Did They Mean Cajun When They Said Creole?

You have to love the strength of Cecil’s convictions – he rarely lets facts get in the way of a good line. His self-congratulatory liberalism makes me wonder if his fact-checkers are drunk or merely stoned. To wit, this column (http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1359/did-hud-publish-a-brochure-in-creole-containing-a-parody-of-black-speech) in which people with no historical knowledge or insight respond in horror to something they have misinterpreted as “racist.” Don’t get me started on the fact that “race” is a folk taxonomy invented by one moron to fool other morons – it simply doesn’t exist in scientific circles. We are all of the same species: homo sapiens. Anybody who disagrees with that statement is either ignorant, or has an agenda. But I digress – we were discussing the horror felt by the self-consciously liberal about this publication. What it sounds like more than anything is Cajun speech. You remember Cajuns, right? French Canadians, called Acadians, that were forced to leave their homes and move to the swamps of Louisiana? Over time, “Acadian” became “Cajun.” Follow me so far? Good! So, other than Zydeco music, what is the most famous thing about Cajuns? Ah, that’s right: Creole-style cooking. Blackened fish, red beans and rice, the whole gamut of Louisiana-style cooking. Their culinary success has made their speech patterns very familiar to all of us, and I can “gare- on-tee” that if this brochure was making fun of anybody, it was Cajuns, not Creoles (some folks get the two mixed up, don’t you know). Why aren’t we fussing about how the poor Cajuns are being ridiculed, hmm? Shame, that, but it wouldn’t be as divisive as claiming that somebody is making a racially-motivated attack, as opposed to a cultural one. Thus do they divide and conquer, kids. Learn how your enemies think, and it becomes more clear how to defeat them at their own game. Thanks, Cecil, for the insight you bring, even if it wasn’t quite what you were aiming at.

Cajun dialect has some very specific peculiarities that I do not see in that parody. Cajun English is not just “black,” which is what that parody appears to be, but is a French-based patois which is distinct from “Ebonic” English.

Cajun and Creole cuisines are two different things, by the way.

Also, if you’re going to link to the original column, it’s useful to link to the follow-up. In fact, I’m not sure why they’re not hyperlinked to each other to make it clear that Cecil essentially reversed himself (in column #1 it sounds like it’s a hoax, but in column #2 it sounds like it’s a real document).

NOTE: There’s a broken hyperlink (http://www.straightdope.com/columns/huddoc.html) in both columns.

It’s too late to edit my previous message, but in actual fact, Cecil didn’t reverse himself in the second column; he just clarified the process that resulted in the brochure in question.

You’ll also note that in the column the OP links to, Cecil comments that some aspects of pamphlet’s wording show clear links to Caribbean dialects, which indicates that Creole is indeed the correct term, not Cajun.

That’s the first time I’ve seen anybody explain the derivation of the word Cajun. Thanks.

Other than that, your post comes of as an anti-liberal tirade that doesn’t have much to do with the column. I’m not from Louisiana but the HUD text reads like Jamaican patois or something from the Caribbean, not from N’Awlins. The fact that HUD thought this printed version of Jamaican patois was a ‘Haiti type of creole’ makes that clear. In the U.S. we mostly associate the word creole with Louisiana, but like Cecil said, that’s not the only meaning of the word: “In linguistics, creole is a generic term for the melding of a dominant language with elements of a subordinate language. Both French- and English-based creoles are spoken in the Caribbean.” This was a classic government style screwup but it didn’t have anything to do with Cajun people or Louisiana. Unlike some other government screwups I can think of.

Typical Government screwup. Were gonna love the new “health care”…:(:dubious::eek:

Just to make it clear, it would be entirely reasonable to want to produce a brochure in Haitian Creole, which has a written form and is an official language of Haiti. But that’s a French-based creole which doesn’t look at all like the excerpt that Cecil quotes.

It damn well exists in sociology and poli-sci (as we used to call it when I was an undergrad). Racism is nonsense, but nonsense can and does kill.

My word. I can almost “gare-on-tee” the OP has never even been to Louisiana. Had she/he bothered to consult a dictionary - or, for heaven’s sake, Wikipedia - s/he would have found no less than six different meanings of the word Creole, only one of which may also refer to Cajun. S/He accurately explains the etymology of the term Cajun. Had s/he bothered to read Cecil’s article, however, s/he may have gathered that the text of the pamphlet is written in Haitian Creole - also a derivative of French, among other things. After I’ve had a six-pack or two, my three years of high school French start to sound eerily similar to both. The OP’s decision to link the two based on a few typed phonemes is not only absolutely ridiculous, but plain ignorant.
The OP also fails to make a distinction between Cajun and Lousiana Creole cuisine, Cajun and Lousiana Creole music, and Cajun and Louisiana Creole culture in general, but any rebuttal I can offer toward that will just seem polemic.

Your witness.

I was going to partially dispute this, but after doing some reading, it appears that I’m descended from French Creoles on my father’s side of the family, rather than Cajuns. Non-Acadian French Creoles were people who came to SW Louisiana directly from France (my people specifically came from Alsace-Lorraine which was disputed territory between France and Germany).

There’s not much of a difference between the Louisiana Creoles and the Cajuns. They look the same, they sound the same, they all can be somehow traced back to France if you go back far enough, and they all live in an area that probably centers around Alexandria, LA with a radius of 100 miles or so. The French Creoles blended in with the Cajuns, intermarried, and pretty much became the same people. They all pretty much spoke the same language with some dialect differences.

The language they speak today is English. Some old folks might still speak Cajun French, but it’s a dying language.

For the most part, I’d have to agree with you, jasonh300.
The following map might provide you with a better idea of the Cajun diaspora, however: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cajun_French
I’d place the center of Cajun culture around Iberia Parish, well to the south of Alexandria.

Alexandria (and the rest of northern Louisiana) is culturally more related to the deep south of Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas. I’d be hard-pressed to find a linguist who would consider Cajun French a real language, but the dialect is still spoken actively in relatively isolated communities in the southern bayous.

Southern Louisiana is filled with all sorts of people. Take a look at the place names around New Orleans: Irish Bayou, Des Allemandes, English Bay, to name a few of western European origin. There are a few Slavic ones I still have trouble pronouncing. Your people may very well have come straight from Alsace-Lorraine. Cajuns, of course, were expelled forcefully from the maritime provinces of Canada - check out Longfellow’s Evangeline.

I don’t know. I suspect Duke might be from Louisiana. I’d be willing to take a guess at what the W stands for too.

We spent one Mardi Gras in Mamou, Louisian (population about 3500). Our friends are Cajun and introduced us to the parents who lived there. They spoke only French. Our friend spoke both French and English with a terrific accent (enough that I could tease him) and his grown children have no accent and speak just a little French.

I have never seen people who know how to cook, eat, and party like the people in Mamou. When we left there were chickens running everywhere and horses running around and men moaning from ditches. (It was explained to me as a “tradition.”) Lots of music.

Ah, the Mamou Courir de Mardi Gras. I’ve heard stories. Sounds like quite a party.

Well, it’s not unprecedented, after all…

When the Straight Dope archives got transferred over to the current server not all transfers made it over correctly.

We’re in the midst of fixing this. While we do, here’s a link to a copy of the HUD document:


We’ll get a copy of this loaded in the columns as soon as possible.

They don’t teach Evangeline anymore? Sad.