Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Glossary of New Orleans Expressions

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.

2 comments:

Single Dad Laughing said...

Haha, thanks for the education! now if I ever visit New Orleans I'll know what people are talking about. :)

I have a cayoodle, and he's the best dog I ever had!

Single Dad Laughing

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Most people like their cayoodles -- it's a term used with affection.