mémère , pépère

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

  1. adrainville 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 (AL 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 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.
  15. charlie2911 New Member

    english Pan african
    Hi, I am new here and it seems to be a very interesting site.
    I now live in British Columbia . I have an interest in this question as my friend Marc's numerous grandchildren all refer to him as 'papere'. Many generations ago Marc 's family was Quebec -French . My wife is Quebec -English and and grew up in an area where she tells me many of the French kids called their grandfather 'papere' affectionately. I have also heard this from Cajun people.
  16. CaroIA New Member

    French - Acadian
    I suspect your family may be Acadian. We say memére and pepére. It is not pejorative at all in Acadian French Canada, that is just the way we call our grand parents. We also say mére and pére when referring to our parents.
  17. Pass_nad Member

    In France :
    and Pépé are words which usually design grandparents, but often make people feel old while hearing them...today's grandparents don't always accept their age...
    Mamie and Papy are more and more used.
    In one family, you can call your grandparents "mamie/papy" on one side (your mother's parents, for example) and "pépé/mémé" on the other side (your father's parents for example). There is no rule, as rules are defined by your family's habits.

    Sometimes you can hear "granny", "bonne maman", etc.

    But NEVER pronounce or write "mémère" or "pépère" in front of a French grandparent, it is rather insulting and designs old, fat, lazy and stay-at-home people, like it has been explained before.
  18. Lly4n4 Senior Member

    Paris (ex-Grand Ouest)
    Français (France)
    In France, I've also seen "mémé" and "pépé" used for the great-grandparents while "mamie/mamy" and "papy/papi" were used for the grand-parents. I'm not sure if it's cause or consequence, but "mémé/pépé" sounds older and more "provincial".
  19. Barbanellie

    Barbanellie Senior Member

    Quebec, Canada
    This. Like everything, it depends on context. Children who grow up calling their grandparents Mémère and Pépère are not insulting them, it is the agreed term for these people within the family. It becomes insulting when you use the term to describe someone who is not your grandparent, like the example above.
  20. Chimel Senior Member

    I agree. But to me, only pépère can have this derogative meaning, strangely enough: I don't think I would say j'ai dû suivre une vieille mémère sur l'autoroute or something like that.

    Une vieille mémé is possible, but my point is about pépère/mémère which are pronounced as such, and not pronounced pépé/mémé (which I wouldn't do, anyway: I think we pronounce here these words just the way they are written).

    Also note that these words are very often associated with vieux/vieille in this meaning.
  21. Barbanellie

    Barbanellie Senior Member

    Quebec, Canada
    In Quebec, calling someone (who is not your actual grandmother) a mémère is also pejorative and calling her a gossip.

    Tu parles d'une mémère, elle lui a tout raconté!

    Along the same lines, it is also used as a verb :) mémèrer, which means to gossip

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