Deon or d’Eon?
Which and why?
My surname is one of just a few you will find in the town of Pubnico, Nova Scotia. This is a town whose background has been, up until recently, almost exclusively Acadian. Other prominent family names you’ll find in the area are D’Entrement, Amirault, Nickerson and Doucette. The D’Entrements first settled the area way back in 1651. My father, Roderick Joseph, was the eldest son to Joseph D’Eon and Eveline D’Entrement.
To the best of my understanding, the spelling of surnames (and other words, for that matter) was largely in a state of flux in the 17th century in both England and France, so to find several variant spellings of a name or word was not unusual. Thus d’Eon, D’Eon, and even D’eon could be, and can still be, found.
At some point in my father’s young life—I believe it was when he first enlisted in the Navy—he decided he had had enough with people misspelling and mispronouncing his name. Where does that apostrophe go? And how do you say your name again? So he decided to simplify it to “Deon”, no apostrophe, no silent letters, nothing could go wrong.
Of course, the irony is that, today, when I tell my name to strangers, they first think, oh that must be “Dion”, right? No? Well, then “Dionne” like the quintuplets?
Not exactly what my dad had in mind, I think…
In any case, whether he meant to or not, my father’s dropping of the apostrophe, read as a not so subtle snub of his Acadian ties. Again the Canadian Navy of World War II was likely at fault. Unquestionably there was a prejudice against recruits with a French background at this time. So my father probably had good reason not to advertise his Acadian origins.
I grew up in a very different world. Today the Acadian flag flies proudly throughout settlements all over the Maritime provinces of Canada and no one seems especially anxious to dispose of their apostrophes.
So, when I began publishing material, whether as the author of plays or short stories, magazine articles etc., I decided to give myself a pen-name--but not really a pen name--because I simply fell back to the family’s traditional spelling. And, after all, what is cooler than having an apostrophe in your name?
Interestingly, I just came across some information (thanks to a distant D’Eon relative still living in Pubnico) that adds yet a new twist to the story, and which explains that the original family surname was Duon (with no apostrophe). But an enterprising (if misguided) sea captain of 19th century Pubnico, decided to add one on, and transform one of the vowels, hence, d’Eon.
And so, I’m afraid, it’s likely to remain! (unless my own children decide to become surname mavericks and revert to the more ancient “Duon”.)
For a more complete explanation to this convoluted story, check this: http://www.geocities.com/teddeon509/duondeon.html