How to celebrate National Procrastination Week

An insight into National Procrastination Week, and a few words and phrases to help you celebrate it - if you can be bothered 

Oscar Wilde created perhaps the most celebrated of all paeans to procrastination when he declared: “I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do the day after.” But it was a Frenchman, David d'Equainville, who created National Procrastination Day in France, in 2011.

Far from being a rallying cry to the resolutely apathetic to sit around in their pyjamas all day, it was an appeal for us to take time to reflect on the tasks demanded of us, be they work or administrative obligations, or a simple pause to analyse how we best use our time. His follow-up book "Manifesto for a Day Put Off" was met with a mix of ironic cheers and sighs, depending on which side of the lazy fence you happened to be seated.

The notion grew into National Procrastination Week, now a global phenomenon which this year runs from 5-11 March.

However, beyond procrastination lies the rather more frowned-upon idea of laziness – the direct translation for which is parreseux, derived from the name for a sloth (une paresse) – for which the French have some charming idioms.

The most commonly used is avoir un poil dans la main, translated as ‘to have a hair on the hand’ – implying that you have been so inactive that a hair has had time to grow from your palm. It’s the perfect way to describe someone considered to be a lazybones.

Another useful word is fainéant, meaning bone idle – such as in the phrase ‘elle ne fait rien dans la journée, elle est fainéante’. The same word can be used as a noun as well as an adjective  – c’est un fainéant (he is a lazybones).

Similar in sound and meaning is feignant, which comes from the verb feindre, and can be also used as an adjective or noun to describe laziness, but with the subtle implication that someone is faking, shirking or simulating to get out of doing something. A good translation of a feignant is a loafer. Work shirkers should note that se faire porter malade is the closest way of translating ‘pulling a sickie’ at work.

The words léthargie (lethargy), apathique (lackadaisical) and indolent (indolent) might come in handy too, but the last word on the perils of whiling away time must go to Jean de la Fontaine, the 17th-century poet and fabulist whose yarns came with a warning attached.

His Aesop-derived fable La Cigale et la Fourmi (The Grasshopper and the Ant) tells of the cigale (a cicada in the original) who sings all summer, only to find himself foodless come winter. He approaches the industrious ant, who has prepared in advance for the cold snap, to beg for food but is refused. The ant tells him to dance the winter away.

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