New Orleans Colloquial Speech


ANYWAYS - And, then; and, so.

AWRITE - While "Where Y'at" is usually thought of as the common greeting in New Orleans, "awrite" is much more universal. A man may say "Where Y'at" to a friend he passes by on the street, but he'll say "awrite" to a stranger. This is the South, after all; one doesn't merely brush past someone else when walking down Carondelet St. without saying hello. We don't want to be impolite, yet we don't usually waste time on strangers, so "awrite" is a fair compromise. Usage: One man walking down the street comes upon another man going the other way. The first man says "awrite; the second responds "awrite."

AWRITE, HAWT - A variation on the standard greeting, but using an endearment usually reserved for a friend, usually female.

AX - Ask. Usage: "Dey axed for you down by da VFW Hall last night at Madeline's cousin's daughta's weddin'."

BANQUETTE - The sidewalk. Pronounced "BANK it". Usage fairly rare nowadays.

BERL - To cook by surrounding something in hot, bubbling liquid; the preferred method for cooking shellfish. For example, many a New Orleans student learned in World History that a great defense of a castle under attack in the middle ages was to dump "berlin' erl" on the attackers.

BOO - A term of endearment, frequently used by parents and grandparents for small children, even small children who happen to be 40 years old. Believed to be Cajun in origin.

BRA - A universal name for a male, usually one with whom you are not acquainted. Usually used in this manner: "Awrite, bra"

BY MY HOUSE, BY YOUR HOUSE, etc. - Analogous to the French terms "chez moi"; "chez toi"; etc. Usage: "He slept by my house last night." "At" is never used in this sense.

CAP - A universal name for a male, usually one with whom you are not acquainted. Women generally do not use this term. See also PODNA and BRA.

CATLICK - As in Roman Catholic, the predominant religion in New Orleans.

CEMENT - A standard English word, but with a special pronunciation. Yats say "SEE ment"

CHARMER - The quintessential female Yat. Pronounced "CHAW muh"

DA - The.

DAT - That.

DAWLIN' - A universal form of address. Women use it universally to both sexes, men use it toward women. See also HAWT.

DEM - Them.

DESE, DOSE - These, those.

DIS - This.

DRESSED - When ordering a po boy, "dressed" indicates lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and MYNEZ on it. (See NUTTINONIT)

EARL - 1. A vegetable product used for cooking, sauteing, making roux, etc. 2. A petroleum product used to lubricate the engine of your car. 3. Your Uncle Earl. (Most New Orleanians have an Uncle Earl.)

ELLESHYEW - Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. Occasionally preceded by the term, "Go ta hell..."

ERSTERS - Oysters.

ESPLANADE - Walkway (archaic usage).

FAUBOURG - A suburb or outlying neighborhood, as in Faubourg Marigny. A neighborhood is considered outlying in relation to the original neighborhood, the French Quarter. Metairie would never be a Faubourg, because it wasn't part of the city in the first place.

FLYIN' HORSES - Accented on the first syllable. A merry go round, sometimes specifically describing the merry go round in City Park, but also used in general.

FOR - a preposition used by New Orleanians instead of "at" or "by" when referring to time. E.g., "Da parade's for 7:00, but we betta get dere for 6 if we wanna find pawkin'." This one tends to be particularly confusing to non-natives.

F'SURE! - 1. A statement of agreement. 2. An excellent (but out of print) book by Yat artist Bunny Matthews, featuring cartoons with actual dialogue heard on the streets of our metropolis.

F'TRUE - When phrased as a question, it means "Is that so?" or "Ya kiddin'!!" When phrased as a statement, it's an affirmation, a shortened version of "Nuh uh, I ain't lyin' ta ya ..."

GAWD - A supernatural deity, worshipped by most New Orleanians.

GRIPPE - The flu.

GRIS GRIS - Pronounced GREE GREE;. Noun, A (voodoo) spell. Can be applied for nefarious purposes ("to put a gris gris on someone"), or as a force to ward off evil, like wearing a gris gris bag (the folks at the Voodoo Shop on Dumaine will make one to order for about $20).

HAWT - A term of endearment.

HOUSE COAT 'N CURLAS - The preferred dress for charmers while shopping at Schwegmann's.

I'LL TAKE ME A... - May I have a...

KAY BEE - The drugstore, as in (K&B, Katz and Besthoff). The ampersand is always silent.

LAGNIAPPE - Pronounced LAN yap. A little something extra. Also, the name of the entertainment pull out section of the Friday edition of The New Orleans Times Picayune.

LOCKA - Where you hang your clothes, analogous to the English word "closet". Example: "Mom MAH! Where my shoes at?" "Looka in ya locka!" See LOOKA.

LOOKA - The imperative case of the verb "to look". Usually accompanied by a pointing gesture. Often used as a single exclamation: "Looka!"

LOOKIT DA T.V. - To watch T.V.

MAKE GROCERIES, MAKIN' GROCERIES - To do grocery shopping.

MARRAINE - Your godmother.

MIRLITON - A vegetable pear or chayote squash, which grows wild in Louisiana and in backyards throughout New Orleans. Pronounced MEL lee tawn, and wonderful when stuffed with shrimp and ham dressing.

MISTA - As in "Throw me somethin' mista". Never used in any other context; "bra" or "cap" is used regularly.

MYNEZ - Mayonnaise.

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 or LEENS. Confusing, isn't it? More on this below.

NUTTINONIT - A po-boy that is not dressed, which only contains the main ingredient.

OR WHAT - Pronounced "r WUT," and placed at the end of a question: You gonna finish eatin' dat, 'r what?"

OVA DA RIVER - Across the river.

OVA BY - A general replacement for the prepositions "at" and "to", particularly when referring to someone's home, or a destination in general. "Where ya goin'?" "Ova by ma mamma's."

PARISH - A Louisiana state administrative district, analogous to the American "county". When used by Yats in the phrase "da parish", it generally means St. Bernard Parish specifically, which is suburban to New Orleans.

PARRAINE - Your godfather.

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 our car and keep going ...

PO BOY - The quintessential New Orleans lunch, a sandwich on good, crispy New Orleans French bread. This definition doesn't begin to describe what a po boy is all about, so if you really don't know you need to get one soon.

PODNA - A universal form of address for a male. Frequently used in the emphatic statement, "I tell you what, podna ..."

'SCUSE ME PAWDON ME - Polite expression when trying to get by somebody or moving through a crowd, spoken as one word.

SHOOT DA CHUTE - 1. A playground slide. 2. A firecracker that did not explode.

STOOP - Usually expressed as "da stoop". The front steps to your house, particularly if it's a shotgun duplex. What ya go out and sit on to chat wit'ya neighbas (an' ta keep an eye on 'em).

SUCK DA HEAD, SQUEEZE DA TALE - 1. The technique for eating crawfish. If you've never done this, have someone demonstrate. 2. A song by the Radiators.

SUG - A term of endearment used primariliy by Yat females. Pronounced SHOOG; with a soft "oo"; as in "book".

TURLET - A device for the sanitary disposal of human waste and for nasty food ya snuck away from da table as a child (like ma mamma's roast beef...yuck).

UPTOWN SIDE, DOWNTOWN SIDE, LAKESIDE, RIVERSIDE - The four cardinal points of the New Orleanian compass. "North, south, east, west" do not work in New Orleans.

VALISE - Suitcase.

VEDGE A TIBBLE - 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.

WHERE YA STAY (AT)? - Where do you live?

WHERE Y'AT? - The greeting. The proper response is, "Awrite."

WRENCH - To clean something under running water. "Aw baby, ya hands 'r filthy! Go wrench 'em off in da zink." See ZINK.

YA - You, your.

YA MAMMA - Your mother. Used in a variety of ways, usually endearing. Also usable as an insult, specifically as a simple retort when one is insulted first; simply say, "Ya mamma." Be prepared to defend yourself physically at this point.

YAMAMMA'N'DEM - A collective term for your immediate family, as in "Hey dawlin', how's yamamma'n'dem?" Spoken as one word.

YEAH YOU RITE - A sign of definite agreement. The accent is on the first word, and it's spoken as one word.

ZATARAIN'S - A local manufacturer of spices, seasonings, pickled products and condiments. In context, it's used by some as a generic term for either crab boil or Creole mustard.

ZINK - A receptacle for water with a drain and faucets. Where ya wrench off ya dishes.