Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I Envy Me Some Etouffee

My WIP, Bayou Blue, takes place in south Louisiana...the Bayou. So I need to portray the common style of speech there. I am beginning to understand what people's "Good Luck With That" looks mean when I say I'm going to learn some Cajun.
Uh...its English, but not. Like my Australian friend when I first met her. She was saying words I knew...but still had no idea what she was saying.

I think this will be both fun and challenging. I've been on some sites about Cajun cooking, even found one that gave sayings and their meanings. Its called Louisiana Cajun Slang and was very helpful. So was the very organized Terry Eymard's Guide to Bayou Cajun Words & Expressions.

I've learned some interesting ways to express myself. I thought I knew me some French...this is really, really different.

I wanted to say that I needed to mop, I'd say: I'm about to pass a  mop.
Or maybe I got scared and got goose bumps: I got the freesons!

Some of the words are just French blended right in with the English...Mais (well). "Maise I don't want to go, but..."
Or..."Don't be so coullion (coo-yon) which means foolish.

Over all though, it is reminescent of my own family's "Spanglish" a mixture of Spanish, English, and made up words like carro (car) in which the actual Spanish word for car is coche...so I think I may be able to get some phrasing down enought to write my book.

I hope some real life Cajuns out there are willing to help a writer portray the culture accurately. If you do speak Cajun, or spot any mistakes, please feel free to let me know. That is all for now. I shall see you all on June 4th for the Dream Sequence Blogfest over at Amalia T.'s blog.

Until next time, my friends...Go Write!

Photograph by Natalie Maynor, Uploaded on October 25, 2005. Photograph by HarshLight, Uploaded on January 3, 2010.


Erin Kane Spock said...

"I'm about to pass a mop" sounds like a painful experience. :)

Courtney Barr - The Southern Princess said...

Hey Darl'n! I love that you are tackling Cajun! We have a few around here in South Alabama that hail from the Bayou and well sometimes I just smile and nod because heaven help me on the decipher'n! lol

You will get it - I have faith in you - it will be wonderful!

Visit My Kingdom Anytime

Creepy Query Girl said...

That's so funny. My character isn't cajun but spent three years living in louisiana and her best friend was cajun french so I've been trying to find some authentic expressions meself. 'frissons' are goosebumps in parisian french as well.

Mary McDonald said...

Omg! Erin, I about died laughing at your comment.

Raquel, sorry I don't have any experience with the bayou. About the closest I could come is I watched the latest Disney movie that was set there. One of the characters spoke with a heavy accent that I assume was what you're looking for. Darn, I can't recall the name of the movie. It's the latest Disney Princess one though.

Janet Johnson said...

Love it! The mixture makes me laugh. Sometimes I forget what's what, it took me a minute to realize your examples weren't all English. I think I could enjoy some good convo with some cajuns. :)

Thanks for sharing!

Tessa Conte said...

hehe rather difficult to get accents right in the first place, and I think that might be one of the most difficult...I guess maybe along with french canadian...

Have you read any Tami Hoag books? Some of them play in the bayou and she has a good mixture of 'proper' english and dialect/sayings.

stu said...

I know nothing about the accent/dialect, but what I will say is be careful not to overdo it. As someone from another region with a well known accent, more than a few hints at it written down spill over into caricature.

The comedian Dave Gorman once pointed out about the Birmingham (Warwickshire, not your one) accent that he didn't want to write that way, because presumably readers from Birmingham read with the accent too, leading to the possibility of a brummie accent squared, and no one needs that in their life.

Raquel Byrnes said...

You crack me up,Stu. Thank you all for the great advice. I actually found a guy who knows a guy who will talk to me about this. =)

Jill Kemerer said...

You have to go over to Angie Ledbetter's Gumbo Writer blog. Read through some of her older posts--you'll see what I mean! Plus, she's really entertaining.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Have you seen the first seasson of TRUE BLOOD? There is a Cajun man, Rene, in every episode. If you can rent season one at BLOCKBUSTER, you might get a feel of what a Cajun French accent sounds like among North Lousiana folks.

Not everyone in Louisiana sounds the same.

Just a thought. Roland

Raquel Byrnes said...

ooh good idea, Roland. I'll rent it. *clapping* Yay!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

How fun! I'll have to keep checking these comments to see what others come up with for help. As for me, I'm clueless. Ha ha ha. :-)

Erin Kane Spock said...

In my first book I did the dialogue in Elizabethan Olde English (BBC level, not die hard Beowulf original translations). I paid a ton of attention to formal vs informal and the differences in speech based on social status. My sister (who had just read Wuthering Heights) said I hadn't gone extreme enough with one of the characters accent so I worked through it.

The first publisher who wanted to read the first three chapters asked me to change it all into more modern English before I submitted the full ms to her. :( All that work, and the only evidence of it is and occasional 'Anon' and fewer contractions than would be found in casual in American English.

That said, yours is contemporary and adding the Cajun will help develop your environment.