Monday, July 10, 2017

Playing at Being Cajun

One surprise in traveling to farther parts of the United States is encountering the wild stereotypes people there have about Cajuns and the Acadian Parishes, much less New Orleans. This came across in Alaska around a campfire, where I encountered those remarkable rara aves, a multiaged group of people who spontaneously conversed with strangers. It started innocently enough; having to do with the pronunciation of my name.

"What kind of name is that?"

"Acadian French."

"Ohh! A coonass!* Have you ever paddled one of those long, narrow canoes?"

"A pirogue?"

"Yes, if that's what you people call them."

"Do you have alligators back home?" 

"Uh, yes. We do. And pelicans, muskrats, and nutria also."

"Do you wear shoes back home?" 

"Does your family speak real English or just French?" [Actually, I do best with New Orleans English and a Louisiana dialect of French.]

Now here is where the role of imparting real factual information often takes second place to the Cajun trickster or raconteuse that so easily comes out at this time. And the usual spoken English gradually morphs into a pronounced, exaggerated dialect. These and those becomes dese and doses. Dat's rite! That sounds exotic in places where people say "You betcha!" or drink soda.

"Did ya ever eat alligator?"

"Why no. Dat wouldn't be right. We have a pet gator, Albie, and we wouldn't feel right in eating our beloved pet or his kin. Gators got feelins' too."

And somewhere along in the tale I spun managed to go to school by pirogue instead of riding a city bus. And became barefooted instead of wearing shoes to school with the school color-coded Catholic school uniform. (In our case, brown skirts with white blouses.)

"Whooo-eeee! Swamp girl goes get some educatin'" !

And I need to mention that we drink local beers: Abita, Dixie, and whatever the store sells cut rate. And all of us, hommes and filles alike are handy with a knife. And a fork and spoon, too!

And if I'm really expansive (or full of shit!), I tell of loup-garous, lost Acadian maids and their lovers, Yankee soldiers that got lost while invading the bayous,  moonshiners, swamp monsters, and tomfool politicians who promised too much. And stories of wild parties during hurricanes also can also be told! Apocrypha is never out of style!

My rationale is that, if there is to be a choice between the everyday reality and the exotic, people would rather hear the exotic every time. Especially around campfires.

Yes, it helps to be able to keep a straight face while being a Cajun raconteuse! Anyway, the drama queen in me likes †o be seen as some untamed exotic!

*Using that term in Southern Louisiana does not help to win friends and influence people there, my friens.' Fo' true!.


Mike said...

Ah the ol' 'you people'. They talk funny. They're not 'one of us'.

John Hill said...

Great story, Angel!
I'm interested in your name now (although I understand your keeping it off social networks).
There's nothing very exotic about Hill.

Cloudia said...

We all do it, says Hawaii gal!
Good disquisition on the topic

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

The fantasy usually trumps the reality, sorry to say!

Bilbo said...

When I lived in Shreveport many years ago, a popular joke was that the difference between a coon-ass and a horse's ass was the Sabine River.

Deena said...

Nice story.

allenwoodhaven said...

Good read!

John Hill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gorilla Bananas said...

Coonass! I've never heard that one before! It could easily become a generalised term of abuse.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Gorilla, it already has been for at least four generations in Louisiana.