A baker’s dozen of reasons I like the word lagniappe:

1. Who doesn’t like a little something extra, such as a tip or a bonus or that little extra baked good that used to sometimes be slipped into my bag at Pop’s Bakery? That’s what lagniappe means, after all.

2. It’s borrowed from French, which borrowed it from Spanish, which borrowed it from Quechua, which is what the Incas spoke.

3. The Spanish version is la ñapa, which makes me think of Napa, which is a nice place in California where they make wine. (I do not care about NAPA Auto Parts.)

4. That tilde on the ñ looks like a toupée, or a spoiler on a car. Or a scowling or skeptical eyebrow.

5. The Quechua source word is yapa, meaning “that which is added”, and I think it’s a nice, happy-looking word, even if it does make me think of little dogs.

6. The /njap/ sound makes me think of the “nyup nyup” sound the Ewoks make in Return of the Jedi.

7. The sound of the word makes me think of “line ya up on the lawn, yup, for a long nap.” And who doesn’t want to be lined up on a lawn for a long nap? It sounds lovely to me. Provided the weather is warm.

8. Looking at it makes me think of apple lasagna.

9. For whatever reason, I associate it with Louisiana, and especially New Orleans. I have never been there. But it seems like a term that should be used in stores and restaurants there, and to refer to what you give the dealer at your baccarat table on the riverboat.

10. Lagniappe doesn’t easily lend itself to a fake acronymic etymology, unlike tip, which has the inane and false supposed origin to improve performance being passed around like a doobie at a high-school beach party.

11. It has nine letters but only five phonemes – or six, depending on whether you say it as “lan yap” or as “la ñap” (a palatalized n is really a single sound just as a diphthong is). And you know how classy “silent letters” seem.

12. It can anagram to pagan pile or leaping pa or apple gain. Please write a 250-word story involving these three things, due on Friday. We will read them in class.

13. Constance Hale, @sinandsyntax, recently tweeted “I don’t know why I love the word lagniappe, but I do. Maybe I just like freebies?” And if it’s good enough for Constance Hale, it should be good enough for anyone.

3 responses to “lagniappe

  1. I love this word. For a bit of levity in business reports, I’ve sometimes written “the detailed table is enclosed as a lagniappe” rather than “the detailed table is enclosed as an appendix”.

  2. 12. It can anagram to pagan pile or leaping pa or apple gain. Please write a 250-word story involving these three things, due on Friday. We will read them in class.

    Here is my assignment, turned in on time:
    “As yet another yuletide made its advent, I ventured out to celebrate capitalism and stimulate the economy by purchasing obligatory packages to be thrown onto the *pagan pile* beneath the Tannenbaum. I snarled my way through the lots teeming with salt-encrusted mechanical broughams and entered the festooned corridors of The Mall. Some merchants offered to festively swathe my purchases in colored paper and ribbon as a sort of *lagniappe*, or, as their signs informed me in pleonastic marketspeak, as a “Free Gift”. Shops filled with technical toys were bursting with customers, though whether most were amusing themselves with the display models or actually contributing to an *Apple gain*, I could not surmise. I wound my way past the serpentine queue of squawling infants, impatient urchins, and many a beleaguered ma and *leaping pa* awaiting the opportunity to shell out over an hour’s worth of manual laborer pay for a photograph of their progeny astride the lap of a geriatric stranger bedecked in cardinal red. Garment shops, bauble purveyors, tchotchke merchants – all clamored for my attention and my wallet, but I deemed none *appealing*. The longer I mingled with the throng, the greater my Ebenezerese and Grinchian tendencies grew. I briefly considered the kiosk of gift cards, the last resort of the irresolute. Enough of this *genial pap*! Humbug upon it all! I’ll risk being deemed a cheapskate and skinflint. Let my bestowing of gifts be done out of spontaneity and not saturnalian entitlement!

    So that’s why I’m not invited anymore….”

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