Internet commerce is a wonderful thing, but there’s nothing like spending time in an actual bookstore. Today my stepson and his wife treated me to a visit to the Book Mill, where I found all sorts of great books. Before I headed for the register, I managed to whittle my pile down to four: The Socialist Revolutionaries and the Russian Anti-war Movement by Michael Melancon (an old Louisiana name that is apparently pronounced me-LAW-son), Patriotic Culture in Russia During World War I by Hubertus F. Jahn, Intelligentsia and Revolution: Russian Views of Bolshevism, 1917-1922 by Jane Burbank, and Africa from the Twelfth to the Sxteenth Century edited by J. Ki-Zerbo and D. T. Niane. I started the Melancon book on the way back from the bookstore, and it’s already removed the bad taste left in my mouth from this one.
Update. I wrote to Prof. Melancon to thank him for his superb book after I finished it, and of course I asked him about his name, and he replied that although “the South Louisiana way of saying it is indeed MeLAWso(n),” he himself pronounces it “the more proper French way… Mela(n)SO(N).”


  1. Now the Book Mill – that is a bookstore. It’s tough to compare “middle of nowhere” bookstores like the Mill to the great city stores like Elliott Bay and Powell’s, but BM must be on the list of the best in America.

  2. Interesting the Louisiana take on Melancon. Presumably an English/Creole mixture. In metropolitan French it would be MELL-an-son (c cedilla).

  3. marie-lucie says:

    “in metropolitan French it would be MELL-an-son”
    A French word with stress on the FIRST syllable?? and that syllable includes the single consonant following the first vowel?? An English speaker using the above transcription would not be understood to mean “Mélançon” since s/he would understress the remaining syllables, unlike a true French pronunciation which stresses them all (it is possible to stress the first syllable a little more, for emphasis, but without de-stressing the others). In addition, the vowel of the first syllable mé- is not the same as that of MELL, and the -l- is not the same either. Therefore, the transcription MELL-an-son (suggesting English melon-son) is not helping anybody.
    How to get from Mé-lan-çon to me-LAW-son: in some dialectal varieties of French (including the Canadian ones – and the Louisiana Acadians – Cajuns – came from Canada) there is an intonational pattern of a “dip” (the voice goes lower) on the penultimate syllable, which in this case includes the nasal vowel written -an-, which apart from being nasal is a long and low back vowel similar to the one that North Americans would produce on seeing the combination -AW-. The combination of intonation dip and low back vowel without a nasal consonant would strike English speakers as equivalent to their stressed -AW-.

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