Les Intraduisibles : se Recroqueviller

“Se recroqueviller” provides the idea of “curl up” or “shrivel” in French. It can be used both in relation to objects and people, but the connotations are slightly different. When used with objects, “se recroqueviller” means “to shrivel due to heat”. Just imagine the way that the leaves curl up in summer when it’s hot, or how leather shrinks when dried in heat as some examples!

However, if talking about people, “se recroqueviller” is “assuming the foetal position”: with your head tucked in and knees to your chest. It also has connotations of self-defense. Someone might assume this position if they are scared and wanting to protect themselves from some sort of danger.

The verb may be an altered and derived form from the French word “coquille”, meaning shell. Considering the shape that we make when we curl up, it is quite similar to some nautilus shells or snail shells, so perhaps the French saw a resemblance and used it to form the verb “se recroqueviller”.

Here are some examples of how it might be used:

“Les feuilles se sont recroquevillées à cause de la chaleur”.
“The leaves shrivelled up due to the heat”.

“Son frère lui donnait des coups de pied qui le faisait se recroqueviller.”
“His brother’s kicks made him cower and curl up”.

Click HERE for more of our favourite “untranslatable” expressions!

folhas secas