Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Jean Lacoste and Anne Courcelle

Jean Lacoste and his wife, Anne Courcelle, are entombed at St. Louis Cemetery #1 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The vault inscription is typical of French inscriptions found in this historic cemetery.  For the most part, it can be translated directly into English without much trouble.  The phrase "Ici Repose" is literally "Here Lies".  The only major difference between the French original and English translation is the use of the definite article before the date in French.  For example, we find "le 2 Juin 1785",  not just "2 Juin 1785". The abbreviated style is also very similar to that of English inscriptions described in an earlier post (here).

Past participles in French
This abbreviated style is achieved by using a "past participle".  In English this form is usually formed by adding -ed. In many cases it is exactly the same as the past tense (died vs. died).  However, in other cases it is distinct from the past tense, like born vs. bore, been vs. was/were, sung vs. sang, etc. In French you can often identify the past participle by the ending -é, although like English there are many exceptions.  In place of born we find and in place of  died, décédé.  Another wrinkle is the fact that the past participle in French changes depending on whether it describes a man or a woman.  The feminine form of the past participle is created by adding -e.  Thus, for Anne Courcelle we have née and décédée, the feminine forms.  

This pattern for inscriptions can be extended to other languages, especially languages closely related to French such as Italian and Spanish.  In an Italian inscription in the same cemetery (here),  we find the same basic style using participles.  Like French, the Italian past participles also have special masculine and feminine forms, nato and nata (feminine) "born" and morto and morta (feminine) "died".

Ici Repose
né á Bordeaux le 2 Juin 1785
décédé le 10 Aout 1850.
son épouse
née le 21 Juin 1778.
décédée le  10 Juillet 1857.

Here Lies
born in Bourdeaux June 2, 1785
died August 10, 1850
his wife
born June 21, 1778
died July 10, 1857

1 comment:

  1. Amazingly clear and easily read for its age.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)