Tag Archives: cajun english

Cajun French: Colloquialisms

I’m starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel for my Cajun French lessons. Well, actually today will be a Cajun English lesson, so I should’ve titled it Cajun English. Eh, whatever.

There are a lot of things said here that can be confusing. I’ve already mentioned “Get down” which means to get out of your car and visit with someone. It does not mean to dance. Other little phrases are used in everyday language and most of the time we don’t realize we’re saying them.

“Make groceries”:
Whatcha doin’ today?
Oh, I have to go make groceries.
We’re not literally making anything. It means we’re going to the grocery store.

“Hahn?”:
“Hahn? What’d you say?”
It’s our version of “huh”. It’s hard to explain but it’s a nasally sound with a flat a and a silent n. We say “huh” as well, but this one is more commonly said without us realizing it.

“Save your toys”:
Company’s comin’ over, go save your toys.
This does not mean the child’s toys are in danger, it means pick them up. We also use “Save your clothes” as in pick them up so they’re not wrinkled/messed-up, etc.

“Threadmill”:
The doctor says I have to use the threadmill for twenty minutes a day.
Obviously they’re using a treadmill.

“Zink”:
Just put the dishes in the zink.
It isn’t a strange new element, but the kitchen sink. This one used to drive me crazy when I was a kid.

“Coke”:
Do you want a Coke?
Sure, what kind you got?
Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper…
Coke is every soft drink there is. I have no idea why, but that’s just the way it goes.

And for Star Wars fans, we had “Dark Vada” and “Light saver”:
Dark Vada was killed with a light sava.
Yeah, you know that isn’t what it’s supposed to be.

So those are just a few little things we say that might confuse a lot of people who aren’t from around here but make perfect sense to us. I’m sure I’ll remember some more, so expect another post like this in the future.

Have you ever heard/used any of these phrases?

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Cajun French: Family Gossip

I’ve been having a strange two weeks, but I’ll get over it. I’m finally writing again. I had to imagine that my writer’s block was a mountain and my creative juices a river that had to wear the mountain down until thoughts could leak through. Yeah, it took that long to get them flowing again, but hopefully no boulders will block the little gap I made.

I don’t have an actual Cajun French word or phrase for you this week. Instead, I’m going with a simple saying that you’ll hear from just about everyone down here.

I don’t know about y’all, but sometimes when I go to the store, I run into every distant relative I never knew about. Seriously, I have so many cousin’s on my dad’s side of the family, I have no idea who they are. My mom will say, “You know Uncle Cop’s son’s daughter? I saw her today.” And I’m like…who?

Anyway, the few relatives I see that I do know, all want to chit-chat. Yes, they will block the aisles with their baskets while they grill you about your life, tell you about their life, and give you all of the gossip you weren’t sure you wanted to know. Kind of like “So-and-so finally moved and are living next door to us. And so-and-so is fighting with blahblah because of blah. And blankety-blank is getting married, but I’m not inviting yada-yada…” You get the idea.

It kind of starts like this:

“Hey! I haven’t seen you in forever! How’s your mama and them?”

“How’s your mama and them” is a perfectly legitimate question. It means they want to know how your family is, not just your mama. Of course, when it comes to my dad’s family, they all want to know how Mom’s doing. She hasn’t been married to him for over thirty years, but they still call her aunt and want to know how she is and what she’s up to.

I find it kind of funny it isn’t “How’s your daddy and them” instead. I suppose it just goes to show that here, the woman is the center of the family. Kind of like a big ball of fire that shoots solar flares at you when you piss her off…you know what I mean!

Of course, you’d only use this phrase if you’re familiar with the family. It would be kind of weird for someone who’s never met your mother or family to ask that question unless they’ve known you for a very long time and you’ve told them endless stories about them *cough* So yeah, y’all can totally ask me “how’s your mama and them”, LOL

So is this something you say in your part of the world? If not, what would you say instead?

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Cajun French: Intensifiers

Yay for another Cajun French/English lesson! Today is going to be a good one, I think. I’ve actually had to tap into some Cajun resources to keep this post string going. I’m sad to say I don’t actually speak Cajun French. My grandfather was beaten at school for not speaking English, so he never taught my mom, nor any of his grandchildren. It’s sad really, but I think my generation is trying to win that back. Or I hope so at least.

Anyway, it’s cool today. Weird. Earlier this week we were in the 80’s and now it’s in the 50’s. Personally, I love it, but some people don’t. That’s what brings me to today’s lesson. Intensifiers. Writers know these are bad things when you’re writing. They’re filler words, but we use them anyway because sometimes you have to. Really, very, real, etc. are all words we use in our everyday dialect to convey emotional intensity to the word it precedes. Make sense?

Well, Cajuns don’t believe in them. Or, I should say…”Intensifiers? We don’t need no stinkin’ intensifiers!” We double the word an intensifier would modify. Here are some examples:

Mais, it’s cold cold.
or
Mais, it’s hot hot!
This place is bad bad.

Now, I’m posting a clip here from a Cajun comedian named Poo Poo Broussard. He looks awful, but he’s a riot…um, to us at least. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched his videos and cracked up! He’s done spoofs of Titanic and E.T. which leave me gasping for air because he’s dead on the money with how we would react.

In this video, he’s talking about his lips being chapped. I’m pretty sure you can understand him, but if you can’t, drop me a comment and I’ll interpret, LOL

Funny stuff, huh? So do you use intensifiers? Or are you like us and say “mais, we don’t need no stinkin’ intensifiers”?

Before I leave you…I have two very, very special guests tomorrow for Fantasy Man Friday. I’m serious y’all. You’re going to love what I have planned for you! It’s going to be fun fun!

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Cajun Word: Envie

Some of you may follow me on Twitter. If you do, you might see me use the word envie a few times.

Envie, pronounced “ahnvee” (or something like that), means desire, want, or inclination. I’ve often heard this in reference to food. Lately, I’ve had an envie for Chinese food since I haven’t had it in so long. But it can also indicate something you want to do. Like I have the envie to go to a Saints game.

I remember the first time I heard this word used. Before I went college, I spent a lot of time in my own parish. Sure, I went to neighboring Lafourche Parish to visit family and the like, but when I went to college there, it opened a whole new world for me. And not just formal education. Nicholls State University, my alma mater, used to be called Harvard on the Bayou because it drew a lot of students from the Tri-Parish area (Lafourche Parish, Terrebonne Parish, and St. Mary Parish). As a result, you had a blending of many different Cajun English dialects.

I was in my 3rd year when I made friends with a group of people from central Lafourche Parish. One of these friends, though she didn’t have an accent, used Cajun English words left and right. Probably because she’d gone to school with so many people who spoke Cajun French. I remember her using the word envie and I didn’t even have to ask her what it meant. It was as though some part of me instinctively understood envie means strong want, desire, or inclination.

It didn’t become my favorite word (Mais has that honor), but it does convey exactly what I mean when I say I want something. Want, or need, are two words that sometimes don’t feel strong enough to use when I hunger for something. It has to be envie.

So when you’re sitting around and you have a sudden craving for chocolate or coffee, think…Hm, I have the envie for .

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Cajun Words: Dis, Dat, Dese, and Dose

I’m going to throw you several words today. Technically, they’re not Cajun French, so much as Cajun English. The difference is not everyone down here (in the younger generations) speaks Cajun French, but almost everyone speaks Cajun English. We learn from example and the generations before us were heavy Cajun French speakers. Imagine a grandfather speaking to his grandchildren in English, his French making it difficult to sound out some of the words. That gave the Cajun English accent most native south Louisianans speak today.

I remember being a teenager and taking a class from a man who was from around Abbeville (which is where most Acadians settled). He jokingly said, I speak two languages: bad French and bad English. And it always stuck with me. Most of the time, we will use the words I’ve mentioned in the title without conscious thought. This may make south Louisianans seem ignorant to the rest of the world, but there’s a very logical explanation for our accents.

The French, in place of th sounds in English, will use s or z. We’ve all heard the sexy French accents in Hollywood movies, so that’s normal for us. However, Cajun English speakers use a t or d sound when confronted by those words that use them. This results in things like: Dis is my daughter. I don’t have time for dat. Dese are for da children. Dose are for you. Translation, of course, would be: This is my daughter. I don’t have time for that. These are for the children. Those are for you.

I never really noticed the use of the d or t sound in my own speech until my mom pointed it out to me. As I’ve said before, when she was younger, someone from Texas said something to her about her accent and she worked hard to erase it. Since we learn from our parents, my accent slowly went away. Strangely enough, I revert back to Cajun English when I’m talking with people who have a strong accent and I don’t even realize it.

The rest of the country has heard the infamous Who Dat chant and I’ve read on many sports forums how ignorant Saints fans sound, but I think people would be surprised how intelligent these people actually are. I know a man who has the thickest accent I’ve ever heard, but he can converse about quantum physics, politics, religion, and anything else you’d care to talk about. I suppose people will say what they want when it comes to those who are different, but I can’t abide ignorance.

Now I’m stepping off my soapbox. I’ve heard a Cajun accent compared to a Brooklyn accent, but I won’t be able to tell for myself until I go to NYC this summer. Maybe this southern girl will find someone who’ll understand her!

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