Lagniappe: An Excellent Word


2 minute read

If you’ve spent any time in Louisiana, you probably know that the word lagniappe means a little something extra. Hopefully, the lagniappe found in this blog will be informative and interesting. Any information provided will have references.

Let's give the first reference to Mark Twain from Chapter 44 of Life on the Mississippi (1883):

We picked up one excellent word—a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word—'lagniappe.' They pronounce it lanny-yap. 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.' 

Original Illustration from First Edition

The shopman always responds; gives the child a bit of licorice-root, 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?—no, I've had enough;' the other party says, 'But just this one time more—this is for lagniappe.'

Thank you for the excellent definition, Mr. Clemens.

Mark Twain, 1907

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