Rule number one: kindly refrain from saying Noo Or-leens. Although it has a pleasant ring to it when sung (especially when it rhymes with dreams and Creole queens), it is not at all proper in Southern conversation. Of course, if you're a Yankee and proud of it, by all means fling about Noo Orleens. Folks will know immediately.

The correct pronunciation is..uh...
aahh, well, sort of
...Nawlins. N'awliuns.

Okay, so it's difficult in print. But what it is not is Noo Orleens. However... now you pay close attention 'cause this is tricky... you will also be recognized as an out-o-towner if you do not say Orleens when referring to Orleans Parish or Orleans Street. It is Orleens Parish and Orleens Street.
Y'all may want to practice a little b'foah you get heah!


These days the lower-case adjective "creole" describes virtually anything indigenous to this region, be it a tomato or a house. As a noun with a capital "C", a Creole is a person, and therein hangs a tale. By some definitions, virtually everyone in New Orleans seems to be a Creole. By others, there's hardly anyone who measures up. Strictly speaking, a New Orleans Creole is a descendant of an early French or Spanish settler, "born in the colony," not in Europe. According to most dictionaries, Creole comes from the same Latin root as the word "create," with the French creating their "Creole" from the Spanish "criollo." Over time, this went from denoting a person born of Spanish parents overseas to a person born similarly of French parents. A child of the colonies, in either case. Yet Creole can also mean a mix of African-American and white parentage, or even undiluted African-American. The Cajuns of South Louisiana are descendants of French colonists who, more than 350 years ago, settled in what are now the Canadian maritime provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. They called their home in the New World "l'Acadie" and they were known as Acadiens. "Cajun" is a corruption of the anglicized word, Acadian. The British, who took possession of that territory in the 18th century, expelled the Acadians. Thousands of the Cajuns eventually settled in South Louisiana.

The French Quarter also called the Vieux Carre' ("view ka-ray"), which means "old square." Matter of fact, if you look for a "French Quarter" exit off the Interstate you'll be out of luck -- it's the "Vieux Carre'" exit!

If you happen to hail from Brooklyn, New York, you'll likely feel right at home in New Orleans. Many Crescent City residents speak a soft, Southernesque version of the fabled "dese, dem, and dose" lingo usually associated with that northern port city. The word "port" is operative: New York and New Orleans are cities with ports (and quite colorful pasts), and immigrants from the Old Country populated each. A many-splendored blending of nationalities created the similar sounds. New Orleans, incidentally, is not a typical Dixie city, and you'll rarely hear the stereotypical Southern accent here.

The term "neutral ground," which to all Orleanians means the median in a road, dates back to the early days when the wide strip of land that's now Canal Street served as the neutral ground dividing the French Quarter and the American Sector.

The Language of New Orleans

Its tone, lilt, and slang are indigenous to this city and reflect its ethnic history and tradition. New Orleans is part of the deep south, but you won't find much of a stereotypical southern drawl; in fact, there are several distinctive dialects. One of the most surprising is a Brooklynese style heard in the 9th Ward, Irish Channel, and Chalmette sections of New Orleans. Little or no French is spoken by the majority of folks in New Orleans, but it isn't without the French influence.

Aside from having everyday words and expressions that aren't used elsewhere in the States, New Orleanians throughout the city give meaning to and pronounce certain words their own way. Many of them are related to...(no surprise here!)! See a list of cajun food terms on
Ball - (ball masque, tableau ball) a themed masked ball, where the krewe royalty is presented to the club members.
Banquette - (ban' ket) Sidewalk--French meaning a small bank along the road.
Boogalee (perhaps from AmFr (Cajun) 'bougre' ('fellow'), otherwise obscure). A slang term, often deragatory, for a resident of coastal Louisiana of mixed European, Amerindian and perhaps some African heritage. The group is noted for insularity and is distinct from the more famous and numerous Cajuns, Creoles and Islenos. Their nearly-lost pigdin language has elements of Chitimatchi, Portugese and French, among others. The term 'calico' is often applied.
Marc provided me with this correct definition. Thanks!
Bayou - (by' you) Slow stream, or body of water running through a marsh or swamp.
Beaucoup Crasseux - (boo coo cra sue) Translated: very dirty organization.
Big Easy - Nickname for New Orleans.
Boeuf Gras - (French word) this is a large bull or ox, which represents the ancient symbol of the last meal before the Lenten season of fasting.
Boucherie (Boo-Cher-Ree) - A festive hog killing where neighbors are invited. This was a cajun's definition for the boucherie.
Boudin (boo-dan) - Hot, spicy pork mixed with onions, cooked rice, herbs, and stuffed in sausage casing.
Bourre' - (BOO' ray) Translated: A French card game. "Wildly popular way to gamble on the old riverboats, and still is amoung Cajuns. Makes high-stakes poker look like Old Maid- it's that viscious!"
Cafe Brulot - (caf-ay broo-loh) This dramatic after-dinner brew is a blend of hot coffee, spices, orange peel, and liqueurs. It is blended in a chafing dish, ignited, and served in special cups.
Calliope Street - (Cal' i ope) (The ope said like rope--no "e" heard) Don't ask where "Cal-lie-o-pea" is, nobody will understand what street you're looking for!
Cajun - (kay' jun) French Acadians that settled here from Canada.
Camelback - (cam' l bak) A single row house with the back half made into a two story. The front section remains a single.
Captain - This is the leader of each Carnival organization.
Carnival (from Latin carnivale) - translated to be farewell to the flesh (the feast of Epiphany) to midnight on Fat Tuesday (the day before Lent). The party season before Mardi Gras, starts on January 6 (the Twelfth Night). Celebrated with Kingcakes at Mardi Gras parties.
Cher - New Orleans Translation: An expression many use when greeting another..."Dear, Love"
Creole (cree-ol) - The word originally described those people of mixed French and Spanish blood who migrated from Europe or were born in Southeast Louisiana and lived as sophisticated city or plantation dwellers. The term has expanded and now embraces a type of cuisine and a style of architecture.
Crescent City - A nickname for New Orleans, originating from the shape of the Mississippi River as it bends around the city.
Den - Mardi Gras float warehouse
Crescent City Connection - Twin bridges connecting the Eastbank with the Westbank.





If you're alert, determined, and here long enough, you might be able to figure out which way is north, south, east or west. New Orleanians don't use such mundane directions, because the serpentine Mississippi River, which carved out the croissant-shaped land mass upon which the Crescent City sits, renders them virtually useless. Instead, we let our waterways call the shots: Downriver (or downtown); upriver (or uptown); lakeside (toward Lake Pontchartrain); and riverside (toward Old Man River). Absolutely no one here would propose meeting on a southwest or northeast corner of anything, because there's really no such place. It takes a bit of practice, but you'll eventually grow accustomed to corners we call "downtown lakeside", "uptown riverside," and so on. Good luck!


New Orleanians are particularly cantankerous when it comes to pronunciations of local streets. The city was founded by French settlers who christened the streets in the French Quarter, so you'd think Gallic names would roll right off our tongues. But you would be wrong. Chartres is said like the English word "charters;" Conti is pronounced "con-tie" and the "gun" in Burgundy is stressed. Many an Orleanian refers to "Eye-berville" Street, and you already know about Orleans Street. Carondelet is a Spanish word, stressed on the second and fourth syllables, and the latter is pronounced just like "let."

Clio is "Clie-o;" Melpomene is "Mel-po-meen;" Calliope is "Cal-y-ope;" and we dance around poor Terpsichore to the tune of "Turp-see-core."

And while we're on the subject of streets, a sidewalk here is called a banquette. That's the French word for bench, and of course we mangle it to "ban-ket." In the early days, sidewalks were made of wood with a slightly raised bench-like edge on the street side that helped protect the ladies' skirts from the mud and mire.

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Dirty Rice - Pan-fried leftover cooked rice sautéd with green peppers, onion, celery, stock, liver, giblets and many other ingredients.
Dixie - Making money in the "Land of Dixie" was a term used by rivermen and merchants -- because $10.00 bank notes were earned, and the French word for ten is Dix.
Do-do - (dough dough--not du-du!) In New Orleans, it's a cute word children use when tired and sleepy (from the french "to sleep" = dormir)
Doubloons - (duh bloons') aluminum objects resembling coins, which bear the insignia of the krewe on one side and the theme on the other; Rex krewe introduced the first one in 1960.
Dressed - Sandwiches served with lettuce, tomatoes and mayonnaise -- "the works" (And, of course....the way those with class catch their Mardi Gras throws!)
Fais do-do - (Fay' dough dough) A Cajun dance party, after the children have gone to sleep.
Fat City - A region of Metairie that is a popular place to party during Mardi Gras, originating from the term Fat Tuesday, the literal translation of Mardi Gras.
Favor - These are souvenirs, given to friends or guests attending the Krewe's ball by the members.
Fixin to - means "about to". I'm a'fixin' ta' make groceries. (Go grocery shopping)
Flambeaux - (flam' bo) (plural) Lit torches historically carried during night parades - Naphtha-fueled torches, which used to be the only source of light along the parade routes; now, they are carried along as part of the parade.
Gallery -(galllll rreeeee) Balcony--walkway outside of homes on the second floor.
GNO - Greater New Orleans area.
Gris Gris - (gree gree) Voodoo luck charms.
Grits (gri-its) - Finely ground, dried, hulled corn kernels that resemble mashed potatoes in consistency, but taste more like corn. Can be served as a breakfast dish with butter, sugar, and milk. But is also served with grillardes.
Hi-rise - Anything above sea level! - (just joking--with a bit of truth!) The elevated interstate roadway.
Hurricane Party - What some do after securing the house for a hurricane--throw a party! (If it's safe to stay, that is!) Hurricane is also the name of a famous New Orleans drink.
Indians - Black men who dress up in very ornate, hand-beaded, sequined and feathered outfits as representing American Indians.
Krewe - (crue) A Carnival organization's members
Lagniappe (lan-yap) - It's that certain ... little something extra, the 13th in a dozen, traditionally given to good customers; the Creole merchants' way of saying, "merci", thank you. Lagniappe has been described a million times over, and yet defies all descriptions. It's that extra bit of thoughtfulness. Not fawning or obsequious, but genuine and heartfelt. It's not just service with a smile. It's service with a song and a spit-shine. It's not as grand as the much vaunted Southern Hospitality, but not as trivial as "Have a nice day."
Laissez les bons temps rouler! (le-say le bon-ton rou-la) - A favorite Cajun French expression meaning, "Let the Good Times Roll."
Lundi Gras - The day before Mardi Gras when King Rex arrives on the riverfront and Orpheus parades! (French for Fat Monday)
Makin' groceries - Buying groceries--(usually at Schwegmann's-- New Orleans' well-known grocery store!)
Mardi Gras - Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent....the day to celebrate before the traditional Catholic tradition of sacrificing and fasting during the 40 days of Lent.
Maskers - Float riders & anyone dressed in costume.
Mie-nez - Translated: "mayonnaise"; a pronunciation unique to Creole New Orleanians.
Metairie - (Met' tree) A suburb of New Orleans--between the Airport and New Orleans. N'awlins - "New Orleans"--It's faster that way!
Neutral Ground - Median or grassy area between the paved areas on a boulevard.
Ol' Man River, the Big Muddy, Mr. Sippy's Wife... no matter what you call it, this natural wonder wraps itself around New Orleans.
"Pass a Good Time" - Translated: Have a good time.
Picayune - (Pic' ee yoon)
1. Small, nit-picky
2. (It was a Spanish coin worth more than a nickel and less than a dime -- 6 1/4 cents to be precise)
3. Name of the only daily newspaper, the "Times Picayune".
4. Small town north of New Orleans in Mississippi.
Pirogue - (Pee' row) Flat-bottom canoe -- perfect in the bayous.
Police Jury - Similar to a City Council, but has more legal authority concerning individuals.
Shotgun house - Usually part of a "double"--a single row house in which all rooms on one side are connected by a long single hallway--you can open the front door and shoot a gun straight through the back door, without hitting a single wall.
Sno-ball - Shaved ice (nearly powder) served with flavored syrups. Those of you in the north might throw 'em.....we eat 'em!
Slave Quarters - Houses behind the main building of large plantation homes where slaves lived.
Soc au' lait - (Sock-o-lay) Translated: sack of milk. Used in place of What the?, Ouch!, or WOW!
Tchoupitoulas Street - (Chop a two' les) Interesting street name .... one of the trickiest to pronounce.
The Parish - Louisiana has Parishes not Counties, but this often refers to Chalmette, a suburb outside New Orleans.
Throws - Trinkets such as beads, cups, and doubloons that are tossed from the floats to the crowds during Mardi Gras parades.
Throw Me Something, Mister! - What everyone yells at parades to get throws from the maskers on the floats!
Twinspan - The twin bridges connecting the Northshore at Slidell with New Orleans across Lake Pontchartrain.
Uptown - (uhp' tawn) Area "upriver" from the French Quarter
Vieux Carre' - (Vooo ca ray') (View ca ray') The French Quarter including world-famous Bourbon Street.
Vignette - (Vin Yet') A sketch or illustration of a person, place or thing.
Voodoo - (Voo'-doo) A form of witchcraft. (See my: VOODOO page.)
West Bank - You have to look east to see the "other" side of New Orleans, on the west bank of the Mississippi. The East Bank is really the west side of the Mississippi get to the Westbank side, you have to travel east across one of the bridges! Finding one's way around in New Orleans is not for the 'faint of heart'.
Yat - Standard greeting--("Where yat?" is "Hello, how are you doing?")
Zydeco - (zi-de-co) A relatively new kind of Cajun dance music that is a combination of traditional Cajun dance music, R&B, and African blues.

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