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I recently met a French girl, who is having hard time pronouncing my name. So, now she calls me “titi”. Can someone please tell me what “titi” means? I googled “titi” and found it may mean girl, monkey, or a kind of tree. But I don't think that she means monkey or tree because she seems a nice person. And, besides she told me that “titi” is used for friends but refused to tell the real meaning. So can someone tell me what does it mean when you call your friend “titi”?

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Is your name "Hitesh" ? If so, how is it pronounced ? If not, could "Titi" just be a short version of your name she made up ? –  Alexis Pigeon Nov 5 '13 at 8:30
    
As a french person myself, I can tell you it could be meant in a nice way (shortname for someone she likes or care about), or in an humorous way (especially if instead of calling you directly "titi", she refers to you [when talking to you or talking about you with others] as "un titi"). In the first case, it is simply a simple nickname, easy to remember and pronounce and usually used for friends or people one cares about. In the latter case it's probably close to the Gavroche meaning (see @Laure's answer), not really derogatory, but a bit humorous. –  Olivier Dulac Nov 5 '13 at 10:50
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Incomplete list of french first names I heard being switched to titi in some friendly/casual contexts : Thierry, Thibault, Thimothée (this one rarer, though), even Tristan or Etienne. –  Romain VALERI Nov 5 '13 at 23:58
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5 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Titi is colloquial French - originally (19th century) applied to a young apprentice it is nowadays (although it seems the word is getting out of use among the younger generations) a smart and spirited young boy.
Gavroche (Victor Hugo's character in Les Misérables) personifies the "Titi parisien" but you don't need to be Parisian to be called a titi ; the word brings to mind a youngish boy, rather slim, not very tall and unpretentious.

It is the kind of word that is not translatable into another language, it needs to be explained. I wanted to see how some dictionaries dealt with it and I hit upon "urchin", I entirely disagree with that translation: urchin implies mischievousness: there's no mischievousness in a titi, just high-spiritedness.

Indeed your friend does not mean titi in the sense of a kind or tree or monkey (which it can also mean) and she might ignore these two meanings of the word.

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Titi has a few significations.

It can mean Titi parisien, like the other answers described thoroughly, some kind of playful young rascal boy.

It is also the name of the bird "Tweety" in the Looney Toons.

It can finally be a simple nick name based on your name. It often applies to boys named Thierry or to girls named Leticia, for instance. It is not limited to theses names and it is also applied to people who have the syllabe it in their patronym, which seems to be your case.

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I disagree with the use of the word rascal when talking about a titi. Even the use of "playful" alongside the noun doesn't compensate the negative connotation contained in rascal and which titi hasn't. Definition of rascal in the OED: "A low, mean, unprincipled or dishonest fellow; a rogue, knave, scamp." I'd translate "you cheeky young rascal!" (for example from a mum to her child) by "petit fripon" or "petit garnement". –  Laure Nov 5 '13 at 10:28
    
I eddited my answer, feel free to provide a better translation. –  Oltarus Nov 5 '13 at 11:38
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The third paragraph is by far the most relevant. I think it should come first. –  Stéphane Gimenez Nov 5 '13 at 13:24
    
@Oltarus: Comme je le dis dans ma réponse ci-dessous j'estime que titi est le genre de mots intraduisibles qu'il vaut mieux employer en VO dans le texte car ils véhiculent trop de connotations civilisationnelles qu'un mot unique ne peut pas rendre. C'est comme utiliser en français "weltanschauung", "mug" , "scones" ou en anglais "baguette" (même si les baguettes britanniques n'ont pas tout à fait le croustillant et la saveur des nôtres), "crêpes" (pour justement les distinguer des *pancakes" anglaises ou américaines), etc... –  Laure Nov 5 '13 at 13:33
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Le sens que vous recherchez peut être celui de titi parisien.

C'est le mot familièrement employé pour désigner un jeune garçon malicieux (faux ami : aucune malveillance, mais de l'espièglerie) et jovial, qu'il soit de Paris ou d'ailleurs ...

Ajout suggéré par Romain
... ou une référence au dessin animé "Titi et Gros minet", Titi étant canari sans cesse pourchassé par Gros minet.

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L'usage voudrait que l'on explicite le moinsoyage –  cl-r Nov 5 '13 at 8:43
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(-1) Oui, c'est juste. Le ton péremptoire (le sens que vous recherchez...) m'avait fait tiquer, mais ce qui m'a incité à dégrader (je n'aime pas moinssoyer, pardon ;-)) la réponse, c'est qu'elle incorpore des présupposés et répond donc à une autre question. Quel rapport ici avec le titi parisien ? On a vraisemblablement affaire à un simple surnom à consonnance proche, comme le fait remarque Alexis plus haut, indépendamment des autres sens du mot titi. Je parierais même que la jeune femme en question doit mieux connaître titi et grominet que les titis parisiens... –  Romain VALERI Nov 5 '13 at 12:37
    
C'était seulement à moinvoyage auquel je pensais, la route vers l'enfer de la mise en forme d'une solution probable. Laure l'a aussi entendu dans ce sens. J'ai fait un ajout (libre à vous de le supprimer) rappelant votre interprétation. –  cl-r Nov 5 '13 at 13:07
    
Cette prestigieuse référence culturelle, accollée à mon nom, a fait fléchir ma légendaire modestie. Je réhabilite votre réponse, cher cowikiste ;-) –  Romain VALERI Nov 5 '13 at 23:49
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When French people make nicknames, they often take a syllable (or a part) of the real name and repeat it twice.

Because many words in French with twice the same syllable sound cute (especially for girls), including a part of the baby vocabulary (i.e. bébé = baby, mimi=mignon=cute, tata=tante=aunty).

I have lived in Paris since I was born and I do not know the word "titi parisien". So even if it exists, I am pretty sure that it is not what your friend meant.

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We French use it quite frequently. It is actually an abbreviation of the word "petit" or "petite". It is not an insult but rather a term of endearment.

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