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Sep 10, 2011 01:18 PM

Food abbreviations in non-English speaking countries?

The thread about "sammies" make me realize I know what people are talking about when they abbreviate most English words. But, what foods in other countries are abbreviated, eg. do Italians eat pannie? Do the French have coqcog for dinner? It must be difficult for non-native speakers to pick up the colloquial terms.

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  1. In Mexico, food names are not abbreviated. The only Mexican word I can think of that is routinely abbreviated is Popo, short for the volcano Popocatepetl, and they abbreviate it only because they are unsure how to spell it, as was I.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Veggo

      I can't think of any foods in Taiwanese that are abbreviated but that could just be my family. I wonder if abbreviations are more typically English. I can't think of any in French or Italian that I've learned.

      1. re: chowser

        Some (not me) would say that the entire Taiwanese language is an abbreviation -- be it for food or not.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          I don't know Chinese but I know I can't understand Cantonese or Mandarin, though I know Taiwanese. Because of my parents' generation, I think I grew up w/ more Japanese phrases than Mandarin.

      2. re: Veggo

        But there are plenty of diminuatives in Mexican food names
        tortilla - derived from torta
        carnitas - little meats
        taquito - little taco
        burrito - from burro
        antojitoas - little whims

        and cute names like
        tortas ahogadas - drowned sandwiches

        what are the different names for sandwiches in Spanish:
        sándwich (wtihout trying to approximate the English pronunciation)
        bocadillo (little bite)
        bikini (a particular Catalan type)

        1. re: paulj

          Nice list. And I will carefully add, diminutives in spanish are never pejorative.

          1. re: Veggo

            I will carefully point out that the following diminutive suffixes in Spanish are often pejorative: -ajo, -ejo, -ucho, -uelo/-zuelo. [As usual, not used in all regions and not always with the same effect in all words.] They can appear with food words, e.g. "migaja", but as chowser points out, these are extended forms, not abbreviations.

            I can think of a couple abbreviated food words in Spanish: choripán, champis, cheve. Strange, they all start with ‹ch›…

            1. re: DeppityDawg

              Salchipapas - a portmanteau of 'sausage' and 'potato' (fried hotdog and french fries)

              1. re: DeppityDawg

                I looked up choripan, and one of the first entries was
                Rachael and Daisy Martinez heat up the kitchen with this Latin take on a sausage and pepper sammy"

            2. re: paulj

              In Italian, too, you can make a diminutive, being bad, or being large by adding ending, not just for food. That's a descriptive addition, not an abbreviation. I don't remember it being done in French but I haven't taken French in 30 some years.

          2. The only thing I can come up with, which is an actual abbreviation (as opposed to the diminutives to which you seem to be referring), is Kartoffelpü = Kartoffelpüree = mashed potatoes.

            Surely, there are more. I'll try to think of something else....

            1 Reply
            1. re: linguafood

              I'm wondering if there aren't many which is why no one has come up with food abbreviations.

            2. the only ones I can think of off-hand in French are resto for restaurant (not cutesy, used ALL the time by everyone), aperos for aperitifs (cocktails and snacks), McDo for McDonald's (which is omnipresent). Coca for Coca-Cola is pretty much the norm across the Continent, as is Coca Light and Coca Zero.

              They'll have p'tit dej instead of petit dejeuner (breakfast), dej instead of dejeuner (lunch), and wish you a Bon Ap (bon appetit) if they know you well.

              All food *related*, but I can't think of any specific food terms that are truncated.

              20 Replies
              1. re: sunshine842

                Interesting--I've never heard those french abbreviations. Do they abbreviate cabernet sauvignon like Americans to cab? Zinfandel to zin?

                1. re: chowser

                  French wines aren't sold by varietal - they're sold by region or even by might KNOW that Burgundy usually has pinot noir, but you'd buy a bourgogne, not a pinot noir. Sometimes the label tells the cepage(s), but not always.

                  But no, I've never heard it shortened.

                    1. re: chowser

                      Chowser, have a look at the Wiki article here:


                      I know, I know -- Wiki is not the end all information source -- but this is a pretty short-and-sweet explanation of a sometimes amazingly complicated system, and it can be read and digested in a reasonably short time period. Do skip the "trends" section - it's disjointed, poorly written, and not worth the time to read. The rest of it is some pretty decent basic information.

                      If you want more, let us know -- we can bury you under more definitions and explanations!

                2. re: sunshine842

                  Some abbreviated food and drink names in French: barbec, champ, beaujo, bif, calva, château, chipo, granny, mayo, nes. There are many more; these are just a few that I found by doing a quick search in the dictionary.

                  1. re: DeppityDawg

                    yes you hear Nes all over Europe for Nescafe instant coffee!

                    1. re: smartie

                      Nes-ce pas?

                      Ok, I hope that came out as funny as it sounded in my head.......

                    2. re: DeppityDawg

                      I've heard chipo and mayo - and chateau is a standalone word unto itself -- but never heard the rest of them.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        "Château" is (supposedly) short for "châteaubriand". I don't think I've ever heard this, but then I've never heard anyone say "châteaubriand" in French, either. Myself, I hear "champ" and "calva" all the time, but that probably says more about me than about the French language. Anyway, like I said, all of these abbreviations are in the dictionary (Petit Robert), which indicates that someone, somewhere uses or has used them, even if they were not within our earshot at the time.

                        My point is that I'm not convinced that French and other languages are more resistant to cutesy, annoying (to some) abbreviations of food/drink names than English, which is what a number of people seem to be suggesting in this thread. I think it's far more likely that the people in this thread are simply more familiar with English than they are with other languages.

                        1. re: DeppityDawg

                          It's not too common to even see chateaubriand on a menu -- usually if you hear "chateau", they're referring to a mansion and/or castle.

                          I hear French spoken all day, every day -- but don't hear many cutesy abbreviations -- whether that means that they aren't all that common, or I just don't hang around with people who use them, I have no idea.

                          1. re: DeppityDawg

                            I don't think people are saying there aren't cutesy terms for food, or abbreviations, in other countries as much as trying to think if there are. While we're English speakers, there are a lot of CH who are multi-lingual. In the case of Taiwanese, I can't think of any food words that are shortened to "cutesy" but my parents aren't the types to use baby-ish terms/voices ever.

                            1. re: chowser

                              Abbreviations don't work the same way in Chinese languages like Minnan/Taiwanese [NB: this is a linguistic classification, not a political statement]. Food names are either one syllable (and can't be further shortened) or they consist of several meaningful syllables that are all necessary to construct a compound meaning. It's not like "sand+wich", where neither part means anything. It's more like "bean curd", where you need both words to produce the meaning "tofu".

                              That said, it is sometimes possible to drop syllables in longer names. For example, although "tofu" 豆腐 can't be abbreviated, the word for "soft tofu" 豆腐花 can be shortened to just 豆花, leaving out the "curd" character. Potatoes are 馬鈴薯, but it is usually shortened to just the last character in the word for "French fries" 薯條. Fruit is 水果, but fruit juice is just 果汁. [These examples work in Mandarin, and there are many many more like it. I am 99% sure that the same sort of thing happens all over the place in Taiwanese.]

                              1. re: DeppityDawg

                                "Food names are either one syllable"

                                I've never studied the language and only know it by hearing it so I've never thought about that but that's true for what I can think of, as ipsedixit said, it could be considered an abbreviated language. Eye opening when you just speak a language and don't think about it.

                                My husband speaks Cantonese and, not knowing it was the real word, I thought it was "baby talk" when his mom called vegetables "tse tse." As I translated it in Taiwanese, I thought she was saying, "Crunchy, crunchy." It's just "tsai" in Taiwanese. I know I'm speaking rudimentary Taiwanese, from 30+ years ago so I don't know what is current--though it's not a "current" language when you come down to it. Thanks for making me think about it.

                                1. re: chowser

                                  In fact there is often the opposite tendency to extend one-syllable names, either by repeating the word (I guess that's what's happening in your Cantonese example "tse tse") or by adding a meaningless particle like 子 or 仔. Think of all the Taiwanese words that end in "a", like 蚵仔 "oyster", 瓜仔 "squash/cucumber", 芋仔 "taro".

                                  1. re: DeppityDawg

                                    Another mechanism for making 'cute' names is onomatopia. I can think of various Japanese names like this. One that comes to mind ins 'hori hori' which literally can translated as 'dig dig', and refers to a heavy knife used for digging, gardening, and harvesting wild plants. Shabushabu (swish swich) is culinary term along that line.

                                    There are also Chinese dishes whose names sounds cute or evocative to western ears, especially in literal translation - pock marked ma's tofu, ants climb a tree, red in snow, etc

                            2. re: DeppityDawg

                              just a guess, but couldn't "chateau" be an abbreviation for Chateauneuf-du-Pape? goes with champ & calva....

                              1. re: boredough

                                But then it could arguably be used as an abbreviation for every label that starts with Chateau...which would get counterproductive in a hurry.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  It's no different than calling Calvados "calva" - it's a classification of wine, like Champagne. I think you are confusing this with the fact that many wines are called "Chateau Something" because that is the name of the winery. That is a separate matter from the classification of wine known as Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

                                  1. re: boredough

                                    but c''re going to have un verre du Chateau? Really? Because most folks (French or otherwise) would look at you and say "Chateau du...quoi?" Because there would be absolutely no reason to assume you were talking about Chateauneuf-du-Pape and not Chateau Cache Phloe...even if you were sitting in the middle of the square in the village of Chateauneuf-du-Pape itself (which is NOT short-named as Chateau, even by people who live there -- I've heard it called Chateauneuf, but that's as short as it gets))

                                    I'm sure somebody has used it...but it's absolutely not common usage

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      First of all, I was just throwing this out as my first reaction to what the abbreviation 'chateau' would mean, especially in the company of other abbreviations such as "champ" and "calva", that were mentioned above. And it would be a 'verre DE Chateau..." (like a "verre de champagne") that would distinguish itself from a verre DU Chateau something. I just don't think "chateaubriand" is nearly as common (to the French) as Chateauneuf-du-Pape. As for the fact that Chateauneuf-ers would not call their village "chateau", I doubt the inhabitants of Calvados call their hometown "calva" either. That doesn't preclude them from using the abbreviation for a glass of eau-de-vie. That's just my 2 centimes.

                      2. Taking your example, in Japan, they eat "sandos" because "san-do-i-chi" is too long. Of course, there *is* no Japanese word for 'sandwich'....

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: ricepad

                          Well, yes there is. It's "sando" (サンド)

                            1. re: ricepad

                              Yes, and that's why I replied the way I did. Most Japanese words originate from their pronunciation of Chinese characters, but in modern times words also originate from other foreign languages. Sando is one example, it originated from "sandwich" but it is certainly a Japanese word.

                              1. re: Tripeler

                                'Sandwich' begat 'sandoichi' as the borrowed/cognate form, which in turn begat 'sando' as an abbreviated form (and in response to the OP). You continue to confuse my point.

                                1. re: ricepad

                                  If your point was "There is no Japanese word for 'sandwich'" then I will just disagree.

                                  1. re: Tripeler

                                    I guess what I should have said was, "Thank you for pointing out what I already said."

                        2. Isn't 'sandwich' itself some sort of abbreviation? The full description is something like 'meat between two pieces of bread or toast', and it is somehow connected with John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.

                          15 Replies
                          1. re: paulj

                            No, not an abbreviation - It's named for the Earl himself -- according to the story he asked his servants to bring him meat between two pieces of bread so he could eat with one hand and play cards with the other.

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              Who or how was it named for the Earl? I don't doubt that there's a connection, but it seems most logical that it started out as a longer phrase, like 'a meal in the style of the Earl of Sandwich'. Unless someone formally names a dish after some personality (see the story behind Crepe Suzette, ) it is unlikely it starts out as a single word.

                              1. re: paulj

                                In that sense, maybe all words are abbreviations. Maybe Socrates was on to something after all.

                                1. re: paulj

                                  All of these folks (and the venerable sources THEY in turn quote) seem to think that it did indeed start out as a single word:


                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    True, the written references use just the one word, but why not the full name or title? Why isn't it called a monague? Did his gambling buddies call the earl 'Sandwich'?

                                    points out that the Hawaiian Islands were originally named after this same earl, one of the sponsors of Capt James Cook.

                                    1. re: paulj

                                      For the same reason it's not called a Portsmouth.

                                      It could have been, but it wasn't.


                                      1. re: paulj

                                        "Did his gambling buddies call the earl 'Sandwich'?"

                                        Possibly, but probably not as likely as Montagu, the actual family name.

                                        The internet will provide you many suggestions that Montagu invented the sandwich. Of course, it is absolute tosh. Folk have been putting protein between two pieces of bread for as long as folk have been eating protein and bread. It was simply the "scandal" of him eating like that in "polite society" that earned him the notoriety.

                                        1. re: Harters

                                          Yes - one of the sources I posted mentions that it's quite likely he got the inspiration from his travels to Greece and Turkey, where plenty of foods are served in a piece of bread.

                                2. re: paulj

                                  Well, most food words we have is an "abbreviation" in that case--one word standing for a full description of a dish? A napoleon is a layered pastry with different fillings.

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    A rose by any other name smells as sweet. (Don't quote me.)

                                    1. re: DPGood

                                      LOL, but the abbreviation "rose" sounds much more poetic than saying

                                      A number of shrubs or vines of the genus Rosa, having prickly stems, pinnately compound leaves, and variously colored, often fragrant flowers by any other name smells as sweet.

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        Yeah. I like the abbreviation better.

                                    2. re: chowser

                                      Another pastry is named for its cabbage like appearance.