Les « Intraduisibles »

Too French for translation…

#7 Râler

As what could be seen as one of the preferred French pastimes, râler describes a very particular way of manifesting one’s discontent. An action more distinguished than moaning or whining, yet not nearly as precise as complaining or protesting, the English language fails to offer a suitable counterpart to convey the connotations of grating and irritating persistence of râler.

The verb originally derived from the Classical Latin ‘rasicare’, meaning ‘to shave’ and this notion of a repetitive abrasive action has been preserved and extrapolated. Râler has since become applicable to various abrupt, harsh and generally unpleasant sounds, with the figurative and colloquial sense of expressing one’s indignation aloud dating back to the early twentieth century.

Within the world of cinema, it is indeed not difficult to spot an adept râleur or two: a striking example is the rich businessman, Castella, in the 2000 film, Le goût des autres. With a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude, Jean-Pierre Bacri’s character relentlessly picks apart his day-to-day existence, bemoaning the highs and lows alike of society. With its witty script and engaging social interactions, Agnès Jaoui’s comedy drama received four César Awards, including Best Film and Best Writing.