Saturday, May 3, 2008

Arkansas History Lesson and Pronunciation Rant!

This is my rant for May! We have a county in Arkansas named "Cleburne" after Confederate Major General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne. He is often referred to as the "Stonewall Jackson of the West." After serving in the British Army, he emigrated from Ireland to America and settled in Arkansas in the Helena area where is he was a druggist and a highly successful property attorney. He joined the Confederacy in early 1861 and led Confederate troops in some of the bloodiest battles of the War Between the States including the Kentucky Campaign, Richmond, Perryville, Shiloh, the seige of Corinth, and at Chickamauga. He was wounded twice before being killed at the battle of Franklin on November 20, 1864.

I am not a Civil War buff, in fact, I avoid reading books or watching movies about that war because I think it is probably the most tragic war this country has ever been involved in. However, I have great grandfathers on both sides of my family who fought for the south in this war, including one who died as a prisoner of war and I cannot deny that it is part of my heritage.

However you feel about this war, General Cleburne was a good soldier, a good Arkansan, and he deserves to have his name pronounced correctly! When I was growing up in Arkansas everyone "knew" that the correct way to pronounce Cleburne County was "clay-burn." Most of us didn't know why that pronunciation was correct, or who the county was named for but we all said it correctly. Now, no matter what TV news I watch, I get "klee-burn" over and over.

General Cleburne was Irish. In Gaelic the unaccented "e" is pronounced like "a" in "clay." The accented "e" is pronounced like the "e" in "klee."

As a genealogist, I suspect that if you went back in the family tree of some of our Clayborne and Claiborne families, you would find an Irishman named Cleburn. The Federal Census is notorious for getting surnames wrong.

I have just vented my frustration on the local ABC station with an email explaining all the above. I doubt it will change anything, but at least I have had my say.

I will add this disclaimer. I do not and have never lived in Cleburne County, but I bet somewhere in that lovely county there are people my age who feel the same way I do.