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Information on Cajuns & How to Act Cajun

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The Cajuns came to Louisiana about 1755, adapted to life along the water and learned some of the English language. They brought the Canadian French language with them from the Nova Scotia area, and learned some English. There were some words and phrases that did not translate well, and some they shortened over time.

The primary Louisiana Cajun country is called Acadiana, the land of the Cadiens, or Cajuns.

How to Emulate a Cajun:

  1. Learn the directions for north and south. The Cajun language is actually a dialect, and there are different Cajun dialects from Southwest Louisiana to South Central Louisiana and east to New Orleans. Some words are unique to a certain area, up the bayou (North) or down the bayou (South)— that's "up de bayoo".
  2. Know the original purpose of Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is a Cajun holiday, since most were Catholic long before they came to Louisiana. Fat Tuesday before Ash Wednesday called for celebration and was a fais do-do or street dance that continues to this day in many of the Southern Louisiana towns as well as New Orleans, where it has become a national event. "Mardi" is Tuesday, while "Gras" is fat, so in typical French tradition, the order of the words is "Tuesday fat".
  3. Have fun with some idiomatic expressions. In addition to the reversal of the noun and adjective, the Cajuns have some unusual expressions that are non-standard in French or English, developing into idioms. "Ya wanna get down?" is not a dance. It means "Are you getting out of the car." Cajuns say, "I went pass by" and "I went stay" and "I went go". Panties are "step-ins" and the kids are "chirren". The garden hose is the "hose pipe."
  4. Know how the language evolved. For many years, the Cajun language was an insular one, not taught in the schools. By the 1980s, some schools were teaching French, but not actually the Cajun dialect, and understandably so, because it does not conform to English grammar or pronunciation standards. It was difficult to teach English one hour and "non-standard" English the next.
  5. Understand the culture. The Cajuns have some superstitions, and believe in curses, or gris-gris. They also believe in herbal remedies. Their name for the goldenrod is "pis au lis" and goldenrod tea has been an herbal remedy for the urinary tract for centuries. Lis is a lily. You know the rest.

See our other articles on Cajuns and Cajun Culture.

Here's another article on Cajun language: