Among the words of which I’m particularly fond, lagniappe holds a special place. There are several reasons, among them the difficulty of pronouncing it properly and the puzzled grimaces most people make when they hear it. It means “a little extra,” usually a small benefit beyond what one had expected.
I first encountered the word many years ago, in an old Frederik Pohl / C. M. Kornbluth novel, Search the Sky, about the consequences of an interstellar diaspora. It’s not a particularly exalted novel, but it’s beautifully written, as you’d expect from the combined talents of those two writers, and contains many humorous turns. Here’s one:
“I’ll tell you anything I know,” Marconi declared positively, and insincerely. “Tend to that fellow first though, will you?” He pointed to a uniformed Yards messenger whose eye had just alighted on Ross. The man threaded his way, stumbling, through the tables and laid a sealed envelope down in the puddle left by Ross’s drink.
“Sorry, sir,” he said crisply, wiped off the envelope with his handkerchief and, for lagniappe, wiped the puddle off the table into Ross’s lap.
Not bad, eh? And there’s that word, in an ironic usage.
Anyway, here we are on the birthday of our nation, which we usually celebrate with cookouts, beer, and volleyball, but seldom a thought for what it is we’re celebrating. For the less thoughtful, it’s just a day off from work. (“Three day weekend! Yay!”) For persons of ordinary dispositions, it can include such considerations as ensuring that there are enough buns, keeping the dog from pissing on the marigolds, and where the Hell has the lighter fluid gotten off to this time? But for some, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on the lagniappes in our own lives.
As beset as we are with politically generated troubles, it’s especially important to be mindful of our individual blessings, even the smallest of them. Possibly more important on Independence Day in this Year of Our Lord 2022 than on any other day this year. And so, out of the spirit of boundless generosity for which this D-list Mencken of the World Wide Web is so widely known, I shall enumerate a few of mine own. Perhaps they’ll stimulate recognition of a few lagniappes by my Gentle Readers.
- Our neighbor to the south, a fellow even more advanced in age than I, doesn’t mind that deer keep nibbling on his shrubs and chowing down from his bird feeder. He enjoys watching them, as do I.
- Our neighbors to the north have three children. Very nice children, actually. They like our dogs. Two have recently gone off to college; the third will get there in due course.
- As best I can tell, there are no mosquitoes nor ticks this year. Also, the ants and the poison ivy have conceded defeat.
- Though ours is a connecting street, the traffic is moderate and our front hedge dampens the noise acceptably.
- Despite the pleas of three brokers and two hedge fund managers, I’m still retired.
- My mechanic has declared his determination never to retire.
- Our favorite wineries have yet to raise their prices.
- I slept well last night and rose refreshed.
- Despite everything, I’m still married.
- So is my wife.
This must not be neglected:
If you have no great triumphs over which to preen, make use of the small ones, the lagniappes that you did not expect. Perhaps they seem incidental. Perhaps you lucked into a few of them, which should inspire still more gratitude. There will be time – indeed, there always is – to grumble over difficulties and setbacks. And as some recent Supreme Court decisions have reminded us, the Constitution still stands and the free Republic it chartered may yet stage a comeback. Dum spiro, spero, right, Gentle Reader?
Happy Independence Day. May God bless and keep you all, and may He aid us in restoring our nation to the Land of the Free that it was and should be.