You’ve probably heard of Cajun spice, Cajun catering, and Cajun people, but do you really know what you’re talking about when you use the word? Does it just mean that something is from Louisiana? Not quite.
Here at Bayou Boils & Catering, we don’t want to just serve you up a steaming plate of boiled crawfish or some fried catfish with hushpuppies without also serving you up a heaping plate of knowledge… and hushpuppies.
According to the Texas Almanac and ExperienceNewOrleans.com, the word Cajun comes from another funny language loopty-loop that we are happy to explain here.
As you know, French folks settled in Canada and in Louisiana back around the 17th and 18th centuries, and a group of those folks called the place they lived Acadia. Those people started boiling crawfish and shrimp with some spicy seasoning. Maybe they even started making french fries and hushpuppies fried catfish! What would you call the food they were making? You’d call it Acadian food, naturally.
Now if we pause and think back to one of our other posts—“Finally! The truth about Crawfish, Crayfish, and Yabbies”—you will remember that people started saying the French word écrevisse without that eh sound at the beginning of the word.
Well, with the word Acadian, people started dropping that “A” from the beginning. Now we’ve got the word Cadian to describe the people and the delicious cuisine they were making. You can probably already see where we are heading, but let’s take a short detour to get you a little education on the way English folks say certain words.
Just say the word educate a few times out loud. If you’re like most of us in the United States, you probably hear a “J” sound in there instead of a “D.” Say it again if you didn't catch it the first time. It probably sounds like Eh-Jyu-kate or maybe even Eh-juh-kate.
Now, if you were paying us a bunch of tuition money, we’d tell you that the “D” turning into a “J” sound is a fancy little process called palatalization. But you ain’t, so we won’t. But if you already knew that, you get five golden hushpuppies.
Now, most of us wouldn't say the word Cadian as Cajun, but the people in Louisiana sure did, and by the time the rest of the USA heard the word, we were hearing it with that spicy Cajun palatalization in there, and--boom--Cajun became a thing!
Anyway, next time you’re talking to a person from Louisiana, don’t assume they are Cajun . The chances are they are not descendants of the Acadian French, but you probably can assume they like Cajun cuisine!