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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Jena, Louisiana

Jena is a small town in Louisiana. It was named for Jena in Germany, the site of a famous victory by Napoleon in 1806. I'm a (very amateur) student of military history so I'm familiar with this battle [Battle of Jena-Auerstedt].

The American town is in the news because of allegations of racism at the local high school. The local prosecutor seems to have been motivated by less than honorable motives in charging six young black men with attempted murder in a schoolyard fight.

While watching coverage on television, I was struck by the modern name of the town. It's pronounced "Geena" in Louisiana. There's nothing wrong with this. They can call pronounce the name of the town however they want. But just for the record, the name of the German city, and the battle, is pronounced "yaene." You can hear it here: Jena.


  1. Well, true Louisianans are more like Canadians* than Americans. How they pronounce things is only a relatively trivial manifestation of the cultural differences.


    *(albeit, French Canadians)

  2. Maybe you can explain why Ontarians mispronounce the word "asphalt" as "ash-fault"? It always seemed very mysterious to me.

  3. Larry, thank you for your post. As a scientist living and working in Jena (the German one), it really grates to hear people call its Lousiana namesake "Jean-a". Last year for the bicentennial, the battle of 1806 was reenacted here with era replicas of uniforms and weapons, the streets strewn with people playing dead, the whole bit. It was a huge endeavor involving hundreds of participants, well organized as you would expect from Germans, and basically really fun for anyone interested in military history. However, it brings me to an important point related to the evolution debate. Much criticism has been heaped upon the peppered moth story because some of the moths were placed on tree trunks for illustrative purposes. Since, of course, I believe everything I read from the Discovery Institute, the reenactment of the 1806 battle here in Jena has me worried: does that mean that it never occurred???