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.

Let us know what you think. Any comments about this article? Write to errol@myneworleans.com. All responses are subject to being published, as edited, in this newsletter. Please include your name and location. 

 


Krewe: The Early New Orleans Carnival - Comus to Zulu by Errol Laborde is available at all area bookstores. Books can also be ordered via e- mail at gdkrewe@aol.com or (504) 895-2266.

 



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Reader Comments:
Aug 24, 2009 12:05 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I say "Rose"a-velt, but I'm from Washington State with Midwestern parents.
I do pronounce "Espla-naid" and "BurGUNdy" "Charters" and "y'all" correctly, though my father suspects that my adopted Louisiana slang comes from "drinking too much" (as New Orleanians - natives and non-natives alike – are prone to do) and thus, slurring my words.
-S

Aug 24, 2009 01:52 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I don't recall where I heard this, but somebody said something about it becoming "Rouxs" because of Huey Long. He loved the hotel, but wasn't a fan of Teddy, and forced the pronunciation change.

Aug 24, 2009 02:22 pm
 Posted by  jaygeebee

randy newman says "rose-velt" in his song "kingfish" from "good ole boys"album. that's good enough for me.

Aug 24, 2009 03:35 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

This is why they should have gone all the way back & called it the Hotel Grunewald. I know how to pronounce that.


Sincerely, Jac Gruenwald

Aug 24, 2009 04:01 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Rose...always has been for me and always will be! With that in mind...I think I pronounce three syllables however I say 'rose' and 'velt' so close together that you don't hear the 'a'...

Aug 24, 2009 04:20 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Undoubtedly you have identified the “correct” way to pronounce Roosevelt, but it is a charming New Orleanism to come up with alternative pronunciations for things. The name of the city itself has a number of different pronunciations depending on where you grew up or how your parents said it.

By the way, I have a theory on how we came to pronounce Burgundy while in France drinking some really good Burgundy: The French word for Burgundy - Bourgogne - has a strong accent on the second syllable, just like our supposedly "ignorant" pronunciation of BurGUNdy Street. Perhaps in the translation from the French to English the street name retained its original accent? I don't have an explanation for Chartres or all those poor mangled Muses, other than ignorance...

KJ

Ken in Mandeville

Aug 24, 2009 08:02 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Well, there you have it. Great research. Wonder how you pronounce Rev. Moir's surname. Incidentally, I don't have Roosevelt on my name pronunciation website (howtosaythatname.com). I'll have to add it now. Thanks for this piece!

Aug 31, 2009 02:26 pm
 Posted by  gray observer

Check this site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MX_v0zxM23Q
It shows FDR's first inaugural, and Charles Evans Hughes and FDR both pronounce it ROSE.

Sep 28, 2009 08:58 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I seem to remember many many years ago that when we visited Hyde Park we were told that the family themselves pronounced the roose not rose? For some reason that tidbit stuck with me and I have said roooose-velt ever since, perhaps to only embarrass myself as no one else ever heard that...

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The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde

about

Errol LabordeErrol Laborde holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of New Orleans and is the editor-in-chief of Renaissance Publishing. In that capacity he serves as editor/associate publisher of New Orleans Magazine and editor/publisher of Louisiana Life magazine.

Errol is also a producer and a regular panelist on Informed Sources, a weekly news discussion program broadcast on public television station WYES-TV, Channel 12. Errol is a three-time winner of the Alex Waller Award, the highest award given in print journalism by the Press Club of New Orleans. He also received the National and City Regional Magazine Association Award for Best Column for his New Orleans Magazine column, beating out 76 city magazines across the country. In 2013, Errol received the award for the "Best News Affiliated Blog," awarded by the Press Club of New Orleans.

Errol’s most recent books are Krewe: The Early Carnival from Comus to Zulu and Marched the Day God: A History of the Rex Organization. In his free time he enjoys playing tennis and traveling with his wife, Peggy, to anywhere they can get away to, but some of his favorite spots are the Caribbean and historic locations around Louisiana. You can reach Errol at (504) 830-7235 or errol@myneworleans.com.

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