On the Lighter Side: When language matters

Joe Guilbeau

In writing my column, I often have to look up the correct spelling of French words. My reference source is the dictionary of Cajun language, a hardcover book of 594 pages. I had the privilege of meeting the author of this dictionary.

Recently, in working on a genealogy project with a granddaughter, we looked up the Cajun phrase “lache pas la patate,” meaning literally “Don’t give up the potato.” But to every Cajun, it simply means “Don’t give up.”

Mr. Joe Guilbeau

The coinage of this phrase is attributed to my daddy, and it became well-known. Jimmie C. Newman of Grand Ole Opry fame recorded a song with that title, and it became a big regional hit.

I had the privilege of speaking with Jimmie and I have a picture of him. He is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame with Fats Domino, Pete Fountain, Jimmie Davis, Louis Armstrong, etc.

I was a fluent bilingual when I was 10 years old. We spoke English at school and French at home. This is still true today in parts of Cajun country.

One of the joys of life is that my wife is also bilingual. The Cajun language has been designated as a new language indigenous to our country.

The business of this ventriloquist was not good, so he became a fortuneteller.

An old lady came in and said she wanted to talk to her son Earle who had died. She asked about his cause of death.

“Well,” he said. “For $25, I can let you talk to Earle, but he can’t talk back to you.”

“What else do you have,” she asked.

“Well,” he said, “for $50, I can let you talk to Earle, and he can talk back to you.”

“What else do you have,” she asked.

“Well,” he answered, “for $100, I can let you talk to Earle and Earle can talk back to you while I drink a glass of water.”

Fortuneteller in French: “tireur de Bonne Aveenture.”

Thoughts of the Day:

“In life, do your very best you can and do a little extra.”

An old Carter Family song: “Keep on the sunny side of life.”