Chercher des poux

Chercher des poux
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Informal French Expression

Meaning to try to make trouble (for someone), to quibble
Literally to look for lice on someone’s head
Register informal
Pronunciation French sound files [sher shay day poo da(n) la tet]
IPA   [ʃɛʁ ʃe de pu dã la tɛt]

Usage notes: The literal meanings of the French expression chercher des poux (dans la tête) à quelqu’un and the English expression “to nit-pick” are equivalent, but their idiomatic meanings are somewhat different.

In French, the figurative meaning of chercher des poux is to look for a fight, search for something – usually very minor – to argue about. There is a nuance of aggressiveness that is missing in English.*

Par exemple…

Qu’est-ce que tu as ? Tu me cherches des poux dans la tête depuis deux heures !   What’s the matter with you? You’ve been trying to pick a fight for two hours!
Attention avec ce mec-là. Il vaut mieux ne pas lui chercher des poux.   Be careful with that guy. It's better not to quibble with him.

 * In English, "to nit-pick" means to split hairs, to get caught up in tiny details without actually fighting about them. This non-aggressive meaning is better translated by chercher la petite bête or couper les cheveux en quatre.

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Chercher des poux
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