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Accuracy, Accuracy, Accuracy!

Back in my college days, when I was a freshman student of journalism, I was told the story of publishing mogul Joseph Pulitzer, who scrawled the words

Evenson Thenor

“Accuracy, Accuracy, Accuracy!” on the newsroom wall as an emphatic exhortation to his writing staff to get the story right.  Not everything from college sticks with me, heaven knows, but that did.  And while I may not always get the straight facts rightfully expressed, as God and Joseph Pulitzer are my witnesses, I do try.

So imagine my trepidation in going to print with Haitian names.  Haitian names befuddle me like little else, and here’s why:  The order. Many Haitians write their names and refer to each other in a manner to which I, as an English speaker, am accustomed.  Julio Balan , one of the artists we have worked with since the beginning, goes by his first name and his last name in that order.  Simple. But more commonly, Haitians will write their names beginning with the family name first, following with the given name, and then refer to each other the other way around.  Thus, the artist whose friends call him “Evenson Thenor” signs his work as “Thenor Evenson. To be accurate, then, should I write it in the order that my English-speaking audience will expect it, or according to the customary use of Haitian Kreyol ?  The mind boggles.

Mystery solved: Jean Eugene and Jean Eddy Remy

Shall I tell you about Remy Jn Eugene?  That’s how he signs his work, “Jn” being an abbreviation for “Jean.”  But which one is the first name?  “Remy,” “Jean,” or “Eugene”? I could only guess and with a one out of three chance, I did not like my odds.

I got my first clue when I got wind that he has a brother, Remy Jean Eddy. “Ah HA!” I thought, “I got it,” and I started writing their names Eugene Jean Remy and Eddy Jean Remy.  Well, I was closer, but not right.  Their first names are both Jean, they go by Eugene and Eddy respectively, and Remy is the family name.  Are you still with me?

He says, “Go with Edward Dieudonne.”

Then, there is Eduoard Dieudonne.  Dieudonne is his family name and I figured that out pretty

quickly.  But I’ve seen his given name signed both as “Eduoard” and “Edward.”  To complicate matters further, the fellow I asked to help me with Eduoard’s biographical information sent me an email in which he spelled it, “Edoward.”

Was that a typo??? Well no, came the reply.  He writes it that way too.  But he says to go with “Edward.”


“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

With all due respect to Mr. Pulitzer then, and with great reverence for his demand for accuracy, I think I’ll beg forbearance and go with Shakespeare this time.  “What’s in a name?”  That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” In the final analysis, the work of our artists is still wonderfully original and beautifully crafted, no matter how their names are written.

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