New Orleans Slang

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New Orleans Slang

The New Orleans culture is not only about the food and history, this city has a language of its own with interesting terms and accentuation of words creating a sound unique to this city.

You will hear these terms all over the city of New Orleans also called the Crescent City, The Big Easy and N’awlins (because it’s just faster that way).  Just step foot in the French Quarter and it might also be called the Old Quarter or the Vieux Carre (View ca ray’). Each term seems to have at least two different origins. I quickly learned to not get bogged down in the facts, but just enjoy the storytelling and the storyteller.

You will need another education in food terms for all the delicious concoctions they make here, but here are the ten New Orleans slang terms that have endeared me so:

1

Laissez les bons temps rouler
(Lazay Lay Bon Tom Roulay)

There seems to be one of these terms in every culture. Local lore details that this one came out of the hard times in the 1800’s when death from yellow fever and swamp living was always right around the corner.  Each day was enjoyed and they “Let the good times roll”

2

Who Dat?

You will hear this chant when you are around a rowdy group of New Orleans Saints fans. It usually turns into rhythmic song “Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?” that you will be humming all day long.

3

Where Y'At!

This is the traditional New Orleanian greeting that means “What’s up or where are you?”  It is often shortened to “Yat,” said with a New Orleanians telltale accent. The proper response is, “Awrite.”

4

Second Line

A second line is any group of people who follow the “Main Line” or group leading the parade including the brass band.  Second lines are most commonly associated with funeral processions where neighbors will join in for the funeral procession to the cemeteries.

5

Krewe (crue)

This is the term used for groups of people. It is most commonly associated with Carnival for an organizations members.

6

Neutral Ground

If someone tells you to go the Neutral Ground, do not worry about impending battles. This is the median or grassy area between the paved areas on a boulevard. The name derives from the original Canal Street division between the Americans and Creoles, who did not like each other, but agreed to meet peacefully for trade in this area.

7

Parish

Louisiana has parishes, not counties.  So when people are describing locations, they will detail different parishes.

8

Lagniappe
(lan' yap)

This is a good thing… always gratefully accept. A lagniappe is something extra that you didn’t pay for–thrown in to sweeten the deal–like a baker’s dozen.

This is a good thing… always gratefully accept. A lagniappe is something extra that you didn’t pay for–thrown in to sweeten the deal–like a baker’s dozen.

9

Dressed

Ordering a sandwich or poboy in New Orleans will prompt the questions of if you want it “Dressed”. This simply means what toppings do you want – lettuce, tomatoes and mayonnaise or “the works”.

10

Gumbo Ya-Ya

My favorite new term – Gumbo Ya-Ya. This term describes a situation where everyone is talking at once and nobody can understand what the other people are saying.  That’s just Gumbo Ya-Ya!

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