Historically, my use of “debacle” has been as a synonym for “clusterfuck”; I’ve been using it a lot lately, I think to create some emotional distance from an actual mild clusterfuck* by overstating the case.

I also have a slow time pronouncing it–I don’t think I’ve said it wrong, but I always have to think first, because it’s Frenchness fires up different rules and I have to sort through all that. So I’ve been thinking: is it actually French, and what’s its deal?


I am in love with the answer, because a freeing loosening, a breaking up of ice, the rush of debris that follows, is a value-neutral metaphor for my personal little debacle that I can get behind (as opposed to it turning out to mean…I don’t know, quicksand or sucking mud that traps and kills, or a violent magnetic dust storm that explodes your lungs). It’s almost spring! Go on and break, stupid confining ice!

It also makes me remember this debacle in a more etymologically delighted way. Let’s all just do like the ladies say.

*everything’s fine by the way–don’t worry.

4 thoughts on “Débâclez-vous!

  1. “my personal little debacle….*everything’s fine by the way–don’t worry…..”
    HELLO! This is your mother. Call me.


    1. Hey Erin, I know you were asking Sarah, but I go back and forth between 1 & 2. 1 feels more natural to me, but I feel a twinge of wrongness when I use it.


    2. Historically 2 because French, but lately 1 because once I start with the long a I end up wanting to stress only the first syllable so it comes out with the same pattern as “monocle”… if I shorten the a I can get the stress right.


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