after reading more, perhaps never mind about anyone trying to answer my question. Seems like, in simple terms, playing notes around the beat instead of on the beat which, i imagine, either comes naturally to one, or comes with lots of effort. Seems difficult enough for me just trying to learn to maintain the beat with the left hand in the first place - guess that's why someone told to get the left hand and foot rythym down first, to where it's automatic and you don't have to think about it.
I doubt if most Cajun musicians have ever heard of the word and so, no, they aren't aware of it on those terms. They are very aware of what it feels like, however...they just know "that's how it goes."
Syncopation is when you play notes "off the beat." For instance when you tap your foot, you normally tap on the beat...1, 2, 3, 4, etc. syncopation is when your accordion would be playing note in a rhythm that holds beyond the beat and and accents between the beat. In other words the accordion is not beginning a new note when your foot is tapping down; it is playing the new note before the strong beats (on the "up" stroke of your foot tap) Syncopation usually only happens for a few beats at a time; it is not a constant thing. Cajun and Zydeco tunes use many "unsyncopated" notes...but there are many syncopated ones as well.
It is harder to explain in words but VERY easy to demonstrate. You don't need to get hung up on this. Get some instructional videos lke Dirk Powell and don't worry too much about the technical definition of a word like "syncopation." Just focus on the music and listen as you tap a steady beat. You'll get it. It's really pretty simple music all in all.
thanks, y'all; probably goes with what someone told me recently who had given me a 1-on-1 lesson: that I was playing the melody side like/or with the bass side. I was encouraged to really try and master the bass side to the point where it was automatic. Makes sense for a struggler who's not looking to get anywhere fancy or complex, but wanting to be able to play some of the simpler traditional tunes decently. Seems like the bass side is really the hard part :-) at least i hope it is.