New Orleans – the basics of Big Easy lingo

Bourbon Street, French Quarter

Lagniappe” is a Cajun word for “something extra,” like the extra doughnut in a baker’s dozen, the 13th ear of corn in a bag of 12, or a free cup of coffee. It’s an unexpected nice surprise.

The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau has put together a lagniappe for clients headed to the city, a pamphlet of tips and terms used in the Big Easy.

A sampling:

• Bayou: It’s a Choctaw Indian word for “small stream.” It’s a creek with a slow current, flowing from a river or lowland lake, often through swamp areas. Among its many nicknames, Louisiana is called the Bayou State for its many wetland regions.

• Bananas Foster: Brennan’s restaurant in the French Quarter was the first to concoct and serve this flaming ambrosia of bananas and rum, spooned over vanilla ice cream.

• Cajun: Nickname for Acadians, the French-speaking people who migrated to Louisiana from Nova Scotia, starting in 1755.

• Directions: There is no east, west, north or south in New Orleans. Locals head uptown, downtown, lakeside, riverside and anywhere the music is.

• Gumbo ya-ya: “Everybody talking at once.”

• Cajun vs. Creole: Cajun food is the earthy, robust creation of fishermen and farmers in the bayou country of southwest Louisiana. Creole food is the cosmopolitan food of New Orleans, a mix of European, African and Caribbean cuisines.

• Jambalaya: New Orleans’ answer to Spain’s paella, a Cajun rice dish full of sausage, seafood, rice and spices.

• Muffuletta: A meal packed into a pizza-sized Italian bun with salami, ham and provolone lavished with olive relish. The CVB recommends going to the source: the Central Grocery on Decatur Street, an Italian import store where the sandwich was invented about a century ago to satisfy hungry Sicilian stevedores on the nearby docks.

• Parish: The equivalent of a county in the other 49 states.

• Po-boy: Hero. Sub. Grinder. Hoagie. Native New Orleanians eat po-boys, a staple at lunch counters across the metro area. Must be made with fresh French bread with a crunchy crust and light center. Roast beef and shrimp are the most popular fillings for a po-boy, but just about anything can be put inside a loaf of French bread and taste good.

• Streetcar: This is New Orleans’ name for the world’s oldest continuously operating electric street railway, which has been around since 1893. Before that, the city had a steam engine train and a horse-and-mule-drawn line. Today, more than 20,000 people a day ride to and from work and play aboard 35 original electric cars.

• Vieux Carre: French for “old square” or “old quarter,” it refers to the French Quarter. Its 90 city blocks contain about 2,700 European- and Creole-style buildings, housing residences, stores, cafes, restaurants and a lot of bars.

Visitors can pick up the pamphlet at the CVB office in the Garden District, at 2020 St. Charles Ave.


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