How To Speak Cajun
When writer and Minnesotan Sarah Von Bargen visited Lafayette’s Mardi Gras, she got a dose of culture and a language lesson to boot.
As a third-generation Minnesotan, I knew approximately nothing about Cajun culture when I headed south for my first Mardi Gras. I’d seen Adam Sandler’s “Cajun Man” and knew that Britney Spears was from somewhere in the state. Armed with those two totally inapplicable pop culture references, I dove headlong into Lafayette's Mardi Gras.
Louisiana is simultaneously totally amazing and pretty confounding. Confounding not only because this isn’t the culture I grew up in, but also because I spent one-third of my time in Cajun Country politely asking people to repeat themselves. The combination of sexy, roguish Cajun accent and words I didn’t know completely did my head in. Eventually, I asked a Cajun friend to “translate” a few of the words I’d been missing.
In an attempt to save you a lot of confusion and time, here are a few bits of Cajun you may hear when visiting Louisiana.
1. bouder [bou-deh] verb
To pout or sulk.
“She boude’d all night because he stood her up.”
2. envie [ahn-vee] noun
A longing or hunger to do or eat something. Other Southerners might use the word ‘hankering’ where a Cajun would use ‘envie.’
“I’ve got an envie for some boudin.”
3. gris gris [gree-gree] noun
To put a curse on someone. Frequently used in jest, not in reference to actual black magic.
“Grandma got so mad when I ate her pie, she put a gris gris on me.”
4. fais do do [fay doe doe] expression
A Cajun dance party. (Also an expression adults use when they want children to go to sleep.)
“Will we see you at the fais do do?”
5. cher [sha] noun
A term of endearment usually used with women, similar to ‘dear’ or ‘sweetheart.’
“Would you like another cup of coffee, cher?”
6. tit (masculine) or tite (feminine) [tee or teet] noun
The Cajun equivalent of ‘junior,’ but placed before the name rather than after.
“I had dinner with John and his son Tit John”
7. veiller [vay-yay] verb
To talk with friends. Cajun equivalent of “to shoot the breeze.”
“She was vellier with all her friends on the porch”
8. honte [hont] adj
Embarrassed or ashamed.
“I drank too much and fell into the bayou. Boy, was I honte!”
9.Minou [më nü'] noun
“Get that minou off the table! It’s time for dinner.”
Not so difficult now that you know, right? Use these at your next Mardi Gras party to impress your friends and don't feel honte when you meet a real Cajun!