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You can call someone "chicken" or "chicken hearted" for being scared. Mind it, its not coward which is serious. Is there a funny slang expression like "chicken" in French?

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5 Answers 5

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Poule mouillée (lit. “wet hen”) is close: it means a person who lacks courage. It isn't as widely applicable as chicken: you can't use it as an adjective, and it's not as natural as in English to use it as an interjection (though you can say “Espèce de poule mouillée !”, which is roughly equivalent to “You [are] chicken!”). It is usually constructed as “X est une poule mouillée”. For example, a child might launch a race and taunt the other children by saying “le dernier arrivé est une poule mouillée”.

Where English children would shout “Chicken!”, I think French children would shout “oh, le peureux”. Another childish phrase that's close is “t'es pas cap'” (short for capable), meaning “you don't dare” (and hence can translate “I dare you”).

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Poule mouillée has for me an hint of cowardice, which @codious doesn't seem to want. –  Un francophone Apr 20 '12 at 9:50
    
@Un francophone: I think what he wants is a word which won't be taken seriously. –  Stéphane Gimenez Apr 20 '12 at 10:32
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Quelques autres adjectifs courants: froussard, lâche, poltron. –  Joubarc Apr 20 '12 at 11:30
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@Unfrancophone The way I understand the question, the problem with coward is not the meaning but the intensity: coward is serious, can be insulting; chicken is more light-hearted, more playful. –  Gilles Apr 20 '12 at 12:34
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Let's also take notice of the variant : Dégonflé ! –  Romain VALERI Nov 5 '12 at 17:12

t'a la frousse ? means "are you (too) scared to do it ?

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There's another (mostly childish but not only) slang term that hasn't been mentionned yet :

T'es un trouillard ! / Oh, le trouillard !

It's very commonly used, and never to refer to someone with a "legitimate" or understandable fear. Its use implies that the scare is clearly disproportionnate to the real threat.

(However, let's note that it fails to match the use of chicken in the expression to play chicken.)

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There is a wonderful film starring Marion Cotillard called (I think) Jeux d'enfants, in which two kids play a game of chicken throughout their lives. The expression they use (I think) is 'cap pas cap'. The English title of the film is 'Love Me if you Dare', so you get the feeling.

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If you want to be rude while talking to a really close friend you could say "tapette" or "t'es une tapette !" which also stands for gay.

Don't use that if that person is actually gay, that would really be homophobic.

Example:

— On va courir ?
— T'es fou il pleut !
— Tapette !

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Of course, it's a lot more fun to use with actual gay people (really close friends, of course). –  Nikana Reklawyks Nov 5 '12 at 17:04
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This usage is technically homophobic whether or not the person is actually gay, in fact. It is just safer to be homophobic when no gay people are around, if I somewhat understand your point. Anyway, this was not considered offensing one or two decades back, but probably because most people just weren't aware it could be an issue for anyone. Like Nikana says though, gay people with a sense of humour don't take offense on this, moreover when it's said by someone they know being broad-minded. –  Romain VALERI Apr 30 at 16:24

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