Tag Archives: old lady

Cajun French: Maman

I know. You were all bummed because there was no Cajun French lesson last week. I apologize! I’ll make it up to you, I promise.

In fact, this word is one that dawned on me to use last week. I was speaking with the awesome Sable Grace duo about Cajun French, heritage, and geography at Nationals. I was asked how we address our mothers and grandmothers here in south Louisiana. We mostly use mom and mama for mothers and ma-maw (ma-mawn) for grandmother.

However, there is one word that I use without even realizing it but I don’t use it in reference to my mom or any of my grandmothers. I think they’d probably hit me if I did. The word is maman pronounced “muh-mahn”. The ending is a nasally sound with barely any inflection on the n. Maman is a grandmotherly lady, or an old lady. Yeah, the women in my family do not like to be called old. (Although my mom has been trying to convince us for the last five years that she’s a sweet, little old lady. *snort*)

Anyway, when I use the word maman, it’s not in a good way. Take for example shopping with my mom when I was a teenager. The styles then were all grunge. I wanted baggy T-shirts, baggy jeans, and Chucks. She wanted me to wear blouses with *shudders* flowers on them. I’d try them on for her because she insisted, but I’d always come out of the dressing room saying the same thing:

I look like an old maman!

I even said it at Nationals without trying to insult anyone. I know the styles for today’s dresses are lots of flower maxi’s or Empire waists, but there are some dresses out there that take that cute, innocent thing too far and venture into “old maman” land. I was glad to see there weren’t any women there wearing them, but I had to be careful because someone might have a dress like that at home. At least on the interwebz, I’m safe from slippers, flip-flops, sandals, and purses flying at my head.

The usage isn’t even limited to clothing and fashion. It could be an attitude. Let’s say you know someone who goes to bed at 7 p.m. every night, never has any fun, never goes anywhere, complains about the neighbors’ dogs barking…oh no, this is starting to sound like me! *cough* 😉 Anyway, a young woman who acts much older than their age could be said they “act like an old maman“.

So that’s this week’s lesson. Do you think you’ll be able to use this word? Or, you can confess to Tante Danica…when you’re home, you act like an old maman, don’t you? It’s okay. I do too. I like being in my house and in bed for 9 at night *cough, cough*

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