I realized this morning that I haven’t done a Cajun French phrase in a while, so I hope to entertain you all with one of our little “jewels”.
When most people in the rest of the country say this, people immediately think they mean “dance”, “get down with your bad self!” that kind of thing. Of course, here in south Louisiana, this means something completely different.
Now, let me stress when I say south Louisiana, I don’t mean New Orleans. When it comes to regional dialect, New Orleans is an island. South Louisiana means the bayou country, Cajun country. The communities west of New Orleans.
From Fourchon (the end of the world!) to Lafayette, the bayous are peppered with different version of Cajun French and bad English. What you say in one parish isn’t the same in another. Pronunciations aren’t the same either. It’s weird, yes, but that’s how we tell who’s from Lafourche Parish, who’s from Terrebonne Parish, who’s from St. Mary Parish, and who’s from Vermillion Parish. It’s tiny things, but we can usually tell if you’re from our parish or not depending on how you say things.
Anyway, I was thinking about the phrase “get down” this morning as I worked out. Yes, Shaun T makes me think of strange Cajun French phrases! In our area (our being Cajun country), “get down” is something you say to a person visiting.
Let me explain. Say you’re visiting someone, just passing through and you’re still in your car. I don’t know if other people spend a lot of time in each others’ drive ways, but here, someone might stop to drop something off without getting out of their car. If you did this at my home, I would ask you, “Do you want to get down?”
Get down means do you want to get out of your car for a visit. I’m not sure where the phrase originated, but I suspect it could be anything from the days when people rode horses, to some obscure French phrase. I have no clue.
I’ll never forget one of my co-workers years ago. She was from Kenner which is sort of part of New Orleans. She moved to my hometown for work purposes. The neighborhood she lived in was very upscale, so it isn’t like she moved down the bayou or anything (and that’s a phrase for another day). She said the first time her neighbor asked if she wanted to “get down”, she was like “You want me to dance?” She was baffled and amused.
I thought she would’ve known what it meant since she was from down here…sort of, but apparently they don’t use this phrase in the Big Easy. Interesting.
So if any of you are planning a visit in the fair south of I-10 Louisiana and someone asks you if you want to “get down”, they’re not asking you if you want to dance. They’re asking if you want to get out of your car and visit with them.