R L. Daniels, traveled through Louisiana in the late 1870s and wrote about the Acadians of Louisiana for Scribner's magazine.
Here is part of what he wrote:
"Although the term 'Acadian' is strictly appropriate only to the descendants of the Canadians and exiles from Acadie, who were among the early permanent settlers of Louisiana, it may frequently be heard applied to all the humbler classes of French origin throughout the state. Among themselves, they are 'Creole Francais'; and Acadian – or rather its corruption 'Cajun,' as they pronounce it – [which]is regarded as implying contempt.
"Indeed, the educated classes habitually designate those whom they regard as their social inferiors by the objectionable epithet. With the lower orders it is bandied from one to another in the same spirit; and none are so humble as not to feel the implied insult. If the situation is favorable, a fist fight is the result, the contest being spiced with such volleys of oaths as, were they translatable, would excite the envy of the most accomplished blasphemer of a western mining town."
But, Daniels, found, being called Cajun wasn't the worst thing that could happen to a person. There was a name even more contemptible.
"The language here is French, corrupted more or less into a patois," Daniels continued. "This is particularly the case in settlements remote from the public highways of commerce. Take, for instance, Prairie Gros Chevreuil on the upper Teche – that is, the unnavigable portion. A ride of some fifteen miles from the old town of Opelousas brings you to the farms extending along the banks of that quiet stream and stretching back from it over 'the prairies of fair Opelousas.'
"Embowered in groves of china trees you will find comfortable homes, which are always built in the same plain cottage style, weatherboarded without and plastered within, and with the inevitable galerie or porch in front. They vary in nothing but size.
"Here there are no deserted farms, no lands thrown out for lack of labor, as in many parts of the South since the [Civil] war. Here, secluded from the great, busy world, not separated by natural barriers of mountains or seas, but held aloof by their own inertness, the French tongue has with most of the inhabitants generated into a dialect that a Parisian would be puzzled to understand. In their opinion, however, they speak the genuine French. Why should they not indeed? Are they not French?
"To be sure, they live in the Union, but as for being Americans – parbleu! – that is quite another thing. And no one seeing them in their own homes will feel disposed to contradict them. Of Americans as a class, they have not the highest opinion. Southerners as well as Northerners are 'Yankees,' unless regarded with exceptional favor. If one of their own people is shrewd or tricky in business transactions, he is unceremoniously designated a 'Yankee.'"
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at email@example.com or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.