• lagniappe •
Pronunciation: læn-yæp • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A bonus gift given to a customer in gratitude for his or her business. 2. A bonus or extra value of any kind.
Notes: Look out for the pronunciation of GN in words from Romance languages like Italian and French; they are often pronounced [nyuh], as in lasagna, cognac, and poignant. Today's word is pronounced this way. It was borrowed directly from the Acadian ('Cajun') French of Louisiana. In Life on the Mississippi (1883) Mark Twain wrote, "We picked up one excellent word—a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word, lagniappe." In the English-speaking US we are more accustomed to the customer's giving the seller a gratuity, a tip, just the opposite of a lagniappe.
In Play: Today's word is a great way to impress others with the depth of your vocabulary: "Pat Agonia is so nice, dad: she gave me a puppy as a lagniappe for taking one of the kittens!" Nowadays, any unexpected bonus passes muster as a lagniappe: "Ally Louya would have enjoyed the picnic even if her boss hadn't fallen into the creek. That was a lovely lagniappe for tolerating him week in and week out."
Word History: Although the spelling of today's Good Word makes its immediate origin in Louisiana French Creole (Acadian) clear, that language borrowed it from American Spanish la ñapa [nyahpah] "the gift". Spanish la "the" is derived from Latin illa, feminine of ille "that". The same pronoun is also the origin of French le and la, which also mean "the". (In fact, English the originated as an unaccented variant of that.) The noun ñapa is even more interesting. It comes from yapa, which means "additional gift" in the South American Indian language Quechua, from the verb yapay "to give more." (Thanks to Brock Putnam for reminding us of this lexical lagniappe from French Creole.)