This is a question more about culture than language specifically but I hope it is still appropriate here.

It's a common topic in current media commentary (in English) to complain about the problems with younger people. They don't want to work, they're lazy, men are becoming more effeminate and women more masculine, they all drink too much.

But it is somewhat naive to say current. This has been a trend for a while. Our parents may say it about our generation, but their parents said it about their generation. And it keeps going.

This has been a trend through the ages. There is an apocryphal story about Socrates' such complaints.

Here are some examples in English (source) and here:

Example: (1916) "Nobody wants to work as hard as they used to" Examples:

  • (1937) "Nobody wants to work anymore".
  • (1916) "Nobody wants to work as hard as they used to".

My question is: Is there a historical trend for people to complain about the laziness of youth, generation after generation, in French culture and media?

All the examples in that image are from US newspapers, but I am just so unaware if there is a similar possible situation in French culture and language for people to complain so openly. But there still may be examples in literature that I am also unaware of.

If you can, please give quotes from newspapers, books, or other media from before 1900.

  • 1
    Genre Sois jeune et tais-toi ? Not before 1900 but as you say, this is not a new part of the zeitgeist.
    – livresque
    Oct 7, 2022 at 23:12
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    An example only indirectly related to French - in case you are interested in other languages as well - Russian poem "Borodino" (2nd stanza, repeated in the end): ruverses.com/mikhail-lermontov/borodino/1830
    – Roger V.
    Oct 9, 2022 at 9:45
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    I’m voting to close this question because it is indeed a question about sociology and history, not about language. Answers would be completely different in France, in Québec, in francophone Africa... It's attracting anecdotic, poorly researched answers that do not constitute anything like a representative answer. Oct 9, 2022 at 20:25
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    Old people complaining that younger generations don't quite measure up is likely a universal thing. In French the most common expression that represents this is “tout se perd”. The thing about “nobody wants to work anymore” is probably universal in a low-key way, but it's a lot stronger in the US today than elsewhere or in earlier times Oct 9, 2022 at 20:34
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    @Gilles'SOnousesthostile' Think of it as socio-linguistics, I'm looking for a common way that people express disdain for younger generations, similar to how in English they say 'Kids these days' (which has been constant since the 1960's). If les quebecois ou les sénégalais have a different phrase I'd love to hear it.
    – Mitch
    Oct 9, 2022 at 20:34

3 Answers 3


The baisse du niveau is something people have been complaining of since a long time ago. However, the students themselves are not necessarily the ones being blamed but often that's the education system, against the teacher's will.

enter image description here

Revue internationale de l'enseignement, 1881

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Francisque Sarcey, L'étudiant de Paris, 1883

enter image description here

Jean-Baptiste Renaud, L'idéologie des sujets du bac, 2002

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Comité Laïcité République, 2013

  • 1
    Nice. That's exactly the kind of thing I was wondering whether t existed. I mean I sort of expected it but just had no idea
    – Mitch
    Oct 10, 2022 at 1:08

One, relatively, recent trend is the so-called Phénomène Tanguy.

Le phénomène Tanguy est un phénomène social selon lequel les jeunes adultes tardent à se séparer du domicile familial. Cette dénomination vient du film Tanguy, d'Étienne Chatiliez, dont le personnage éponyme s'enferme dans ce type de situation. Une nouvelle expression est ainsi apparue pour désigner la classe d'âge de ces jeunes gens : la génération Tanguy.

Le film est sorti en 2001.



See also



  • 1
    Nice. And how old is the expression/naming? Is there any similar situation (and label) that is older where the older generation complains about the younger? In English 'generation gap's happened after WWI (because the intermediate age had been killed in the war).
    – Mitch
    Oct 7, 2022 at 23:10
  • @Mitch To what generation gap in English or any culture/language? In North America, there were other wars (one or two in particular that killed a lot of young people before the Great War) that did the same thing...not to mention every war?
    – livresque
    Oct 7, 2022 at 23:24
  • @livresque I'm not sure I follow. I had heard that the English term 'generation gap' came into prominence after WWI in English society... I could have misheard about the timing of that term, but I'd be interested how exactly that might be said in French, or better a term referring disdainfully to a younger generation (if the term is specific to a generation, then great, but is there is a common one that was used in the 1800's and is still used to day then that'd be interesting too.
    – Mitch
    Oct 9, 2022 at 20:16

There's a split related to socio-economical developments:

  • Those who were young people in May 68 see themselves as the generation who fought for the rights (i.e., for social liberalization and social benefits), which younger people take for granted.
  • Their children (born in 50-60s) typically started life un rather poor economical circumstances and lived through the era of economic stability and growth. They see their own economic prosperity as a result of hard work and lament young people for not sharing the basic work values, and benefitting from the wealth achieved via the older generation toil and sweat
  • Those born in the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century usually have much better start in terms of being able to get education and higher paid job. Unlike their parents they are not necessarily "loyal" to one employer - changing jobs for more economic benefit or even for the sake of greater personal satisfaction. They may retort to older generation, that it is not trying to preserve the post-war social gains for their children - e.g., the necessary retirement system reform meets the most opposition from those approaching retirement (those in their 50s).

There are also splits according to everyday practices: e.g., 70-80s was a period when breastfeeding of newborns was discouraged - many of those born in that period were raised on artificial milk. Nowadays the breastfeeding is considered beneficial, and this produces clashes between young parents and older medical professionals who may be unable to provide the necessary guidance or even discourage breastfeeding. Sometimes the clash is indirect: between the young people and the young medical professionals who learned from the books by written by the older generation.

Disclaimer: these are just observations of a foreigner living in France. They do not universally apply to all social groups.

Update: A typical poster about different values of the generations, widely shared in social nets: enter image description here

(This specific image was borrowed here.)

  • I'm not sure I follow the timeline you give in your bullet points. For the second set, as children of the first, wouldn't they be born in the 70's/80' (given that the 68ards were 20-30 years old? Also, can you give any citations for how the older generation referred to the younger generation? (not by generation label but to youth in general?
    – Mitch
    Oct 9, 2022 at 20:12
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    This (both the text and the poster) seems more like a translation of American stereotypes than any serious observation of French sociology. 1968 left traces mainly as the real start of women's lib in France, but for labor progress the real date is much earlier: les congés payés in 1936. The boomer generation (which is a thing in France, even more marked than in the US due to the dip in births during the occupation) is generally aware that it had things easier than the previous two generations who'd been through a world war. Oct 9, 2022 at 20:30

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