Lagniappe

While watching episode 4 of David Simon's new series Treme, I learned a new word: lagniappe. The scene involved the character Davis driving to give someone a piano lesson. His trip was abruptly cut short when his car fell into a large pothole rendering it immobile. A man from a nearby house came outside and called his cousin to give Davis a ride to his intended destination for a fee. But Davis's "shit", i.e., keyboard, was still in the car and would be ripe for theft.

Man: I'll watch it for you.
Davis: How much?
Man: Nah, consider it lagniappe.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I knew I had heard the word before and knew the spelling, so I looked it up. Wikipedia quotes Mark Twain:

We picked up one excellent word — a word worth travelling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word — "lagniappe." They pronounce it lanny-yap. It is Spanish — so they said. We discovered it at the head of a column of odds and ends in the Picayune, the first day; heard twenty people use it the second; inquired what it meant the third; adopted it and got facility in swinging it the fourth. It has a restricted meaning, but I think the people spread it out a little when they choose. It is the equivalent of the thirteenth roll in a "baker's dozen." It is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure. The custom originated in the Spanish quarter of the city. When a child or a servant buys something in a shop — or even the mayor or the governor, for aught I know — he finishes the operation by saying — "Give me something for lagniappe." The shopman always responds; gives the child a bit of licorice-root, gives the servant a cheap cigar or a spool of thread, gives the governor — I don't know what he gives the governor; support, likely. When you are invited to drink, and this does occur now and then in New Orleans — and you say, "What, again? — no, I've had enough;" the other party says, "But just this one time more — this is for lagniappe." When the beau perceives that he is stacking his compliments a trifle too high, and sees by the young lady's countenance that the edifice would have been better with the top compliment left off, he puts his "I beg pardon — no harm intended," into the briefer form of "Oh, that's for lagniappe."

I've heard this phenomenon is common in parts of Asia. After much haggling, a customer and merchant will settle on a price for sale. After the money and goods have been exchanged, the customer will demand a small fee, say, tea. The merchant will then be obligated to serve the customer tea.

The awesome theme song to the opening credits is appropriately enough titled "Treme song" by John Boutte:

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