La gueule de bois

This week I discovered that in French a hangover is une gueule de bois (“a wooden mouth”), which seems quite a good description of the condition.

In my thesaurus word for hangover in English include after-effects, katzenjammer, morning after, and the morning after the night before. Do you have any others?

I’ve heard of katzenjammer before, but not in this context – to me it’s the name of a band from Norway. Katzenjammer comes from German and means “cats’ wailing”, and according to the Free Dictionary, it means a confused uproar or a hangover, mainly in US English.

Welsh words for hangover include pen mawr (big head); pen clwc (addled head), salwch bore drannoeth (illness of the following morning) and salwch ar ôl y ffair (illness after the fair).

Since I gave up drinking about 11 years ago I haven’t suffered from a wooden mouth, an addled head or a cats’ wailing, and one reason why I gave up was because I didn’t enjoy such afflictions.

This entry was posted in English, French, German, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases.

5 Responses to La gueule de bois

  1. CCH says:

    Though in German, “Katzenjammer” does indeed mean “the wailing of cats” on a literal level, it almost never is used to mean that, but rather the complaining or “howling” in anguish generally. In addition, it can be used to describe a “jämmerliche Stimmung” (to “have the blues”). But most of all, “Katzenjammer” is used to mean a hangover and is synonymous with “ein Kater haben” (i.e., having a “Kater” — literally a full-grown male cat). As to loud feline whining, the German idiom is “Katzenschrei”; be careful to check context though, that word can also be a shortening of Katzenschrei-Syndrom (cri du chat syndrome).

  2. Margaret says:

    Thanks for another interesting colloquialism.

    I just read that the Petit Robert 2014 edition has included the French slang verb for ‘french kissing’ which is ‘galocher’ … so now it’s official! Our informal French conversation group took a look at a recent BBC News article (May 23rd) titled “Englishisms in France: Readers’ franglais favourites’ … and I saw this new one: tweeter, Tweetez-vous? Will the French ever be able to keep up with devising their own versions for such neologisms?! It’s fun to think about …

    The ‘katzenjammer’ mention took me back to my youth when we used to read a comic strip titled The Katzenjammer Kids. It was created by a German immigrant and debuted in late 1897. It is still in syndication and is the longest running comic strip in history. It was the first one to use speech balloons for dialogue. There’s a nice Wiki page on it.

    And I’m with you about the ‘affliction’ … but since I gave up alcohol years ago I haven’t been able to speak in tongues … LOL. Have a great day and thanks for your blogs. I enjoy them daily via RSS feeds, here in Austin, Texas USA.

  3. Simon says:

    Margaret – that’s interesting about the franglais. In the French conversation group I go to we sometimes make up franglais words if we don’t know the proper French ones. Some of them turn out to be genuine French words.

    The Norwegian band I mentioned got their name from that comic strip.

  4. Zeppelin says:

    CCH — I’ve never heard “Katzenschrei”, though I’ll admit that I’m not sure how I’d refer to cats’ wailing. I’d definitely rate “KatzenGEschrei” as more idiomatic, though.

    “Katzenjammer” to mean hangover also sounds quite old-fashioned to me – I’d have said the default term is “Kater”. Maybe these are both regional differences?

  5. michel147 says:

    Franglais doesn’t disturb me in the least. After all, isn’t English a mixture of Norman dialect and Old English? In my company we send emails reading for example : “envoie-moi les slides asap, le boss les veut now pour la pres tomorrow!”. This doen’t prevent us having all the faults that make the French so indispensable !

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