Dear Crabby, What Does Lagniappe Mean?

Dear Crabby, What Does Lagniappe Mean?

Sincerely, Ami (with an i)


Hello Ami with an i,

This Lagniappe word actually has several meanings and can mean something different for each person. For one thing, no one pronounces the word the same way, which is fun, since they will have their own version of what it means as well. I wrote about what is Lagniappe a couple years ago, and told my readers the true meaning of Lagniappe. However, mine is not the most popular take on the mystical word.

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Spanish Americans reworked the name to “la ñapa” from the Quechua people (native American Indians of South America) and their word “Yapa,” meaning something added. French Americans (Louisiana) took “la ñapa” and started saying “lagniappe.” Mark Twain picked up the word in 1883 in New Orleans when shoppers would ask “Give me something for Lagniappe” at the end of a business transaction. It could mean anything added to something already paid for, such as a piece of candy from a store or a sample size shampoo from a hotel.

Ask around, and you may find out that a little kid will say it means it’s time to light the Big, Bright Lights. A parent may tell you it means it’s time to bring out the heavy duty stroller and try to roll it up and down the sidewalks of Downtown Rochester when they’re jammed with people. Business owners may tell you it’s that time of year when you have to offer something special to hordes of shoppers for just one night. And still others may tell you it’s the start of the best time of the year.

For Downtown Rochester, it’s the official start to holiday shopping and the first night of the Big, Bright Light Show when the switch is thrown for the first time and a gazillion LED bulbs simultaneously turn on and illuminate Main Street. It’s a big deal around here … a really big deal. Santa, reindeer, carolers and a gazillion people (one bulb for every one person in attendance I believe) flood the downtown. Cars will be parked everywhere – the library, post office, every lot, and every business – go early if you don’t want to walk a mile to get there.

While every definition may be true to a point, for me my new friend Ami with an i, I’ll go with my original plan … sweet dreams!

Dear Crabby


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