Tag Archives: language

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: Frissons

It’s time for another lesson in Cajun French.

As my sister-in-law said in her comment last week, this is one of her favorite words to use. Honestly, it’s one of mine as well. While I love envie, frissons expresses perfectly when I get a chill. I’m not talking about the “oh, it’s cold” kind of chill. I mean when you feel a chill creep over your skin for no reason other than fear, or excitement, or even superstition.

Frisson, or frissons, means exactly that: chill, goosebump. It’s pronounced free-zawn, free-zawns, with the ending sounding like the “aw” in awning. It’s a soft “n”. You would use this in a sentence like, “Mais, I got the frissons! That movie was scary!” or “This place gives me the frissons.”

It’s a great word and I use it without even thinking about it. I don’t even know when I first heard it, so I suppose it’s been part of my vocabulary for years. It’s kind of like cher and mais for me. I just know it and if you sound it out, it sounds like the perfect word to use when you catch a sudden chill. Frisson. It almost sounds like freezing. If I were motivated, I could probably figure out the exact origin of the word, but it’s early and I just can’t do it, lol.

So the next time you’re watching another M. Night Shyamalan movie or reading a Stephen King novel and you develop goosebumps, call it the frissons.

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No Filter

We have a student worker in our office this summer. She isn’t just some random kid, no she’s the great-granddaughter of the company’s founder. Lately, she’s been helping me sort through some very dusty, boring paperwork which means she sits in my office.

She’s 18…I think, so I shouldn’t feel so bad, but she’s one of those kids who just looks innocent. Me + innocent teenager = corruption. Why? Because I can’t function without my music to get me through the day. My MP3 player will roll through anything from ABBA and Santigold to Jay-Z and Slipknot with a stop in just about every genre in between. This means um, some swearing…in some cases, it means a LOT of swearing.

But that isn’t all. Oh no, I also mumble to myself throughout the day. I know I do it, but I can’t really help it. Maybe it’s a product of having spent too many years griping about people under my breath, but I talk out loud. And naturally, not all of that talk is G-rated. I’ve never hidden the fact that I have a foul mouth. My writing even reflects it, but when I’m around certain people, I do attempt to curb it.

Except I keep forgetting she’s sitting in my office. So when I get an e-mail I’m not happy about, I mumble something along the lines of “oh for f***’s sake!” and anything else I can think of that may (or may not) help me vent some of my stress and irritation.

I’m not ashamed…per se. More like I’m thinking, ‘Please don’t tell your great-grandfather’…he’s 94 and still tours the yards and he’s an utter sweetheart…who once trained to be a priest. Yeah…a priest. You see? Corruption is just a word away.

Oh, I suppose I should mention that yes, my manuscripts contain a lot of salty language. It’s well, second-nature to have my characters speak like I do. If I get published, it’ll probably offend some people (I’ve read a few complaints from well-know authors who don’t believe romance heroines should talk like sailors), but it’s language I’m actually comfortable with. Does this mean I can’t have a completely non-offensive, intelligent conversation? Naw, I can hold my own. I even know some pretty good words when I want to use them.

I’m just a Southern girl who swears like a sailor, listens to music other people find offensive, and I’m fine with that. It’s who I am.

So now the question is…who out there will I need to use a filter for if I meet up with them at Nationals?

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Hiding from Grammarians

I’ve mentioned before how I sometimes slip into Cajun Woman mode (except without the tights). I swear, I’m educated. I have a degree and all! But there are some things I just can’t make myself learn to do, or rather…okay, I’m lazy!

I actually took Advanced Grammar in college. For one semester, I was an English major! Er, of course, I also tried my hand at Psychology (twice), English Education, English, and then finally settled on  History. As you can see, the English portion of my education was mighty. I could actually go back now and would only need 3 or 4 classes to hold a BA in English. Why aren’t I doing that?

Because I suck at grammar. Oh sure, I’m better than some people (like my nephew), but I’m nowhere near as proficient as I should be for an aspiring author. I write because I love words. The punctuation just gets in my way. My poor critique partner no doubt tears her hair out over my mistakes, but I do try…most of the time. My love of writing is more from loving how words fit together. I love the fluid ebb and flow of great prose. I devour witty, fast-paced dialogue. I hate punctuation.

I love words so much, I sometimes go overboard. I admit it, I can be a bit wordy at times (I hear your shocked gasps), which is why I have my brainstorming partner read my stuff for me. Um, okay, so I did use ‘coils of passion’ and got soundly bashed for it. It went something like this:

Brainstorm Buddy: You know I love you, right? But…”coils of passion”?
Me: I was trying to sound theatrical!
BB: Yeah, but “coils of passion”?
Me: Okay, so it is that bad. I’ll change it.

Now, my critique partner, on the other hand…poor lass. I can’t tell you how often I get my chapters back with commas taken out, semi-colons added, commas added…She’s the best. She’s an English teacher, which I’m telling you now, has no doubt saved me endless embarrassment at the hands of editors and agents. Without her grammatical and practical input, I think my hopes of ever being published would be dead. Grammar. Meh. I curl my lip at grammar! I bite my thumb at thee!

But don’t let this drivel fool you into thinking I don’t care about some grammar. I do. There are some things that drive me insane and I just can’t take it anymore. Your/You’re…OMG (I can’t even type it out) OMG don’t do this to me. I beg you! So just because I brought it up, here’s an article about apostrophe usage for everyone’s benefit. I’m going to peruse it further because I know my critique partner will thank me for it, lol. http://bvs-romance-writer-u.com/blog/?p=154

How about you? Are you a grammarian? Are you a word whore? (I am) Are you a bit of both?

P.S. I take no responsibility for any grammatical errors in this (or any other) post. I just spent ten minutes explaining how awful I am at grammar. Read at your own risk!

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Cursing a Blue Streak

Yesterday I happened across an article about Lori Foster’s upcoming release, Back in Black. Since I absolutely love (LOVE) those SBC guys, I’m eagerly anticipating this novel. The article, however, wasn’t so much about the book as it was about characters and how their language makes them more authentic. Specifically, how some characters’ use of “coarse” language makes them more genuine. You can read it here: http://bookclubs.barnesandnoble.com/t5/Unabashedly-Bookish/Type-Dirty-to-Me/ba-p/462476

Now, let me just begin by admitting something to you all: I swear like a sailor, or rather a sailor’s daughter. Yup, my stepdad who raised me, was in the Navy. I once told him that since he never got any tattoos, swore, or drank himself silly, I had to do it for him. It isn’t that I drop the F-bomb with every other word, but I do use it a lot. I’m sorry if this lowers me in some of your eyes, but it’s just the way I am.

When I’m reading, I’m not offended by the characters’ use of poor language. If anything, for me, it adds to the authenticity of the story. I imagine how I would react in similar situations and think, “Yes, I would definitely be screaming that word at that moment.” You’re walking along a dark, deserted street minding your own business (never mind that you shouldn’t be doing that in the first place because it’s stupid and dangerous). Some fiend (I do love that word), jumps out and accosts you. Do you scream “Oh my!”, or do you let loose with a big, fat “Fuuuuuu-“? (I’ll substitute my favorite word with “fudge”). The latter seems the obvious selection.

I understand a lot of people would rather not read/hear swearing. I respect their choice, and curb my tongue in their presence. However, when I’m reading, I don’t mind salty language. Yes, it’s coarse and, in some people’s opinions, the markings of a lack of education. Yet these words are part of language. They have roots in the history of our language.

Now, for those of you who think I’m completely uncouth, when I’m unable to use the language I’d prefer to, here are samples of my substitutions:

Son-of-a-biscuit-eater!
God bless America!
Fudge!
Fudgesicles and brownies! (when I’m really upset)
And then there are the foreign swear words I use when nothing but the real word will do. I wouldn’t say I pride myself with a large vocabulary of foreign swear words, but I can curse in German, French, and Spanish.

How about you? How do you feel about such language in books you read? For the writers, how do you feel about using them? Do you feel as though there’s a big no-no stamped on such language? What are some of your favorite non-swear words?

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Cajun Woman

So yeah, I’m from South Louisiana (which, for those of you who weren’t aware, is the portion of the state south of I-10). They don’t have the same accent we do here. I don’t know if many people realize, but there are pockets of different accents all over the southern half of the State and they grow thicker the further south you go.

Now, my mom had a very thick Cajun accent when she was a child. She forced herself to get rid of it because she heard herself referred to as a ‘coonass’. She was horrified and from then on, worked to get rid of the accent. As a result, my sister, brother, and I don’t have accents unless we slip.

Slipping into a Cajun, or coonass, accent happens when I’m either surprised, talking with someone with a thick accent, or tongue-tied. Now it’s, confession time. When I talk to a very attractive man, Cajun Woman (you were wondering how I was going to bring the title into this, huh?) comes out. Cajun Woman is not a superhero. No, Cajun Woman is who I become when I have to talk to a very attractive male and my accent emerges.

How does it emerge, you might ask. Well, if you’ve never heard a Cajun accent, then it’s hard to explain. Don’t think of any movies surrounding New Orleans (that’s a different accent and horribly wrong). The Waterboy is only slightly correct, but also oh so wrong. No, a Cajun accent is flat. Instead of saying ‘this’ it’s ‘dis’. Instead of ‘that’ it’s ‘dat’ (who dat? anyone?). ‘Both’ becomes ‘boat’. As in ‘both of ya’ll’ becomes ‘boat-a-ya’ll’. The other words I can’t even begin to explain.

So here I am with an attractive man in front of me asking me about a boat. I get flustered. Then I bust out with the Cajun accent. Gah! I might have thrown ‘mais’ in a few times, pretty sure I did. Mais. He wasn’t impressed and I was embarrassed. Not that I broke into what’s a natural accent for me, but because I let a man fluster me that badly. I mean, really folks! He wasn’t that cute. Maybe he was putting off some serious pheromones. Hm, that might be the reason.

Anyway! Do any of you have an accent you try to smother? Have you ever found yourself so flustered by a man that you become either tongue-tied, or lose all trace of thought?

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