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Where Yat, Cher? People in New Orleans Don’t Say Dat

I saw an inquiry recently from the Internet wondering what does it mean when people in New Orleans call each other “cher.” First of all never, never, never have I ever heard anyone in New Orleans use the word “cher.” I mean, I heard it in French class OK, but it’s not an expression that’s used in the city of New Orleans at all.

This is just some more inaccuracy that the Hollywood film machine wants to throw into the mix like the main character in the now defunct TV show said he was going to a gumbo party. We don’t have gumbo parties!!! What the heck would that be anyway? I’m sitting hear practically laughing at the absurdity of this. You might go to a party and they might serve gumbo but there ain’t no such a thing as a gumbo party.

Same with “cher.” I know, I know, Dennis Quaid used it in the movie The Big Easy but I think he was supposed to be some kind of Cajun-Orleanian half-breed of something. And at least he tried some reasonable facsimile of an accent that wasn’t your generic Southern drawl totally inaccurate for this area. So kudos to him.

First of all “cher” means “dear” in French. It can also mean expensive. But that’s not how it’s used in this sense. You will most often hear it in the Cajun country and you won’t hear it very often like I used to when I was growing up with my aunts, uncles and grandmas out in St. Martinville.

My great aunt used to use it all the time. Like “come ta dinnah, cher” or something like that. It’s just a term of endearment. And it really wasn’t cher so much as “chea.” Like “Caw, it’s hot out dere, chea.”

I believe that one of the New Orleans characters in Princess and the Frog used the word cher. It sounds so out of place like a big clanging bell in a china shop. The Cajun characters in the movie used it which was accurate.

So now Hollywood has America thinking that people in New Orleans call each other “cher.” Tain’t true, t’aint true. And if you are ever hear anyone in this city use it you can bet their from the Cajun country not the Crescent City.

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Posted in Cajun Culture, New Orleans Culture, New Orleans Life.

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15 Responses

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  1. Ernest Bourgeois says

    In slidell,la. “cher” mean “sugar” , you would say, “hey cher” as meaning “hey sugar” like the the same as saying,”hey baby” it’s used as a term of endearment towards a in princess and the frog, the frog used it toward the princess.

  2. Clay Lewis says

    You are quite mistaken in the 7th and 9th ward native New Orleanians use it. However, it is pronounced (sha) and not cher.

  3. Richard Bienvenu says

    I stand corrected about the folks using cher in New Orleans if the 7th and 9th ward people use “cher” or “sha.” I was borned and raised here and have honestly don’t recall ever hearing it used except in the Cajun country.

    I think it’s a great custom and wish people here would use it more.

  4. Trinell says

    Well looka here (translation – “Pardon me”), Cher. I am from South of New Orleans and we say “Cher” all the time. My mother and grandparents spoke Creole and til this day, we use it occasionally. I agree with the commentor above regarding “Cher” being used as an endearment towards a female.
    You may be from the South; but I am from what we call the “Dirty South”, even more South than that of New Orleans. I am thinking maybe it’s not within your jurisdiction to use that word, probably against the law or something like that, Baby!

  5. hiku says

    noun. Louisiana Creole term meaning “darling,” “sweetie” or “honey.” From French “chΓ©ri.”

  6. Renee' says

    Well, I live way south in Louisiana but I disagree. Ever since I was little I spoke Cajun alot, the words I used the most would be “Cher” (pronounceds sha, just found out you spell it different) “Mais” “Mais Cher” and “Noc” (not sure I spelled it right) And whenever o visited New Orleans I heard ALOT of Cajun French. In the mall, on the streets, everywhere I’d go I hear at least a few Cajun words. Do I hate to break it to ya bebe but ya kinda wrong!

  7. tracy says

    U guys are right . i was born and raised in the 7th ward and the term cher was used on a daily basis. my family and friends still use it often. im not sure what part of louisiana ur from but in new orleans its alive and well.

  8. B.Me says

    lol i live in NO and have before that i visited regularly…..this article is incorrect!!! one of the first guys that spoke to me addressed me as cher…n no it isnt gumbo parties its craw fish boils……
    regardless of where they originated from, its used regularly. My husband spoke to me like that as well…..although after leaving the state for a few yrs his accent changed a lot. But as soon as I moved back I was “holla’d” at just like tht……

  9. Christopher Willis says

    I was born n raised in New Orleans and I agree, i was born in the 70s and lived there till Katrina, never heard one person use it unless they were people that came from the bayou so yes, that person who used it was most likely either from the swamps or spent alot of time there like many of our fisherman do, they may use the word bc they’re always in Cajun country and pick up some of the lingo but overall it’s not popular with the locals in New Orleans, then again if Katrina caused some of them bayou folk to migrate to the city that most likely raised your chances of hearing it more now.

  10. JC says

    I agree w/! I’m from N’awlins and now in my late 40’s living on the east coast and still use this term. My family came from Bayou Goula, La. and Donaldsonville, La. Til this day my family and friends use this term and we are from the heart of the city. Uptown, Downtown, all around town. πŸ™‚ Maybe in certain areas it was not used more. And, as far as the “Gumbo parties” do you mean “Pot luck”? πŸ™‚ Meaning everyone bring a dish after putting together a last minute party.

  11. azur Rienne says

    I’ve lived in New Orleans multiple years before and after the storm, in the marigny, Fq, Treme and mid city., I say it, I’ve heard many people say it, especially old people, and I’ve never seen those movies you’re talking about. Everyone uses French words like beaucoup ..gumbo party is from the old songs they are referenced in multiple traditional mardi gras songs, maybe you have to speak French to know that. so I don’t know what you’re talking about.

  12. Recee says

    I was born and raised in the West Bank- JP. I have always said it and so has my family/neighbors/friends etc…

  13. Cheryl Woodie says

    mais oui cha, chere we pass pleasure (have/had a good time cha)

  14. Christopher Willis says

    I know what u mean, local new Orleans we get it we just don’t use the lingo like they might do elsewhere, if they do, but unless we’re just putting on a show for outta Towner’s we know what it means but don’t use it regularly, where yat cher is where are you at dear. Now don’t get me wrong we still say it fast to sound like where yat but nowadays the older ladies might call you dear but almost everybody will call you baby, Where Yat baaaaaby? πŸ™‚

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Channel Guide Magazine » “Treme” aims for authentic look at post-Katrina New Orleans linked to this post on April 9, 2010

    […] accent you won’t hear, Overmyer is quick to point out, is the exaggerated cher-peppered drawl used by Dennis Quaid’s character in The Big Easy. Then there’s that […]

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