STIGMERGY: The C4SS Blog
On the Pronunciation of ‘Labadie’

I am not a historian. I have never worked professionally in any field of historical studies. Difficulty in the details of the Laurance Labadie Archival Project is therefore bound to happen, with the latest conundrum being how the surname Labadie is pronounced. In my recent appearance on Mutual Exchange Radio, I used the pronunciation lɑˈbɑdi (or ‘luh-bah-dee’) and when prompted explained how that was the way I have heard it said (this is in reference to informal conversations I’ve had with other leftists). I would therefore like to (very briefly) outline the reasoning behind that pronunciation, speak on the possible mistake of said pronunciation, and place the whole thing into a context of multiple difficulties with fully understanding Laurance Labadie’s name.

The name Labadie is, according to House of Names, a Norman surname indicating “that the original bearer lived at or near an abbey. The word occurs in contraction with the article, le, meaning the, and thus appears Labbey.” I made my best go at a French pronunciation and my assumption was that its ‘Americanization’ would sound something like lɑˈbɑdi. It appears, however, that many would disagree with me. For one, the port of Labadie in Haiti (spelled Labadee by Royal Caribbean Cruise for ease of pronunciation by English speakers) is apparently pronounced something likeˈlæbədi (or ‘la-buh-dee’). Even more pertinent is the pronunciation apparently used by the folks at the Joseph A. Labadie Archive (the basis of which is the book and document collection of Laurence’s father), which is the same as the Royal Caribbean Cruise advertises it.

Despite these two pieces of evidence, it is unfortunately not easy to say how either Labadie—son or father—preferred his name to be pronounced beyond ‘that’s how I heard it said.’ Since the younger was somewhat hermetic and to this day relatively obscure, there’s not a lot of documentation on the specifics of his name, and this has led to confusion about more than just the pronunciation. For example, the Laurance Labadie anthology Anarcho-Pessimism released by Little Black Cart spells his first name as “Laurence.” Elsewhere in the piles of documents—digital and physical—by and about Labadie that I have lying around, there appears to have been confusion on whether Labadie preferred to be called Laurance or Larry (with the former being more likely). My point is that we may never be certain as to the specifics of Laurance’s preferences about his name, so I’ll just keep saying it the way I have bee saying it until I come across something on the pronunciation from Laurance himself or one of his contemporaries.

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