People talk differently in New Orleans. It’s not uncommon for visitors not to understand what locals here say as it always seems as though they’re speaking in code. The tone, lilt, and slang of the New Orleans language serve as a reflection of the city’s tradition and ethnic history. Just so you know, you won’t find much of the stereotypical southern drawl in New Orleans. The language here is indigenous to the city and it’s important that you learn some of the phrases and words spoken before you travel. Otherwise, how are you going to talk that Nola talk?
“Pinch the Tail and Suck the Head”
You might think this phrase has some sexual connotation but that’s not the case. The tawdry-sounding phrase actually explains how one should eat crawfish. Note that crawfish is one of the staple foods in New Orleans. The crawfish festival, happening at the beginning of May every year, is an event you don’t want to miss. There’s no better time to pinch the tail and suck the head than during the three-day festival.
“Pass a Good Time”
Native in the city use the phrase “pass a good time” to mean it’s time to have a good time and have fun. One of the best times to pass a good time is during the Battle of the Gumbo Gladiators in downtown Shreveport where visitors get to sample gumbo for a dollar. There are plenty of places you can have a good time across the city.
Cher is a term traditionally used by Cajuns and Creoles to greet someone they love. It’s similar to “dear.” For instance, someone may say: “Oh, that so delicious, cher!”
“How’s ya mama an’ them?”
Whenever you hear someone use that phrase, they’re asking how someone’s family is doing, but most importantly, their mother. You’re more likely to hear it from true New Orleans. It’s simply means, “How is your mother and your family?”
“Laissez les bon temps rouler.”
Doesn’t sound like English, right? Often used around traditional Mardi Gras parade, the term is used to mean “let the good times roll.” Locals may also use it whenever there’s a family get-together or anything worth celebrating.
“Throw me somethin’, Mista!”
The phrase is common around New Orleans during the Mardi Grass parade as the parade spectators plead hoping to be able to catch a few throws from the passing floats. You’ll hear the spectators yell “throw me somethin’, Mista!” in an effort to get the attention of the parade rider. Head to the town of Eunice and be part of a truly traditional Mardi Grass experience.
The phrase originates from Cajun dance parties that used to last till late such that kids would just fall asleep without any effort from their mothers. Scholars still debate on how the phrase started being used in dancing, however. It means “go to sleep” so don’t be surprised to hear a mother putting her child to sleep in New Orleans with the phrase “do-do.”