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!