CANADIEN-ECOSSAIS.

So MetaFilter member acoutu mentioned in an AskMeFi thread that her family name, Coutu, was traditionally pronounced “Koo-chee.” Her explanation for this was that

…my great-great-grandfather worked on the railroads with a bunch of Italians. Being an Italian in North America at that time was not exactly a great thing, but it was a heck of a lot better than being a French Canadian. So, when Coutu was pronounced lightly as “Cootchyu”, some of the railroad guys thought it was “[C]ucci”. And my great-great-grandfather just went along with that. This makes sense to me because of the discrimination against French Canadians.
As late as the 40s or 50s, my grandfather was mistaken for being Italian—something he gladly accepted. One day, a guy asked him something about Italians and my grandfather said he was actually French Canadian. The guy said, “Me too!” And my grandfather said, “Since when is McCready a French Canadian name?” And the other guy said, “It’s Mercredi. You think I’m going to say something if they think I’m Scottish?!”

I absolutely love that story and had to share it at once.

Comments

  1. Fantastic story. I will never feel the same going into a “Jean Coutu” again (the big huge drug store chain in Quebec)!

  2. McCready could actually be a Québécois name – Blackburn, Johnson and Ryan are perfectly good Québécois names belonging to people whose first language is French. Plenty of intermarriage has occurred, especially with Irish folks who came over during the potato famine. Since both groups were Catholics there was no technical barrier to intermarriage, and depending where the family settled, French might easily be adopted as the family tongue.
    I only find a single Mercredi listed in the Montreal phone book, by the way. The only person I can think of in public life with that surname was a First Nations leader from out west – and there’s some chance his family name might’ve been McCready originally, come to think of it.

  3. As a Canadian of mostly Scottish descent with a few French branches on the family tree, I find this story pretty hilarious. And Kate’s right: McCready wouldn’t be too out of place in Quebec, given the huge number of Irish immigrants to that province. A former prime minister, Brian Mulroney, was Quebecois.

  4. Yeah, but you’re assuming my grandfather was living in Quebec. He moved out west and that’s where he (and this Mercredi fellow, who may have been Metis, FWIW, and even a relative of Ovide Mercredi) ran into the prejudice. My grandfather was shocked that people out west tended not to consider him Canadian, given that he had served as part of the Devil’s Brigage (Green Berets) in WWII.
    Someone else reports a Koochee at http://home.mn.rr.com/wwftd/archives.html.

  5. Nice.
    My workiing class grandfather in law was called Smith. He was not happy to be so common and wanted to mark himself out as a cut above the rest so he simply added – no papers, no nuffink – Merrow (the village in Oxfordshire from which he hailed) to it, making Merrow-Smith. Hence I am one of those very posh sounding double barreled people.

  6. Ovide Mercredi is Cree from Grand Rapids, Manitoba. However, Manitoba is something of a core area for Metis culture, and in this region at least there is a de facto fuzzy boundary between the groups, even if by legal recognition they have different rights.
    I second kate m. that Ryan, Johnson etc are Quebecois names — when I was at Laval my passionately separatist civ. professor’s name was Mc-something, which bothered her not at all.

  7. I second (or third or fourth?) that. Another example that’s always struck me is Normand Braithwaite, a noted and very francophone comedian here in Quebec. Also, famously, some Irish orphans were allowed to retain their original surnames when adopted by Quebequois families in the 19th century (all Canadians have probably seen the ‘Heritage Minute’ with ‘Molly Johnston’).
    As a side note, whilst ‘Mercredi’ is an uncommon name here in Quebec, it seems to be quite common in the prairie provinces, with multiple Canada411 hits in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Many of these people live in municipalities with French names, probably indicating some kind of Metis origin.

  8. giorgiodieffe says:

    I’m italian and I never heard Cucci…:-)
    but it seems exist:
    http://elenco.libero.it/elenco/regioni.jsp?cognome=cucci&nome=
    Mercredi, je crois que ne soit pas un nom commun en France…semble etre, au contraire un de ces noms qui prenaient les soldats en guerre…un nom de bataille, come “jolie fleur”, “belle rose” etc.

  9. Can’t find a single person called Mercredi in the French online phone book but, hey, it’s still a great story.

  10. Andrea Coutu says:

    I believe “Mercredi” is a French Canadian name, not a French name. FWIW, “Coutu” is also a French Canadian name; it was spelled Cottu when my ancestors first arrived from France.

  11. Danielle Mercredi says:

    My family name is Mercredi and we are Metis. Originally from Red River, Manitoba but were pushed by the Hudsons Bay Company and Canadian Government to the Red River Settlement in Northern Alberta. I wish I knew others with my last name as it is quiet unusual. I’d be very interested in any Historical knowledge of it.

  12. giorgiodieffe says:

    I think that’s truly a french-canadian name…and it derives from a french “sobriquet”.

  13. hazel Mercredi says:

    my family name is mercredi as well, but according to our family history mercredi comes from the french who couldn’t prounouce mccready correct and it came out mercredi, I understand it is orinally Irish i believe they came to canada in the 16-1700 hundreds and thats how mercredi came to be so if we went back 200 yrs or so we would all be mccready’s not mercredi, but i am proud of my name.

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