Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cajun Town

I've lived in this part of Louisiana long enough not to think anything of it when -- as my co-worker did at lunch the other day -- someone says "We were going to get down, but no one was home." This is one of the many endearing and ridiculous phrases that are common down here, presumably originating in literal English translations of common French or Spanish expressions. When I first moved to this area, phrases like pass the broom, make groceries, hose pipe, neutral ground or bring me to the store were distracting to the point that I sometimes lost the train of the conversation as I tried to decide if I heard what I thought I heard, or tried not to laugh. Now I have a hard time remembering that they are not part of normal American speech. This is in addition to all the Cajun French terms that are part of normal speech here, like lagniappe and boudin. My friend was married for a time to a man from Bunkie, which is where she claims she picked up most of her coon-ass speak, though I hear a lot of it from people all across the Southern half of Louisiana.

This led to a discussion of my friend Boudreaux, his wife Marie, and his friend Thibodeaux. Cajun jokes are similar to Aggie jokes, Polish jokes, blond jokes or any other stereotypical cultural humor, with the special characteristic that they are usually told about a man named Boudreaux, and often his friend Thibodaux. If a female character is required in these stories she is invariably named Marie.

So almost twenty years ago I got out of college, started a job and became friends with Marie*, who was dating, and later engaged to, Boudreaux. A couple of years later I was invited to attend Boudreaux's bachelor party, planned and hosted by -- you guessed it -- Thibodeaux**. You know it's going to be a good bachelor party when the guest of honor is already throwing up in the bushes when you arrive.

In addition to planning the party and holding it at his house, Thibodeaux had procured the entertainment, which consisted primarily of two "exotic dancers" from a local "gentleman's club." The hotter of the two "ladies" was wearing a plaster cast on her left leg from foot to knee.*** The other one had to leave early to pick up her nineteen year old daughter from somewhere or other. The girls tried their best, but overall it was a pretty sad thing to watch.

Once the boys had gotten a taste of exotic entertainment, and because Boudreaux had long since drunk away what judgment he possessed, we followed up the party at Thibodeaux's with a trip to the Gold Club, where Boudreaux was thrown out after about ten minutes for conduct unbecoming. It was a fitting end to an excellent night. And apparently the party had the right mojo. Boudreaux and Marie are still happily married, though we don't see as much of Thibodeaux as we used to.

Oh, and "get down" means get out of the car and go inside. As in, "We passed by your house to bring you to the store, but we didn't see a car so we didn't get down."

* Her middle name, and not the one she goes by, but I swear this is really her name.
** I am totally not making this up.
*** Still not making this up.


  1. great story, and good linguistic info too... i've heard 'where you at?' as 'how are you?' from cajun friends, but you taught me some new ones!

  2. LOL.
    Yeah, "Where you at" never fails to impress....

    I have an affiniity to the local colloquialisms of the region. Like "I haven't seen you in a coon's age." Or "talking sense into him is like trying to nail jello to a tree..."

  3. LMAO. I felt very at home reading this post. I live in Metairie, right outside of New Orleans. Love this area! Glad that you have taken akin to our coonass language. My Dad is a typical Cajun country boy coonass and Mom is a teacher. Needless to say, I have the best of both worlds.

  4. daisyfae: I'm so used to "where you at" that I've forgotten it's even colloquial -- kind of like "y'all".
    Wonder: I know you hear a lot of good ones where you live.
    Aleta: Thanks for dropping by. It's good to hear from someone in the area.