The other week on Twitter I came across an article via The Local, one of my go-to sources for French news in English. A couple in the north of France had been forbidden, by a court of law, to name their daughter Nutella. Yes, the chocolate spread that you cannot keep in the house because it's always gone within seconds and puts you at risk of diabetes or obesity (or both). Another couple, also from the north of France (remind me never to move there) tried to name their daughter "Fraise" (strawberry). They were also stopped, which gives me faith in the French legal system - they're doing something right. It is great that we have moved beyond the tradition of just naming our child/ren after saints/religious figures (no pressure kids) but have we gone too far by choosing fruit or towns/cities (I'm looking at you Apple Paltrow and Brooklyn Beckham)?
I had a look at the top ten baby names for girls in both France and the UK for 2014 and it was reassuring to not see anything too controversial on the list. Emma (France) and Sophia (UK) were the number ones: I like both those names very much. My own name made the top ten in France - apparently it's retro and therefore making a comeback - yet it didn't even make the top 100 in the UK list. Growing up, I didn't really like my name because I thought it was boring: my mum's other choice was Jessica, which I wanted badly at the time due to Sweet Valley High (although in reality I was more of an Elizabeth). Now however, I really like it - I'm Lou or LouLou with my friends and Louise at work where the tone is more professional.
Recently over dinner with some of my expat friends, they voiced mild distress at hearing their name sound totally different when pronounced in French. That's something I don't have to deal with as my name works well in both French and English. It's something I think about though as the subject of children's names comes up with JB every now and again. We obviously have to find a compromise between our French and British identities: I'm not going to be happy with traditional French names such as Amaury or Raphaelle for example and JB would shut me down if I started talking about Roderick or Daisy. Whatever we settle on, JB will naturally use the French pronunciation and I, the English one. Will this mean future therapy for our child/ren, thanks to mum and dad calling them different versions of their name and talking to them in two languages? No, I'm counting on the children just taking it in their stride.
Pseudonyms are an interesting concept. Some sought anonymity (Charles Dickens/Boz) whilst others used it to hide their gender (George Eliot/Mary Anne Evans, George Sand/Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin) as a way to bypass sexism and get their writing published. Famous people have cast off their birth names whilst climbing the glittery ladder of celebrity (Helen Mirren is actually Ilyena Lydia Vasilievna Mironov and Lana del Ray is Elizabeth Woolridge Grant when she's pottering around in her pyjamas). The title of this post is part of a quote from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet "..."What's in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet." Juliet is basically stating that she loves Romeo for the person that he is, and not for his name (Montague) which makes him a rival to her family (Capulet) and therefore prevents them from being together.
Ultimately the baby name, and the significance behind the choice, is down to the mother and father. It's not for parents or children to decide for you (thanks for that Flora). The internet is on hand with various advice that you can take or leave as you wish. But do feel free to get involved and put your foot down if you hear me throwing out tartiflette or schokobon - both perfectly delicious food options but highly inappropriate for a child.