New Orleans prides itself on being different from the rest of the nation. Our food‘s different, our music’s different... even our humidity is different.
On top of 'dat, we tend to talk different, too. On today's Love NOLA, Brett Will Taylor weighs in on the New Orleans vernacular and suggests that, maybe, the way we talk reflects nothing more than the love for our city, and the secret code that goes with it.
The other day, a friend of mine went for his first physical in five years. The doctor hadn’t been in the exam room long before he pointed to my friend’s left hand and asked why his index finger was crooked.
“Cabbage injury,” my friend replied. The doctor burst out laughing and held up his own, slightly askew, pinky. “Me, too” he said.
Now, if you are listening in today and you are not from New Orleans, you might think I have left out a critical bit of information. Like how a leafy vegetable can cause bodily harm.
But, if you live in New Orleans, you have all the information you need.
Because, if you do live here, you know that we throw cabbages at our St. Patrick’s Day parades. And you know that, when caught with an certain zeal, a high velocity cabbage can cause your finger to bend back in ways it is not meant to bend. Ergo “cabbage injury.”
New Orleanians have a lot of curious phrases in our vernacular.
Now, sure, some of that is because we live in the South (geographically, at least) and people talk differently in the South. For example, you weren’t getting ready for work earlier today, you were fixin’ to go to work (where, perhaps, you have found a few things that need fixin’!).
For the most part, though, New Orleans vernacular is uniquely New Orleans. We make groceries. Eat our po’ boys dressed. Hang out on the neutral ground. Never, EVER pick up gutter beads. And live for second Fridays and first Sundays… where we show each other our cubes.
There is no north, south, east or west in New Orleans. Rather, there is upriver, downriver, lakeside and riverside. Sunday night, a tourist asked me for directions to Cosimo’s. When I told him it was on the downriver, lakeside corner of Governor Nicholls and Brr-gundy, that poor man looked down at his map, back up at me and mumbled that perhaps he should just return to Bourbon Street. “That’s probably for the best,” I said.
I’ve often wondered why New Orleanians talk the way we do. I think it is partly because we need some kind of secret handshake — or code — to distinguish the 360,000 of us who live here from the 9 million who visit. Why else would we pronounce Kuh-lie-oh-pee as Cal-ee-ope?
But, it’s also because, here in New Orleans, we think every person, place or thing is special. And worthy of its own unique pronunciation or name.
So what if the rest of the world wants to say Burgndy while we say Brr-gundy? We do things differently down here. Have our own fun, in our own way, on our own terms.
It’s all part of the lagniappe you get when you live in — and love — the city called New Orleans.
To read a related article written by Brett Will Taylor, visit Nolavie.com.