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For Lagniappe

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Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain


We picked up one excellent word —a word worth travelling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word—Lagniappe. It is Spanish—so they said. We discovered it at the head of a column of odds and ends in the Picayune, the first day; heard twenty people use it the second; inquired what it meant the third; adopted it and got facility in swinging it the fourth. It has a restricted meaning, but I think the people spread it out a little when they choose. It is the equivalent of the thirteenth roll in a ‘baker’s dozen.’ It is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure. The custom originated in the Spanish quarter of the city. When a child or a servant buys something in a shop—or even the mayor or the governor, for aught I know—he finishes the operation by saying—

‘ Give me something for lagniappe.’

The shopman always responds ; gives the child a bit of liquoriceroot, gives the servant a cheap cigar or a spool of thread, gives the governor—I don’t know what he gives the governor; support, likely.

When you are invited to drink, and this does occur now and then in New Orleans—and you say, ‘ What, again 1—no, I’ve had enough;’ the other party says,’ But just this one time more—this is for lagniappe.’ When the beau perceives that he is stacking his compliments a trifle too high, and sees by the young lady’s countenance that the edifice would have been better with the top compliment left off, he puts his ‘ I beg pardon—no harm intended,’ into the briefer form of ‘ Oh, that’s for lagniappe.’ If the waiter in the restaurant stumbles and spills a gill of coffee down the back of your neck, he says ‘ For lagniappe, sah,’ and gets you another cup without extra charge.

* Natives of New Orleans pronounce it as lawn-yawp, but in Twain’s day it was pronounced as lanny-yap. Dictionary.com pronounces it as lan-yap.

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