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Lagniappe

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Lagniappe

Postby Dr. Goodword » Thu Jul 18, 2013 8:24 pm

• lagniappe •


Pronunciation: læn-yæpHear 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.)
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Re: Lagniappe

Postby bnjtokyo » Fri Jul 19, 2013 4:16 am

I think it is worth quoting Twain's definition:
It has a restricted meaning, but I think the people spread it out a little when they choose. It is the equivalent of the thirteenth roll in a 'baker's dozen.' It is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure. The custom originated in the Spanish quarter of the city. When a child or a servant buys something in a shop--or even the mayor or the governor, for aught I know--he finishes the operation by saying--

'Give me something for lagniappe.'

The shopman always responds; gives the child a bit of licorice-root, gives the servant a cheap cigar or a spool of thread, gives the governor--I don't know what he gives the governor; support, likely.

When you are invited to drink, and this does occur now and then in New Orleans--and you say, 'What, again?--no, I've had enough;' the other party says, 'But just this one time more--this is for lagniappe.' When the beau perceives that he is stacking his compliments a trifle too high, and sees by the young lady's countenance that the edifice would have been
better with the top compliment left off, he puts his 'I beg pardon--no harm intended,' into the briefer form of 'Oh, that's for lagniappe.' If the waiter in the restaurant stumbles and spills a gill of coffee down the back of your neck, he says 'For lagniappe, sah,' and gets you another cup without extra charge.
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Re: Lagniappe

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Jul 19, 2013 9:05 am

Don't most restaurants now adays give free coffee and coke refills?
Many, many years ago, my high school debate partner moved to the west coast. He and his wife bought dome furniture, and by reflex he asked the salesman, "What's our gift?" Apparently CA never had heard of the custom.
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Re: Lagniappe

Postby bnjtokyo » Fri Jul 19, 2013 9:24 am

Well Twain wasn't writing "nowadays" was he? And yes, it's a regional word. I'm basically a Californian living in Japan, and I learned the word from Twain. But like Twain, I found it a "nice, limber, expressive word." Like Dr. Goodword, I from time to time find occasions to use it.
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Re: Lagniappe

Postby DavidLJ » Fri Jul 19, 2013 10:51 am

Dr. Goodword can always be relied upon to make somethng up out of thin air when he doesn't know what he's talking about and is too lazy to do his homework. (William Safire and Edwin Newman did the same early in their careers in the word game, but cleaned up their act after they were caught one or two times.)

"Lagniappe" came into English through New Orleans, but from Latin America. The nasal gn has nothing to do with French. It is one of the few words in the English language to be imported from native American languages of the South, in this case the Quechua yapay, a gift

In modern American usage it is the result of a bet made between two Time newsmen in the 1950s, on whether or not they could get a new outrageous word into the language every week. They were fired after lagniappe and oxymoron.

The Time men picked up the word from a New Orleans oyster house, where the waiters used the word for the hard roll plunked down on everybody's plate before they ordered. They were charged a nickel for it, whether they wanted it or not, so the freeness of a lagniappe is at minimum occuluded.

In this sense the word may be said to have undergone the corruption of any news that passed through the bowels of the Luce operation. "Oxymoron" does not mean "contradiction," except in degenerate usage in America. An oxymoron is a word having a meaning distinct from those of the two contradictary words making it up, "bittersweet" being the traditional example. Think Kant: oxymoron is to contradiction as synthesis is to anti-thesis.

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Re: Lagniappe

Postby Slava » Fri Jul 19, 2013 12:06 pm

DavidLJ wrote:Dr. Goodword can always be relied upon to make somethng up out of thin air when he doesn't know what he's talking about and is too lazy to do his homework. (William Safire and Edwin Newman did the same early in their careers in the word game, but cleaned up their act after they were caught one or two times.)

If you don't like the Dr. this much, why do you bother coming here?

"Lagniappe" came into English through New Orleans, but from Latin America. The nasal gn has nothing to do with French. It is one of the few words in the English language to be imported from native American languages of the South, in this case the Quechua yapay, a gift

This is what the Dr. said. Read the history.

In modern American usage it is the result of a bet made between two Time newsmen in the 1950s, on whether or not they could get a new outrageous word into the language every week. They were fired after lagniappe and oxymoron.

The Time men picked up the word from a New Orleans oyster house, where the waiters used the word for the hard roll plunked down on everybody's plate before they ordered. They were charged a nickel for it, whether they wanted it or not, so the freeness of a lagniappe is at minimum occuluded.

Where is your proof of this? Can you provide a citation, or even names? If it came to English only in the 50s, how did Twain get in there?

In this sense the word may be said to have undergone the corruption of any news that passed through the bowels of the Luce operation. "Oxymoron" does not mean "contradiction," except in degenerate usage in America. An oxymoron is a word having a meaning distinct from those of the two contradictary words making it up, "bittersweet" being the traditional example. Think Kant: oxymoron is to contradiction as synthesis is to anti-thesis.

Oxymoron is itself a contradiction, as it means "sharp/dull", so where do you get off calling it degenerate usage?

-dlj.
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Re: Lagniappe

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Jul 19, 2013 4:18 pm

He's been drinking at MTC's spring or starting his own apocrypha! :-)
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Re: Lagniappe

Postby Slava » Fri Jul 19, 2013 4:32 pm

Perry Lassiter wrote:He's been drinking at MTC's spring or starting his own apocrypha! :-)

I have tried to think that was the case. But for the fact that MTC doesn't start off by insulting the board owner, I might even agree. :twisted:
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Re: Lagniappe

Postby Philip Hudson » Fri Jul 19, 2013 6:43 pm

To my knowledge lagniappe has meant what the Good Doctor said it means for a long time, at least all of my life. It is not commonly used in Texas but we know what it means. We use a Tex-Mex word with the same meaning. Unfortunately, I cannot find it on the Internet and I am not sure how to spell it. It is pronounced Pay-'loan.
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Re: Lagniappe

Postby bnjtokyo » Fri Jul 19, 2013 10:55 pm

I spent a little time to see if I could find anything to corroborate DavidLJ's remarks. The Google NGram tool shows a slight thickening in the 1850's (That would be Twain and Hern's influence I guess) and then it starts its upward climb in frequency in 1880, reaches a rounded peak at 1910, falls back, climbs to a sharp peak in 1920, falls again, climbs to its highest peak in about 1948. Frequency then drops off a bit and starts falling in 1960 to its current level of about 0.0000017%. That peak in the late 40's might offer some support to the Time reporter story.

A search of the NYTimes archive shows the word appears fairly often in sports stories (people name horses, dogs and sail boats "Lagniappe"), cooking/food stories and of course stories about New Orleans.

Not being a subscriber to Time, the weekly fiction magazine, I can't search its archive. Can anyone troll around there and see what you find?
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Re: Lagniappe

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Jul 19, 2013 11:11 pm

I am aghast that you consider Time as fiction. Next thing you will be telling us Newsweek is fantasy and USNews is litter liner. :-) Personally, I get my news from Twitter.

I'm surprised at the wide usage of the word. I'm sure if Google had a geographical distribution of the word, it would peak in Louisiana, all over and not just NOLA.
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Re: Lagniappe

Postby eberntson » Mon Jul 22, 2013 10:02 am

It does mean a items (a physical gift), it doesn't mean praise or applause? Bravos would not qualify as lagniappes, correct?

As for the "baker’s dozen" being a lagniappe, although I can see your point that it is a gift, the history of 13 rolls doesn't really apply there in my book. There were laws that a baker (merchant) had to provide the amount of material paid for, or in the bakers case they could be tried and if found guilty garroted by the executioner. So bakers came into the habit of adding a thirteenth roll to the dozen.

As for "news", please keep some perspective, at best the news is, well, one perspective. Usually, it is more akin to "fiction", Mr. Twain agrees on this point often.
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Re: Lagniappe

Postby bnjtokyo » Mon Jul 22, 2013 10:22 am

Please understand that not being from the Great State of Louisiana, I am not an expert. But I believe it is something provided by the seller/service provider in appreciation of the buyer's custom. So to continue with your analogy, the "bravos" would not be lagniappe but the encores would. (I recently attended a Stradivarius concert here with the string section of the Berlin Philharmonic and they played 5 or 6 encores as lagniappe for the standing ovation that they received. Our hands were aching.)
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Re: Lagniappe

Postby Philip Hudson » Mon Jul 22, 2013 2:39 pm

I had never thought of an encore as a lagniappe, but it fits. You pay for something and you get a little extra icing on the cake.
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