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6932: From bread and peace to bananas: Antoine responds to Orenstein (fwd)
From: Guy Antoine <GuyAntoine@windowsonhaiti.com>
Catherine Orenstein wrote:
"On another note, regarding the phrase "lape nan tet, lape nan vant" - i
regret not being more accurate, and would appreciate any enlightenment from
the linguists on this list. the phrase was explained to me as a pun on the
words bread and peace (by those wearing clothing that bore the slogan, as
well as by an aide to aristide). I presumed - mea culpa - that it played
on a spelling variation as well as the fact that the words sound alike. Are
there some words with spelling variations?"
Limiting myself on this note strictly to the "linguistic" issue (one can hardly
call it that!), I want to inform Catherine Orenstein that the word for "peace"
in Kreyòl is two-syllabic: "lapè". The word for bread is monosyllabic: "pen".
Furthermore, to the native ear, "pè" and "pen" are not at all pronounced the
same, though I certainly would forgive her if she hears differently. God
knows I have had enough problems in the States distinguishing between the
sounds "sheep" and "ship", or "sheet" and you know what. Of course my
English sounds processing difficulties are hard to understand by native
This inability to correctly process sounds that are otherwise obvious to
native speakers has at times constituted the basis of discrimination to
many, leading to the loss of employment opportunities and in the case of
the Dominican Republic in 1937, even to the loss of over 30,000 Haitian
lives. Knowing their neighbors' well-established difficulties with the
Spanish "r" and "j" sounds, Trujillo's thugs used the correct pronounciation
of the word "perejil" as the litmus test for determining the cane cutters'
nationality and quick eventuality of a savagely violent death, unatoned for
to this day.
Be assured, Miss Orenstein that we will be much more civil with you.
You also suggest some spelling variations, perhaps. This does not hold
water, either. Considering all the variations in spelling using the various
Haitian Creole orthographies, from "lapai" to "la pè" to "lapè" for PEACE,
and "pain" (?) to "pin" to "pen" for BREAD, there are hardly any
commonalities, other than the fact that both words start with the letter "p".
For those who are interested in these matters, and I think that every Haitian
and Haitianist ought to be, the 21 year old official HC standards as
promulgated under Secretary of Education Joseph Bernard, specify the
spellings of "lapè" (for peace) and "pen" (for bread). I am not a linguist,
but that is my complete understanding as a native speaker. If I am mistaken
on some obscure linguistic particularity, I would hope to be told without
giving cause to yet another interminable debate on this list.
So, Miss Orenstein, your linguistic presumption in my view was completely
wrong, and it would seem that some people pulled a fast one on you in that
regard. But there are two things you can do to remediate this matter:
1) learn to speak or improve your Kreyòl, to increase your personal
2) learn about its current standards of orthography. I facilitate this
matter on "Fowòm Ayisyen", http://windowsonhaiti.com/bbs/index.sht
(or to follow the submenus, once at Windows on Haiti, go to "Voices",
then to "Fowòm Ayisyen"). There you will find a useful document titled
"Otograf Ofisyel Lang Kreyòl". It is written in Kreyòl because it is
primarily intended for Haitians willing to learn and write Kreyòl according
to current standards. But it is quite simple and methodical, so I believe
that you could learn from it as well.
Finally, Miss Oreinstein, consider yourself lucky. I believe you have
been on this list long enough to remember the riot caused by one of
your colleagues when she translated Aristide's "nou bannann" to
"WE ARE ALL BANANAS". Those were the days!
Guy S. Antoine
Windows on Haiti