Published Jul 6, 2002
In light of the 'You know you're from blankety-blank' post, I thought I would take a moment to issue a primer to all of you out there who have ever been, or ever considered going, to New Orleans. ;>) Study carefully, ya'll, or they'll spike your co'cola with Tabasco and kick your teary-eyed butt into da riva'.
"How to Tawk Rite" by Chuck Taggert
What's a Yat?
"Yat" is a term for the quintessential neighborhood New Orleanian. It's derived from the local greeting, "Where y'at!", although it tends not to be used by locals in the way it's used by outsiders. A few words on New Orleansese: in a city whose very name is pronounced in nearly 100 different ways by its citizens, all the way from the filigreed, nearly five-syllable "Nyoo Ahhlyins" to the monosyllabic grunt of "Nawln'", it takes a very sensitive ear, not to mention years of practice, to pinpoint the incredible binds the native speaker encounters, those specific words where the slow tongue gives up and makes a leap of faith. For those who have never heard it, you must begin by imagining Brooklynese on Quaaludes.
This may help make the difference between a mere tourist and a truly interested visitor, and I think that's an important distinction. You don't want to look like an idiot, saying "Huh?", when the lady behind the counter at the po-boy shop asks you, "Ya want dat dressed, dawlin'?"
One major point of pronunciation with locals is to never pronounce words that end in "er" or "ing" as spelled. Examples: trailer = trailuh (or "traila"), border = borduh, driver = drivuh, etc.. The "ing" words are always pronounced without the "g". Examples: swimming = swimmin, looking = lookin, walking = walkin, etc.
ALLIGATOR PEAR - Avocado.
ANYWAYS - And, then; and, so.
AWRITE - The appropriate response to the greeting "Where y'at?" Also, a greeting in and of itself: "Awrite, Ed!"
AWRITE, HAWT - A female response of agreement.
AX - Ask.
BANQUETTE - The sidewalk. Pronounced "BANK-it".
BAT'TROOM - A room in the house where one doesn't find bats, but where one bathes, attends to the elimination of bodily waste, or locks oneself in and cries until one gets one's way.
BERL - To cook by surrounding something in hot, bubbling 212°F liquid; the preferred method for cooking CRAWFISH.
BINHAVIN, BEEN HAVIN' - To have had something for a long time, as in ... Q: "How long ya had dat dress? A: "Oh, I binhavin dat."
BINLOOKIN, BEEN LOOKIN' - To have searched for something for a long time, as in "I binlookin f'dat book."
BOBO - A small injury or wound.
BOO - A term of endearment, frequently used by parents and grandparents for small children, even small children who happen to be 40 years old ...
BRA - A form of address for men, usually one with whom you are not acquainted. Usually used in this manner: "Say, bra ..."
BY MY HOUSE, BY YOUR HOUSE, etc. - Analogous to the French terms "chez moi", "chez toi", etc. Usage: "He slept by my house last night." "At" is never used in this sense.
CATLICK - The predominant religion in New Orleans. And, according to some Baptists, all Hell-bound.
CRAWFISH - Also known as 'Mudbugs', but only to non-natives. Likewise, non-natives will pronounce and EVEN WRITE this word as 'crayfish', which is a mortal sin in this city.
DA - The.
DAT - That.
DAWLIN' - A universal form of address. Women use it to refer to both sexes, men use it toward women.
DEM - Them.
DERE - There. As in "Dere ya go!", an expression of encouragement or acknowledgement of having done something for someone else.
DESE, DOSE - These, those.
DIS - This.
DRESSED - When ordering a po-boy, "dressed" indicates lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and MYNEZ, on it. See NUTTINONIT.
EARL, ERL -
1. A vegetable product used for cooking, making roux, etc.
2. A petroleum product used to lubricate the engine of your car.
3. Your Uncle Earl. (Most New Orleanians have an Uncle Earl; I do.)
ERNGE, URNGE - An orange-colored citrus fruit.
ERSTERS, ERSTAS - Oysters.
FOR - a preposition used by New Orleanians instead of "at" or "by" when referring to time. E.g., "Da parade's for 7:00, but we betta get dere for 6 if we wanna find pawkin'." This one tends to be particularly confusing to non-natives.
F'SURE! - A statement of agreement. See YEAH YOU RITE.
F'TRUE - When phrased as a question, it means "Is that so?" or "Ya kiddin'!!". When phrased as a statement, it's an affirmation, a shortened version of "Nuh uh, I ain't lyin' ta ya ..."
GAWD - A supernatural deity, worshipped by most New Orleanians.
GO CUP - A paper or plastic cup for consumption of alcoholic beverages out on the street, as open glass containers (and cans too) are illegal.
GRIP - A small suitcase, usually not a hard-shell one, more like a schoolbag or an overnight bag. Other locals have used this to refer to all types of suitcases. "Don't fo'get ya grip!", says ya mamma, as you're leaving the house.
GRIPPE - The flu.
GRIS-GRIS - Pronounced GREE-GREE. Noun, A voodoo spell. Can be applied for nefarious purposes ("to put a gris-gris on someone"), or as a force to ward off evil, like wearing a gris-gris bag (the folks at the Voodoo Shop on Dumaine will make one to order for about $20).
HAWT - A term of endearment used primarily by local females.
HICKEY - A knot or bump you get on your head when you bump or injure your head. Everywhere else in the world a hickey is what you get on your neck after necking. Not in New Orleans.
HOUSE COAT 'N CURLAS - The preferred dress for charmers while shopping at Schwegmann's.
HUCK-A-BUCKS or HUCKLE-BUCKS - Frozen Kool-Aid in a Dixie cup. A way to keep cool during the summer.
I'LL TAKE ME A ... - May I have a ...
JAWN - The most popular boys' name in English, pronounced this way among Localese-speakers. Also, a pot ta pee in. Rhymes with "lawn".
LOOKIT DA T.V. - To watch T.V. Locals don't watch T.V., they look at it. Oh, and in proper Localese form, it's pronounced "TEE-vee", emphasis on the first syllable.
MAKE GROCERIES, MAKIN' GROCERIES - To do grocery shopping.
MAW-MAW - Ya grandma.
MYNEZ - Mayonnaise. It comes slathered on every edible thing.
NEUTRAL GROUND - The grassy or cement strip in the middle of the road. The terms "median" and/or "island" are NEVER used in New Orleans. Use of one of those foreign terms instead of "neutral ground" is a dead giveaway that you ain't from around here, or anywhere close. If you're lucky, you live on a street with a neutral ground big enough to play football on.
NUTTINONIT - A po-boy that is not dressed, which only contains the main ingredient(s).
ON DA WES' BANK, ACROSS DA RIVUH, OVA DA RIVUH - On the West Bank of the Mississippi River, where such places as Algiers, Gretna and Marrero lie. Interestingly, the West Bank is due south of New Orleans (except for Algiers, of course). Make sense? Thought not.
OVA BY - A general replacement for the prepositions "at" and "to", particularly when referring to someone's home, or a destination in general. "Where ya goin'?" "Ova by ma mamma's."
PASS BY - To stop at a place, for a visit or to accomplish something. "Ya gonna be home later? I'll pass by ya house." It doesn't mean just to drive by in your car and keep going ...
PASSION MARK - The little red mark you get on your neck (or elsewhere) after a passionate session of necking. Called a "hickey" or a "love bite" everywhere else, apparently. Pronounced "PASH'n mawk", of course.
PECAN - A nut indigenous to the South, and beloved in New Orleans as an ingredient in pies and pralines. Pronounced "p-kawn", not "pee-can".
PO-BOY - The quintessential New Orleans lunch, a sandwich on good, crispy New Orleans French bread. This definition doesn't begin to describe what a po-boy is all about, so if you really don't know you need to get one soon.
PRALINE - A sugary Creole candy, invented in New Orleans (not the same as the French culinary/confectionery term "praline" or "praliné") The classic version is made with sugar, brown sugar, butter, vanilla and pecans, and is a flat sugary pecan-filled disk. Yummmmm. There are also creamy pralines, chocolate pralines, maple pralines, etc. Pecan pralines are the classic, though.
This is one of THE most mispronounced New Orleans terms of all. It is ***NOT*** pronounced "PRAY-leen". It is pronounced "PRAH-leen". Got it? Good.
REGULAH COFFEE - Not "Black Coffee" as in the rest of the country. "Regular" includes lots of sugar and cream. To drink black coffee in New Orleans will cause people to look at you as though you are from another planet.
SHOW, DA SHOW - The cinema. The movie house. The local motion picture emporium. Where works of cinematic art (or crappy flicks, depending) are shown. True New Orleanians never say, "I went to the movies", they say "I went to da show."
SUG - A term of endearment used primarily by Yat females. Pronoucned "SHOOG" with a soft "oo" as in "book".
TURLET - Ya standard flushable porcelain waste disposal unit found in every bat'troom, referred to by English speakers as a "toilet". Also good for gettin' rid of nasty food ya snuck away from da table as a child (like ma mamma's roast beef ... yuck. That lady makes heavenly crawfish étouffée, but she just murders roast beef ...)
UPTOWN SIDE, DOWNTOWN SIDE, LAKESIDE, RIVERSIDE - The four cardinal points of the New Orleanian compass. "North, south, east, west" do not work in New Orleans.
VALISE - Suitcase.
WHERE YA STAY (AT)? - Where do you live?
WHERE Y'AT! - The traditional New Orleanian greeting, and the source for the term "Yat", often used (primarily by non-New Orleanians, it is said) to describe New Orleanians with the telltale accent. The proper response is, "Awrite."
UMBRELLA - A standard English word, but with a special pronunciation. We say "UM-brel-la", not "um-BREL-la".
WRENCH - To clean something under running water. "Aw baby, ya hands 'r filthy! Go wrench 'em off in da zink." See ZINK.
YA MAMMA - Your mother. Used in a variety of ways, usually endearing. Also usable as an insult, specifically as a simple retort when one is insulted first; simply say, "Ya mamma." Be prepared to defend yourself physically at this point.
YAMAMMA'N'EM - A collective term for your immediate family, as in "Hey dawlin', how's yamamma'n'em?" Spoken as one word.
YEAH YOU RITE - An emphatic statement of agreement and affirmation, sometimes used as a general exclamation of happiness. The accent is on the first word, and it's spoken as one word.
ZINK - A receptacle for water with a drain and faucets. Where ya wrench off ya dishes or ya hands. See WRENCH.
sounds a lot like Brooklyn, Manhattan, & da Bronx.
Honey pleez, that sounds a lot like how I talk.
Hee Hee, and I thought french canadians massacred the french language. But then we're all fro the same place, aren't we.
Had an ER doc, supposed to be from around here but i have my doubts. Used to do pelvics on any female from 10-100 who hurt anywhere from her nipples to her knees. Doing an exam on a lady one day and asked how many kids she had. She said
"Nariun" (rymes with clarion and denotes "none"- nary a one). He thought she said 9. Big discussion over whether she had had any C sections, with this women reeatedly saying "Nariun" louder and louder. Nurse finally had to intervene and translate for doc. Much translation necessary here in God's country as folks who are Southern deprived just don't get it.
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