Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Nom de Famille

Let us take a moment to talk about last names. There are many people here in the US who have beautiful last names of French origin, whether it is Canadian or otherwise. Many of these people, exasperated by the habitual mispronunciation of their names, have wearily conceded and have begun to endorse these mispronunciations. Since I work in an industry where giving one's last name is a matter of necessity, I have, unfortunately, heard many such cases.

There was the poor Belgian woman who, before I told her I spoke French, gave her last name as "Johnfills", when it was actually Jeanfils (which I would take over Johnson any day). I went to high school with a boy who insisted his last name was "Grossgene" when all us Frenchies know that it's Grosjean (he really should have used the French version--that name is a pickup line in itself). A few days ago I spoke with a woman who informed me that her name was Mary "Por-i-yer", Poirier in reality. Later that same day, I had Nancy "Ber-jer-onn" (Bergéron).

In college, I met a charming young man who spoke very little French--his last name was LaLiberté, which of course many people mistook to be "La-luh-bert", missing the significance of that one teensy accent mark entirely. It is unfortunate that people who are blessed with such beautiful, melodic last names must give in to the ignorance of American ears, tongues and orthographic conventions. The crusade continues...


Brittany said...

My last name is "Bouchette", which is obviously french - but people try to pronounce it

Bouchet (ay)

One time when i told someone it was actually Bouchette (ETTE) they told me " aw too bad your name isn't french"


Sangroncito said...

My grandmother's last name was Gardaphé. Whenever people look at my family tree they pronounce it
Gar-daffy, as in daffy duck.