And now a few words about the something extra called lagniappe ("lan-yap").
Lagniappe is a Creole word that describes the tradition of merchants adding a gift, a bonus for a customer’s purchase. Lagniappe is a just-because tradition-- the extra donut added to your box, the handkerchief added to a dress purchase, or the candy for the child of an adult customer.
Spanish explorers landed in Louisiana in the late 1500s. The settlers adopted some of the language of the local Native Americans, including a word to describe the gifting concept. The Spanish called it "la nãpa". Later, French immigrants renamed it "lagniappe". The descendants of the Spanish, French, Indian and African, known as Creoles, have embedded it into Louisiana tradition and practice, as common as the thick and spicy gumbo originally imported by Africans.
My mother’s people hail from Louisiana, so I spent a lot of my growing up years in the Pelican State, where I came to appreciate lagniappe. What kid wouldn’t like little gifts? And, like many other formerly unique local customs, lagniappe—both the tradition and the word—has been embraced far beyond the state’s borders.
It’s a great day when I hear someone offering a little gift, saying ‘for lagniappe.’
These days lagniappe is known simply as the Creole word which means something extra. And that’s what we’ll offer in a new segment called Lagniappe, as part of the newly expanded hour of Under the Radar with Callie Crossley. During Lagniappe, we plan a mix of conversations— sometimes we’ll extend the Under the Radar roundtable discussion, other times we’ll deconstruct a local policy issue, or talk pop culture, or food and wine.
One more thing—whether you use the old translation or the new, lagniappe always means something positive, a nice little extra. New Englanders would call it "wicked good".