Crawfish: Sometimes known as "crayfish" to the Yankees, these freshwater crustaceans look like tiny lobsters. They are harvested beginning in the late winter and through early summer, when locals hold crawfish boils on the weekends. These "mud bugs" are strongly seasoned and often boiled in a giant pot along with potatoes, onions and corn on the cob.
Créole: From the Spanish word criollo, which designated a pure-blooded Spanish child born in the New World. Over the years, the word’s meaning expanded, first to indicate anyone in the New World whose ancestors came from Europe, but then to refer to a somewhat larger population. Today, "creole" refers not only to a population but to many things, from food to style, that are distinctly New Orleans.
Go cup: A plastic cup into which New Orleans revelers pour their drinks upon leaving a bar. Pedestrians are permitted to carry open containers of alcohol, as long as they’re not glass containers, throughout the city.
King Cake: The official pastry of Carnival, the season beginning on January 6 and ending on Mardi Gras. This oval-shaped sweet cake is topped with sugar in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. Inside is a plastic baby, and the finder of this trinket is obliged to purchase the next year's King Cake.
Krewe: Refers to the group or organization that puts on a Mardi Gras parade. Krewe members typically pay membership fees and also attend the krewe’s annual ball, usually days or weeks before the parade.
Mardi Gras: French for "Fat Tuesday," it is the grand celebration before the repentant season of Lent, which begins the next day on Ash Wednesday. In New Orleans, this "greatest free show on earth" is marked by elaborate parades of floats with masked riders who throw plastic beads, cups, doubloons and other trinkets. The Mardi Gras, or Carnival, season begins on Epiphany on January 6, and runs for several weeks leading up to the largest party on Mardi Gras day. Fat Tuesday is a statewide holiday, and many schools and offices close for several days or the entire week.
Mufaletta: A sandwich invented in New Orleans at the famed Central Grocery, it is typically made with ham, salami, provolone cheese and a marinated olive salad. It is served on flat Italian bread similar to focaccia.
Neutral ground: Refers to the median, or the grassy patch of land running down the center of a boulevard. Originally, Canal Street was meant to be a canal dividing the French side of the city from the American side. Until the canal was built, a boulevard divided the city and residents referred to the grassy strip down the middle as the "neutral ground." The canal was never built, but referring to medians as "neutral ground" stuck.
Po' boy: A traditional sandwich in Louisiana, made with soft French bread and nearly any type of meat, though fried shrimp, catfish or oyster are common. Po’ boy comes from "poor boy," the term for the streetcar workers on strike in 1929 when the sandwich became popular.
Red beans and rice: An easy and cheap dish common in Louisiana cuisine, made of red beans simmered with pork and spices and served over white rice. Red beans and rice is traditionally served on Monday, after a weekend of heavy eating.
Second line: The second line consists of revelers at a jazz funeral. The first line is the mourning friends and family, and the second line consists of dancers and those celebrating the deceased with music and dance.
Throw: What one catches at a Mardi Gras parade. All parades have a variety of "throws" including plastic beads, go-cups, doubloons and trinkets. Parade-goers beg float riders for these "throws" by pleading "Throw me something, mister!"
Vieux Carré: The French Quarter, New Orleans' most famous and historical district. It is roughly 10 square blocks along the Mississippi River, and it is known for its beautiful Spanish-influenced architecture, local shops and fabulous restaurants and bars. It includes raucous Bourbon Street.
Zydeco: Popular music of southern Louisiana that combines French dance melodies, elements of Caribbean music, and the blues, played by small groups featuring the guitar, the accordion and a washboard.