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  • Writer's pictureCherie Claire

Cajun French Words and Phrases

I teach a life writing group in South Louisiana and love hearing the unique Cajun words and phrases of my students who grew up speaking French. And then there's William Thibodeaux, a genealogist and historian and an all-around nice guy who is a wealth of information. I'm sharing William's list of words and phrases that he recently gathered for the Lafayette Genealogy Club.

Cajun French Words and Phrases

1. Année = year D’une année à l’autre. From one year to the other.

2. Anse = 1. Bail, semicircular handle (of cooking pot, lantern, etc.) 2. Hook used to hang cooking pot. 3. Curve, turn (in road) 4. Bay, arm of a prairie extending the woods, area of land partially enclosed by woodland and opening onto a prairie. 5. Cove, small inlet. Y a une anse dans le Chemin un mille d’ici.

3. Avant-jour = dawn, daybreak. J’m’ai réveillé z’un matin sur l’avant-jour. I woke up one morning at dawn.

4. Bêtise = foolishness, silliness, nonsense, joke. Faire des bêtise. To cut up, play jokes. Pas de bêtise! = no kidding! Bêtiseur = practical joker.

5. Binette = face, grimace. Elle m’a fait une binette quand j’ai rentré. She made a face at me when I came in.

6. Lutetia = a place near a swamp. Latin name of Paris. It was the predecessor of present-day Paris and dates to the mid-third century BCE, “as a place of council of all Gallic tribes.”

7. Cache-tout = closet, storeroom, cellar.

8. Courant = 1. Current, present 2. Fluent. C’est courant. That’s current.

9. Cadien, Cadienne, Cadjin = Cajun, of or pertaining to the francophone people of Louisiana or their speech. C’est un parleur courant du Français cadien. He is a fluent speaker of Cajun French.

10. Deuil = mourning. À cinq minutes pour minuit tout le monde était en deuil, parce que là on commençait le Carême. At five minutes till midnight everyone was in mourning, because then we were starting Lent.

11. Éclatant = glittering, brilliant, shining, sparkling. Le collier que je acheté était éclatant. The necklace I bought was brilliant.

12. Égarée = Haggard-looking, gaunt, sickly looking, confused, simple-minded, senile. Alle est bien smatte, mais alle est après venir égarée un petit brin. She is quite smart, but she’s getting a bit senile.

13. Gosse = hull, husk, shell, boll. Gosse d’ail = clove of garlic. Gosse de coton = cotton boll. Gosse de pecan = outer hull of pecan nut.

14. Habitant (abitá) = farmer. Lui, il est un habitant de cannes. He’s a sugarcane farmer.

15. Hibitation (abit-oge) = farm, plantation, farmstead, ranch.

16. Grand = big, large. Ça allait habitation à habitation, et ça vendait des balais, des grandes affaires que le monde avait de besoin. They went from farm to farm, and they sold brooms, big things that people needed.

17. Habitude = usually, habitually. Habitude, je vas au village le lundi matin. I usually go to town on Monday mornings.

18. Main = hand, paw, handwriting. À la main = handy, near-at hand. Mets ça à la main. Keep it handy. Va, c’est à la main, t’as pas besoin de chercher pour. Go ahead, it’s readily accessible, you don’t need to look for it.

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