Dare to Get Diacritical

Published:March 24, 2008 by Brendan Wolfe

You have to pay attention to the details. Case in point: a note from contributor Alexander Leidholdt came attached to his entry on Louis Isaac Jaffé. You’ll recall that in 1929 Jaffé became the first Virginian to win the Pulitzer Prize for his series of anti-lynching editorials in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot. According to our entry, “Jaffé was born to Philip and Lotta Jaffe, orthodox Jewish immigrants from Lithuania, apparently in Detroit, Michigan.”

I love the apparently in that sentence. It suggests a more than passing acquaintance with the nitty-gritty of historical epistemology. There’s what you know, what you don’t know, and what you don’t know you know, which—who knows?—you might actually know.

Still . . . The point is, there’s not much you can get past our best contributors, as we learned from Dr. Leidholdt’s note on the Jaffé entry: “Please attend closely to the accent for Jaffé. (He used it, but his family didn’t.)” What had looked like a typo now became an interesting point of fact. After all, why did Jaffé append the diacritical mark?

We briefly considered not making the change lest readers think it was a mistake. But then we thought better: Why else have an encyclopedia if not to insure the correct facts?

UPDATE: Alexander Leidholdt responds.


1 Comment on “Dare to Get Diacritical”

  1. Tom Grubisich

    I’m glad you’re going with the diacritical in “Jaffé.” Everyone is entitled to use their name of choice (e.g., “William Faulkner”). I hope Mr. Leidholdt, if he knows, will tell why Jaffé added the mark.

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