It will probably come as no surprise to anyone who’s tried to learn a language and then put it into practice in a native-speaking country that the French language spoken in France, by French people, can be quite different from the language you studied at school. As well as using a great deal of slang, one very common practice is to use shortened words in French. This is done by dropping the last syllable of a word and occasionally adding an “o”. These shortened words are technically known as apocopes for those of you who like grammatical terms. Many apocopes are so common they are now in the dictionary in their own right.
So what are these shortened words in French?
You’ll find apocopes in all subjects, spoken pretty much by everyone. Take a look at this…
Si tu es dispo après le p’tit déj, on va faire une rando avec les ados puis prendre l’apéro à l’appart pour l’anniv de mon coloc. Cet aprèm on va à la manif dans la deuche de mon beauf avant d’aller au ciné. Pour ce soir tu préfères un resto sympa ou un barbac? J’ai du champ dans le frigo.
Translation: “If you’re available after breakfast we are going to go for a hike with the teenagers then have a drink at the apartment for my flatmate’s birthday. This afternoon we are going to the demonstration in my brother-in-law’s 2CV before going to the cinema. This evening would you prefer a friendly restaurant or a barbecue? I have some champagne in the fridge.”
All those shortened words are very commonly used (beauf also means small-minded person as well as brother-in-law or step-brother). The same text with full words is below.
Si tu es disponible après le petit déjeuner, on va faire une randonnée avec les adolescents puis prendre l’apéritif à l’appartement pour l’anniversaire de mon colocataire. Cet après-midi on va à la manifestation dans la deux-chevaux de mon beau-frère avant d’aller au cinéma. Pour ce soir tu préfères un restaurant sympathique ou un barbeque ? J’ai du champagne dans le réfrigérateur.
This style of language appeals to the Aussie in me as Australian English is full of shortenings and additions of “o” ” ie”. Wouldn’t it be fun if this arvo I could take a sickie to have a barbie! See what I mean?
Some more common apocopes
Ordi – ordinateur – computer
Extra – extraordinaire – extraordinary/great
Accro – accroché – hooked/addicted
Bon app – bon appétit – “enjoy your meal”
Occase – occasion – second hand
Clim – climatisation – air conditioning
Cata – catastrophe – disaster
Ecolo – écologique – ecological/green
Gaspi – gaspillage – waste
Impec – impeccable – terrific
You’ll find a very thorough list of shortened words in French here. Do you use any of these apocopes when speaking French? My favourite is probably apéro! Feel free to add any you know in the comments below.
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I hadn’t thought for a second that they’d all be gathered together in one place. French here certainly isn’t that close to the textbook learning we did back at school. We’d love to join you for Aperos one day!
And we’d love to have you here for aperos! Let’s hope that’s allowed again soon.
I hadn’t realised this, but of course it’s obvious really as word shortening happens in every language. It’s was fun for me to read the two examples to test my understanding. I suspect it’s harder for non native speakers when listening to the spoken word.
Yes listening is definitely harder than reading especially with regional accents. I’m glad you enjoyed testing your knowledge Debs
Oooh – I did better than I thought I would translating your paragraph – I failed on 2CV and brother in law probably because they are not words I use in full very often anyway. I don’t think I know any French friends who drive a 2CV and I don’t have a brother in law! Ecolo and Gaspi are ones I use quite a lot, not unsurprisingly.
It’s time you got a deuche Rosie! It would suit your gite very well!!!