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21June

Talkin’ Yat

Talkin’ Yat

Every city has its unique pronunciations of street names, like Houston (called HOW ston) in NYC. Locals everywhere love to watch tourists trip over the strange place names that roll off the tongues of the natives. Oddly, much of the confusion in New Orleans comes when you TRY to pronounce names with a French flair. It works fairly well in some cases, like Vieux Carre (Voo kah RAY,) the Old Square or French Quarter and Treme and Dauphine.

But unlike the city in France, Chartres is pronounced "CHAR ters."
Carondelet is pronounced "Car ON duh LET," not "Car on duh LAY."
Burgundy is "Bur GUN dee."
Calliope is "KA lee ope."
Conti is "CON tye."
And I swear I'm not lying, in Algiers across the river, Socrates is "SO krayts."

As for the city itself, most residents say "New OR luhns" or possibly "New OR lee uhns," but never "N'AW lins" unless they're kidding around. It's only pronounced "Or LEENS" if you're rhyming in a song or if you're talking about the street or the parish (county, to us.)

Occasionally a syllable gets lost in the local dialect, like "MET ry" for Metairie or "VET ruhns" for Veterans Blvd. While we're talking about shortening things, CBD is the Central Business District – across Canal from the Quarter. Oh, and that median in the middle? It's a neutral ground, which goes all the way back to when the tiny strip of grass down Canal St. was deemed a safe meeting place for the French Quarter Catholic Creoles on one side and the Protestants on the other to conduct business without conflict.

Here's your lagniappe (LAN yap) or the little something extra you often get in the city:

A couple of food tips for ya. You'll hear muffaletta (the yummy sandwich) pronounced "Muf ah LOT a" instead of "Muf ah LET a," and if you ask for pralines, please don't say "PRAY leens." It's fingernails on a chalkboard. "PRAH leens," "dooah lihn," please! (That's as close as I can get to darlin; it's tricky - not dah-lin or daw-lin exactly.) You'll want to order your po-boy "dressed" which means lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise (sometimes pronounced MY nez.) And if anyone asks if you want "ersters," say yes if you like oysters. : )

It's fun to try to keep up with all the variations, but don't get wigged out about it. There's always someone to help you out, and people are very friendly. Don't be surprised if a total stranger asks, "How's ya mama?" as a way of saying hello. It's part of the local charm.

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