaxed attitude, while ‘self-assured’ and ‘self-confident’ have more to do with personal confidence. Therefore, while décomplexé captures in a single word the idea of a lack of inhibition, reticence or embarrassment, in English it is much more difficult to express this in such a succinct manner.

However, perhaps the English speaking world is in need of a word like décomplexé, as this term is becoming continually more relevant in the vocabulary that we use today,and the attitudes that our language promotes. It is often seen in articles and social media posts which attempt to break down society’s narrow expectations regarding what is beautiful in this day and age, and therefore to literally remove the complexes that plague so many people’s impressions of their own bodies.

Décomplexé’s antonym, complexé, meaning ‘inhibited’ or ‘neurotic’ is also used regularly in spoken and written French. It can be found either in adjectival or nominal form, so you might hear someone say ‘elle est complexée’, using the word as an adjective, or ‘elle est une complexée’, using it as a noun.