Yes, it's Louis -- not Lewis

Yes, it's Louis -- not Lewis
Robert Louis Stevenson

I was delighted to hear the radio stories this morning about the names of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s baby — Prince Louis Arthur Charles.

I was happy because of the names’ historical connections, but also because I could hear the first name first. Here in the former colonies, we’re more likely to spell this pronunciation “Louie,” but it is properly spelled in the French form, Louis.

Finding (other) printed versions of the story was eventful enough — what a news day! But, word maven that I am, I wanted to track how fellow writers were handling the explanation. Most seemed to be giving what my long-ago broadcast-writing colleagues called “a pronouncer,” a little “(pronounced LOO-ie)” after the name. But some just assumed Louis would explain itself.

Why go on so much about the pronuciation, which no doubt we’ll hear a lot when the lad gets a new aunt in a few weeks (i.e., at the royal wedding)?

Because there’s a spelling that will do nicely for the way Americans tend to want to pronounce Louis, and that’s Lewis. It doesn’t show very often in Chicago, but pronunciations matter. (Or, as I put it in this previous post, diction is worth defending, too.)

Oddly enough, Louis is originally French, while Lewis is Scottish.

I’m hoping Prince Louis will hear tales from the work of another Louis, pictured — Robert Louis Stevenson, who was known as Louis in his family according to a biography on my shelf. Royal or not, every child should have the joy of hearing Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses.”

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Louis Arthur Charles? Who’s going to be boasting at the water cooler of the Writers’ Room in my imagination? And when will I manage to overhear the “meeting” there? Don’t miss it — subscribe!

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  • fb_avatar

    Hi Margaret,

    As usual I enjoyed your blog on Louis v. Lewis v. Louie. I always say Louis whether its Louis or Lewis. Louie sounds like a B character from some 1940s film noir feature. Having said that, Rick said to Louis, in Casablanca, "(Louie), I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." And, can one ever really argue with Humphrey Bogart? Especially, after his self sacrifice?

    On another note, should it be "a" biography on your shelf. Or, should it be "the" biography on your shelf. How many Robert Louis Stevenson biographies do you have anyway?

  • In reply to Larry Adams:

    Hi, Larry, and thanks. Yes, Louie-with-an-e reads like he's much older than the new prince. I'm surprised that we haven't seen more "beautiful friendship" headlines yet, but it's early!

    Also, that's a good catch about the biography. I used "a" because it is one of many biographies -- but I have only one biography of Louis Stevenson. Again, it's early!

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