Ça va faire cauchemarder le patron!
sah vah fair kohsh-maar-dale paa-TRAW! Click below to hear this.
That’s going to give the boss nightmares!
It’s an app for your work computer: Facebook, redesigned to look like an Excel spreadsheet! Someone had to think of it, right? For those who can’t bear to part with their precious Facebook for even an hour….
But let’s talk about cauchemarder. What an interesting word! Un cauchemar is a nightmare, and if you look carefully you will see that the English and the French words share an element: mar(e). No, it’s not a “night horse” (though that phrase belongs in a poem somewhere!), and it’s not that the cauchemar “mars” your sleep, though it may well do that.
Mare is an old Dutch word meaning “spirit” or “ghost”, not the friendly kind. In English, a nightmare started out as a spirit that came to trouble one’s sleep, and gradually was recognized as a disturbing dream rather than a real spirit.
The word cauchemar originated from a mid-16th-century Picard word quauquemaire. That would have been pronounced ko-kuh-mair. One characteristic of the distinctive Picard dialect was the confusion of the sounds /s/, /k/, and /sh/. That’s how quauque- morphed into cauche-.
And that word, in turn, came from a Picard verb, cauquer, meaning to trample or press. Pretty easy to see how this all became a word for a nightmare, isn’t it?
And cauchemarder? When turning a noun into a verb in French, it’s pretty common to add a t or a d to ease the transition from the final sound of the noun to the -er of the verb ending. It gives some substance to the conjugated forms, too. We won’t get into that rule here, because it’s not really a rule at all, but just a thing that happens.
By the way, to say I had a nightmare, don’t use cauchemarder. Instead, say J’ai fait un cauchemar (literally, I made a nightmare).
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