Word of Mouth: Lagniappe

Word of Mouth: Lagniappe

Emma Christensen
Jun 19, 2008

Lagniappe, lay-GNAP: a Cajun-Creole word meaning a small gift given by a merchant to the buyer at the time of purchase, often of food.

Flipping through the most recent issue of Gastronomica, we noticed on the very last page is a section titled "Lagniappe." It wasn't a term we could remember hearing before.

We discovered that the word has roots in the Spanish and Quechua words for "gift" or "giving," and the practice of lagniappe originated in Louisiana. Reading through definitions and descriptions, we started to feel there was more to this practice than meets the eye.

When a farmer slips a few extra strawberries into our basket or our favorite baker hands us a fresh cookie along with our bag of dinner rolls, we feel like there's a personal connection being made.

With this unexpected and unsolicited gift, the exchange of money and goods becomes something more social and friendly. It's not really about what small gift we've received. It's more that it was given.

Sure, skeptics can say that it's in the seller's best interest and the ulterior motive is that we'll come shop there again. And that may very well be true!

But we prefer to think of it as lagniappe--something special and welcoming.

What does lagniappe mean to you?

Related: Weekend Meditation: Belonging

(Image: Flickr member angela7dreams licensed under Creative Commons)

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