Sometimes we lose socks in the wash. But where do the socks go? This puzzles people who must do the laundry. After all, the laundry hamper and the washing machine are places grounded in real life, not in some dimension of a black hole. There are other things that might disappear forever: handkerchiefs, panties, face cloths, or even bras or blouses, but the prime disappearing act is the socks.
Is there some malevolent type of spirit out there that specializes in minor mischief? Having eliminated by default all natural explanations, I turned (as any good ex-New Orleanian) to spiritual guidance. I visited two wise individuals: Father Bernard, a former exorcist and bon vivant, and Madame Tissou, a local practitioner of voodoo. Both separately told me the feared news: there were sock goblins, and they did this only kind of deed because they made low scores on their Demon Qualifying Test! ( So much for small favors; at least I'm not targeted by some demonic heavy-hitter.)
Anyway, Father Bernard advised me to do penance. After all, it was Lent at that time. Madame Tissou, however, suggested The Usual New Orleans Strategy: bribe the sock goblins. Every so often I would leave a holed or faded article of clothing in the machine after being washed. These were deliberately left, and it seemed to work.
After all, even our sock goblins are reasonable and don't work too hard!
I've always found words interesting; and find their origins to be fascinating. Strangely enough, it took moving away from my home of 24 years to become aware of how distinctive our local vocabulary is. For example, a week ago I referred to a neighborhood mongrel as a "cayoodle," and I was given quizzical looks. Anyway, I've given some examples of New Orleans localisms in an earlier post, and won't bore by repetition.
Maybe in some other way!
Anyway, I've noticed a more troublesome, less genteel element creeping into my vocabulary: words that have rough origins or possible usages. Like WTF. Now I'm not some shrinking violet -- I've got a master's degree in psychology -- but expressions like that possibly constitute a coarsening of the language. And I'm afraid it's universal.
Sometimes things good badly. But why must they be described as "sucking"? Yes, this expression is used even by people who are in no way thinking about oral sex. And the language is used indiscriminatively in front of people of all ages and stations in life.
And the terms of endearment that people assign to private parts . . . . Gross! And I will say that anyone who refers to my breasts as "tits" or "hooters" has entered into my pantheon of boorishness and will never see or touch those objects so crudely labeled!
But I digress. Anytime I say WTF or sucks, I will give myself 440 yards around the track. That means donning running clothes and shoes, and rain or shine (except when it's lightning!) run all out a quarter mile.
At least I'll get fit in the process, even if I'm not quite lady-like.
Cheerleading as an art and a science has undergone many changes in recent times: no longer is it done primarily by loud-voiced sweater-wearing girls at football or basketball games. It's become more gymnastic, dance-oriented. And the costumes have become more revealing, much to the delight of most males..
Now five girls from all-girl Catholic schools, wishing to get in on the fun, decided to become Ronin Cheerleaders: to be hired out for various purposes, cheering loudly and dancing and jumping with abandon for whatever cause came their way. They got two other girls who were also not on any squad and worked out a lot of surprising routines. Soon commissions came their way.
For example, they provided cheering services for the Novena (nine day prayer service) at St. Leroy's. "Give me a P! Give me a R! Give me an A! Give me a Y! . . . ." Strangely, it worked, especially when they wore the two-piece outfits and topped it off with a pyramid. Clarissa followed it with encouraging words: "D*** you, PRAY!" The novena attenders did, and the priest was pleased.
The next day they cheered the opening of a doughnut store. "Come on, Boys! Let's make the scene! Come on, Boys! Have a Krispy Kreme! Do-nuts! Do-nuts! Do-nuts!"
Meetings of employees became occasions for our ronin girls to cheer the staff to greater and greater feats of marketing. "Sell! Sell! Sell! Or the market's gonna go to ****" (Our Girls, being well-behaved Catholic girls, didn't actually use the profanity.)
And what is more appropriate for cheerleading accompaniment than a lingerie fashion show? "Bustier, panty, demibra, thong; With Vicky's Secret you can't go wrong."
Somehow the Arkansas State legislature found the means to hire them to open the session (after the proper invocation by the preacher du jour. The legislators were entranced, if not bemused, by bikini-wearing ladies doing flips to "Candy."
Sakura did have a few reservations about doing a dog fight; but Shinobu came up with a snappy cheer for the occasion. "Hut! Hut! Hut! Hut! Hut! Were's gonna kick that mutt! In the butt! Butt! Butt!" The customers were fully satisfied.
And to reassure a corporation undergoing a morale crisis: "Hoddy toddy, God Almighty, Who the heck are we? Bim Bam! We're Microsoft and you know it, by damn!"
One of the drawbacks of living in one community all of one's life is that the listener comes to view the language that is heard on a daily basis is nationally normative. Alas, that is not the case, as I found when I left New Orleans and casually referred to a cur as a "cayoodle." People looked at me like I was demented. However I have collected some terms and phrases peculiar to New Orleans. Here's some expressions from my area (Orleans, Jefferson, and St. Bernard Parishes):
[The] Ain'ts -- the New Orleans Saints
Alligator pear -- an avocado
Awrite -- all right
Banquette (pronounced ban/ket) -- a sidewalk
Batture -- the strip of land between a levee and the river
Bobo -- a small cut or injury
Bourré – a French card game (pronounced BOO-ray)
Brake tag -- vehicle registration sticker
Cagoo (or possibly cagu) -- sick
Cap, Cap'n -- general form of familiar address to adult men
[The] Channel -- the Irish Channel, up around St. Alphonsus and Redemptorist High
Courage – energy, pep. Probably from élan.
Cayoodle -- a mongrel dog
Charmer – a sarcastic reference to a girl or woman
Dawlin' -- a familiar form of address: women call both men and women 'dawlin'; men call women 'dawlin.'
Don't have any courage -- lack energy or pep
Do-do (doh-doh) -- sleep
Fais do-do -- a street dance, but primarily in Cajun country.
Faubourg – neighborhood
Fixin’ to – about to
Flying horses -- merry-go-round
Fo' true -- really
Four bits -- fifty cents
Gallery -- porch
Go-cup -- a paper or plastic container to carry alcoholic beverages off the premises
Go by Mama's -- visit one's mother
Go to the submarine races -- go park along the Lakefront and make out
Grillards -- broiled veal in gravy
Grip -- a small suitcase
Grippe -- the flu
Gris-gris -- a powdered substance having magical properties
Ice box -- a refrigerator
Laissez les bon temps rouler -- let the good times roll
Lagniappe -- something extra thrown in by a store as a gift to customers
Make groceries -- get groceries
Make do-do -- go to sleep
Maw-maw -- grandmother
Minette, Minou -- a pussy cat
Mudbugs -- crawfish
Neutral ground -- the grassy median of a boulevard
Panné meat -- breaded cutlet
Pass the vacuum -- vacuum
Passez (Pos/say) -- a game in which someone takes some belonging from someone and passes it around from person to person, keeping it from the owner
Paw-paw – grandfather
Picyaune – small, nit-picking
Po-boy -- a sandwich using part of or the entire French bread loaf
Podna -- a familiar form of address by one man to another
Police jury -- a governing body of a subdivision of a parish
Professor -- a piano player
Roll -- rob by means of force
Shoo-shoo -- used either to refer to an abject failure, or specifically to refer to a firecracker that doesn't go off
Shoot da shoot -- a playground slide
Shotgun house -- a long, narrow house in which each room has a door that opens to the one which follows.
Sit before the door -- sit on the porch
Six bits -- seventy-five cents
Snowball - snow cone
Streetcar -- a trolley
[The] West Bank -- on the other side of the river: Gretna, Algiers, Harvey, Marrero, Westwego
Two bits -- twenty-five cents
Where ya'at -- Standard New Orleans greeting
Yat -- New Orleans native
Zink -- sink
The origins of some of these have to be speculative. After all, New Orleans is a seaport and had been enriched culturally and linguistically by people originating from many different places. In that way, the cayoodle is really the native and prototypical dog of New Orleans. Furthermore, the use of these expressions tends to be neighborhood-specific. Heavy use in Mid-city or the Ninth Ward, a moderate amount in Lakeview or Gentilly, almost none in the Uptown area or Garden District.
Even fairies can feel vulnerable at times. So it is no surprise that our Sakura, while having a glass of rum-spiked tea in a tavern, was approached by a large, friendly male wearing shorts, a cut-off tee exposing his navel, and flip-flops. Sakura was demurely dressed in her aqua kimono with the red and white peonies.
"Well hey hey hey, Babe. Whatcha doin'? You look like you need a guy to cheer you up. Hey, I'm that guy. Name's Jim Bob, and I play Right Guard for the Tigers."
(Sakura thought, 'Amazing; this poor fellow works to provide deodorant for wild jungle beasts. But that's understandable: I still remember how the Cat House at the Zoo reeked.')
"Hello, Jim Bob. My name's Sakura. I am pleased to make your acquaintance."
"And I am to meet you, Babe. What's with the bathrobe? You just got out of the shower and needed a drink before you go beddy-bye?"
"No, Jim Bob. These are my working clothes. I'm the Fruitcake Fairy and I just got off."
"Oh wow! And I thought you were a chick. Oh well, that's not my thing; but whatever floats your boat I'm cool about. But, other than your bathrobe, what other strange things do you do to be a fruitcake, Sakura?"
Other than an occasional misunderstanding, Sakura and Jim Bob had a good time.
Well, the New York Times has pronounced that the Gulf of Mexico is naturally healing from BP's thousands-of-miles oil slick, so I guess things are all right, and we no longer have to worry. That's right. Nothing happening here. Move on.
Pardon my yawn: I've heard it before, so wake me up when it's over. The news cycle, I mean.
This happened with Katrina, and with other natural and man-made disasters that hit the Pelican State. Basically, it goes like this:
1. A disaster of unprecidented magnitude hits Louisiana. There's some solid, factual reporting, and a lot of hearsay and fantasy thrown in to the mix.
2. The next phase tries to parcel out blame for why things happened as they did: concentrating strongly on national political opponents of the media maven in question; but throwing in a few more colorful, venal, less intellectually gifted local politicians. Louisiana, like New Jersey and Illinois, makes it easy to find those colorful figures. They manage to do outlandish things that help fill air time and allow the news commentator to sound superior.
3. The recovery takes a long time, like when large parts of a city get covered by ten feet of water and crap. "New Orleans is still rcovering from Katrina" is a story that can be filed only for a few times. And the Gulf oil slick is still around . . . .
4. Commentators and internet bloggers get into the act: The reason why Louisiana is not recovering sooner is because it's populated by lazy and dumb people with a poor work ethic; in other words -- not like a New York or Californian hustler or someone who is likely to read the NYT, the SF Chronicle, or the WaPo. It's another opportunity to play Whack the Southerner, or some other pasttime. What, after all, can you expect of people who play the Cornhole Game or Lacrosse or Hockey or who eat scrod?