Aug 24, 200912:00 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
Errol Laborde: Is the hotel's name a "rouxs"? Or a "rose"?
Once again the question has become relevant: What is the correct pronunciation of the hotel that was most recently known as the Fairmont but that has reverted to its original name?
That double "O" in the name Roosevelt is troubling. I recall many old-timer New Orleanians pronouncing the name like the plural of that stuff you use to make a gumbo, “rouxs,” rather than what you sniff in a garden. Already, just in the few weeks that the hotel has been open, I have heard both pronunciations, “rouxzavelt” and “roesavelt.” (I will admit, I have often found myself using the former pronunciation though feeling uncertain about it.)
Just to resolve the question so that future generations are not “rouxing” when they should be “roseing” or visa-versa, I posed the question to the Sam Friedman, the Natchitoches developer who was the genius behind the restoration of the hotel and who was in town for the official ribbon-cutting. Friedman looked at me as though I had had too many Sazeracs. “I have always said ‘rosevelt,’” he pronounced as though there could be no other answer.
“Well, it is your hotel,” I said, showing a total deference for authority, “so I guess it is whatever you say.”
He nodded in agreement.
Still something nagged at me. Maybe the question needed to be posed to an even higher authority.
On this question the absolute expert would be Teddy Roosevelt, the man after whom the hotel was named. I did some sleuthing, and, lo and behold, I found reference to the former president having once dealt with the issue himself.
There is even an article on the Web under his name called “Disputed Pronunciation.” It says in part,
There has been much debate about the correct pronunciation of Roosevelt's last name; however, in several letters Theodore Roosevelt himself specifies the correct pronunciation. In a letter to the Rev. William W. Moir dated October 10, 1898, he writes:“As for my name, it is pronounced as if it was spelled ‘Rosavelt.’ That is in three syllables. The first syllable as if it was ‘Rose.’”
So there you have it. No court in the land can overrule the combination of Friedman and T.R. on this issue. Keep the roux in the gumbo pot. In the garden of local place names, the Roosevelt blooms.
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