The Murderess of Bayou Rosa: A Glossary

When my mother started school, she knew one sentence of English: “My name is Vivian.” The language she grew up speaking–Louisiana or Cajun French–was not allowed at school. To get ahead in the world, you had to speak English, so the native language was suppressed. If children who’d never heard or spoken a word of English spoke French at school, their knuckles or palms could be rapped with a ruler.

murderess coverBoth of my parents grew up speaking the local Louisiana French, but at home, they spoke English, with the occasional drop of a French word or phrase. My mother often dreamed in French, but they didn’t teach it to their children. As a result, my generation did not learn our native language–one of my great regrets.

When I started writing about Louisiana, I chose to slip in Louisiana French words whenever I could. It was my small contribution in keeping the language alive. I speak English, write and read in English, but when I wrote The Murderess of Bayou Rosa, I emulated my parents–English with the occasional drop of a French word or phrase.

For readers of Murderess, here’s a glossary to help you along:

Glossary to Murderess of Bayou Rosa

Arrête  – stop

Bastid – bastard

Bien, tres bien – good, very good

Bien merci – thank you very much

Bébé – baby

Bête – stupid

Bon ami – good friend

Bon chance – good luck!

Bon de rein – good for nothing; a wastrel.

Bon soir/Bon nuit – good morning/god evening

Bonjour – Good morning or hello

Boille – a boiled custard

Café au lait – coffee with cream

Capon – coward

C’est dommage – It is sad. It’s a shame.

C’est vrais – It’s true; it’s the truth.

Cher – dear

Cherie – dear or darling

Cochon – pig

Comment ça va – How are you doing?

Comme si, comme ça – so-so “Like this, like that.”

Couillion – a stupid person

Defin, morte – dead, death

Doyo – a bumbling or silly person, a fool.

Etouffee – type of stew

Fou – crazy

Fonchok – a jerk, a dick. Chok is slang for penis.

Grandmere/grandpere – grandmother/grandfather

Gros – big

Haint – a ghost or spirit

Haunt – embarrassed

Le Bon Dieu – The Good Lord

Ma belle – an endearment, my pretty girl.

Ma vieille – an endearment, my dear. Translates to “my old lady.”

Maintenant – now

Mais – but

Mais la – “So there.” An expression of exasperation.

Mais non, mais oui – But no/but yes

Macareau – a ladies man; a flirt

Malhereux – unfortunate; sometimes exasperation

Mamere – mother

Marais – swamp or marshy area

Merci – thank you

Merde – shit

Mêre Marie – Mother Mary

Mon Dieu – My God

Moudee – damn

Pain perdu – “Lost Bread,” a Cajun dish like a bread pudding

Pardon – Excuse me

Pauvre – poor but as an expression of sympathy: Poor George, his dog died

Pere Noel – Father Christmas

Petite – endearment meaning “little one”

Poudee – rotten, smelly

Pour l’amour de Dieu – For the love of God

Putain – a fallen woman; prostitute

Salop – a messy person; slob

Traiteure – local healer

Travester – travesty. “That’s a shame.”

Je suis tres desole – “I am very sorry.”

S’il vous plait – If you please; please