Saturday, August 27, 2011

When That Little Something Extra Isn’t a Parasitic Twin

Okay, a hypothetical: I am a tradesperson. You arrive at my tradespeople shop and give me money in exchange for my goods. Let’s say they’re, like, custom-made, natural fiber condoms, from like plants or something. I am so grateful for your patronage that I fulfill the order and toss in an additional spun cotton condom free of charge, as a thank you. Now what do you call my little gift? A baker’s dozen? No! It’s not baked goods, dummy. It’s condoms. And I’m just referring to that one little extra bit, not the whole order, thirteenth non-donut condom inclusive.

A visual aid, if I may:

Okay, shit. That makes it looks I am actually talking about donuts when I just said I was talking about condoms. Are natural fiber condoms even a thing? Fuck it. Here’s the stupid word of the week.
lagniappe (LAN-yap) — noun: a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of purchase.
So how about that? This thing has a name and that name is lagniappe, which, yes, is fun to say and sounds sort of like a magical something that Bjork likes to think lives in her garden. There’s a bit of a story, etymologically speaking, and that’s the story about how the term came to English from Louisiana French, which in turn came from American Spanish (la ñapa, “the gift,” which stared as the Quechua yapa, “something added” or “gift.”)

And that’s fine and good, but I’m more amused by imagining other industries that could benefit from the implementation of the lagniappe. Like when you pay to have something professionally gift-wrapped, for example, the wrapper could kindly also drape your hand in coordinating paper when you’re not looking. Or when you hire a hitman and he explains to you, after the deed is done, that on the walk home he also slapped a crossing guard. Or when you buy a puppy and you bring it home and you’re so happy with your young and new and perfect puppy and then IT GIVES BIRTH and you say “Why oh why! And what the HELL is going on at that pet shop?!?!” But hey — you have free puppies, and maybe they’re not pregnant as well. Maybe.

Previous words of the week after the jump.
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