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What’s in a name? Posted by on Jun 28, 2022 in Culture

When I first moved to France in the 1980’s I stood out for many reasons, among them the fact that my name is Tim Hildreth. When I lived in France, everyone (or so it seemed) had very “classically” French names like Pierre or Paul, Marie or Monique or Jean. Things have changed a lot in the intervening years!

Photo CC0 from www.pexels.com

Comment vous appelez-vous?

Up until 1993, parents in France where required to choose their children’s names from a list of approved names. In fact, “la législation française était très stricte sur la question. [Une] loi [datant] du 11 germinal an XI (1er avril 1803) obligeait les parents à choisir un prénom dans divers calendriers ou parmi les personnages de l’Histoire antique1the laws were quite strict on the question. [A] law [dating to] 11 germinal year XI (April 1, 1803) required parents to choose a first name from among certain calendars or from among historic people.

The change in law has resulted in a proliferation of different names (check out the post below for the most popular names from 2015!) though there are still limits. “Si un petit nom semble contraire à l’intérêt de l’enfant, l’officier d’état civil prévient le procureur de la République et un juge aux affaires familiales décide de son maintien ou de sa suppression. Régulièrement, des prénoms jugés contraires à l’intérêt de l’enfant sont ainsi refusés.”2If a name strikes the registrar of names as not in the child’s best interest, they can alert a federal magistrate and a family judge will decide if the name can stand or not. Regularly, names that are deemed not in the child’s interest are refused.

The video below highlights the top names pour les filles et pour les garçons3for girls and for boys from 2021. You can also see where different names are more common across l’Hexagone.

While we’re on the subject, here are some useful phrases and vocabulary related to names.

Le nom / the name

Le nom de famille / the surname or family name

Le prénomfirst or given name

Le nom de jeune fillemaiden name

Comment vous appelez-vous? (Or Comment t’appelles-tu?) / What is your name? (Lit.  How do you call yourself?)

Quel est votre (ton) nom?What is your name?

Quel est votre (ton) prénom?What is your first name?

Je m’appelle… / My name is … Or I am called … 4In American English it’s more common to use “my name is …” where Brits will often say “I’m called …”

Mon nom est…My name is … 

 

Top French Baby Names!

A Revolutionary Calendar

 

 

 

  • 1
    the laws were quite strict on the question. [A] law [dating to] 11 germinal year XI (April 1, 1803) required parents to choose a first name from among certain calendars or from among historic people.
  • 2
    If a name strikes the registrar of names as not in the child’s best interest, they can alert a federal magistrate and a family judge will decide if the name can stand or not. Regularly, names that are deemed not in the child’s interest are refused.
  • 3
    for girls and for boys
  • 4
    In American English it’s more common to use “my name is …” where Brits will often say “I’m called …”
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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Since my first trip to France at 16, I have been a passionate francophile. I love the language, food, music, art, people, and more that make France and la Francophonie in general such an amazing part of our global community. Having lived in France and studied the language and culture for over 35 years, it is my great pleasure to be able to share a little bit of my deep love with you through this blog.


Comments:

  1. Faby Gagne:

    Merci Tim. Très informatif.


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