Friday, December 24, 2010

New Orleans Culture Randomness

This town and surrounding area are unlike any other. The people, the mindset and the multifaceted mix of influences combine to make a cultural gumbo that is hard to define or explain.

- Various races have always coexisted here but to this day New Orleans is a largely segregated city.

- Outsiders think Cajun is the dominant influence, but Louisiana has lived under at least five national flags through its history: French, Spanish, British, Confederate States and United States. Cajun French is in the mix, as is Creole, Caribbean, Italian and Native American.

- Many names are not pronounced as you think they would be. Some examples of street names: Esplanade is pronounced ess-plah-NAYD. Burgundy is burh-GUN-dee. Calliope is cal-ee-OHP. The emphasis is on the ‘wrong’ syllable.

- Many Cajun French inspired names end in X but the X isn’t pronounced. Boudreaux is pronounced BOO-droh. Comeaux is COH-moh. The local cheer for the famous NFL team is spelled Geaux Saints!

- The accent here is not southern, except for the dropped “g” in words ending with “ing” (like ending, which is pronounced end-in) and typical words like “y’all.” It is more Brooklyn sounding but with softer edges. Words with “r” are the most obvious. Darling is DAW-lihn, heart is HAWT, George is GAWJ. “Th” is often pronounced “d” – “Y’all wanna go have dinna wid Gawj and dem otha cuzzins?” The best examples of New Orleans speak come from Harry Connick and political consultant James Carvel.

- Music is everywhere. Sure, jazz is the dominant sound in tourist areas; it was invented here. And the type of jazz heard most often (Dixieland) is distinctive to the area. But other music forms are found here too. Blues, of course, swing (Harry Connick style), rock (Better Than Ezra started here). Many internationally known performers have embraced the New Orleans influence. Paul McCartney recorded most of an album here in the 1970s and the most recent Dave Matthews album is heavily influenced by the local sound and cultural spirit.

- Lagniappe (pronounced LAND-yap) is a frequently heard word here. It means ‘something extra,’ similar in concept to a baker’s dozen (13 instead of 12 – something extra).

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