On the Way Down Yonder in La Nouvelle Orléans
While you’re reading this, I’m on a 23-hour cross Atlantic journey to where it’s hot, steamy and sultry: La Nouvelle Orléans (as the French call it). I’m fully expecting to experience a little culture shock, but when I hit ‘home’ and hear that “Noo Awlins” “Irish Channel” brogue, the accent I grew up with slides right off the tongue just as easily as “bonjour” and “merci” do now when landing at Charles de Gaulle.
When I went to college in New York, it was the first time I discovered I had any accent at all or that our lingo wasn’t the same. I grew up calling a “vegetable” a “vegh-uh-ti-bel” and “comfortable” was “com-fehr-ti-bel” — like you might say it in French. I asked once for the waitress to “dress” the hamburger and she looked at me like I was nuts. Little did she know that “dressed” to someone from the “Big Easy” means adding lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise to just about any sandwich, particularly a “po-boy.” And guess what? “Mayonnaise” isn’t “may-oh-nez” — it’s “my-nehz.” Ask anyone way down yonder in “Noo Orleens.”
Once when the whole family was out for a seafood dinner on a Friday night (a tradition in New Orleans among Catholics, Jews and just about anybody), the waitress “axed” what kind of dressin’ we wanted on our salads. My sister asked her what kind she had, to which she replied, “We have Ranch, Thousand Island, French and Erl and Vinegar.”
That part was just normal — most waitresses in Noo Awlins talk like “dat,” but when my sister said (so as not to offend the waitress) “I’ll take the Erl and Vinegar,” we all had to hold in the laughter till she left the table. It wasn’t easy. (I’ll bet you never heard the saying, “Ersters will sperl if you berl them in erl in the terlet?”…unless you’re from Noo Awlins, of course.)
You know the streets in the French Quarter (also known as the “Vieux Carré) have French names, but they don’t sound French. “Chartres” is “Char-ters” and “Burgundy” is “Bur-guhn-dy.” A “banquette” (ban-ket) isn’t a bench — it’s a sidewalk and a “beaux beaux” is what most other people call a “boo boo.” “Cher” is what a New Orleanian uses for “dear” or “darling” and “fais do-do” is not “go to bed,” but the Cajun dance party that’s going to happen after the kids have done to sleep.
As you can tell, I’m gearing up for going from “bonjour, madame; merci monsieur” into a mix of Cajun, Irish Channel and what they call “Yat”…which comes from the question on everyone’s lips, “Where y’at, daahlin’?”
It’s already on mine. Stay tuned for Monday’s Parler Paris Nouvellettre® coming direct from La Nouvelle Orléans after all the festivities celebrating my mother’s, Gert Beerman, 95th birthday and other parties that are sure to happen in the place that invented parties.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
(Adrian in elementary school)
P.S. Timothy Smith drew a record-breaking crowd at yesterday’s Parler Paris Après Midi. Be sure to read all about it and see the photos.
P.P.S. Once again, even after two announcements, several people left Parler Paris Après Midi without paying for their drinks…and that means we covered the cost. It’s easy to leave without remembering to stop by the desk to pay, so if that’s you, please let me know and we can settle up later. Meanwhile, Parler Paris Après Midi is a FREE event — everyone gives up their time and resources to bring you a interesting program and a venue at which you can meet new people. I’m open to your suggestions on ways of remedying this…should we charge for it and include one drink each? should we charge for it and include one drink each? What do you think? Email us at [email protected]