Rule number one: kindly refrain from saying Noo Or-leens. Although it has a pleasant ring to it when sung (especially when it rhymes with dreams and Creole queens), it is not at all proper in Southern conversation. Of course, if you're a Yankee and proud of it, by all means fling about Noo Orleens. Folks will know immediately.
Okay, so it's difficult in print. But what it is not is Noo Orleens. However... now you pay close attention 'cause this is tricky... you will also be recognized as an out-o-towner if you do not say Orleens when referring to Orleans Parish or Orleans Street. It is Orleens Parish and Orleens Street.
Y'all may want to practice a little b'foah you get heah!
CAJUNS AND CREOLES
These days the lower-case adjective "creole" describes virtually anything indigenous to this region, be it a tomato or a house. As a noun with a capital "C", a Creole is a person, and therein hangs a tale. By some definitions, virtually everyone in New Orleans seems to be a Creole. By others, there's hardly anyone who measures up. Strictly speaking, a New Orleans Creole is a descendant of an early French or Spanish settler, "born in the colony," not in Europe. According to most dictionaries, Creole comes from the same Latin root as the word "create," with the French creating their "Creole" from the Spanish "criollo." Over time, this went from denoting a person born of Spanish parents overseas to a person born similarly of French parents. A child of the colonies, in either case. Yet Creole can also mean a mix of African-American and white parentage, or even undiluted African-American. The Cajuns of South Louisiana are descendants of French colonists who, more than 350 years ago, settled in what are now the Canadian maritime provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. They called their home in the New World "l'Acadie" and they were known as Acadiens. "Cajun" is a corruption of the anglicized word, Acadian. The British, who took possession of that territory in the 18th century, expelled the Acadians. Thousands of the Cajuns eventually settled in South Louisiana.
The French Quarter
..is also called the Vieux Carre' ("view ka-ray"), which means "old square." Matter of fact, if you look for a "French Quarter" exit off the Interstate you'll be out of luck -- it's the "Vieux Carre'" exit!
If you happen to hail from Brooklyn, New York, you'll likely feel right at home in New Orleans. Many Crescent City residents speak a soft, Southernesque version of the fabled "dese, dem, and dose" lingo usually associated with that northern port city. The word "port" is operative: New York and New Orleans are cities with ports (and quite colorful pasts), and immigrants from the Old Country populated each. A many-splendored blending of nationalities created the similar sounds. New Orleans, incidentally, is not a typical Dixie city, and you'll rarely hear the stereotypical Southern accent here.
The term "neutral ground," which to all Orleanians means the median in a road, dates back to the early days when the wide strip of land that's now Canal Street served as the neutral ground dividing the French Quarter and the American Sector.
The Language of New Orleans
Its tone, lilt, and slang are indigenous to this city and reflect its ethnic history and tradition. New Orleans is part of the deep south, but you won't find much of a stereotypical southern drawl; in fact, there are several distinctive dialects. One of the most surprising is a Brooklynese style heard in the 9th Ward, Irish Channel, and Chalmette sections of New Orleans. Little or no French is spoken by the majority of folks in New Orleans, but it isn't without the French influence.
Aside from having everyday words and expressions that aren't used elsewhere in the States, New Orleanians throughout the city give meaning to and pronounce certain words their own way. Many of them are related to...(no surprise here!)...food! See a list of cajun food terms on NewOrleansRestaurants.com
Ball - (ball masque, tableau ball) a themed masked ball, where the krewe royalty is presented to the club members.
Banquette - (ban' ket) Sidewalk--French meaning a small bank along the road.
Boogalee (perhaps from AmFr (Cajun) 'bougre' ('fellow'), otherwise obscure). A slang term, often deragatory, for a resident of coastal Louisiana of mixed European, Amerindian and perhaps some African heritage. The group is noted for insularity and is distinct from the more famous and numerous Cajuns, Creoles and Islenos. Their nearly-lost pigdin language has elements of Chitimatchi, Portugese and French, among others. The term 'calico' is often applied.
Marc provided me with this correct definition. Thanks!
Bayou - (by' you) Slow stream, or body of water running through a marsh or swamp.
Beaucoup Crasseux - (boo coo cra sue) Translated: very dirty organization.
Big Easy - Nickname for New Orleans.
Boeuf Gras - (French word) this is a large bull or ox, which represents the ancient symbol of the last meal before the Lenten season of fasting.
Boucherie (Boo-Cher-Ree) - A festive hog killing where neighbors are invited. This was a cajun's definition for the boucherie.
Boudin (boo-dan) - Hot, spicy pork mixed with onions, cooked rice, herbs, and stuffed in sausage casing.
Bourre' - (BOO' ray) Translated: A French card game. "Wildly popular way to gamble on the old riverboats, and still is amoung Cajuns. Makes high-stakes poker look like Old Maid- it's that viscious!"
Cafe Brulot - (caf-ay broo-loh) This dramatic after-dinner brew is a blend of hot coffee, spices, orange peel, and liqueurs. It is blended in a chafing dish, ignited, and served in special cups.
Calliope Street - (Cal' i ope) (The ope said like rope--no "e" heard) Don't ask where "Cal-lie-o-pea" is, nobody will understand what street you're looking for!
Cajun - (kay' jun) French Acadians that settled here from Canada.
Camelback - (cam' l bak) A single row house with the back half made into a two story. The front section remains a single.
Captain - This is the leader of each Carnival organization.
Carnival (from Latin carnivale) - translated to be farewell to the flesh (the feast of Epiphany) to midnight on Fat Tuesday (the day before Lent). The party season before Mardi Gras, starts on January 6 (the Twelfth Night). Celebrated with Kingcakes at Mardi Gras parties.
Cher - New Orleans Translation: An expression many use when greeting another..."Dear, Love"
Creole (cree-ol) - The word originally described those people of mixed French and Spanish blood who migrated from Europe or were born in Southeast Louisiana and lived as sophisticated city or plantation dwellers. The term has expanded and now embraces a type of cuisine and a style of architecture.
Crescent City - A nickname for New Orleans, originating from the shape of the Mississippi River as it bends around the city.
Den - Mardi Gras float warehouse
Crescent City Connection - Twin bridges connecting the Eastbank with the Westbank.
If you're alert, determined, and here long enough, you might be able to figure out which way is north, south, east or west. New Orleanians don't use such mundane directions, because the serpentine Mississippi River, which carved out the croissant-shaped land mass upon which the Crescent City sits, renders them virtually useless. Instead, we let our waterways call the shots: Downriver (or downtown); upriver (or uptown); lakeside (toward Lake Pontchartrain); and riverside (toward Old Man River). Absolutely no one here would propose meeting on a southwest or northeast corner of anything, because there's really no such place. It takes a bit of practice, but you'll eventually grow accustomed to corners we call "downtown lakeside", "uptown riverside," and so on. Good luck!
New Orleanians are particularly cantankerous when it comes to pronunciations of local streets. The city was founded by French settlers who christened the streets in the French Quarter, so you'd think Gallic names would roll right off our tongues. But you would be wrong. Chartres is said like the English word "charters;" Conti is pronounced "con-tie" and the "gun" in Burgundy is stressed. Many an Orleanian refers to "Eye-berville" Street, and you already know about Orleans Street. Carondelet is a Spanish word, stressed on the second and fourth syllables, and the latter is pronounced just like "let."
Clio is "Clie-o;" Melpomene is "Mel-po-meen;" Calliope is "Cal-y-ope;" and we dance around poor Terpsichore to the tune of "Turp-see-core."
And while we're on the subject of streets, a sidewalk here is called a banquette. That's the French word for bench, and of course we mangle it to "ban-ket." In the early days, sidewalks were made of wood with a slightly raised bench-like edge on the street side that helped protect the ladies' skirts from the mud and mire.