Why do New Orleans people say ‘where y’at?’ | Entertainment/Life
, 2023-03-19 08:00:00,
You’d think the origin of one of New Orleans’ most iconic turns of phrase would be well known. But you would be wrong.
Ed Zyniewicz says that New Orleans is his favorite city. The Michigan resident lived here throughout the 1970s, working as a sales executive for the Blue Plate company, providing the population with the most essential kitchen staples, mayonnaise and frying oil.
Oh how Zyniewicz loved Mardi Gras, the oysters, the “characters” he worked with, their weird accents and slang phrases like “ya mom and them.”
The 1970s was the height of the Yat era, a term meaning authentic old-time New Orleanians of a certain ilk. Of course, Zyniewicz knows that the term Yat is derived from the phrase “Where are you?” what he calls “an affectionate verbal greeting” that was usually announced “from 10 feet away.”
But he doesn’t know why the people of Crescent City ever said “where are you?” first of all. “I’ve never heard a theory,” he said.
So, Zyniewicz asked us. And we, in turn, asked Katie Carmichael, a New Orleans-born associate professor of English at Virginia Tech who studies such linguistic mysteries.
jargon is a puzzle
Carmichael said she’s not sure. You can never be sure of the lingo, she said.
Carmichael said, “Where are you?” probably not a translation from another language, in the way that “How’s it going…
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