WHERE Y’AT?

That’s the famous New Orleans greeting (to which the proper response is “Awrite”). N’Awlins natives have a special way of talking, which is entertainingly documented in the site How ta tawk rite: A Lexicon of New Orleans Terminology and Speech:

I hope that this brings back memories for natives, and I also hope that it may enlighten visitors to the Crescent City. It may help make the difference between a mere tourist and a truly interested visitor, and I think that’s an important distinction. You don’t want to look like an idiot, saying “Huh?”, when the lady behind the counter at the po-boy shop asks you, “Ya want dat dressed, dawlin’?”

I particularly direct your attention to the section “A guide to the pronunciation of local place names” (most of the way down the page), where you will learn the proper pronunciation of the street names Burgundy (bur-GUN-dee), Burthe (BYOOTH), Cadiz (KAY-diz), and the like.


Another, less systematic, site is here; I note with bemusement that this site refers to “Eye-berville” Street, whereas “How ta tawk rite” says “IBERVILLE STREET – Pronounced IB-ber-’vil, not EYE-ber-’vil.” Y’all get your act together, heah?
Update (February 2010): See now this Language Log post.

Comments

  1. Yeah, I used to live in New Orleans, and when I took a Romance Linguistics course at the university, the professor mentioned a study he was in some way affiliated with, on place name pronunciation in Nola: street names are often pronounced differently depending on what part of the street you live on (and whether you live on it or not, for that matter), how many generations your family has lived there, and so on.
    The street names drive visiting French speakers nuts :)

  2. jean-pierre says:

    Reminds me of earlier dis eebenin’ wen Ah wuz tryin’ t’explain ta student of mine, how da folks in deez neck of da woods, on d’edge of weir dey speak da Geechee or da Gullah, say “ah” instead of “are.” We found out Ah wuz doin’ it when we did a simple phonetics exercise to help the student learn to distinguish the use of “is” and “are” for listening comprehension.
    [Now allow me to transition out of character, please.]
    It was that moment that I realized how much living in this southeastern part of Georgia has influenced my speech, and very likely my working long hours with folk from Georgia, the Carolinas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana (from this last state, a friend from Baton Rouge loved to play a genre of joke in which the answer for everything was “Dis dick!” or “Mah dick!” and variations of the two.
    We went so far as to call each other on the phone after work, to continue our little verbal vendetta, so that when one of us answered the phone, and not hearing an immediate salutation, upon asking, “Who’s dis?” heard an exultant “Dis dick!” and raucous laughter.
    Soldier humor, I guess. Or more specifically, “grunt”(infantry) humor).

  3. Another fun glossary of Yat is one the Southern Yat Hysterical Society page, and Times-Picayune columnist Lolis Eric Elie had a good column back in February about the various pronunciations of New Orleans, which sparked some conversations within my family about we pronounce the city.

  4. Thanks, those are all great links! Do you happen to know the vowel quality of the second syllable in “Bakowza – (n): The restroom”? Is it like “now” or “know”? And why don’t people think of these ambiguities when they write things phonetically?

  5. My guess would be like in now or cow, but I can’t recall ever hearing the word before …

  6. Geechee: Marion Brown, “Geechee Recollections”, a fantastic out-of-print record. “Sweat Earth Flying” and “Afternoon of a Georgia Faun” are two other great pieces of his.
    The most ditinctive stuff by The Art Ensamble of Chicago are in the Marion Brown vein.
    “Yat?” — I posted it above, but my own version of that is “What’s up?” –> “Tsup?” I have no idea where it comes from, but I’m from small-town Minnesota, now living in Oregon.

  7. Insert spelling. Sweet distinctive ensemble. Good name for a band.

  8. Like zizka, I do tsup and ‘em, more ofn n not. NoVA/DC.

  9. We do “wuzzup?” and “whuss goin’ awn?” as well as “How y’all fokes doo’in?” but for some of the more educated or older people, a gentle and formal “And how are you today?” in a sort of sing-song.

Speak Your Mind

*