How to Speak Cajun English (Or at Least Understand It)

Updated on June 6, 2016

Cajun What???

It may surprise many people to learn that most Cajuns under the age of 50 don't speak French; even those who do don't usually speak it as their first language. However, almost all of us grow up speaking some French, and our vocabulary is full of enough francophone words and mistranslated English phrases that it can be quite confusing to outsiders. (Even Louisiana residents who don't live in Acadiana.)

Cajun English is mostly American English, with a smattering of French words. Occasionally, we use French syntax when we speak English.

Cajun English is so widely used in towns like Ville Platte and Breaux Bridge that many people don't see the difference between Cajun English and American English, so we're not intentionally being difficult. Quite the opposite, generally speaking, Cajuns love visitors and are warm and welcoming to outsiders. However, we tease those we like, and if you look bewildered, we may very well have a bit of fun at your expense.


(Probably your biggest hurdle)

When education became compulsory in Louisiana, Cajun children were forced to go to school and speak English. My three Cajun grandparents all remember brutal punishments at the hands of teachers if they were caught speaking their native language. As a result, they didn't teach my parents to speak French, and so my parents were only able to teach me the little they picked up. While speaking two languages is considered a sign of intelligence and sophistication now, it was considered a sign of ignorance and poverty two generations ago. Becaue of this, most Cajuns you'll meet will speak English, especially if they know you are an outsider. Older Cajuns, and those in rural or isolated communities, usually speak with thicker accents.

Parisian French (the French spoken in France, is soft, and full of S's and C's. Cajun French is more nasal and slower with H's, T's, and D's. Cajun English also differs from the American accents surrounding us. Compared to those with Southern drawls, Cajun English seems rapid and lively; Cajuns often "speak with their hands" and cut out pieces of words.One of the most classic tell-tale signs of a Cajun accent is replacing the "th" combination in English words with D's or T's. ("Wha dat ting ya got?" rather than "What's that thing you have?")

If you speak English as your native language, the following list will be very helpful to you, in beginning to understand the way Cajuns pronounce words. Read the following names as you would in English: Matthew, Lydia, Raphael, Alida, Richard, Granger, Hollier, Hebert,

Cajuns pronounce these names:

Matthew- Ma-chew

Lydia- Lay-ja

Raphael- Ray-feel

Alida- Ah-lee-da

Richard- Re-shard

Granger- Gron-jay

Hollier- Ol-yay

Hebert- A-bear

English usually puts the emphasis on the beginning syllable, while French puts in on the last. In Cajun English, we tend to emphasize the last syllable, as in French, which often makes our speech difficult to understand until outsiders listen carefully.


Idioms are expressions which, if taken literally, usually don't make much sense. In English there is the expression "it's raining cats and dogs" meaning "it's raining very hard". Like societies throughout the world, Acadiana has it's own share of these phrases. Here are some you may hear:

If you are riding in a car with a Cajun, they may ask you, "You wanna get down with me?" when you park somewhere. This means, "Do you want to get out of the car and come in with me?"

If you are working with a Cajun, they may ask you to "save" something; usually this means to put that thing away. (Unless of course, it's obvious that something is in need of actual saving. i.e.- a kitten is about to run into the road.)

Cajuns and Creoles both will say they are going to "make groceries," rather than saying "buy groceries".

"I'm Patton's (pronounced pah-tan-s) duck" means that they are not particular, or don't have a preference of the options available.

"It gave me the frissons" means "It gave me the chills" or "It made me shiver". People who have involuntary muscle spasms, will also dismiss it saying, "I just caught a frisson."

"Pass a good time" means to have fun.

"'Gardes don" (pronounced gahd-A daw(n)) means "look at that".

"My foot" (or "hand" or "head" etc.) is kind of the Cajun version of "Whatever!"

"Mais, J'mais!" is the Cajun equivalent of "But I never!"

Cajun OnStar - (Did I mention that Cajuns like to pick?)

Cajuns love to joke, and will often make themselves look foolish to play with people and see how long they can be strung along.


(Definition: what da pries give ya afta confession)

Okay, that's an old joke. For those of you who don't know what "syntax" means, it is "the way that a sentence is arranged". For the most part, Cajuns speak English in the traditional English/American syntax. There are some ways that Cajun English is unique, though.

When a Cajun is trying to emphasize an affirmative or negative sentence, they will often revert to French syntax. "No, I didn't do that!" becomes "I didn't do that, No!" One of the sweetest ways a Cajun man can express his affections is to say, "I love you, yeah."

We will also add directional pronouns to add emphasize. "Me, I don't have any, no."

Rather than saying "a lot" or "very" Cajuns will often double an adjective. "Don't drink that yet; it's hot hot!" "Have you seen Greg's new truck? It's big big!"

Frequently Used French Words

(Because some things are best expressed in French)

Cher- Forget the woman who sang with Bono, this word isn't pronounced "share;" the correct Cajun pronunciation is "sha" and it means "sweet" or "dear". Cajun women are more prone to say "Cher bebe!" than "What a cute baby!"

Fache- pronounced "Fa-shay" It means "angry" and is thrown into English sentences. "She's really fache now."

Mais la!- "May La" it's an expression of exasperation.

"Mais" means "but" and is often used in place of it in English sentences. "I don't know, mais I've got a good feeling about this."

"Ta Tie" I don't know how to spell this one in French, so I spelled it phonetically. It means a monster, or scary creature. It's also a pet name for little boys, as in, "Come here, you lil ta tie."

"Mange" pronounced "maw-sg-A" means "to eat" and is often used in place of "eat".

"Tres" pronounced "Th-ray" means "very" and "Beaucoup" (boo-coo) means "a lot," both of these are scattered into English sentences.

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    • profile image

      Nikki DePaulo 9 months ago

      Bgbanjo Banjo 14 months ago

      QUOTE: "How would you translate tow wah pas sah? And does anyone remember the significance of the phrase?

      I'm from Ohio but lived in Laplace twice in my life. An old Cajun speaking man told me a story about that phrase while we sat and had a beer together. Acadiana gets in your blood. I'm curious if anyone else knows the story behind the phrase."


      To wah pa sah sounds an awful lot like "You didn't see that?"

      To wah pa ca. To: you/tu Wah: See/voir Pa: pas/not Sah: that/ca

      If I used the phrase, I would be using it like..... You ain see dat?

      If I saw something obvious and the person next to me doesn't see it. I would ask that question... You don't see that?!!!

      To wa pa ca?!! Me... ce dret la devan to figi!

      You don't see that? But.. it's right there in front of your face!

      I'm not using the proper accents, but I'm pretty sure that's what to wah pa sa means. For anyone who cares.

    • profile image

      Plaquemine 10 months ago

      Tah tah - give me that/hand it over

      Mostly used when talking to babies or children who are playing with things they aren't supposed to have. You wouldn't use tah tah when talking to an adult.

    • profile image

      redheadednanna 10 months ago

      Being from Ville Platte, the "Swamp Pop Capital of the World" as designated by the LA legislature and home of The Louisiana Swamp Pop Museum, I mentioned "Swamp Pop" on the internet meaning Swamp Pop music. Someone (obviously NOT from south Louisiana!) asked what flavor the pop was! I had never thought of the term Swamp Pop as a soft drink, although as kids we called any soft drink "pop".

    • profile image

      Heather Gautreaux Rose 11 months ago

      I am a GAUTREAUX (gotro)

      We always referred to a monster as a ba bat. Has anyone else?? I may be spelling it wrong.

    • profile image

      Pola 13 months ago

      How do you say, "We will be killed" in Cajun?

    • profile image

      Lindsay W 16 months ago

      But they meant gratin at the bottom of the pot.

      Gra-deaux is the dirty stuff between your toes. You don't want dat in ya pot sha!

    • profile image

      Opelousas 19 months ago

      The stuff at the bottom of the pot is roux (rue)

    • profile image

      Dean Mallet 20 months ago

      (Es -pez)-"phonetic spelling" is another great Cajun expression showing annoyance and or disdain towards someone's actions or character.

      For example: Espez d'avocat (Your some sort of lawyer!) i.e.: person is or acting as a smart alleck.

    • profile image

      Nancygail75 20 months ago

      I have a friend who taught her little girl to be gentle with babies by saying something that sounds likes, "Tah tah" as she gently patted the baby. Anybody know what this means? The friend said it's what her Cajun grandmother always said when she taught little ones to be gentle with babies.

    • profile image

      Merry 22 months ago

      Pi-let is not a fly swatter itself it's what the fly swatted will do to your hind end . If you pi-let (pee-lay) something you break or destroy it . Just one thing I noticed that cajun people tend to do. Shaws doesn't mean "you" it means "thing" and inanimate object that you can't remember the name of becomes a Shaws but we tend to direct it towards people as well . There are different dialects all over the state, each region seems to have different meaning for at least a handful of words . One of those words here in Central Lafourche Parish is Moblian broken down mo blee ahn it's what we call a box turtle but in Breaux Bridge you'd get your" mout washed out wit soap" for saying it as there it refers to a part of the female anatomy .

    • profile image

      Owen 23 months ago

      to bgbanjo: Do you mean Tu veux passe. That was often use to scare off dogs or kids.

    • profile image

      Owen 23 months ago

      Don't forget the ultimate nasty: zirable (zee rob)

    • securityny profile image

      Fire Stone 23 months ago from NY

      learn a lot of on the reading common .Thanks for everybody

    • Bgbanjo Banjo profile image

      Bgbanjo Banjo 23 months ago

      How would you translate tow wah pas sah? And does anyone remember the significance of the phrase?

      I'm from Ohio but lived in Laplace twice in my life. An old Cajun speaking man told me a story about that phrase while we sat and had a beer together. Acadiana gets in your blood. I'm curious if anyone else knows the story behind the phrase.

    • profile image

      Lydia 23 months ago

      Some of My Lafayette and Abbeville relatives called me "Leed ja." It was hilarious to me since I was raised in west Louisiana, & this wasn't common.

    • profile image

      Come See-Come Here 23 months ago

      T'Bo-My friend Bo

      Peh-Peh Tan- SOB

    • profile image

      Ruth H 2 years ago

      I lived in Lafayette for 30 years. I noticed a long time ago that every town and village has an accent all their own. It is very interesting. The Cajuns know where you are from by listening, they don't have to ask. Also back in the 1980's a cookbook came out named "whose your mama?" because that is something everyone wants to know. Making connections is somtimes easy because so many are related from way back.

    • profile image

      Matt T. 2 years ago

      Very enjoyable reading of comments- brought back beaucoup fond memories.

      Tanks y'all.

    • profile image

      April M 2 years ago

      And Cush Cush is fried corn meal you eat with milk and sugar.

      Corn bread is baked in the oven. You also eat "dat", with milk and sugar.

      Some of us here also like peanut butter or coffee with our " Cush Cush or Corn Bread."

      Yes! The peanut butter or coffee (or both), go in the bowl with the "Cush Cush or Corn Bread," milk, and sugar...


      The Cush Cush is always fried in a "Black Pot" as we call it. Normal people would call it a "Cast Iron" pot.

      But, Us Cajuns are just not

      And we ALL love that word " Y' ALL!!!"

      "Y'all" know, us Cajuns love a good time "yeah!"

      What is a Bizarre?

      We have "Festivals" here.

      And "Dem dare festivals" sure are fun, "YEAH SHA."

      I have so enjoyed this little piece on my true bad english yeah!

      Only us Cajuns understand the way we talk. We get it. I was sitting here laughing my butt off at the responses, cause I'm like yeah that's

      Thank you all for the great laughs tonight! I really needed that tonight!!!

      And you know, us Cajuns know NO strangers!

      We wave to everybody, tell everybody hi, and ask everybody "How ya doin?" like we have known them for years :)

      And, even if someone brings a friend with them to your house (stranger to you), you know, we HAVE to feed 'em!

      Especially if we think "dey" to "skinny Sha!"

      And, that is just a few of the reasons, this lady here, is a VERY PROUD CAJUN!!!

    • profile image

      April M 2 years ago

      Around here we all say, "Coke."

      My grandmother had so many grandkids and great grand kids...

      She would run through about 4-5 names then say...

      Shaus? Not sure if I spelled that correctly or not. It means "you."

      My grandmother would look at you after saying that and say, you know your name!

      And, you all know the movie "Water Boy"...

      We Cajuns are known for dropping them " R's"!!!

      I never realized just how bad I spoke until I married a Hillbilly! He just had to point it out! No longer married...

      For instance...

      Yawn here = Yarn

      Diarrhea here = Dia rear

      Ask here = Axe

      Specific here = Pacific

      Cooler here = coola

      Dollar here = dolla

      Fly Swatter here = Pi Let (not sure on the spelling.)

      If you misbehaved, my grandmother would grab the "Pi Let" and ask you if you wanted to "Smell It!" You knew that awesome lady was no longer playin around then, Sha ;)

      Some around here pronounce "Sink" as "Zink."

      Or, "Golf" is " Gulf". Like... Hey, you wanna play a game of "Gulf" today?

      Oh and this one...

      Refrigerator here = Ice Box!!!

      Yes! We know "Ice Boxes" did exist way back when...

      Here in real Southern Louisiana...

      WE ALL STILL HAVE ICE BOXES for our refrigerators!

      Oh, or this one...

      Go put that on the "cabinet."

      We don't say...

      Go put that on the "counter!"

      What is a couch?

      We have "SOFA'S" here!

      What is Dinner?

      I've always know it to be "Lunch" or "Supper."

      Now back to that hillbilly...

      We call Long Johns, Long Johns...

      Where he is from they call them "Long Handles." Yep, that one through me!

      And, we do say, I heard you..

      Not...I Heerd you as them hillbillies do where he is from :)

      And they say we talk bad? Ummm...okay ;)

    • profile image

      JulieB 2 years ago

      Im curious...while in Houma I had someone ask me how old my son was..."How old he is?" Is that because of direct translation from French to English?

    • profile image

      Derla 2 years ago

      Gratin=stuff stuck on bottom of the pot. Grah-tain(nasal "n")

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      Carolyn 2 years ago

      OK, I cannot remember what the stuff stuck to the bottom of a pot is called. You scrape it up when you are making gravy. Can someone help me? I want to say gra-deaux, but I don't know why.

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      Halfcajun 2 years ago

      My cousins said 'pop' for soda all the time. They were from Franklin.

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      Don 2 years ago

      "Beaux ceaux" ain't right. C'est "beaucoup", chere, arright? Na, y'all pass a good time, yeah?

    • profile image

      Rachel Galatas 2 years ago

      Yep...even if you buy a root beer. You tell people that you are "getting a coke"

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      New Iberia 2 years ago

      Don't forget Nanny and Parain (pah ran)!

    • profile image

      Plaquemine 2 years ago

      I am from Plaquemine Louisiana and I ain't never in my life heard a Cajun say pop. Is coke no matter what brand it is.

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      nannysquish 2 years ago

      cuhon ... mercy (merci) means thank you, and godfather is pah-rain

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      Wendy 2 years ago

      Hard head Is Tet Dur

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      Jenn 2 years ago

      pistoche ( pronounced pee stawsh) means peanut or an endearing sweet term for a little one... Thra-ca( pronounced thraw caw) means bull crap, in reference to a lie... Beaux ceaux (pronounced boo coo) meaning a lot

    • profile image

      cuhon 2 years ago


    • profile image

      cuhon 2 years ago


      Ma la sha....gosh darn

      Gaston...boy elderly women of statue

      Pieroux...canoe stick


      Excuzamias...excuse me

      Crawdads'....crawfish...or mud bugs



      Prayer...godfather (misspelled ) or land

      BAe...for a friend

      Mum...addresses a mother you don't know her name , it replaces ma am.

      Pop...soda or coke


      Cush cush....corn bread sugar and milk

      Kush mout....a demon that huants your awaking lucid dreams

    • profile image

      Sabrina LeBlanc 2 years ago

      Lydia = Leda

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      J. Fontenot 2 years ago

      Great fun!

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      Chase Patin 2 years ago

      Under the idioms section the term like Pattons(pronounced pah-tan-s) Duck the name is actually spelled Patin not Patton. I have been asked how's my duck been doing my entire life

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      David Tadlock 2 years ago

      Coullion - pr=Cool Yaw

      I got called this all the time by my grandmother 'Nonnie'. Meant crazy or goofy acting... so I get it honest.

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      Gaudet 2 years ago

      I'M from a tiny remote are called Bayou Pigeon. Now it's all over T.V.

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      T. Berthelot 2 years ago

      As a child in the 60's in the Pierre Part area,bah ti' had 2 meanings.

      1. A card game called Battle in English.

      2. A large flying insect of unknown origins.

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      Mike McBride 2 years ago

      We forgot the fishermen here in Acadiana area, a Crappie be it white are black is only in this area called a ( Sacaulait ) if you go anywhere else in Louisiana it's a white perch.

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      maisreellement 2 years ago

      I love articles like this one—the fact that our language in Louisiana is infused with French makes our state so unique! It also saddens me a little because I’ve been able to make a long-term observation, and it is clear that our Cajun language is slowly diminishing. I’ve been a French teacher for 28 years now in a small town in South Louisiana. When I began teaching, all my students knew and used the expressions mentioned in the article! As the years (decades!) have passed, fewer and fewer students recognize them. Now they look at me like I’m crazy when I ask them if they’ve heard words like these. I see this as a loss of culture. Additionally, some students now would rather study Spanish because they hear and see more of it around them. I don’t know what could help the situation, but it sure makes me sad…

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      kat 2 years ago

      We've been visiting Acadia for about 9 years now and learn something new every time. I was heartbroken this winter to speak with Mary at the Jeanerette Museum and learn of the eradication of French by the schools. We love in Vermont on the Quebec border and though the French spoken there is not Parisian it is universally spoken. It is by law the official language of the Province and businesses are required to answer their phones in French and all dual language brochures etc are displayed with the French version out. There are fines imposed if either of these rules are broken. How I wish we'd been a bit more supportive of the culture of our French Louisiana neighbors. Things have certainly changed now, with Government materials in Spanish and Italian and French right along with English--our immigrants are not required to learn English anymore. Quel domage.

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      Anji 2 years ago

      I am from Mamou third gen, ti tie was a bug and be tie was an amimal

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      Chris 2 years ago

      I have grown up in the Heart of Acadiana, Eunice. I do have a bit of information to your "Ta Tie". This word is considered a racist remark when speaking to an older person of color in Louisiana. When my parents were young and even decades before them, "Ta Tie" was what Cajuns would call black people to scare their children into acting proper. Most people do not know this, but if you ask an older Cajun they will inform you to shut your mouth and not say that in front of a older black person.

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      crystal 2 years ago

      Tat du I think that how u spell it means hard head

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      Christine 2 years ago

      wonderful....more more more

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      Carolyn 2 years ago

      Thank you! Totally enjoyed reading this Cajun refresher. We heard these a lot growing up: omplot for clumsy, crapoe for frog or booger, gran zeu for big eyes, no ma mon for no way, ga de don for look at that. Plz help me out with the phonetics if u understand these terms!

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      Devin Farley 2 years ago

      Something that was left out, which I believe is curcual to proper interpretation is all of the "idioms" are a result of direct, literal translation from french to English.

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      Tilden G 2 years ago

      Ta Tie is what parents tell little kids when they're about to get spanked... Ima Ta Tie Ya.

      The monster is better known as a Ba Tie (bay-tie)... Ya betta behave or the Ba Tie is gonna get ya, yea!

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      Josh 2 years ago

      Lagniappe - A little extra something given to someone. Pronounced lon-yop.

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      Melissa G 2 years ago

      Don't forget "gree mee" with a rolling gr, which means extra small, a speck, like "whatcha sweep off da floor."

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      Debra Turner 2 years ago

      Also last names that end with eaux is pronounced "o", Thibodeaux (Thibodo).

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      Beth 2 years ago

      I grew up in South Louisiana, but the area I lived in was pretty Germanic in origin, so I don't have the typical "Cajun" accent...but my Pawpaw is a Fontenot from Eunice, so I have plenty of experience! Haha!

      I thought my speech was pretty "clean" so to speak, but I realized my first year teaching at a school in Texas, that I was somewhat mistaken. I was at my desk and asked a student to "come see." She looked at me like I had spoken another language! She had no idea what I wanted, but I thought I was pretty clear! I had to say "come over here" so that she knew what I meant!

      And then one time I was on the phone with a friend from Phoenix. He asked what I was doing, and I said I was "fixing dinner." He asked what was wrong with it! I was so confused at first! Nothing was wrong with it; I just meant that I was preparing dinner. Love it!!

    • LeiahS64 profile image

      LeiahS64 2 years ago

      What a great article! I love that our kids have the grands call them Tauntie and Nonky (taunte & nonc). Also until I saw it in print, I thought my husband's great grandmother's name was Leenah but really was Lena. Same thing with his Taunte "Mahryee" who was Taunte Marie.

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      Nely Marcantel 2 years ago

      My wife and me have the "Duhon" argument all the time. She says "Doo-hon", I say " Doo-yon".

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      Trudy Armstrong 2 years ago

      My maiden name is Guillory. We pronounce it Gil'-re. Not Guil-or-ee like many non Cajuns do. But I know it's not their fault. They're not Cajun pav-bet (poor things)!

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      MikeMcBride 2 years ago

      Y'all forgot Boo dey it means to pout or to be sad.

    • CK Leger profile image

      CK Leger 2 years ago

      Lydia was actually my great-aunt's name. The whole family pronounced it "Lay-ja" and I had no clue it was actually Lydia until I read her obituary. My married name is Leger, which I find is pronounced "Lay-jay" so that there's a long "A" sound at the end. (Whereas "ja" is kind of like a Nordic "yes" or the beginning of the word "jolly"). None of the pronunciations are professionally done, by any stretch of the imagination. Anyway, I'm glad so many people are enjoying this, it's kind of crazy that it's gone viral after three years, lol. Thanks for reading!

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      Sonny 2 years ago

      I lived in the lowcountry of South Carolina. .peeps from the islands are called Geechies..the drawl sounds a lot like cajole. .not the same. I was told its because of the slave traders. The prominent families of both SC and Lower Louisiana ...don no

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      Diana 2 years ago

      Many different dialect of Cajun French & English. Grew up in Evangeline parish. Met people from breaux bridge when I moved to Lafayette Have friend from around Houma & different dialect for sure. Enjoyed video. Ma chere I did ya

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      krissa 2 years ago

      Lydia - lay jah is what they meant..

      Leger - lay jae

      It's a matter of long a or short a in the last syllable

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      Bradleyscott74 2 years ago

      You forgot Deax Deax (Dough Dough) for "go to sleep" lay down... Go Deax Deax

    • profile image

      telesma 2 years ago

      Also, "Lydia" is pronounced "Leedja." At least that's what they called my great aunt.

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      telesma 2 years ago

      "Ta tie" is spelled "tataille."

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      Me 2 years ago

      Thank you, Cajun634, I was wondering how they got that from Lydia. :)

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      cajun634 2 years ago

      Leger is Lay ja not Lydia

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      Angie 2 years ago

      Cajun Onstar is a classic! Poo-yie!

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      Jason Melancon 2 years ago

      Great site. I would like to point out that "ta tie" for monster is spelled tataille and pronounced just like "ta tie" as you have it.


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