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‘Avoir le seum’: Our French expression of the week

After British newspaper The Sun was dubbed The Seum by some French football fans, we look at when the phrase may be used

We look at a French expression used to express frustration and disappointment Pic: fizkes / Shutterstock

People in Paris have been laughing at a football-related campaign by British tabloid The Sun, which backfired after France beat England 2-1 at the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday (December 10).

Posters created by The Sun had appeared across Paris ahead of the match in support of the England squad, specifically designed to taunt the French. 

Slogans included “Allez les Rosbifs”, “Au revoir les Gaulois” and “Le roi Kyle”. The latter had the name ‘Kylian’ crossed out above ‘Kyle’, and was a reference to the so-called rivalry between England player Kyle Walker and French player Kylian Mbappé.

Read more: France celebrates as The Sun’s England football campaign backfires

However, when France beat England, people in Paris started editing the posters, re-baptising The Sun as The Seum 

Seum is from the Arabic summ, meaning venom or poison, and avoir le seum is a common slang expression meaning ‘to be cheesed off’, ‘to be fed up’, ‘to be frustrated’, ‘to be gutted’ or ‘to be disappointed’. 

For example, you might say: ‘Ma voiture est tombée en panne; j’ai le seum’ (My car has broken down, I’m so annoyed). 

You can also say: ‘j’ai trop le seum’, meaning ‘I’m really upset/sad/annoyed’. 

It can be used to describe a variety of negative emotions, so the English translation would depend on the context. In some situations, you might translate it to the phrase ‘I can’t be bothered anymore’, if it is meant to reflect a sense of hopeless frustration. 

The phrase is mainly used by younger generations, and only in familiar settings, but it is something you often hear when out and about. It has only been in common usage since the 2010s and is one of the 250 Arabic words to have entered the French language.

Related articles 

French football phrases you may hear in England-France World Cup game

‘Le moral dans les chaussettes’ - French phrase for when you feel down

Why Netflix and YouTube can double as handy 24-hour French tutors

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