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January 18, 2006

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More details on "dit" names used by soldiers

In France, when a young man enrolled he was assigned a "dit" name. At times he may have been able to choose his "dit" name, but one rule was always followed. In any regiment each "dit" name must be unique at any given time.

Upon returning to his village after completing his military service, the soldier generally dropped the use of his "dit" name. However, in the French colonies (Acadia and Quebec) the opposite was true. This was because the soldiers were generally billetted with a family in a village where they became known by their military names. It was then only natural for those soldiers who chose to remain in the colony after their service term was ended to retain the name by which everyone knew them.

As a descendent of Jean Garceau dit Tranchemontagne, I of course asked what the translation of tranchemontagne was. I found that folks who learned French in school or not as their first language gave me the answer that you propose, Mountain Slice however in asking older generation French speakers (my grandfather one of them) the translation to them is "hillbilly".

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