Cajun French: Cher

I'm not talking about this Cher

If you’re here thinking this is a post about the singer, Cher, I’m sorry to say you’re in the wrong place. For those who want to know more, step deeper into the world of Cajun French.

Most of the time, people see the word cher and pronounce it exactly the way the singer’s name is pronounced. In Cajun French, it’s a lot different. Our cher is pronounced “sha” with a short “a”. This is one little quirk about Hollywood that irritates me to no end when they make movies about this area. Now, there’s a possibility that Creole French* speakers pronounce cher the way most people are familiar with, but that is so not Cajun.

Cher is an endearment, as most of you already know. It means “dear” but it’s also used as a verb. When I was growing up, cher was the most common word I heard. My grandfather used it, my cousin used it, and at one point, I thought this was my name.

Sample sentences you might hear in Cajun country with the word cher:

“Mais, cher! I’m so glad to see you!”
“Aw, cher t’bebe”
(Aw, dear/darling little baby)
“Aw, cher”
(As in you just saw the cutest puppy.)
“Cher Bon Dieu!” (Dear Good Lord!)

My mom came to me one day after reading a wildly popular author’s book and asked me if I’d ever heard two men call each other cher. I hadn’t, of course. This is a term of endearment you hear between lovers (which these two men were not, they were friends), family members, and the elderly to the young. Some people use it as a tag no matter who they talk to, kind of like some people call everyone “boo”.

So, is this a word you’re going to use (with the proper Cajun pronunciation)?

28 Comments

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28 responses to “Cajun French: Cher

  1. It sounds so much better with the proper pronunciation. I don’t like it as “cher”

  2. Ah Cajuns ah er Canadians. I love the story of their migration.

  3. I am using it properly, oh great goddess of Cajunisms!

  4. Are you saying that attorney (or DA – not sure what her actual title is) on “Bones” mispronounces the word? She calls Booth that, but I hear an “r” in it. So, maybe she’s not Cajun?

    • She’s more than likely Creole, which isn’t the same as Cajun. Creoles are mostly around New Orleans and their French is different from Cajun French which is found west and slightly north of New Orleans 🙂

  5. KAK

    “Do you belieeeeve in life af–” ooooo, riiiiight. Sorry, sha, er, cher.

    ‘Course, now I have the sk8r “tscha” and hillbilly “phsaw” each trying on Cajun “cher” … with the tongue sweep over the upper lip to boot.

  6. Love this. Never would have guessed that was how it was pronounced. Interesting. Love these Cajun French lessons!! 🙂

  7. Derek

    Like most of the Cajun French spoke in that part of the world, nothing is pronounced the way it’s spelled! Words that end in “T”, the T is usually silent, or dropped altogether. For example, some last names: Hebert – “A-bear” Doucet – “Do-say” Foret – “For-ay”. And anything spelled “eaux” or “aux” is pronounced “o”, as in Breaux (Bro) and Thibodaux (Tib-o-do and NOT Thib-o-docs). my favorite example of this is the name of a Native American tribe that was local to the area that became New Orleans – Tchoupitoulas -“Chop-eh-too-las”!

    • You’re correct, Derek! My last name is not pronounced the way it’s spelled. It’s pronounced Ah-vay 🙂 That’s the French for you! Barely anything is the way it’s spelled and we like it that way 😉 Thanks for commenting, cher!

  8. I’m loving all the lessons in Cajun dialect! I’ve been watching Ax Men and Swamp Men, plus Only in America featured a few people from the swamp in NOLA . I couldn’t help thinking about you and all these lessons. I do have to stop and really listen to what they are saying, but hell….my accent is so country I’m sure they’d have to stop to understand me to, cher!

    • LOL, I’ve heard of those shows but haven’t seen them yet. I suppose I’ll have to sit down to watch so I can let y’all know if that’s a Cajun accent or a different one. As for accents, I can usually understand others’ accents. Usually. There are some accents I just can’t figure, lol

  9. Pingback: Cajun French: Cousin | Unearthly Musings

  10. My mother was born in the heart of cajun country in New Iberia. She spoke very little english until the age of 12. She called me cher my entire life as did my Grandmother. They are both gone now, but their voices and dialect stay in my memories and heart.

  11. Cheri is darling I know-Cher I thought meant expensive in French.An african told me that.My mother called me Cher.My name on paper is cheryl.Cher -her first name is Cherillyn-Cher for short.her father was Armenian.Mother mixed between French,English and NativeIndian.

    • Anonymous

      Arceneaux Ar-seh-no

      Great article on our using of Cher. It’s hilarious because every single person who types it out on FB and whatnot type “sha” haha! Thank you again from Lafayette, LA

  12. Corey Lynch

    Enjoyed reading. Though it may be written or spelled differently in some areas, the more correct version would be ‘Cher’ as this term is an abbreviation for the phrase ‘Mon Chéri’ which in French is my darling or dear whichever you prefer. As with any language there are slangs/abbreviations similar to ‘thru’ and ‘gonna’ being informal spellings but still recognized in some dictionaries. Spanish and English are technically slangs of Latin which is why many of the root words are similar. All in all the human dialect is amazing and the ‘correct’ pronunciation and/or spelling is always subject to change.

  13. Savannah

    There’s a cajun/creole guy (sorry, i don’t know the difference!) who works in the cafeteria at my school. He sometimes calls me cherie (He pronounces it with an r, if that makes a difference). He’s a nice guy and i’d like to call him cher in response. But this guy’s my dad’s age or older, so i don’t want to faux pas and sound like i’m making a pass at him. What would be the best response?

  14. purpleshadowhunter

    I hate when Hollywood can’t get Cajun accent or Cajun language right! Half the time they can’t get Creole/NOLA accent right either!

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