At the risk of ruining the respect my readers have for me and my reputation, I want to share a little of my heritage and New Orleans as friends and family once again leave for higher ground. (I pray we have learned from past mistakes!)
I must admit I'm a recovering "yat". My husband reminded me of this yesterday as we were running a couple of errands and I slipped back and pronounced three words in a row as I did when I was much younger. He told me I should share A Lexicon of New Orleans Terminology and Speech (aka How ta tawk rite) - so there it is.
While I have cleaned up my speech and pronunciation for those who wouldn't understand and might hold it against me, I still love going home and hearing the sound of my fellow Yats and feeling comfortable saying the two or three words I just can't let go. Perhaps my pronunciation of mayonnaise, horrible, salmon and a couple of other words are just my way of not letting go completely.
A few of my favorite New Orleans words are listed below, but I did notice one oversight "all y'all" which is the plural form of y'all.
BRAKE TAG - An inspection sticker on your car, proof that you've passed the required annual safety inspection. It encompasses several areas of your car (e.g., horn, wipers, etc.) but is primarily concerned with the integrity of your brakes. Given the fact that New Orleans is surrounded by various lakes, rivers and canals, a bad set of brakes could mean that you might end up at the bottom of one of those bodies of water at the very least. Throughout New Orleans (although I'm not sure about other parts of Louisiana), the inspection sticker is called a "brake tag". If it's expired and you get pulled over, you're guaranteed to get a ticket.
CHALMETIAN, CHALMATION - Someone from Chalmette, a city in St. Bernard Parish that's part of the New Orleans metro area, often called "Da Parish." Out-of-towners often pronounce it with the hard "ch" sound as in "charge". It's more like shen> or shen>, and the city is pronounced .
DRESSED - When ordering a po-boy, "dressed" indicates lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and MYNEZ, on it.
LAGNIAPPE - Pronounced <LAN-yap>. A little something extra. Lagniappe is when your butcher gives you a pound and two ounces of hot sausage but only charges you for a pound, or when the waiter at your favorite restaurant brings you an extra dessert or something, and doesn't charge you. Lagniappe breeds good will, friendship and most importantly, return business
NEUTRAL GROUND - The grassy or cement strip in the middle of the road. The terms "median" and/or "island" are NEVER used in New Orleans. Use of one of those foreign terms instead of "neutral ground" is a dead giveaway that you ain't from around here, or anywhere close. If you're lucky, you live on a street with a neutral ground big enough to play football on.
NEW ORLEENS - The way silly tourists pronounce "New Orleans". Natives do not do this. Exception -- song lyrics, as in "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans", for example, and when omitting the "New", as in "Orleans Parish", which is always pronounced LEENS>. Confusing, isn't it? More on this below.
PASS BY - To stop at a place, for a visit or to accomplish something. "Ya gonna be home later? I'll pass by ya house." It doesn't mean just to drive by in your car and keep going ...
VEDGEATIBBLE - Neither animal nor mineral. What ya mamma used to make ya eat before ya could leave the table when ya were a kid. The word has four syllables.
YAMAMMA'N'EM - A collective term for your immediate family, as in "Hey dawlin', how's yamamma'n'em?" Spoken as one word.
Y'ALL - The plural form of the second person pronoun, "you all". It's not pronounced as they would in the south, though -- no twang, no drawl, just "y'all". "You guys" is never said and is a dead giveaway that you're a Tulane student from New Jersey.
AsI guess you can take a Yat out of New Orleans, but you can't fully take New Orleans out the a Yat!