Cajun French turns the TH sound into D. This, that, these, and those becomes dis, dat, dese, and dose, for example. (The New Orleans accent keeps TH and D but drops R.) Cajun Country (from Beaumont, Texas to Baton Rouge to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi; the three B's) is rich and colorful. However, there's a deeper issue: Cajun French is disappearing. UNESCO lists Cajun French as an endangered language. All sources count 200,000 Cajuns in South Louisiana, mostly in the southwestern part of the state. Of that number, only 11% speak the language. Most of these speakers are over 60.
When I was a kid, every effort was made to squash the language. The thinking was that Cajun French wasn't American, that the language challenged English's supremacy. Kids caught speaking Cajun French on the school ground were often penalized. I lived through this. Even though my grandmother's first language was French, my father wouldn't let her speak French to us. He later said this was one of the worst mistakes he'd made. Too late. The damage was done. I speak a smattering of Cajun French (understand more) picked up here and there, but not enough to travel with. *sighs*
A certain resentment exists in Cajun Country about efforts made to accommodate today's Spanish speakers. I understand this resentment and sympathize (even though my great-grandmother came from Spain, with Spanish as her first language).
If you've got the time and if you want to hear the Cajun accent about which I write, please go HERE. This video from The New York Times goes into much about the language.
But spoken or not, Cajun French remains a colorful influence on speech in South Louisiana. It's not uncommon to hear this expression: "Who dat say who dat?"
Who dat? is an English idiom that originated in New Orleans over a century ago. First referenced in poetry, the phrase was a common dialogue element between the performers and crowd at traveling minstrel shows in the region. Eventually, the phrase became used in US cinematic productions for two decades, including TV and movies. In World War II, the phrase became known as a source of entertainment for American soldiers. (Wikipedia)
During World War II, pilots on long flights would get bored. One would say into the radio, "Who dat?" Another pilot would answer, "Who dat up there who's dat down there?" - and so on, from the chant below, to relieve the boredom. Eventually, the squadron commander would say, "Cut it out," and silence would prevail for awhile.
In the Who Dat? chant, only 'that' has the 'd' (to keep the rhyme going).
Who dat up there who’s dat down there
Who dat up there who dat well down there
Who’s dat up there, sayin’ who’s dat down there
When I see you up there well who’s dat down there Who dat inside who’s dat outside
Who’s dat inside who dat well outside
Who’s dat inside, singin’ who’s dat outside
When I see up there well who’s dat out there Button up your lip there big boy
Stop answerin’ back
Give you a tip there big boy
Announce yourself jack Who dat up there who’s dat down there
Who dat up there who dat, well down there
Who’s dat up there, singin’ who’s dat down there
When I see you up there you bum
Well who’s dat down there Who dat
Around 1983, the New Orleans Saints football team adopted 'Who Dat?' as a slogan. The "New Orleans Saints Anthem Song - Who Dat Black and Gold" by K. Gates is sung to the tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In."
Now, I ask you, who dat sayin' dey ain't never heard of Who Dat?
|A member of the Who Dat Nation celebrates a Saints' victory in New Orleans. In case you're wondering, the city recovers quickly after a loss and begins celebrating the next victory to come!|
|Fleur de Lis sprayed on container after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, symbolizing not giving up.|