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Galeemacha Column by Earl J. Comeaux

Cajun Names...first names, family names and those ever present nicknames...never cease to amaze newcomers to Acadiana. The most striking thing about Cajun names, is that almost everyone has a nickname, and these nicknames are used so frequently and so exclusively that telephone directories in Southwest Louisiana now include nicknames of the subscribers. Perhaps the reason for this great use of nicknames among Cajun is grounded in the familiarity of the Cajun. Cajuns are noted as friendly people, and usually members of an Acadian community know each other very well. Because of this familiarity, Cajuns use the more familiar, less formal expression of tu almost to the exclusion of vous, the other French word for "you." In standard French tu is used with friends and relatives and vous is reserved for strangers, superiors and formal occasions. Cajuns used tu almost exclusively, and vous autres is used only with extremely elderly or important people and for a plural.

Some common nicknames are "Tee-Tee", probably from petit (small); "Tee-Do", probably from petit doux (little sweet one); Bee; Papou; Cahoui (Sha-we, meaning racoon); Pirou; Coon; fils (fees, meaning son); Boon and Tee Noon. Some of the first names of Cajuns in years past were classic, although most of the first names of today are more modern. The old names included those with Greek, Biblical or Classical origins, such as Aristide, Oneziphore, Clovis (the first Frankish king), Eraste (a Renaissance scholar), Theophise, Zepherin and Hypolite. Many persons without any French blood whatsoever have been completely absorbed into the Cajun community to such an extent that some of them can speak nothing but French. Examples are the Spanish like Miguez, Nunez, Romero, Suarez (Soirez), Seguara and Viator, and Germans like Schexneider, Toups, Rost Frederic, Hoffpauir, Saltzman and Vaughn, and maybe Abshire. Campbell is Scot and probably so is Lormand.

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There are some Scots who settled in Acadia and married into Cajun families, and Acadia, from whence the Cajuns came, is now known as Nova Scotia, the latin word for New Scotland. Many Cajuns bear English names like Harrington, Hargrave or Greene. Until recently many people bearing these names spoke little English. We could not write a column on French names without including the classic story about the lawyer checking courthouse records who came across the name "Regus Patoff LeBlanc." Puzzled by the oddity of the first names, he investigated and learned that its origin was the label on a can of food... an adaptation of the abbreviation "Reg. U.S. Pat. Off." - Registered with the U.S. Patent Office!

 

The above noted is a re-print (with thanks) of one of the Galeemacha column written by Earl J. Comeaux. Earl also authors a bilingual Cajun/English comic strip at [http://www.vrml.k12.la.us/] entitled "Bec Doux et Ses Amis", depicting Cajun culture and language.

 

 

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