April 22, 2012 at 6:43 pm (By Amba)

n [AmerF, fr. AmerSp la ñapa the lagniappe, fr. la + ñapa, yapa, fr. Quechua yapa something added] (1844) : a small gift given a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase; broadly : something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure
~ Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition. Kindle Edition.

It’s a word readily traceable to the New Orleans area. Quechua, though?? They’re in Peru.  How the heck . . . ?  If that word could talk . . .

It’s always sounded to me like cream, with a cat lapping it.

It occurred to me just now as a word for this time of my life.  Others are optional, light, superfluous, unnecessary. For almost four decades I lived with and was necessary to someone rooted in necessity.  After an upper-middle-class American upbringing, I appreciated the way that staked me down and sorted me out.  I was never very good at, or very interested in, luxury or frivolity or even fun.  Not that I was Puritanically averse to them, they just seemed like a very small and dispensable part of life.  (By “fun” I do not mean “humor,” by the way.  Humor and necessity share a bloodstream.)

But this part of my life is sheer luxury.  It really doesn’t matter what I do with it.  There’s great freedom in that, but also absurdity.  It’s up to me, at my discretion, to fill this free gift of time.  I could rush out and find more necessity to submit myself to (become a nanny to a small child, or a hospice volunteer), but right now I have a strong sense of been there, done that.  If it puts itself in my way, that’s something else (I do intend to use my Feldenkrais Method training to design a workshop for caregivers), but seeking it out seems almost like a panicky cop-out from braving another mode and beat of living.  I’ve had trouble getting a handle on it.

Somehow, the word lagniappe helps.


  1. kngfish said,

    i like this word….even without knowing what it means, it sounds both luxurious and serious, even sort of regal, at once, without sounding stuffy. Yesterday I read a description of Adele Astaire as a “lilac flame”, that’s stuck with me. Not that I relate that to me, but as a descriptive phrase it sounds both delicate and energetic; the notion of a word or phrase has two immediate seperate meanings has a lot of appeal…

  2. amba12 said,

    Cool and hot at the same time.

  3. Donna B. said,

    If that word could talk, the story of its travel to New Orleans would begin with the conquistadors.

    I sort of remembered this about the word from my children’s Louisiana history classes, but, to make sure, checked Wikipedia :-)

    Go ahead… go there. There’s an excerpt from Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi” that begins:

    “We picked up one excellent word — a word worth travelling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word — “

  4. amba12 said,

    Oh, COOL!! I’ll have to look tomorrow after I meet the deadline.

  5. kngfish said,

    As it is that time of the night….I will embrace a lagnisnooze and tithe in the land of Nod

  6. mockturtle said,

    By George, I think she’s got it!!!

  7. karen said,

    Lagniappe = payback+ (lan’yap)

    I had to look it up in my own bookish dictionary to get the pronounciation(actually spelled ~pronunciation~(learn something new every day!)- as French as i kinda am and as much as this Kingdom is French- i have no sound for it until i can read & practice it rolling off’n my tongue.

    Have you always known the word, or did you hear it& feel a kinship?

    Sounds an awful lot like Karma, to me.

  8. kngfish said,

    Karen, if you go to and look up a word, it usually gives you an icon to click to actually here someone say the word as well!

  9. Donna B. said,

    I hate to sound like an old fogey, but I’m glad I can click on audio of someone saying a word because those newfangled symbols are… um, Greek to me.

  10. wj said,

    Considering what you have done the past few years, you need some down-time. Probably a couple of years worth. So luxuriate away!

  11. amba12 said,

    Well . . . I wouldn’t exactly call it down time, since I’m working my butt off just to be able to stay where I want to be and do what I want.

  12. Ruth Anne Adams said,

    This word seems to me to be more akin to a gift with purchase rather than pure grace (unmerited gift). You paid retail on something and they threw in the travel-sized handcream.

    I feel like I’m in that gift-with-purchase season. Three wee are still precious and innocent, but also forming good consciences and able to ask wonderful big questions. Every day I try to take a mental picture to preserve the moment.

    First Holy Communion next week for the girls and the boy turns double digits. What a decade!

    I miss you oodles and dear old Mom asked how you are.

  13. karen said,

    Ruth Anne– yeah on the Holy Communion:0).
    My youngest(9) made her’s last yr– the road to Emmaus was the gospel. I bought her an icon of that for her gift.

    Congratulations on your successes, Ruth Anne– it’s so good to hear.

    And since i feel a bit of the Holy Spirit prompting me– is there word of Randy? I’ve hated to ask– put off asking, waiting patiently for an update– in trepidation… i brought them(he& his Mom) to our beautiful St Mary’s Star of the Sea above Lake Memphremagog– it stays w/me, as i hope it did w/them.

    I’m going to google it to see if they have pictures that can do justice- i went to school there on the Hill above the lake- and we had 1st Friday masses at St Mary’s. Acoustics made singing unearthly in sound.

    If i ever get a memory lapse of where i stand in this world– i pray God lets me keep the parts i’ve already lived and loved to play in.

  14. Beth said,

    I’d never put too much faith in anecdotal etymology, but the story I’ve heard for lagniappe makes good sense. Lagniappe might derive from “pour la nappe” as in “for the sack (a cloth sack).” The miller might say this as he put in a little extra scoop of flour or grain to ensure a full, useful measure, to make up for the bit that sticks to the inside of the cloth sack.

  15. Ruth Anne said,

    I, too, have been waiting to hear about Randy and fearing the worst. I have no inside track on info about him. Sorry.

    Emmaus is perfect for First Holy Communion…’and they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.’

  16. amba12 said,

    Ruth Anne, miss you too. Makes me really happy when you and Karen show up. Too sleepy and tired right now to write more. I too fear for Randy. I wish I had his mother’s ad;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; (fell asleep) address.

  17. LouiseM said,

    In early April, following the death of Karen’s dog, I was thinking of Randy and and the glimpses of real I receive through this blog; and wrote this, about another experience of lagniappe, or the bit of extra beyond the topic at hand

    I come here looking for something, but I’m not sure what it is. What I find often surprises, invites thought, and brings up emotion, awareness, and connection.

    Impatiens, daffodils, wood chuck holes, burial holes, ashes under a budding tree, stilled bodies, bodies still on a present journey, rooms and lives changed and made over, growth of all kinds, deaths from different causes, suffering and celebration, confusion and resilience, live saving treatments/procedures along with medical inadequacies, new pets arriving, old ones passing, treasures found, lost, held and released.

    What I encounter is the affirmation of opposites, the holes within the whole and vice versa, an experience of bi-polar which cannot be cured or overcome with walking, medication or knowledge; only lived through with courage, compassion and love in the mystery of incomplete understanding.

  18. karen said,

    So- to pick up a thread that we had a few posts ago(dare i?)- a friend got me a book that she can’t put down: A More Excellent Way to be in Health.
    Henry W.Wright.

    Biblical- contrary to modern therapies of medicine(though not in denial of…)& just a fascinating book of a different way of thinking outside yet parallel w/… science.

    I can’t say i’m all gaga over it, but it is up my scriptural alley and i think there are great points about truthfulness and forgiveness and just a well-being of fixing what is broken w/in as opposed to the band aid solutions and not dealing w/the causes.

    LouiseM- always so good to read your poetic thoughts because they make me feel all kinds of ways…esp thankful to be alive:0). Your two houses, i think it was- i copied down and have SOMEWHERE w/in these four walls of my own house- i am taking a break from cleaning which consists of moving so much obsolete ~stuff~ like clothes and pictures and furniture from room to room, trying to find the new in the old. When, all i really want to do is plunk down comfortably on this little square machine that hums w/the hidden life of my dear friends & share deep emotions and ideas.

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