I was invited recently by a friend of Cajun descent to a “fais do do.” I had a vague notion of a fais do do as being some kind of celebration, but I wasn’t sure what kind.
It turns out that it’s a dance party, generally one featuring zydeco music and plenty of crawfish jambalaya and beer. The term apparently originated in Louisiana in the period just before World War II.
It comes from the French words meaning “make sleep,” or, in more idiomatic English, “go to sleep.” “Do do,” pronounced to rhyme with “go go,” is Cajun baby talk for “sleep,” deriving from the word dormir.
There are slightly differing stories of the how the term was applied to the party. One is that parents would urge their small children to “go to sleep” or “fais do do,” as quickly as possible, so the parents could leave them and go to enjoy the revelry.
The other is that the party’s host customarily provided a separate room for small children to sleep during the festivities, and a lady charged with looking after them would repeatedly say, “Fais do do,” so les enfants could get to sleep in the midst of the adjacent merry-making.
In any event, the fais do do to which I was invited was several hundred miles away, and I was forced to decline. I stayed home and fis do do myself.
The old Bard of Buffalo Bayou is something of a dodo, in that, for all practical purposes, he is extinct—or at least obsolete. So is the pitiful detritus of his meretricious musings, to wit:
Had I invented Silly Putty,
I’d be so rich I could act nutty.
If I had thought up Etch-A-Sketch,
Think of the money it would fetch!
Were I the first to make a Slinky
I’d wear big diamonds on my pinky.
And I would hold a fais do do,If I’d earned lots of Play-Doh dough.