Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wednesday Word/Phrase of the Day: comme ça.

This is another phrase that I picked up in Louisiana & it has stuck...I use it in conversation with non-Louisianians & get a raised eyebrow & a quizzical look, like I was momentarily possessed by a demon. In Louisiana, where peeps can recognize simply by every other word in a sentence that I am not a native, a slightly proud sparkle glimmers for a moment in the corner of their eye, as they realize their infectious way of life has ensnared the heart & tongue of an outsider.

To be fair, I was familiar with the phrase "comme ça" (come sa) before I moved to Louisiana, as I had 4 years of French classes under my belt. But I was familiar with it in the following usage:

"Comme si, comme ça", meaning "so-so", as a response to someone asking "How are you today" (Comment allez-vous aujourdhui?) While there are MANY correct responses to that question, "Comme si, comme ça" was the one I used most frequently. I mean, as a stressed-out college student with a 12-hour course load and 2-3 part time jobs at any time (during my senior year, I was delivering pizzas, bartending at a pool hall, and working as a photographer for the campus newspaper), it was either that or "Je suis fatigué" (I'm sure you can figure that one out.)

But I think it was my friend/coworker Dre who first introduced me to the more Cajun usage of the phrase back in '06. Dre was a draftsman & we were discussing a set of maps:

Dre: *draws on the map* So you want it comme ça?
Me: I want it what?

Cajuns typically have a bad rap for butchering the French language, but surprisingly, in this instance the Cajun usage is actually more accurate than the "so-so" translation I was familiar with.

The literal translation of "comme si, çomme ça" means "like this, like that". Cajuns use "comme ça" for "like this" or "like so". Some still use the "like" in front of it, indicating that it represents just "so", or they'll say "like ça". Just depends on the mouth that's saying it.

And since I so RARELY get to use any of the French I spent 4 years learning (because I've never been to Canada and our most frequent immigrants are coming from the South, not the north), I latched onto comme ça almost instantaneously. It wasn't a conscious effort--I just heard it SO often around our office that it just wormed it's way into my vocabulary.

Uses in sentences (complete with Louisiana pics, of course):

As a measurement: "I caught me a decent gaspergou* was like comme ça..."

(freshwater drum, also referred to as a "croaker" because of the grunting noise it makes when caught)

Or as instruction: "You see, you gotta peel the crawfish comme ça..."

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