Gumbo ya ya: a groovy word

If you’ve ever been to a family dinner at my house during the holidays, you know that you practically have to take a number to speak. It’s hard to get a word in sideways. Everyone has something to say and everyone talks at once. Sometimes the grandkids even raise their hands like they do in school in hopes of being recognized.

I never knew there was a word for that all commotion until reading Julie Smith’s novel Jazz Funeral. In the book, a character jazz funeralrefers to the din of everyone talking at the same time as gumbo ya ya. Even though never heard of the Cajun phrase, the City Dictionary of New Orleans verifies the meaning.

One cooking site jokes that gumbo ya ya has nothing to do with food. It means “everybody talks at once, which, if you’ve been to any meeting, political, social, PTA or otherwise [in New Orleans], you know what gumbo ya ya means.”

The English teacher in me wants to make it a noun, a collective noun, for sure.

As for the origin, who knows when it comes to Cajun. Some think the term is like gumbo, lots of things thrown in at the same time each adding flavor.

That’s what it’s like at my house when we all get together – everyone offering something of value to liven up the conversation pot.

jazz funeral ya ya

Watch the go-go boots and hot pants put the groove in Lee Dorsey’s hit Ya! Ya! from 1961.

Yep! We’re a “gumbo ya ya”–  family. Hey, it can be used as an adjective, too.


Just for fun, here’s a groovy dance number — complete with hot pants and boots — to Lee Dorsey’s Ya Ya hit in the 1960s. Everyone’s dancing at once!

About thegumbodiaries

On the search for the perfect gumbo!
This entry was posted in Dear Diary (Gumbo Experiences)... and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Gumbo ya ya: a groovy word

  1. Sandy Scott says:


    Thanks for a fun read. Ya, ya!



  2. Since you lived in New Orleans, I knew you’d appreciate it. Thanks for reading.


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