Learnin’ the Lingo

New Orleans’ speak is none like any other.  Instead of grocery shopping, you’re “making groceries.”  Instead of “hello and how are you,” people in these parts ask “where y’at?”  And when grandpa’s in New Orleans, he’s better known as “Paw Paw.”

The pronunciations are even worse.  Locals come to fisticuffs over the how to say the street name “Milan” and if you’re driving on “Burgundy,” you best not say it like the wine.  Down here it’s brr-GUN-dee.  Calliope is pronounced like the instrument if you’re on the Steamboat Natchez, but if you’re driving on the street or in the projects it’s called cal-EE-oap.  I’m guessing the founders of this great city were knee deep in sazeracs when they came up with these.

Given the twisted talk in these parts, it came as no surprise housing lingo was a bit ass-backwards as well.

In the historic neighborhoods you’ll find mansions and non-mansions.  We (obviously) purchased the latter.  Most homes are divided into two styles, Victorian or Arts and Crafts.  Our home was built around 1880 and therefore falls into the Victorian (and old-as-shit) category.

Here’s where it gets tricky.  Most Victorians in New Orleans (which aren’t sprawling mansions on St. Charles) were originally built as “shotguns” or “shotgun” doubles.  It’s commonly believed they got that name because you could shoot a gun through the front door and straight out the back, without hitting a single wall.  Others say it’s because they were built out of shotgun-shell crates.  John Vlach’s book says the name reflects African heritage, a corruption of the term to-gun, which means “place of assembly.”

Because it’s tight quarters living in three to five rooms with no hallway, many of the homes have second story additions, known as “camel-backs.”  Other shotgun doubles are converted into single-family homes or in our case, a converted double with one large unit and one smaller studio apartment.

Since we also have a camel-back, New Orleans lingo deems our new home a “130 year old Victorian converted camel-back shotgun double.”  I hope you got all that.

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