mémère / pépère

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by adrainville, Dec 6, 2010.

  1. adrainville Junior Member

    English - United States
    My family is French-Canadian and I've always referred to my grandparents as mémère and pépère. I've always pronounced this like mémé and pépé, though, despite the spelling.

    Recently I've come across some articles indicating that the words mémère and pépère can be insulting. I've always used it to mean grandma and grandpa. Is it insulting if pronounced the way it's spelled? Is it still insulting if pronounced like mémé and pépé, despite the spelling?
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2010
  2. zaz2kerlaz Senior Member

    France ; French
    "mémé" and "pépé" are the names I call my grandparents and "mémère" and "pépère" are indeed quite insulting, we use those to talk about old people, stay-at-home people. But I have just seen that it can be used for "granny" and French Canadian way of speaking can be very different from French (from France) so it might be usual for Canadian people and not insulting at all.
  3. Guill Senior Member

    Français - France

    I can't really imagine pronouncing "mémé" the word "mémère" and "pépé" the word "pépère". I've never heard them used to mean "grandfather/grandmother" either...

    "Une mémère" is a pejorative way to call a woman, often fat, and/or lazy.
    "pépère" is more used as an adjective to mean cool (not cool like "up" but cool like "no stress, I do it at my speed"), and it's often pejorative too.
  4. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod

    French (lower Normandy)
    Hello :)

    Personally I can't say "pépère et mémère" shocks me since this is the way my cousin calls her grandparents (and calls ours "papy et mamy").
    That being said I don't find that it sounds great, a bit "rural" to my ears (even though I am "rural" myself).

    But I agree with the previous comments that
    "un pépère", "une mémère" can be used to refer to stay-at-home people.
  5. Tess007 New Member

    English & French Canadian
    I too am French Canadian. My family for generations have used the terms mémère & pépère. In our family and other friends family it is a term of endearment. As a young person we can't wait to become a mémère/pépère. I am finally wearing my status very proudly. There is no one in our family or friends who consider it derogative, regardless of how the dictionary defines it.
  6. Cath.S.

    Cath.S. Senior Member

    Bretagne, France
    français de France
    Some of my friends in Loir-et-Cher refer to their granny as mémère (re definitely pronounced).
    It can be insulting, or at the very least patronizing, in other regions, and even there if you are not referring to your grand-mother but to a presumably older woman.
  7. aerach Senior Member

    français (vosgien)
    When I was young(er), I had a "pépère" [pɛpɛʁ] and a "mémère" [mɛmɛʁ], and that's what I called them, as well as my siblings and cousins.
    I personally don't think that there are any intrinsic differences between the different terms "pépère", "papi", "pépé": all can be used disparagingly depending on context and tone.
  8. agi83ml

    agi83ml Senior Member

    Edmonton, AB
    English/Français (Canada)
    I agree with this statement.

    Like you, I call my grandparents mémère and pépère. Not offensive at all.
    Ex : "On s'en va souper chez Mémère Tremblay."

    It becomes offensive when you are not taking about someone specific.
    Ex : "Je suis en retard à cause que j'ai eu à suivre un vieux pépère sur l'autoroute!"
  9. shjchica New Member

    I too am French Canadian and my sister and all my cousins have only ever known it mémère & pépère for grandma and grandpa. That's how my grandmother signs all her cards too, lol. I doubt she'd have us insult her willingly, she's one tough lady and takes nothing from no one! This was the first I ever heard of it being insulting, I'm going to have to ask her now!
  10. PersephonesBear New Member

    New Jersey
    I'm with Tess007, agi83ml, and shjchica - my French Canadian grandparents and great-grandparents in upstate Massachusetts were Mémère & Pépère to me, and my great aunts and uncles were Mémère & Pépère to my cousins. It was a term of endearment. When other people shortened it to Mémè & Pépè my grandmothers were mildly annoyed that the people couldn't be bothered to write it out correctly.
  11. PLaCroix New Member

    Chattanooga, TN
    Born and raised in Southeastern Massachusetts. Two of my 4 grandparents were born in the province of Quebec. I called them Mémère and Pépère, my cousins called them the same way. Now my nieces, nephews and my children call my parents by the same title. It's never been insult, it's an honor to be called Mémère and Pépère in my family.
  12. adrainville Junior Member

    English - United States
    I also am from Southeastern Massachusetts. We have always pronounced it mémé and pépé, but were always taught to spell it mémère and pépère. My grandparents never took the terms as an insult. My mother never was insulted by it per se, but says it makes her feel old. Having my nieces call her grandma, for some reason, does not make her feel as old. But she is not insulted by the term.
  13. Pharm5cs New Member

    All of my grandparents were born in Quebec, Canada. Everyone in our family always called them Memere and Pepere. In our family it's pronounced mem-may and pep-pay since little kids must have trouble pronouncing the "r". I never knew the words contained an "r" until I saw my mom write it on a card of some kind. My parents were also Memere and Pepere to my kids. And now I am Pepere to my first granddaughter. The terms are used with affection in our family. I was born in Rhode Island where there is a large population of people from French Canadian descent.
  14. mémère / pépère New Member

    My grandparents lived on the Quebec border, and we called them mémère / pépère. As a child, I asked them to write the spelling down for me, and the spelling matches what you see here, but they didn't write the accents on it. I was confused why the 'r' was there, but I didn't speak French. Also, there is always an inherent loving sarcasm, a wink wink in everything with the local people, so I'm sure that using slang mémère / pépère that may be derogatory in France, it's probably the opposite in Quebec sarcasm. My relatives in English call it 'Pig French' after all.

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