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Lexicon by Jan Villarrubia
The culture of New Orleans is a rich mingling of many diverse ethnicities, spiritualities, communities, attitudes, rituals and traditions. Not only have New Orleanians developed their own food and music, the people also speak a different language from the rest of the United States. The following is a list of terms explained in a manner to provide insight into the universe that is New Orleans...

“Burn K-Doe Burn” Shots is kind of a long story. Native New Orleanian Ernie K-Doe, Ernest Kador, Jr., February 22, 1936 - July 5, 2001, “the one, the only, the baddest motorscooter and the Greatest Boy-Child ever conceived at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana” (according to the official website, shot to fame in 1961, when his song “Mother-in-Law,” written by New Orleanian Allen Toussaint, climbed to No. 1 in the nation and sold millions. K-Doe, also an accomplished drummer, recorded other rhythm and blues hits like "A Certain Girl", "T'ain't It the Truth", "Come On Home", "Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta" and "Later for Tomorrow" and years later “White Boy, Black Boy." "Mister Naugahyde,” as he billed himself in the 1980s on local radio shows, used catch phrases like "Burn, K-Doe, Burn!", "I'm a Charity Hospital Baby!" and “I’m cocky, but I’m good!” In the ‘90s, the energetic showman began wearing a crown and cape and calling himself “Emperor of the Universe.” He opened his Ernie K-Doe Mother-in-Law Lounge in 1994, 1500 N. Claiborne Avenue, New Orleans and, in 1996, married Antoinette Fox who became a legend in her own right. Often, K-Doe himself would meet you at the door of his bar and music club where he and other living legends of New Orleans performed. The signature drink there was called Burn K-Doe Burn, containing cherries and a highly potent distilled grain-alcohol.

When he died, his widow took over the lounge, transforming it into a thriving community center and living shrine to her husband. Besides artwork of K-Doe, memorabilia and photographs of his family and friends papering the walls, “Ernie,” a life-sized effigy created and dressed to resemble K-Doe, graced the music establishment. Mrs. K-Doe often changed his costumes and regularly took him to public appearances. The club flooded when the federal levees broke in 2005, but reopened a year later. Mrs. K-Doe died Mardi Gras morning, 2009. She had been looking forward to parading in a traditional Baby Doll costume that day. She was 66. Betty Fox, Mrs. K-Doe’s daughter, kept the lounge open for another year, but closed it on July 10, 2010. The exact ingredients of a Burn K-Do Burn remain a mystery to this day. Read about Ernie K-Doe’s wake at:

Canal Street, the main artery of the city and “the widest street in the world,” runs from the Mississippi River to the cemeteries, then jogs over to become Canal Boulevard all the way to Lake Pontchartrain. Its median was the first “neutral ground,” separating the old, Creole part of the city (French Quarter) from the new, American part of the city (now the CBD and beyond). Since then, all medians in New Orleans have been called neutral grounds by the natives. Streetcars had an important role on Canal from 1894, as the first line in New Orleans to be electrified, until 1964, when New Orleans Public Service (NOPSI, Inc., the utility company that ran the transportation and gas and electrical service in the city) scrapped them, against the pleas of preservationists, for ordinary buses. In 2004, streetcars returned to Canal Street. New Orleans has “streetcars,” not “trolleys!” Tennessee Williams wrote Streetcar Named Desire, not “Trolley Named Desire.” A canal had been planned along the street, hence the name and width, but it was never constructed. Until the late 1960’s when malls in the suburbs began luring consumers, the main shopping district of New Orleans was along Canal Street from the river to Basin Street. One would often hear, “I’m goin’ to Canal Street,” which meant, “I’m going shopping.”

Chocolate City is a term Ray Nagin (New Orleans mayor at the time) used in January, 2006, during his Martin Luther King, Jr. Day speech, just five months after the federal flood. According to a transcript of his speech from the Times-Picayune, Nagan said: “…It's time for us to come together. It's time for us to rebuild a New Orleans, the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans. And I don't care what people are saying Uptown or wherever they are. This city will be chocolate at the end of the day. This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be….” For several months after the flood, the population of Blacks to Whites shifted, since so many poor African-Americans (think of the horrid photos and video clips of the Superdome and Convention Center) were transported to other cities and states and didn’t have funds to return when there was a city to return to. Some communities declared that this was a banishment intended to tip the scales of the city’s population and political leadership in favor of Whites; whereas, others were angry that such a scenario could even be contemplated. The expression “chocolate city,” meaning a city with a majority of Blacks and/or Black political leadership, did not originate with Ray Nagan, but rather with Washington, D.C. DJs in the 1970s. In 1975, Chocolate City was the name of an album released by the band Parliament. Comedian Chris Rock has also used the phrase, and, in 1993, scholar Cornel West used the expression in his book Race Matters.

Holt Cemetery was established in 1879 as a final resting place for the city’s poor. Believed almost 100% African-American, the historic cemetery is located off City Park Avenue, behind Delgado Community College, on the fringe of the mostly white residential neighborhood called Lakeview. Almost all burials in this seven-acre potter’s field are below the ground, unlike the city’s more famous above-ground tombs. The cemetery is filled with touching hand-scrawled headstones and deeply personal remembrances. Cornetist Charles “Buddy” Bolden, the proclaimed “King of Jazz,” and Jessie Hill who recorded “Ooh Poo Pah Doo” are both buried there. In 2008, the second of three staged readings entitled “Whispering Bones,” segments of works-in-progress by New Orleanians Jan Villarrubia (from her full-length play Turning of the Bones) and Adella Gautier (from a longer monologue Daughters of the Ocean) were held at the cemetery. During the planned discussion about race relations after the reading, the faint strands of people singing “Happy Birthday” drifted through the long Spanish moss. A family spontaneously had gathered with balloons around one of the graves to celebrate the birth of a loved one who was buried there. They sang and danced for some minutes while within earshot the audience participated in a talkback session with the actors of the theater piece.

Jello Shots
6 oz. Jell-O (large package) 2 c. boiling water 6 oz. cold water 10-16 oz. vodka or other alcohol
Add gelatin to boiling water and mix until completely dissolved. Add the alcohol and blend together. Pour mixture into plastic shot glasses and chill until firm, or pour into 9x12-inch baking pan and chill until firm.

Lafayette Number One Cemetery, or Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, began in 1833 as the earliest German-American burial ground in the city. Once a part of the Livaudais Plantation, it is located in the middle of the Garden District. Like most of the old cemeteries in New Orleans, Lafayette No. 1 resembles the old cities of the dead in France and Spain where most of the tombs are above ground. The cemetery became world famous after Anne Rice’s hit vampire-novel series, beginning with Interview with the Vampire. In Interview, we meet Lestat who hangs out in that very cemetery. In a 1995 performance at the graveyard, Anne Rice orchestrated her own funeral, a publicity stunt for her new novel. Bedecked in an antique wedding dress, she lay in a coffin pulled by a horse-drawn hearse. She instructed the hired brass band to play dirges as she slowly rose from the dead.
Lakeview, receiving as much as fourteen feet of floodwater after Katrina, was devastated by the federal levee failures. Its boundaries are Robert E. Lee Boulevard to the north, Orleans Avenue to the east, Florida Boulevard, Canal Boulevard and I-610 to the south and Pontchartrain Boulevard to the west. Mostly swamp until the early 20th century, the area was filled in to make room for a large, middle class residential development consisting mostly of bungalows. By the late 20th century, the neighborhood had become more economically upscale, and new, larger homes began replacing the more modest, original ones. The communities of Lakeview and the Lower 9th Ward suffered the most deaths after Katrina when the poorly constructed federal levees collapsed.
Lower Ninth Ward, decimated by the levee failures after Hurricane Katrina, developed down river from the French Quarter, Marigny and Bywater and is bounded by Florida Avenue, St. Bernard Parish, St. Claude Avenue and the Industrial Canal. Most of the people owned their homes, houses passed down through generations. Sometimes referred to as the “Lower Nine,” the neighborhood has a vibrant history and was a cultural dynamo pre-federal flood. Organizations like Common Ground Collective and Brad Pitt’s Make it Right are helping the community heal. Common Ground Collective organized volunteers and residents to gut homes in the neighborhood, and, in the absence of stores, the Collective opened the first distribution center to aid returning residents by providing water, food and other necessities. Common Ground has grown into a vital force in the community with projects like New Home Construction, a Free Legal Clinic, Wetlands Restoration, Community Gardening and much more. Brad Pitt’s Make it Right builds stilted, sustainable, earth-friendly homes and helps residents that lived in the Lower Ninth before Katrina come back home by guiding them through the home ownership process. Musician-singer-songwriter Fats Doimino, NFL star Marshall Faulk, poet and author Kalamu ya Salaam and rapper Magic all call the Lower Nine home.

Marie Laveau, known as the “Voo Doo Queen of New Orleans,” is believed buried in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, the city’s oldest burial ground. Most agree she was born in New Orleans in 1794, a Catholic and a Free Woman of Color with Black, French and American Indian ancestry. In 1819, she and a Monsieur Paris were married by the legendary Pere Antoine at St. Louis Cathedral. Paris, a Free Man of Color from Haiti (then Saint-Dominque), either disappeared or died soon after. Hence she became the renowned “Widow Paris.” In around 1826, she and Louis Christophe Dumesnil de Glapion, also from Saint-Domingue, began living together in her North Rampart Street house. By this time, Marie was a hairdresser and said to have wealthy White and Creole clients from whom she extracted important information which made her powerful. It is thought that Marie combined Catholic saints with African gods in her dynamic rituals. Marie and Christophe had 15 children. In 1881, Marie died and was evidently buried in the Glapion family tomb. One of Marie’s daughters, also called Marie and with features much like her mother, is believed to have assumed her mother’s position as Voodoo Queen in New Orleans. Some of their contemporaries apparently confused the two women, smearing them into one Voodoo priestess who never seemed to die. Many say she is still alive. She remains a living, breathing presence in music: Papa Celestin, the famous jazz coronetist recorded "Marie Laveau" in 1954 with his New Orleans Band; in 1971, "Witch Queen Of New Orleans," written by the group Redbone, was a smash hit; New Orleans’ own Dr. John sings a bluesy "Marie Laveau" on his album N'Awlinz: Dis Dat Or D'Udda; Canned Heat’s album Boogie with Canned Heat includes an instrumental track entitled Marie Laveau;” and there are many more. Manbo (initiated Haitian Vodou priestess) Sallie Ann Glassman evokes Marie Laveau’s spirit every St. John’s Day, important on the Vodou calendar, during her annual head-washing ceremony in the lobby of the International House Hotel.
The Parish, if T and P are upper case, could imply St. Bernard Parish; or, if an uptown New Orleans resident mentions it, the phrase could reference Metairie in Jefferson Parish which borders Orleans Parish. When “the parish,” both lower case, is touched upon, it probably means what other states call “county.” There are 64 parishes in Louisiana. Orleans Parish and Jefferson Parish can be East or West. West Jefferson is south of the river and East is north. When Louisiana was settled, Catholicism dominated, and the area was broken into Catholic Parishes. The word stuck. But, of course if one hears Da Parish, it most certainly is St. Bernard.

Praline is not pronounced “pray-leen.” The “pra” part rhymes with bra. Originally spelled prasline, the New Orleans treat originates from 17th century France, and got its name from Cesar duc de Choiseul, compte du Plesis-Praslin, better known as Marechal (Marshal) du Plessis-Praslin. He was an army officer, diplomat and top brass at Louis XIV’s court. Some sources also list sugar industrialist on his resume. It’s believed his cook Clement Lassagne created the confection while at the Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte, the inspiration of Versailles. Back then the sweet was probably a whole almond coated in caramelized sugar. The pecan praline is queen here. (Pecan is not pronounced “pee-can,” like a can of soup, but “puh-kawn.” “Kawn” rhymes with gone, as in all gone.) French settlers brought the recipe to Louisiana, and, eventually, since pecan trees were so plentiful, the nuts were switched. Usually, cream and/or butter and brown sugar are heated while stirring constantly until the mixture becomes thick and brown. Then, spoonfuls are dropped onto a flat surface or wax paper and left to cool.

Quarter, or “The Quarters,” as you’ll hear some New Orleanians say, is a reference to the French Quarter or the Vieux Carre, which locals never utter. The original French colonial architecture, except for the Old Ursuline Convent, 1100 Rue Chartres, was destroyed by fires in 1788 and 1794. The present architecture, complete with the lacy ironwork balconies, is actually Spanish, built when Spain ruled. Before the French founded the city in 1718 as Nouvelle Orleans in honor of Philip II, Duc d’Orleans, the Regent of France at that time, Native Americans inhabited the land for thousands of years. According to Gray Hawk of the Cannes Brulee Native American Center, the Tangipahoa, and the three related peoples, the Houma, the Bayougoula and the Acolapissa, occupied the land around New Orleans. The French Quarter, stretches from the river to North Rampart Street and from Iberville Street to Esplanade Avenue. The entire area is classified as a National Historic Landmark. Vieux Carre means Old Square, and at the beginning, the city wasn’t too much more than that, only six blocks by nine blocks (Bienville to Ursulines, Dauphine to the river). It was a French military-style city plan built around a central public space, the Place d’Armes, (renamed Jackson Square in appreciation of General Andrew Jackson after his victory in the Battle of New Orleans) where the soldiers could practice. A church, rectory and government building faced the plaza (now St. Louis Cathedral, Presbytere and Cabildo). The remaining streets were lined with houses. The area has been a continuous residential community since that time. Even though the ground was relatively high, floods frequently submerged the city, so along the river, a levee was constructed. In the 1840s, on either side of the park, the Pontalba Apartments were erected. They are the oldest continuously rented apartment buildings in the United States and some say in the Americas. They were designed to accommodate retail shops on the first floor; merchants still lease the bottom floors. Through the Square and diagonal from the Presbytere, the Café du Monde bustles. Here, one can sip hot or cold coffee with chicory and partake of mouthwatering, powdered-sugar-covered beignets. According to its web site, the coffee stand “established in 1862 in the New Orleans French Market.…(is) open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It closes only on Christmas Day and on the day an occasional Hurricane passes too close to New Orleans.” During Katrina and the federal flood, the French Quarter remained relatively dry and sustained minor damage compared to the rest of the Crescent City. The French Quarter, a historical and architectural rarity, with some of the finest dining and shopping in the world, continues to attract tourists from every part of the globe.

Rex could mean the Rex parade, the King of the Rex parade, the Rex ball (held Mardi Gras evening) or the organization itself, whose incorporated name is “The School of Design.” Never, ever say “King Rex,” a major faux pas, which would translate into “King King.” Founded in 1872, the year of their first parade, the Rex Organization proclaims its king for a day “King of Carnival.” The colors of Rex, purple, green and gold, which some say have deep roots in Catholicism, have become the colors of Mardi Gras. By the time Rex entered the scene, Carnival already had a long history in New Orleans. In 1857, the secretive Mistick Krewe of Comus held a nightime parade in the city; and even before that, in 1827, a group of students who had just returned from Paris, put on costumes and hit the streets for a blowout. Outside New Orleans, Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama, founded by the French, celebrated its first Carnival in 1703. The festival in France was always on the mind of the settlers. When brothers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville et d’Ardillières and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville were sent by Loius XIV to secure France’s claim to the region, their thoughts were on the great day. On March 3, 1699, Carnival Day in many European cities, they set up camp on the west side of the Mississippi about 60 miles south of what was to become New Orleans. Knowing they were missing all the fun, they called the area Point du Mardi Gras and the small body of water Bayou Mardi Gras. But the party has even older origins. In pre-Christian Europe, there were many traditions and rituals rooted in the seasons; for example, in late winter, people reveled in the fertility of the earth and welcomed the on-coming spring. Many Christian holidays are held the same times as these ancient pre-Christian rites. It is likely that the fathers of Christianity realized that combining their new feast days with already existing customs would be easier than forbidding the old holy days. Mardi Gras, literally “Fat Tuesday” in French, and carnival, from the Latin “farewell to the flesh,” both refer to the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent which begins approximately 40 days of fasting and prayer in preparation for Christ’s passion and death, and then Christ’s rising from the dead three days later on Easter. So, that Tuesday is the last day for eating lots of meat and whooping it up, because for the next 40 days or so you kiss all that goodbye. (That’s why at precisely midnight, the merriment of Mardi Gras ends abruptly with garbage trucks sweeping the trash-filled streets and police on horseback telling everyone in the French Quarter to go home. Trash, by the way, is an important Ash Wednesday news item. The city can calculate how many people were on tap for the festivities buy the number of tons of trash collected.) One of Rex’s floats, now permanent, is the big white cow, the Boeuf Gras, on which the riders mask as cooks. Of course, Carnival time in 18th and 19th century New Orleans was small and disorganized with many fits and starts and gradually developed into the huge, elaborate, crazy free-for-all we have today. But, by 1875, Carnival Day was important enough for Louisiana to declare it a state holiday.

Saints, if written with an uppercase first letter, probably refers to the NFL football team that won the 2009 Super Bowl, the New Orleans Saints, the pride and joy of the Crescent City, The Big Easy, The City That Care Forgot, the Birthplace of Jazz, The City of Mystery, Paris of the South. If seen with a lower case s, the word would mean an intermediary between man and God, or, in other words, a very holy dead person officially honored by the Catholic Church. Many churches in New Orleans are named after saints. And, there are many statues of saints in Catholic churches. Perhaps the most well known is St. Louis (King of France) Cathedral, even though it’s really been a Basilica since 1964, but it’s still called Cathedral by New Orleanians. Here are a few more saints in and around New Orleans: Saint Agnes Le Thi Than (a Vietnamese parish), All Saints (perhaps this parish couldn’t decide, so included them all, kind of like All Saints Day on November 1 when families flock to the graves of their ancestors to white wash the tombs and place flowers), Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos (nicknamed “the Cheerful Ascetic,” he’s New Orleans’ own pre-saint, on his way to sainthood by the Catholic Church), St. Christopher (who still has a great following, even though his name was struck from the official list by the Church in the 1960s), St. Gabriel the Archangel (a saint and an angel!), St. Joan of Arc, St. Katharine Drexel (relatively new), St. Mary of the Angels, St. Mary’s Assumption, St. Mary Magdalen, St. Rosalie (who has her own yearly procession when her statue is paraded around the outside of the church and through the streets), and St. Expedite (also removed from the official list, but honored in New Orleans, is sometimes associated with Voodoo and has his own web site: where Story #2 under “History” is particularly interesting in reference to New Orleans).

Sazerac Cocktails have been connected to New Orleans since the mid 1800s; but, the relationship was consummated Summer, 2008, when that potion was named the Official Cocktail of the City of New Orleans by the Louisiana legislature. One thing about its history is certain – it was named for a cognac with the label Sazerac de Forge et Fils, one of the original main ingredients. Some proclaim it to be America’s first cocktail, which may or may not be true; and, there is also some disagreement about who created the first Sazerac cocktail. It might have been Mon. Antoine Amadie Peychaud, who moved from the West Indies to the French Quarter in the late 18th century and opened a pharmacie. The early pharmacists mixed their own “medicines,” often with alcohol, to help their patients’ various ailments. This Creole, too, distributed his special elixir. Called "Peychaud's Bitters," it was made from a secret family recipe. Soon, as the tale is told, Mon. Peychaud was serving samples of his popular cure-all (brandy, absinthe and a hint of his mysterious bitters) at night in an egg cup called a coquetier, which, when mispronounced, could sound like “cocktail.” Sewell T. Taylor, who had just sold his coffee house (bars were called coffee houses back then) to Aaron Bird, went into the liquor business and began importing Sazerac de Forge et Fils, and it was Bird who combined that fine cognac with Peychaud’s Bitters at his coffee house. But, wait! Perhaps it was Taylor, after all, who first mixed the famed toddy at his coffee house before he sold it to Bird by using the fine Sazerac cognac. Over time, Pernod, Herbsaint, or Ricard was used instead of Absinthe which was banned for a while, and rye whiskey replaced cognac. By the late 1800s, the Sazerac Company had been formed after taking over The Sazerac House and buying the rights to Peychaud’s Bitters. The company still operates in New Orleans. “The Official Sazerac Coctail” recipe from the Sazerac Company is posted on its website. Landmarks from the early part of the last century, both “The Sazerac Bar” and “Sazerac Restaurant” have been resurrected within the Roosevelt Hotel on Baronne Street. So, can Sazerac de Forge et Fils still be purchased? you ask. According to Ann Tuennerman, founder of Tales of the Cocktail, the world’s premier cocktail festival held annually in the Big Easy, "Nobody really knows what happened," she said. "The Sazerac cognac just disappeared."

Storyville, the legal red light district in New Orleans, began in 1897 and closed down in 1917 after four soldiers were killed there within weeks. Before “The District,” as locals called it, began, houses of prostitution were sprinkled all over the city causing property values to fall. Alderman Sidney Story’s ordinance was passed to confine the sin within one small area of 16 square blocks northwest of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. To the politician’s horror, people started calling it Storyville. From 50 cents to 10 dollars per act, in a dirty cubicle to a spacious chamber in an elegant mansion, anything was available. Just get a copy of The Blue Book and choose. “Jolly good fellows” (a Victorian term for loose women and whores) were identified by race, and ads for cigars, saloons, sporting palaces and individual temptresses with photographs completed the book. One of the better brothels bragged that it had “…some of the most beautiful and select girls in the district, who know how to do things as you like ‘em.” Many jazz greats played in The District, among them Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Martin, King Oliver and Kid Ory. As a child, Louis Armstrong delivered coal to Storyville and hung out a bit to hear the music flowing from the bordellos. During Storyville’s pinnacle, some sources speak of a one-million-dollar-a-month profit for the powerful madams and property owners who were respected business men and politicians. In the 1930s, almost all the buildings, even the architecturally stunning ones, were leveled to make way for the Iberville Housing Project built in the early 1940s. In 1949, the building at 235 Basin Street which housed Lulu White’s enchanting Mahogany Hall was flattened. Fantasies of the splendid whore house arise when one uncovers “Mahogany Hall Stomp” by Louis Armstrong and His All Stars or Wynton Marsalis Storyville Portraits, 1971, is a collection of photos by E. J. Bellocq that captures the spirit of these shady dames. New Orleans (1947), Pretty Baby (1978), and Storyville (1992) are all film versions focusing on the locale of lust in what was once called “Paris of the South.”

Streetcar mania hit the city in the early1960s when preservationists and residents along Canal Street got wind that NOPSI was prepared to replace the cherished electrical vehicles with modern, air-conditioned buses. Despite many heated meetings and lists of thousands of residents and organizations against the unpopular move, May 30, 1964, was the last Canal Street streetcar ride… for 40 years. The Canal line began with horse-drawn cars in 1861, electrification took place in 1894 and the green Perley A. Thomas cars were introduced in the 1920s. Many of the beloved Canal streetcars were broken down for scrap, 35 were moved to the St. Charles line and the rest were donated to museums. The tracks were dug up and overhead wire removed. The origins of the St. Charles Avenue line pre-dated that of the Canal line. It had been declared historic, the oldest continuously operating streetcar in the world, so that track and its cars were spared. From the first half of the 19th century till the early 1950s, the city had a vast network of streetcar lines. In 1929, motormen throughout the city went on a strike for better wages. The Martin brothers, former streetcar workers who ran a restaurant on St. Claude Avenue, served free sandwiches of French bread with small bits of roast beef and gravy to the “poor boys” on strike. The name “poor boy,” not “po-boy,” stuck. Imagine the delight along Canal Street when the Regional Transit Authority announced the resuscitation of the Canal streetcar line and then the dismay when red cars and not green ones appeared on April 18, 2004! Replicas of the Thomas cars were made by RTA workers in New Orleans, but with more modern trucks and controls and a door cut in the side for wheelchair access. The green Perley Thomas cars still run along St.Charles Avenue, past the arts district, mansions, Loyola and Tulane Universities, Audubon Park, turning at Riverbend and continuing down oak-draped South Carrollton Avenue. When the price of gasoline began its long trek upward, transit companies across the United States began re-installing the more sustainable electric streetcars. On August 14, 1988, the Riverfront Streetcar was the first to be re-introduced in the city. Katrina and the flood destroyed so many streetcars, lines and tracks that all three lines were inoperable for months. After a gradual restoration taking three years, all three lines had full service again. There are current discussions about lines along St. Claude and Loyola Avenues. New Orleanians love their streetcars so much, both adults and children plan parties on them. Here, we use the term “streetcar.” “Trolley” is a dead giveaway you’re a tourist.
Who Dat?, Yat (see below) for “Who is that?” Who dat? is a long-time New Orleans chant for the Saints football team. The whole cheer is “Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?” When the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2009, the NFL declared it owned the beloved phrase, so it could not be printed on T shirts other than their own. After a terrific uproar from New Orleanians of all shapes, classes and hues, the NFL gave in. The Saints fans of New Orleans make up the “Who Dat? Nation.”

Yat is a shortcut for “y’at” or “you at” and is derived from the greeting “Where y’at?” A Yat is a person from New Orleans who uses that phrase instead of “How ya doin’?”

Zulu, when mentioned in New Orleans, would almost certainly mean the Mardi Gras organization Zulu Aid and Pleasure Club, its lively Carnival Day parade, the king of that parade or the Coronation Ball. The origin of New Orleans’ Zulu is sometime between 1901 and 1909 with the merging of a club called “The Tramps,” composed of African-American laborers who had just experienced at the Pythian Theater a musical comedy skit about the Zulu Tribe, and the tradition of Benevolent Aid Societies, formed so dues-paying members could receive financial help at the time of sickness or death in the family. These societies, functioning like insurance, can be traced back to ancient Rome’s burial clubs that would help with the funeral expenses of their members. The Tramps marched Mardi Gras, 1901, while the first presence of “Zulu” occurred Mardi Gras, 1909, with King William Story. The Zulu Aid and Pleasure Club was incorporated in 1916. The club and parade has grown immensely throughout its 100 year history. From a small group of men with raggedy pants walking in front of and behind a king with a lard can for a crown and a banana stalk for a scepter, to the 1949 parade when Louis Armstrong was King Zulu, to its present-day exuberant and lavish Coronation Ball, Lundi Gras Festival and Fat Tuesday parade. Zulu’s Mardi Gras celebrations are among the largest, most exciting in New Orleans. The Zulu coconut, carefully handed down from the float to a particular person in the crowd below, is perhaps the most desired “throw” of any parade. The club embraces men of all walks and professions and enjoys an active community involvement. Its choir, the Zulu Ensemble, performs in churches, concerts, festivals, funerals and more; Zulu members prepare Christmas baskets for the needy; and the club donates to the Southern University Scholarship Fund and contributes time and financial help to many other community organizations.

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