French Word of the Day: choper

There may be a reason that you didn’t learn this one in French class...

French Word of the Day: choper
Photo: Depositphotos
Why do I need to know choper?
This versatile French verb is frequently used to talk about a variety of activities that tend to take place in the shadows.
What does it mean?
The principal and fairly innocuous meaning of choper (pronounced 'show-pay') is ‘to catch’. That can be in the literal, physical sense, like choper la balle, meaning ‘to catch the ball’, but also in a more general or figurative one, as in les flics ont chopé l’assassin – ‘the cops caught the killer’.
It works for illnesses as well, as in Juliette n’est pas là aujourd’hui, elle a chopé la crève – ‘Juliette isn’t here today, she caught a cold’.
Besides meaning ‘to catch’, choper can also mean ‘to steal’, like quelqu’un a chopé mon portefeuille dans le métro – ‘somebody nicked my wallet on the metro’, though this is no longer the most common use of the verb.
More frequent these days, especially among the young, is the use of choper to talk about successful attempts to do things you probably wouldn’t tell your mother about. 
The idea of ‘to catch’ is not so different from ‘to pick (somebody) up’, which is what choper usually means when used in festive, nocturnal, or romantic situations. For example, il/elle a chopé une fille/un mec is the way to say ‘he/she picked up a girl/guy’. 
Serge Gainsbourg, known for his ability to choper, with Jane Birkin. Photo: AFP
On the other hand, ça fait des mois que je n’ai pas chopé indicates a lack of success: ‘It’s been months since I’ve picked someone up/hooked up with somebody/gotten lucky’. As is often the case when discussing this subject, choper can be pretty vague – it implies some sort of romantic liaison, but is relatively ambiguous with regards to what exactly that might have entailed.
Another common euphemistic use of choper has to do with illicit substances – it is used the way English speakers might use  ‘to score’ or ‘to cop’, as in les riches n’entrent dans la cité que pour choper – ‘rich people only go into housing projects to score’.
Last week, The Local France addressed the subject of verlan, French argot constructed by reversing the order of syllables in a word. The verlan version of choper is pécho ('pay-show'), and while it can be applied in most instances where choper can be applied, it is most frequently used to talk about romantic success, as in, Gilles n’est pas encore sorti de sa chambre, je crois qu’il a pécho à la boîte hier soir – ‘Gilles hasn’t come out of his room yet, I think he picked somebody up at the club last night’.
You’ve probably figured out by now that it’s best to be careful about what meanings of choper and pécho you use with whom.

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French Word of the Day: Soixante-huitard

About one in five people of a certain French generation can be described using this term.

French Word of the Day: Soixante-huitard

Why do I need to know soixante-huitard?

Because it references a very important part of French history and culture.

What does it mean?

Soixante-huitard – pronounced swah-sahnt wheat arr – literally means sixty-eighter. While its translation might sound a bit like a sports team (ex. Forty-niners),  this term in French has an important political and social context behind it. 

A soixante-huitard is someone who participated in the famous May 1968 protests in France. With the backdrop of the Prague Spring and the American Civil Rights Movement and anti-war protests, French students and striking workers demanded a more egalitarian world in May 1968. 

This period of civil unrest lasted seven weeks and even forced then-President Charles de Gaulle to temporarily flee to West Germany. The events of this time have had a profound effect on French culture and politics. 

Around 11 million people – 22 percent of the population at the time – was involved in some way or another, and these days, those people are referred to as un soixante-huitard or une soixante-huitarde (for a woman). 

Though the term is typically reserved to refer to those actually involved in the protest movement, it can occasionally be used as a way to describe someone who has held onto the far-left ideas or sentiments from the 1968 movement.

Use it like this

Il a gardé ses convictions d’extrême-gauche longtemps après 1968. C’est un vrai soixante-huitard. – He held onto his far-left beliefs long after 1968. He is a true sixty-eighter. 

Tu pourrais être surpris que ta tante ait une soixante-huitarde. Ses opinions ont certainement changé avec le temps. Tu ne l’aurais jamais deviné ! – You might be surprised that your aunt participated in May 68. Her opinions have really changed with time, you would never have guessed it.