SPELLING “POOR BOY”
I have been somewhat caught by surprise recently to have noticed the menus of a couple of restaurants with which I am familiar calling their sandwiches “poor boys” as opposed to “po-boys” or “po boys.”
It has also come to my attention that your magazine has been mounting a sustained campaign for some time to get people to use what you consider as the proper term, i.e. “poor boy,” and to not use the term “po-boy.”
Even though I am very familiar with the stories about the origin of the sandwich and so on, I have to say that this is about as good of an idea as would be pestering people that they’re supposed to say “Where are you at?” instead of “Where y’at?” or “Who is that?” instead of “Who day?” or “Yes, you are correct” instead of “Yeah you right.” In other words, an absurd idea.
For one, I myself will never be able to say “poor boy” when ordering one with a straight face.
I dare say that most of us are very accustomed to using “po-boy” as opposed to “poor boy” and that prior to your recent campaign almost all restaurants were doing the same. Most restaurants, to my knowledge and, I am sure, your knowledge as well, still do use the term “po-boy.”
Even though I don’t happen to own a magazine or other medium myself, at this point I am honestly considering starting my own “it’s still OK if you want to call a po-boy a po-boy” campaign.
Richard E. Parisi
Ed. Response: We stand strongly behind our position that the proper term is “poor boy.” We understand that many phrases become altered by native slang. “Where Y’at,” for example, probably originated in German neighborhoods using that language’s construction of an inquiry about location. At least there is some cultural grounding to the term. “Po-Boy” on the other hand is just sign-painters’ short hand that betrays a name that in its true form said so much about its history. (“Poor boy” originated as a term for a sandwich made to feed impoverished streetcar workers who were on strike.) We applaud those places such as Parkway, Liuzza’s and Stanley that use the proper term. It is perfectly normal for media to make style decisions, including the spellings of indigenous dishes, for the sake of conformity. (Our style is to spell “muffuletta” with a “U” because that was the spelling originally used by Central Grocery where the sandwich was popularized.) On matters of colloquial spellings we don’t expect to win all battles but we do hope to at least keep the discussion alive.
Thank you so much for publishing such a great magazine. It has been priceless. Let me explain. I work at an assisted living facility in River Ridge. Twice a week I do a reminiscing group specifically on New Orleans history. We start at the beginning of the magazine and read articles ’til the end. Julia Street has been a favorite as it brings back so many memories to the group. Modine’s Memories is also a favorite way to bring laughter to our group.
I will continue to subscribe. I have learned a lot about my city through your magazine.
St. Francis Villa Assisted Living
Ed. Response: Thank you for your comments. Preserving local memories is yet another reason why we think that regional magazines will always survive.
Billie Jean memories
Re: Cover photo of September 2013 issue, Hank Williams Marrying Billie Jean Jones in New Orleans,
What prompted this letter was the September cover photo of Hank Williams and Billie Jean Jones. What an interesting life that woman has led. She was introduced to Hank Williams by her boyfriend, Faron Young. She was later married to Johnny Horton (of “Battle of New Orleans” fame). I believe Billie Jean is still alive and lives in Shreveport.
Keep up the good work!