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There is a song called Presque l'amour by Rachid Ferrache. In the song he says:

C'est vrai que j'ai le moral à la rue

What does it really mean to have "le moral à la rue"?

Here are the lyrics to the song.

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À la rue (literally: on the street, i.e. out of home, homeless) is here a colloquial idiom meaning "in bad condition, lost".

In the song, the meaning :

It's true, I'm depressed
when I spend two whole days without seeing you

(i.e. I get depressed after two days without seeing you)

A more common expression with the same meaning is avoir le moral à zéro.

One of the reasons why "à la rue" was preferred to "à zéro" is that it rhymes with:

Les copains ça m'intéresse plus


A few words as this question triggered quite a lot of discussions in comments and chats.

This song was aimed at teenagers. It was one of the three Rachid Ferrache's hits in the late eighties. While être à la rue originally meant to be homeless, a new figurative meaning appeared in suburban slang that was "to be lost, to fail miserably" in a context where there is something to achieve, for example at school, at work or while socializing. This new meaning was eventually unrelated to being homeless. You can be both à la rue and at home or at school. Any attempt to link this à la rue and homelessness is missing the point.

Q1: Is j'ai le moral à la rue poetry?

R1: À la rue being technically slang, it's a bit off to say it's poetry.

Q2: Isn't j'ai le moral à la rue actually two expressions?

R2: No, J'ai le moral à la rue is a single expression, a single sentence following the pattern j'ai le moral à/dans/au xxx. It doesn't mean at all j'ai (pas) le moral and je suis à la rue. What is à la rue is not the person but le moral.

Q3: Why didn't the authors of the song didn't use j'ai le moral à zéro which is the canonic form for it?

R3: Because it was already taken! Using it would have been kind of plagiarism. A major French hit named "Ohio" by Serge Gainsbourg, sung by Isabelle Adjani, and released four years earlier had engraved in memories this very sentence so another one had to be found.

Q4: Why should it be considered as an idiom despite not being present elsewhere than in this song?

R4: Because it matches the first definition of idiom found in the Merriam Webster:

an expression in the usage of a language that is peculiar to itself either in having a meaning that cannot be derived from the conjoined meanings of its elements (such as up in the air for "undecided") or in its grammatically atypical use of words (such as give way)

The creative usage of à la rue for a feeling and not a person also makes this sentence an idiom.

Q5: Doesn't the fact no other occurrence seem to exists disqualify this expression to be called an idiom?

R5: Why would it? This song was not a major hit but was likely sung by tens of thousands of teenagers at that time. Let's say it was an ephemeral idiom.

Interestingly, the song Ohio mentioned earlier did definitely create an idiom, and that one was very successful because it is still used almost 40 years later. The idiom is Je suis dans un état proche de l'Ohio and is understood to mean "I'm lost, I'm exhausted".

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  • Ne pas avoir le moral is not necessarily depression. and the a la rue can be translated many ways. Actually, we say: to be on the street.
    – Lambie
    Oct 3 '21 at 17:50
  • @Lambie Thanks for on the street.
    – jlliagre
    Oct 3 '21 at 18:47
  • "Doesn't the fact no other occurrence seem to exists disqualify this expression to be called an idiom?" Idioms are set phrases; a once-off phrase is never an idiom. Ask any knowledgeable speaker, French or English or any language. Not to be confused with "idiomatic". give away and up in the air are idioms. They do not just occur once.
    – Lambie
    Oct 7 '21 at 19:48
  • @Lambie OED, Ephemeral: lasting or used for only a short period of time.
    – jlliagre
    Oct 7 '21 at 20:21
  • It is not an idiom. You cite Merriam-Webster and MW gives examples of two idioms that are heard everywhere and all the time in English. Sound the canons!
    – Lambie
    Oct 7 '21 at 20:55
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avoir ou ne pas avoir le moral:
to feel good, to be in good spirits, to be happy versus to not feel good, be in poor spirits, to be down or sad

Collins dictionary: avoir le moral

être à la rue: to be homeless, also in English could be: down and out. If you are homeless, it's usually depressing and we often say for that: to be down and out.

It is in several dictionaries:

être à la rue_ Larousse

Dico de l'Internaut

Subir un échec cuisant. Origine

Se dit d'une personne qui vient de connaître une situation si difficile qu'elle ne peut envisager d'avenir plus positif [to be down and out]. Peut aussi, plus rarement, désigner le fait d'être en retard. Plus généralement, cette expression est employée quand quelqu'un ne sait pas où dormir et cherche une solution d'hébergement provisoire.

[Please note: not depressed]

So, poetically speaking: I feel down and out.

C'est vrai is, of course, it's true.

You could say homeless too: I feel homeless.

All songs use poetry. This is a general statement.

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  • I wonder why so severely downvoted your answer, I can't see anything wrong with it. Perhaps herd instinct!? Oct 5 '21 at 19:09
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    C'est ça, métaphore poétique, le moral n'a plus de chez-lui, mais pas deux expressions (« avoir le moral » et « à la rue » • C'est comme « j'ai l'esprit ailleurs » ) ; pas une variante de « avoir le moral à zéro », qui n'est pas poétique. C'est une métaphore due vraisemblablement à l'auteur. Bien vu. Cet excès de votes négatifs sans commentaires sur votre réponse est désolant.
    – LPH
    Oct 5 '21 at 19:26
  • @EylaChu-Generis I parsed the sentence in French as two things. There are tons of ways it can be translated, though, I would not say depressed. And down and out was just a suggestion. It could be: I'm very blue, I feel really down. Etc. Down and out is not "two components". It is a single, idiomatic expression.
    – Lambie
    Oct 5 '21 at 19:52
  • "down and out" is a single expression. It's like: "out and about". I feel down and out, though, here.
    – Lambie
    Oct 5 '21 at 19:58
  • @EylaChu-Generis Les expressions sont multiples. Par contre, avoir le moral à la rue, c'est une invention de l'auteur.
    – Lambie
    Oct 5 '21 at 21:20

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