Pierre Cambronne was a general of the French Empire (under Napoleo). I need Wikipedia here :
At the end of the Waterloo battle, Cambronne was commanding the last of the Old Guard when British General Colville called on him to surrender. Cambronne replied: “La garde meurt et ne se rend pas !” (“The Guard dies and does not surrender!”).
Other sources reported that Colville insisted and ultimately Cambronne replied with one word: “Merde!” (literally, “Shit!”, figuratively, “Go to hell!”)
French people remember that, and you’ll read from time to time, “He replied with the word of Cambronne”.
“Merde !” means also “Go to hell!” – is it the same in English?
“Shit” is a way to find ten minutes having fun comparing our two cultures. As a French, I’m amazed by English idioms like “Shit hits the fan”, which is magnificent. Four words to picture a terrible mess : bravo!
We don’t have this, but we extended the word “Merde” in a verb : “emmerder”, which can mean to bother/piss off someone (we could imagine a “to enshit someone”), but also “s’emmerder” (we could say “to shit yourself on” ): for “to be bored… shitless” (oh, that’s interesting!).
So in France, “merde !” can be “oh shit!”, but also “go to hell!”, but also “waow!”.
“C’est la merde” means of course you’re in deep shit. But “C’est de la merde” (it is some shit) means “It’s crap”.
Of course, other verbs are used in France :
- Merder means to fail.
- Merdoyer is a more complicated, casual and long way to… fail.
- Merdouiller means it doesn’t work very well but it’s maybe funny.
There’s an adjective, which is your shitty : merdique.
A very hard thing : “Fouteur de merde” (shit fucker) is a person who spoils and destroys a system. It’s very strong, like destroying a wedding party with drank arguments, or a person who sticks his nose in everything to cause damage. On purpose is included.
A “fouille-merde” is a shit stirrer…
Well, it’s very similar, in a way, right? I always wanted to write short stories about persons saying “Oh et puis merde !” (“Oh fuck it!”). Like : “I let go, let’s do this!”. An interesting border, don’t you think? Daring…
Have a nice day!