A number of Cajuns have nicknames prefixed with “Tee” “Ti,” “Tit,” “T,” and so forth — all pronounced tee. This prefix is derived from the French word petit, meaning “small” or “little.” It typically denotes a namesake/junior, or else the youngest child in a family.
In a blog post about Cajun French, writer Ramona DeFelice Long noted that “[o]n the bayou, a T-Rex would not be a dinosaur. T-Rex would be a boy named Rex who was named after his father named Rex.”
Linda Barth, author of The Distinctive Book of Redneck Baby Names, compared the prefix to the diminutive suffix -ie and gave the example of ‘Tit Carl as being “sort of the Cajun version” of Carlie.
Speaking of examples…Ti-Grace Atkinson (b. 1938) played a prominent role in the early radical feminist movement. She was born “Grace” in Baton Rouge, but has always gone by “Ti-Grace.” Here’s why:
My mother’s family was from Virginia. I was named for my Grandmother, whom I adored. My father’s family was from Pennsylvania. I kept the “Ti” which is Cajun, and I kept it because I knew I was going to live in the North and I did not want to forget or let anybody else forget that that was part of my heritage.
In the late ’60s and early ’70s, Ti-Grace was mentioned in articles about militant feminism in Life, Newsweek, the New York Times, Esquire, and elsewhere. Though her name never ended up on the SSA’s baby name list, I did find records for two non-Louisiana females born in the early ’70s and named Ti-Grace, thanks to her influence.
Her name came in particularly handy (from her perspective) when she ran away from home as a teenager:
They had hired detectives to find me, but because my first name is so difficult, the detectives kept getting lost. Nobody would ever put it down right, thank God.
Have you ever met someone with a Cajun T- (or Ti-, or Tee-, etc.) nickname?
- Barth, Linda. The Distinctive Book of Redneck Baby Names. Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel, 2012.
- Fahs, Breanne. “Ti-Grace Atkinson and the legacy of radical feminism.” Feminist Studies, vol. 37, no. 3, 2011, pp. 561-590.
- Ti-Grace Atkinson – Wikipedia