Sometimes the most delicious gift is a new word!

The other day I was packaging up my red shoe piece, as I attached the nail and hanger with a little piece of tape little miss P asked what that was for.  Before I could say anything, Jeff said, “oh that is a lagniappe (pronounced LAN-yap)”.

“What?” I said

“A lagniappe.  It’s used in New Orleans, it’s a little something extra” he said.

I LOVE IT!  And went straight to my authority on New Orleans to find a suitable discription to share with you.

In Life on the Mississippi, Mark Twain wrote about lagniappe in the chapter on New Orleans.

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 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 finished 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.”

I’m off to spread a little lagniappe!


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