New Orleans FAQs

Q: Why is New Orleans referred to as “The Crescent City”?

A: A bend in the river. The old city — the Vieux Carré (literally “the old square”, what is now called “The French Quarter” — was built at an elbow in the Mississippi and the city grew up in a crescent shape around that bend.

Q: What is the difference between creole and cajun?

A: One easy demarcation is creole = city and cajun = country. Creole is taken from Portuguese “crioulo” and originally meant somebody born of the colonizing population in the new place. Of the first generation of French immigrants to what was then the French colony of Louisiana, the majority were male. Their women were African/African American or indigenous. So it didn’t take long for creole to become associated with not European white. The world criolo is sometimes used perjoratively in Brazil.

The source of “cajun” is “Arcadian”, from the Greek for a place of abundance. The word was applied to the northeastern American seaboard, eventually become restricted to this area’s more northern, generally French-speaking regions. The “r” was dropped and the region was known as “Acadia”, the residents of which were “Acadians”.

Just before the Seven Years War between the French and the English, the Acadians, whose name had morphed into Cajuns, were forced out (in 1754), and among many other places some of them eventually landed to seek refuge and a new life in a French-speaking area much further south, in the countryside at the bottom of Louisiana.

Desire Street

Q: Why was the streetcar named “Desire”?

A: It wasn’t, and they weren’t. The sign designated the destination, Desire Street, “Desire” being an anglicized version of Désirée, a daughter of an area plantation owner.