I’ve often heard the term “Cajun French” but I can’t recall ever hearing the term “Cajun English” until I came across the PBS series “Do You Speak American?” Come to think about it, that’s a great way to explain how most Cajuns speak. I know from experience that a lot of the things we say in English don’t make much sense to people outside of South Louisiana. Here are a few phrases that come to mind:
- “Getting Down”
We use this when referring to someone getting out of a vehicle. For example “You gonna get down with me to buy some groceries or you gonna stay in the car?” You may have noticed I skipped an “are” in that phrase. We skip plenty of words too. Most of America interprets ‘getting down’ as dancing or heavy petting. This can be a problem at times as it was for my friend Ryan. He was in Tennessee with his wife, Nichole and her friend, a Tennessee native. Nichole went inside of a resturant and was taking awhile so Ryan looked at his friend and said “She’s taking awhile. I should check on her. You wanna get down with me?” and the friend startedscreaming at him. She thought he was putting the moves on her! He was able to calm her down but only after Nichole helped clear things up. This is a translated French term.
- “A gum”
This one baffled me.. a friend of mine was stuffing her face with spearmint gum so I asked her for some. “Can I have a gum?” She looked at me like I was crazy. “What do you mean?” “What do you mean what do I mean. I just asked for a gum.” “Oh! You mean a piece of gum.” Silly technicalities. Mmm now I want a gum.
- “Save the dishes”
I don’t even know how to say this in English. Saving the dishes is what you do after they are washed and dried..like, when you put them in the cupboard. “Put them away” is perhaps how other Americans say it. You can also save the clothes after they are folded.
Here are some other things you’ll hear in Cajun English
- Starting sentences with “mais.” Ending sentences with “me”
Mais, I don’t know, me.
- Ending sentences in “no.”
You call any, bruh, or no?
- Ending sentences in “yeah.”
Man, that hurt, yeah.
- Making an entire sentence into one word
howsyamomanddem? (slurring is required when speaking French)
- Leaving out words or slightly changing the meaning
Where yall gone?
You heard about Holly Beach?
- The use of “Yaille” (ryhmes with pie)
Pooh yaille, Awe yaille
- The use of “tee.” Tee means little in French. You can use it in place of “Jr.” or in place of “bruh.”
Tee-Tom is nuts!
Aw bruh I know. His brother Danny is even crazier.
Ay tee! You better watch it, that’s my cousin.