There are ways of saying certain words/places here and ways not to. Just because it's spelled a certain way, doesn't mean the locals pronounce it that way. So next time you're down in the Big Easy, and ask directions, follow these tips:
New Orleans (the city)- is pronounced more like NAW-lins or even NAW-lee-uhns. The city is not New Or-LEENS.
Orleans (the parish)- the name of the parish (county in the other 49 states) where NAWlins is, is pronounced Or-LEENS parish. Confusing yet?
If you need directions to these streets, make sure you pronounce them right:
Rue Chartres is not said like in France as CHAR-truh, but CHAR-ters
Rue Burgundy doesn't stress the first syllable, but the second, so it's bur-GUN-dee.
And don't even try to say Tchipotoulas, just point!
When New Orleans was acquired by the Spanish in 1763, the French settlers accepted their new Spanish cousins with a reasonably minor amount of revolt and bloodshed. It was from this melding of the two cultures, combined with a generous sprinkling of African influences from the slave population, that Creole society and cuisine were born. (The "French" architecture for which the Quarter is famous is actually Spanish, the entire city having burned in 1788 and much of it again in 1794.) France and Spain shared boundaries and social customs, so their citizens lived in relative harmony, but when the United States made the Louisiana purchase in 1803 and New Orleans became American, Mon Dieu! Pas Possible! At that time, a physical and spiritual separation began, with the newly created Canal Street as the boundary, that would last over a century and would further insulate the French Quarter from the bustling city around it.
Many of the streets in New Orleans have French names, which isn't surprising given the city's history. Perhaps its a trick that locals like to play on tourists, but some street names are not pronounced as they appear. We were staying at a hotel on Chartres Street, which we believed was pronounced Char-tre. We learned one night while trying to get directions from some amused locals that the street name is pronounced Char-der, which is more southern than French. Go figure.
First of all, New Orleans is pronounced "Nawlins" by the locals. You might also hear it referred to as "The Big Easy" which is a response to New York's moniker, "The Big Apple." You'll also hear it referred to as "The Crescent City" which refers to the crescent shaped bends in the Mississippi River.
Here are some other New Orleans colloquialisms:
"alligator pear" = avocado
"andouille" (AN-DOO-EE) = spicy sausage used in traditional New Orleans dishes
"banquette" (BAN-KET) = sidewalk
"beignet" (BEN-YAY) = powdered, hole-less doughnut, most notably served at Cafe du Monde
"chickory" = a ground root that spices up coffee
"Krewe" = an organization that parades during Mardis Gras
"lagniappe" (LAN-YAP) = free
"locker" = closet
"Po'Boy" = sandwich made from French bread
The language: Neutral Ground (median between roads), Makin' grocery's (go to the grocery store), Hey to yo' mamma 'n dem (give my best to your family), dressed (put everything on my po'boy), river or lake side (New Orleans sits between Lake Ponchartrain and the Mississippi River...directions are 'up' or 'down' river, and toward the lake or toward the river), earsters & swimps (oysters and shrimp). #1 driving tip: Don't drive in New Orleans! Every driver has the right of way, red lights don't count until the 3rd or 4th car has run it, there are no legal left turns so you have to make them illegally and block all lanes of traffic whenever possible, turn signals (What? Car's have turn signal? Why?). Potholes (they exist everywhere but some are listed as Natural Wonders of the World).
Savour New Orleans, but don't pronounce it New Or-lee-ns, it's N'awlins and proud of it ! This is not France ( although lots of French and French Candian tourists) - but French character, cajuns, creole , jazz and southern hospitality have made it one the best places in the world to visit. Enjoy !
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