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Monday, January 5, 2009

Limber, Expressive, Handy

I’ve never used the word "lagniappe" in this blog. What the hell is wrong with me?


From Merriam-Webster.

Lagniappe

Pronunciation: \’lan-‘yap, lan-‘\

Function: noun

Inflected Form(s): -s

Etymology: American French (Louisiana), from American Spanish la ñapa the lagniappe, from Spanish la the (feminine of el, definite article, the) + American Spanish ñapa, yapa lagniappe, from Quechua yápa addition — more at LARIAT

1 a chiefly Louisiana: a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase (a sack of lemon drops for lagniappe with the groceries) (giving her half a yard extra for lagniappe — Lyle Saxon) b : something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of bonus or good measure (the … beautiful widow from whom he first accepts a reward of five thousand dollars, and later her love as a sort of lagniappe — Neal Cross)

2 : a gratuity of any kind : TIP


Mark Twain called it "a word worth travelling to New Orleans to get":

We picked up one excellent word – a word worth travelling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word – "lagniappe." They pronounce it lanny-yap. It is Spanish – so they said. We discovered it at the head of a column of odds and ends in the Picayune, the first day; heard twenty people use it the second; inquired what it meant the third; adopted it and got facility in swinging it the fourth. It has a restricted meaning, but I think the people spread it out a little when they choose. It is the equivalent of the thirteenth roll in a "baker’s dozen." It is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure. The custom originated in the Spanish quarter of the city. When a child or a servant buys something in a shop – or even the mayor or the governor, for aught I know – he finishes the operation by saying –

"Give me something for lagniappe."

The shopman always responds; gives the child a bit of licorice-root, gives the servant a cheap cigar or a spool of thread, gives the governor – I don’t know what he gives the governor; support, likely.

When you are invited to drink, and this does occur now and then in New Orleans – and you say, "What, again? – no, I’ve had enough;" the other party says, "But just this one time more – this is for lagniappe." When the beau perceives that he is stacking his compliments a trifle too high, and sees by the young lady’s countenance that the edifice would have been better with the top compliment left off, he puts his "I beg pardon-no harm intended," into the briefer form of "Oh, that’s for lagniappe." If the waiter in the restaurant stumbles and spills a gill of coffee down the back of your neck, he says "For lagniappe, sah," and gets you another cup without extra charge.

From Life on the Mississippi

Been in Texas too long, I suppose.

posted by latiolais at 0800  

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