Case in point - the French frigate L'Hermione has been visiting Annapolis and Baltimore over the past few days, and some local news anchors, bubbling with pride over the visit, have not done themselves very proud saying the name of the ship in the news on the news. Some did - hats off to Mary Bubala at Channel 13; she got it just right - but let's just say that she was almost alone in pronouncing it correctly.
It's "lair-me-OWHN," s'il vous plaît. Not HER-ma-mone, or Her-MY-ONIE. That's the pronunciation in English, as in Hermione Gingold, the saucy British actress, or Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter stories. The name comes from Greek mythology.
The boat afloat in Baltimore harbor is the 2014 replica of the one sailed by Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, Marquis de Lafayette (1757 – 1834), the French aristocrat and military officer who came to America to fight in our Revolutionary War. We just call him "Lafayette," because saying his full name would flip out too many local news anchors. He was one interesting cat. Born rich, he became an officer in the French forces at the age of 13, and came to America at 19, where he was commissioned a Major General and fought in the Battle of Brandywine, right up Rte 1 in Pennsylvania. He was wounded there, but survived, retreated with his men, and saw action in the Battle of Rhode Island, after which he returned to France to seek help for America in their just and noble cause of freedom in the New World.
He returned here in 1780 aboard the Hermione, one of five ships the French sent to help us out, along with 5,000 soldiers. In 1781, he was in Virginia, where his forces blocked the army of General Cornwallis until American and other French troops came in time to win the Battle of Yorktown, an important victory for the American side.
He returned to France after the American Revolution, just in time to be in the middle of the French Revolution as commander of the National Guard. And at his death in 1834, he was buried in Paris under soil from the area of the Battle of Bunker Hill in Massachusetts. For all he did for both his native France and for the nascent United States, Lafayette is regarded as "The Hero of the Two Worlds". It was at his grave that American Colonel Charles E. Stanton said the famous line "Lafayette, we are here!" as America repaid the French by having their backs in World War I.
So for all he did, let's thank him and say the name of his ship as it should be said! L'Hermione!