Speaking New Orleanian

Being a native to New Orleans, I of course think what I am saying makes sense and doesn’t sound “weird.” However my friend and business partner, who has happily chosen to make New Orleans home, has pointed out time and again how much she loves the way I put things and it got me thinking, how different do I sound?

While every local has their own quirks and sayings, It seems like New Orleans has a lot of them. Things as simple as I make groceries instead of go to the grocery store. I stack the dishwasher instead of loading it. And who doesn’t keep their milk in the icebox and rice in the pantry? Turns out a lot of people! Here is a quick tour of sounding like a native when visiting New Orleans. Some may be more obvious and familiar, but hopefully you will find a few surprises.

Directions: We don’t say North, South, East, West. It is towards the Lake (North) or the river (South). East and West really depend on where you are standing, but generally we will say either towards uptown or the quarter or the bywater…

East Bank vs West Bank: What we call the East Bank of the Mississippi River is actually the West Bank and vice versa. This is because of the way the city is tucked into the crescent of the river.

We live in Parishes and have Parish officials. Counties don’t exist in Louisiana which has something to do with the fact that our laws are based on the Napoleonic Code.

We live in shotgun and camelback houses. A shotgun is a single story where in theory, if you fired a shotgun from the front door, the bullet would go straight through the back door without hitting a thing. A camelback has a second story added to the back half a shotgun. Don’t forget your double shotguns and camelbacks.

We don’t get ready to do things, we are fixin’ to do them. Example: “I was just fixin’ to take the girls to the Audubon Zoo. Want to come?”

We don’t eat shaved ice, we eat Snoballs – similar concept but different design.

We created a whole new category of sandwich, the Po-boy. While we can’t settle on a spelling, you will see both Po-Boys and Poor Boys, the large sandwich got its name from being offered as a free meal to the “Poor Boys” of a striking streetcar union in the late 1920s.

We order our po-boys dressed –  which is with all the fixings. How the fixings are defined will vary slightly by the restaurant and/or po-boy, but generally includes lettuce, tomato, mayo and a little hot sauce. Think of it as Chef’s preference.

When our little ones fall down, we put band aids on their bobos (boe boes) not boo-boos. Although I’m a little surprised we didn’t make the spelling crazy like beau-beauxs or something!

We ask for go cups. There is no need to chug your beer or wine just because you are ready to leave the bar or restaurant. Ask for a go cup and take it with you. As long as it isn’t in glass, open containers are allowed.

We like to add a little lagniappe to things. That is add a little something extra or toss in a bonus free item.

When asking friends about family we typically will ask Howsyamommaanem (hows ya mama an’ nem). The appropriate reply is awrite (aw rite), as in they are all well.

When someone asks, “where did you go to school?” You reply with where you went to high school. If you have been here long enough, but weren’t raised here, you will answer that you didn’t go to high school around here but went to _______ college.

This one may age me a bit, but K&B Purple is a very real color based on the logo of a former beloved local pharmacy chain that had its own brand of products ranging from vodka to ice cream.

We don’t stop by places, we pass by them as in, “I’m passing by Cafe du Monde, can I get you anything?”


It is impossible to cover them all, so I will leave you with this question: What is it – a doodle bug, roly pollie, or pill bug?


My daughters asks to go on doodle bug hunts. Those are my New Orleans’ girls.

Photo credits:
Map – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Times-Picayune_map_of_New_Orleans_1919.jpg
Po-Boy – http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/09/the-best-po-boys-in-new-orleans.html
K&B – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%26B
Doodle Bug- https://sites.google.com/a/arlington.k12.ma.us/organisms/pill-bugs
  • John
    Posted at 00:55h, 20 November Reply

    Amazing info, Many thanks!

  • John
    Posted at 04:53h, 18 November Reply

    Really quite a lot of superb advice.

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