It’s confusing, sure, but it’s something everyone in this city needs to know…LaFayette is spelled with a capital “F.”
It’s an alarmingly common mistake people make, spelling LaFayette with a lower case “f,” and it’s not just those folks from out of town that do it. One out of four adults surveyed in LaFayette misspelled the city they live in. It’s even more common in children and youth, as evident by the dozens of misspellings The LaFayette Sun sees when letters to Santa are submitted. Parents and teachers made the mistake as well.
Here at The Sun, it is one of the most common mistakes we see when copy is submitted. Nearly every legal publication we receive has LaFayette spelled with a lower case “f.” And did you know that even though the city name is spelled correctly on the cover, you would be hard-pressed to find the correct spelling in the pages of the phone book, go ahead and check for yourself.
Community leaders often make the mistake, including elected officials, there are even businesses in the city with the name misspelled on signs.
Thankfully, LaFayette Mayor Barry Moody got the spelling correct when surveyed, as did every employee in City Hall. City Clerk Louis Davidson said that he sees the city name misspelled far too often and called it one of his “biggest pet peeves.”
To be fair, historically and grammatically, the spelling of LaFayette doesn’t make sense. But interestingly enough, it was this newspaper (or more accurately its predecessor) and one of our notable editors that may have caused this grammatical confusion.
LaFayette was named after the French general Marquis de Lafayette, a Revolutionary War hero. After the war, the general famously traveled to each of the 24 states at the time. There is no record of him ever coming through Chambers County, but he did stop in what is now LaGrange (which is named after Lafayette’s summer estate) and there is a square and statue dedicated to him there. Because of his contribution to American history, dozens of cities and counties across the country took a name to honor him, using the names LaGrange, Fayette and of course Lafayette. According to research done by Sun contributor Paul Richardson, when Chambers County was formed in 1832, the temporary courthouse or seat of government was established in a town called Chambersville, just north of LaFayette. When the permanent courthouse was established in its current location in 1833, the settlement was called Fayetteville. The name was eventually changed to Lafayette, spelled the way the general spelled his name. According to Richardson’s research, in 1844, The East Alabamian editor Johnson Jones Hooper created a fictional character named Captain Simon Suggs. The backwoods southerner could not pronounce Lafayette correctly, so he said “La Fait.” It apparently caught on and the capital “F” was added to the city’s name.
There are more than a dozen cities and counties across the country named Lafayette and only four spell the name with a capital “F,” Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and New York.
It doesn’t make much sense, and maybe that’s why people have such a hard time with the spelling. But just because it doesn’t make sense, doesn’t mean it’s not right.
LaFayette is spelled with a capital “F” and that’s just the way it is. It’s time we educate ourselves about the city we live in. It’s a responsibility that falls on everyone, parents, teachers, students, government officials and everyone who calls LaFayette their home.
So next time you see someone spell LaFayette with a lower case “f,” correct them, because they are disrespecting this city.