In every country and at any time, young people create new words or shorten existing ones. They are usually slang, but the Japanese tend to shorten long words even if they don’t intend to make it a slang.
I think there are many Japanese adults who know the slang, but whether to use it is another issue. They may playfully use it, but not in a decent place.
When I first heard “tehepero（てへぺろ）”, I didn’t want to use it myself, but I thought it was a good expression. I could imagine the scene actually just by hearing it.
Now, what does it mean “tehepero”?
What does “tehe-pero mean?
“Tehe-pero” is a word that is used when someone makes a small mistake, which is not crucial and try to make the atmosphere relaxed.
“Tehe（てへ）” is colloquial, and it is often used when someone feels a little embarrassed and try to laugh it off with a mischievous and charming smile, like a little girl.
It is close to “tehee” or “teehee”.
And “pero” means a state of sticking the tip of a tongue out.
“Pero” is used as follows:
彼（かれ） は ぺろっ と 舌（した） を 出（だ）した。
Kare wa perotto shita wo dashita.
He stuck his tongue out.
彼女（かのじょ） は アイスクリーム を ぺろり と 舐（な）めた。
Kanojo wa aisukuriimu wo perori to nameta.
She licked her ice cream.
クマ は はちみつ を ぺろぺろ 舐（な）めた。
The bear licked the honey.
Kuma wa hachimitsu wo peropero nameta.
ぺろぺろキャンディー を 買（か）った。
I bought a lollopop.
Peropero-chandii wo katta.
The combination of “tehe” and “pero” becomes “tehe-pero”, and the meaning is also a combination of the two actions.
Who can use “tehepero”?
There is an impression that the Japanese consider the following people or situations can use the word.
“Tehepero” can be used in the following situations:
1. The mistake is not important and does not bother other people. The people around you can forgive it.
2. Everyone who says “tehe-pero” is cute or loved.
For this reason, there are many comments on SNS that “feeling irritated to see such a person (as below) uses “tehepero”.
It is considered that people who should not use this word if they are:
(but, many people use it casually as a joke.)
1. an adult man (again, however, “tehe-pero” is used by them on SNSs)
2. a person who has made a serious mistake or who continues to make mistakes. (he/she should just apologize properly)
3. a creepy person (because it’s just creepy)
4. a girl who is calculating (as trying to look cute)
What is the origin of “tehepero”?
It is said that the person who first used “tehe-pero” was Yoko Hikasa, a voice actor in Japan. Originally, she kept saying “tehe-pero” in her blog and in her radio program.
Next, the word started to be used by Japanese comedians in TV programs, and then it was used in TV advertisements, anime, mangas, and so on now.
How to use “(・ω<) tehe-pero”
I will show how to use “tehe-pero”, although English-speaking people don’t have many oppertunities to use it.
先週（せんしゅう） 買（か）った 本（ほん） を また 買（か）っちゃった。テヘペロ。 Senshuu katta hon wo mata kacchatta. Tehepero.
I bought another book which I bought last week. Tehepero.
昨日（きのう） は 言（い）いすぎちゃった。テヘペロ。
Kinou wa iisugichatta. Tehepero.
I said too much yesterday. Tehepero.
Are? Michi machigaechatta. Tehepero.
What? We’ve come down a wrong way. Tehepero.
Wrong usage of Tehepero
The followings are considered incorrect usage, but it seems to be OK if you are joking, because it is a joke slang anyway.
私 の こと 好（す）き？テヘペロ。
Watashi no koto suki? Tehepero.
Do you like me? Tehepero.
数学のテスト で 満点（まんてん） 取（と）っちゃった。てへぺろ！
Suugaku no tesuto de manten tocchatta! Tehepero!
I got full marks in the math test. Tehepero!
今週（こんしゅう） 彼（かれ） と デート なの。てへぺろ。
Konshuu kare to de-to nano. Tehepero.
I have a date with him this week. Tehepero.