To celebrate New Orleans‚Äôs¬†triumphant Super Bowl victory, as well as today‚Äôs Shrove Tuesday launch of¬† Mardi Gras, here is the fascinating blog created for us last year by guest blogger¬†Elisabeth¬†Wilborn of¬†”You Can‚Äôt Call It It.‚ÄĚ¬† Elisabeth is a writer, artist, and mother who lives in¬†Brooklyn, New¬†York.
¬†An inspiration for everything from vampires to voodoo, from zydeco to the Krewe of Zulu,¬†Louisiana¬†has been a colorful melting pot of divergent cultures for centuries. ¬†Cajuns from Canada, Creoles and others of¬†Haitian,¬†African, Italian, Spanish, or¬†Native American¬†descent, all come together to form a m√©lange of backgrounds, and in point of fact, names. ¬†Most share a history of French language and Catholicism, even if it‚Äôs not by blood. While these may not be the choices in use today in the¬†Bayou, they have been culled from historical documents, maps, and folklore from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries. ¬†The majority are either French proper, or my favorite, Frenchified. ¬†Still more trace their roots to Classical Greco-Roman¬†civilization, deep Southern culture, or are somewhere farther afield and include a curious preponderance of the letter Z.
So come on! ¬†Allez-y!¬†Chew on these names (and some¬†maque choux), prepare to bare all for those beads, and¬†laissez les bon temps roulez!
Acadia- The word Cajun itself has its origins in Acadian
Avoyelles- This Cajun¬†Parish¬†might be picked up as a first name, piggybacking on the current¬†Ava¬†and¬†Ellie¬†love
Bernadette-¬†A much beloved Catholic saint, and one of the prettiest songs in the native New Orleans¬†Neville¬†Brothers repertoire
Delphine-¬†While¬†Delphine¬†is a lovely and lilting name,¬†Delphine¬†La Laurie was a famous socialite and sadist who tortured her slaves
Dixie-¬†Used to refer to the South at large, this may have originated in New Orleans on the ten dollar bill, upon which a local bank printed ‚Äúdix‚ÄĚ, the French for ten.
Eugenie-¬†Napoleon‚Äôs first love
Evangeline- An epic poem by¬†Henry¬†Wadsworth¬†Longfellow¬†recalling the 1755 deportation of Acadian Canadians to the newly Spanish¬†Louisiana
Josephine-¬†Napoleon‚Äôs (second) love
Magnolia- The state flower of¬†Louisiana
Mahalia-¬†Mahalia¬†Jackson¬†is a gospel and blues singer from the area, with a name worth borrowing
Marie-¬†Marie¬†Laveau was a reknowned Voodoo¬†Queen¬†who was visited by slaves and owners alike
Sabine- The¬†Sabine¬†River¬†runs through¬†Louisiana
Tammany-¬†Parish¬†north of New Orleans
Zenobia¬†(also spotted as¬†Senobia)
Amos-¬†Amos¬†Moses¬†is a¬†song by¬†Jerry¬†Reed¬†about a fictional one armed alligator-hunting Cajun man
Beau,¬†Beauregard-¬†Pierre¬†Gustave¬†Toutant¬†Beauregard¬†was the most famous Civil War soldier from New Orleans and fought in the Battle of¬†Shiloh; ¬†his ghost is said to roam the streets of New Orleans whispering ‚ÄúShiloh‚Äú, which means ‚Äúplace of peace‚ÄĚ
Bernard-¬†Parish¬†east of New Orleans
Charles-¬†Geographically,¬†Charles¬†is everywhere, from a street in¬†NOLA¬†to the western city of¬†Lake¬†Charles¬†to¬†St.¬†CharlesParish¬†in the east
Dagobert-¬†Pere¬†Dagobert was a well-respected 18th century priest who is still said to be heard singing ‚ÄúKyrie‚ÄĚ while keeping a watchful eye over the city of New Orleans.
Gustave¬†‚Äď2008‚Äôs Hurricane¬†Gustav¬†(yes, that‚Äôs the way the storm was spelled) may have dampened enthusiasm for this name.
Jean-Baptiste-¬†Jean-Baptiste¬†Le¬†Moyne de Bienville foundedNouvelle-Orleans¬†in 1718
Landry-¬†St.¬†Landry¬†Parish¬†is home to many a Cajun
LeRoy-¬†Leroy¬†is originally from ‚Äúle roi‚ÄĚ or, ‚Äúthe king‚ÄĚ
Philippe-¬†The city was named for¬†Philippe¬†II, Duc d‚ÄôOrleans
Pierre-¬†Pierre¬†Augustin¬†Charles¬†Bourguignon Derbigny was among¬†Louisiana‚Äôs Creole governors