Friday, March 5, 2010

The Name ‘Rodrigue’ with Pronunciation and a Bit of History

The name 'Rodrigue' is a common one in Cajun country. However, outside the southern part of his home state, George Rodrigue endures miss-pronunciations and miss-spellings on a regular basis.

Most of the time, people say or spell the name ‘Rodriguez.’ A close second is ‘Rodrique’ (with a ‘q’ in place of the ‘g’). And bar none, the most popular miss-pronunciation is ‘Rod-ree-gay.’

People like George’s mother (adamantly ‘French’ as opposed to ‘Cajun’) pronounce the name ‘Row (as in ‘row your boat’)-dreeg.’ And George, Cajun through and through, pronounces his name ‘Rod-reeg.’

The name, I’m told, originated in Portugal and began as ‘Rodrigues’ (pronounced ‘Row-dreegsh,’ rolling the first ‘R’). It probably changed (although no one knows for sure) in the mid seventeenth century when Jeanne Rodrigues (born in Portugal) met and married Anne LeRoy (born in Paris, France), altering the name by dropping the ‘s’ to sound more French in the Acadian community of Beauport, Canada, where they made their home. (pictured, 1983 poster from a painting of Evangeline)

By the time of the Grand Dérangement* of 1755, the name ‘Rodrigue’ was around for a good one hundred years. George’s Aunt Bertha spent much of her adult life (long before the internet) researching the Rodrigue genealogy. The Courregé side (her father’s name, and George’s mother’s maiden name) was easy, because they knew that their father came to New Iberia, Louisiana directly from France. His thirteen children used this heritage to call themselves the more elegant ‘French,’ as opposed to what they perceived as the more primitive and ignorant ‘Cajun.’ (pictured, a 1980 poster from a painting of former Louisiana Governor and U.S. Senator Huey Long)

George’s mother, Marie Courregé, was more Rodrigue than Courregé, ironically, especially once she married. Her mother was a Rodrigue, meaning that George’s parents were first cousins. (pronounced ‘Cour-a-zhay’ in Louisiana, although in France it’s closer to ‘Cour-rezh’)

According to Bertha, four Rodrigue brothers entered New Orleans in 1755. She suspected but could not confirm that they came from Canada. The brothers settled in the southeastern part of the state, in Lafourche Parish, specifically in and around the town of Chackbay, Louisiana. Today the town holds an annual Rodrigue reunion, attracting 3,000 – 4,000 people. (pictured, 1991 poster from a painting of Clay 'Baby' Meaux)

In 1972 George received a letter from a Canadian professor asking about the Rodrigue name. He had read about George in an art magazine, as a painter of Cajun folk life. It turns out that this man held the rest of the puzzle, having traced the Rodrigue name (or Rodrigues before the move) from Portugal to Beauport, Canada. He knew of four Rodrigue brothers leaving Canada in 1755, but knew no further. George put him in touch with Bertha, and they connected the dots.

George Rodrigue is proud of his name and his Cajun heritage. He named his sons, André Rodrigue and Jacques Rodrigue, after their Canadian ancestors. (pictured, André, Jacques, and George Rodrigue, with our nephew William)

George uses his name as both a symbol and an interesting graphic element. This is especially true of his Louisiana commemorative posters, when he breaks up the plain but necessary border text with a large and bold signature.

With the Blue Dog Series, specifically the original silkscreens, in numerous cases George incorporates his name as a design element, sometimes so strong that it competes with the Blue Dog for attention.

Finally, I apologize to those of you who are less than thrilled with this rather dry blog entry (and I do promise to make it up to you). However, the second most asked question we receive (following “Where did the Blue Dog come from?”) is “How do you pronounce your name?”

And so there you have it, the name 'Rodrigue' (pronounced ‘Rod-reeg’), with a bit of genealogical lagniappe thrown in.

Wendy

*For more on the Acadian exile of 1755, visit A History of Evangeline in Rodrigue Paintings and The Saga of the Acadians. For more on the French people in Louisiana see The Aioli Dinner and a Cajun Artist. For more on George’s parents and childhood see the story How Baby George Became an Artist. For more on Aunt Bertha the Old Maid, as she was known to the family, see the story Tombs in the Life and Art of George Rodrigue.

**This blog is not meant to be a definitive source of history on the name Rodrigue. Rather my priorities centered on pronunciation and George’s use of his name within his work. For detailed research on the name Rodrigue, visit http://www.genealogie.org/famille/Rodrigue/

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24 comments:

  1. Fewf! Great post and informative... feel I am always saying it wrong.. Yay!

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  2. Wendy, I want to thank you ever so much for this blog! I am also a Rodrigue, although as my family are Quebequois and not Cajun, we pronounce it ROD-rig, sometimes RO-djrig (or if we are speaking French RUD-RIG with the rolling r).

    I grew up in South Florida, where inevitably the ending "z" was tacked on without my consent. And I have countless times corrected people "no, it's French, not Spanish" without bothering to delve into its Portugese origin. "Say it like there are no vowels at the end" was my helpful tip.

    I first came to know of George's work through the Absolut ad in the early 90s. It was the first time in my life I had seen my last name in print spelled correctly! It was a magical moment for me, one that legitimized what had been a source of embarrassment. I tore the ad out of the magazine and now have it framed and prominently displayed in my living room. I have admired your husband's work ever since.

    While growing up, I couldn't wait to get married and be rid of this name that nobody can spell or pronounce. But in my bloodline, there are only three remaining Rodrigues (plural, not with an "s"). I am one of them. The older I get, the more determined I am to hang on to this name, this heritage, this source of great pride.

    Thank you again for your blog.

    Linda Rodrigue

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  3. Thank you for the wonderful comments! Who knew a 'name blog' would get so much attention? Wendy

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  4. Wow, a real reunion of Rodrigue's!!! I've been following George's art for a few years as I've been building my own art career, but am full of joy to have come across this post!

    I'm a decendant of Sebastiao Rodrigues, and I do believe we had some move on to l'Acadie, but my grandfather came over to the province of Ontario from Saint Clet, Québec, which has now been absorbed into Montréal.

    I wonder how many more of us have artistic genes?

    Carole Rodrigue

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  5. thank you i liked the info!!! I am presently researching my cajun/french heritage..I am an Andre' (last name) thanks, it inspired me to keep on keeping on. Gwendolyn Michele Andre'

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  6. Bon Jour..i am a RODRIGUE of Canadien descent living in MA. when people want to put an "S" on the end of my name i always answer that "We drop the "S" in 1665. Which gives them the extent of my immigration and genealogical status.

    Normand Rodrigue

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  7. Thanks for the great tip, Normand. I'll pass it along! Best, Wendy

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  8. Hi Wendy! I'm so excited to know I've been pronouncing it correctly all these years :)

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  9. Thanks Jo! You have good instincts! Thanks so much for reading and commenting-

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  10. Stephanie RodrigueOctober 18, 2011 at 5:26 PM

    Hi Mrs. Rodrigue, I just heard about your husband on Auction Hunters and leaped on the internet to find out more. I am also a Rodrigue and still live in the province of Quebec. Our line is from Jao Rodrigues from Portugal but that is about all I know so I will be going to the link you gave. I love Mr. Rodrigue's earlier work, trying to find a poster reproduction to hang in my home.
    Best to all of you,
    From your french cousin,
    Stephanie Rodrigue

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  11. Hi Stephanie, Thank you for your email. Yes, I can see where George's Cajun paintings especially might resonate for you. There are lots of Cajun posters available by contacting the Rodrigue Gallery info@georgerodrigue.com.

    In the meantime, be sure and check the essays under POPULAR MUSINGS at the upper right of this post --- especially the ones under 'Cajuns' and 'Portraits.'

    I read George your comments and he was intrigued to find another Rodrigue cousin - living in Quebec and discovered through Auction Hunters at that!

    All best,
    Wendy

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  12. Hi Wendy! Thank you for this blog post. Like my sister Linda commented on March 6, 2010, my sisters and I shared the same pronunciation issues growing up that you describe in your blog entry.

    Linda did a great job of exposing our entire family to George Rodrigue and the Blue Dog before her untimely death in September at the age of 41. Thanks to your blog and her comment (which I only discovered this evening), I can read in Linda's own words why she was so fascinated by the Blue Dog.


    Diane M. (Rodrigue) Danforth

    By the way, even after getting married last year, she kept the Rodrigue name and made it her legal middle name.

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  13. Hi Diane,

    I am truly saddened to hear this about your sister Linda. George and I both send our deepest condolences on the loss of this young life, someone obviously so special to you and your family -- to the 'Rodrigue' family.

    Thank you for writing in.

    All the best to you and yours over the Thanksgiving holiday-
    Wendy Rodrigue

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  14. I think it was a wonderfully informative and interesting post! Not dry at all. THANK YOU for sharing the information and history. I am a RODRIGUEZ, and I always wondered. I have been following Rodrige's art for years and love the Blue Dog. It is a very wonderful thing to be in touch with one's heritage and have such pride!

    Keep up the terrific posts! I love reading them and learning about the art and the man, and the author! Cheers, Wendy. You're a very good writer.

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    1. Thank you, Diana! This was especially refreshing to hear on an old post. But the name (as you know) is a tricky one for many. I so appreciate your reading the blog and taking the time to comment-

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  15. I am a Rodrigue. I was born in Lewiston, Maine where there are a lot of French Canadians who came to live. About 10 years ago, my cousin briefed me on his line study of Rodrigue. He stated we derived from Portugal, went to Canada and some went from Canada to Louisiana. He also stated that there were a lot of artists in the Rodrigue family. It seems that the Rodrigue blood has developed a line of people who definitely think out of the box. Most of us seem to be well rounded and have the same energies. In no matter what we do, we like to research, discover, develop, create and succeed. We are very independent and self driven people. Many of us tend to be self employed. I am very proud to be a Rodrigue. And yes, the pronunciation has been an issue.

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    1. Your comments are a great addition to the post, Anon. Thank you!

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  16. Not a dry post at all!!!! I have recently begun researching my family history on Ancestry.com and have reached a wall with my maternal great grandmother! I am told by "old-timers" in the family that her maiden name was Rodrigue before she married my great-grandfather, Albert Hebert. She was Zoe Rodrigue. They all lived in Southern Louisiana before moving to Orange, Texas. I will research these four Rodrigues and see if that gets me anywhere!

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  17. Dear Wendy, I am a Rodrigue that lives in the Dallas area. My grandfather, Robert Rodrigue , was from the Lake Charles area and married a woman named Eunice Bonds, his second wife and my grandmother. They migrated to the south Texas area way back when. We are allegedly related somehow by my grandfathers first marriage whom he had 5 children. Myself and my male cousins even strongly resemble George. Can you point me to a family tree somewere so I can make the connections if any? Thanks, James Rodrigue mkcrod@aol.com

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    1. Hi James, There was a great link with a detailed family tree. It's posted at the bottom of this blog story. However, it seems to be down at the moment. You might check back periodically, as it was interesting and full of details going all the way back to France and Portugal. Best, Wendy

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  18. *raises hand*

    I am a direct descendent of Jean Baptiste Rodrigue who served with the LA militia and thus qualifies me for DAR!

    Terri

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    1. Actually Caesaire Trosclair is my Facebook nom de plume.

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  19. This website gives a different version of this name.
    http://www.houseofnames.com/rodrigue-family-crest

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    1. Thank you for the link. I don't see anything different here, but all input is much appreciated.

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