The first name is a strong social marker, as observed What’s your name?the film by Jean-Michel Vennemani produced with the collaboration of Jérôme Fourquet, political pollster at Ifop and author of The French Archipelago – Birth of a multiple and divided nation.
Any good-looking baby is decked out with a first name at birth, a fundamental element of identity mixing collective, family and individual history with the singular story of the little being to whom his parents, consciously or not, lend a destiny. From 2,000 first names used annually at the end of the last war, we are now at 13,000 different ones each year!
Diversity and multiplicity
The documentary, What’s your name? – The France of first names diffused in the box Infrared by Marie Drucker on France 2, examines what is at stake behind this diversity and this multiplicity of first names by following more specifically the way of life and the choices of five families from different regions. In the game of the five main families, we find Russian-Bretons, Catholics from Yvelines, Muslims from La Courneuve, a popular family from Hauts-de-France and a globalized and bobois family.
Director and author Jean-Michel Vennemani (“Strip tease” on France 3) and Jérôme Fourquet, director of the “Opinion and business strategies” department of the French Institute of Public Opinion (Ifop), explain their intention: “Today France no longer has anything to do with this “one and indivisible” nation. As soon as we try to draw the new contours of our country, it is a multiple and divided society that appears. Much has been done and written on the French fractures or on the identity malaise that reigns over our country. Our ambition is to bring an original element to these analyzes through the study of first names (first names, editor’s note), which testify to the puzzle that France has become, a puzzle that must be understood in order to then try to collect its rooms. These multiple communities with flag-bearing first names have no choice but to react to each other, to make “Nation”“.
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If the analysis offered by the documentary is lively, revealing, and sometimes schematic, it often remains on the order of observation. It quickly takes us the urge to wish good luck to politicians seeking to unite on common values!
In 1900, one in five little girls was named Marie, compared to 0.3% of them today.
In What’s your name? while the Catholic family prays for France to once again become the kingdom of Jesus Christ and a reminder that it has its place in the world, the France 2 documentary notes that in 1900, one in five little girls was called Marieagainst 0.3% of them today, thus underlining the decline of the influence of a unifying religion for society. In the Muslim family, a sibling slips a “what are we here!”.
In the Yvelines tribe, the children are named Aymeric (Maison du Roi), Guilhem (Wise shield), Foucauld (Courageous people), Monfort (Fortified mountain) and Bosco (Petit Bois), in the single-parent one of La Courneuve, they are Chaïma (of great beauty), Mohammed (founder of Islam), Riad (blooming, serene) and Abdelkader (servant of the powerful). The cousins of the Catholic family made another choice, that of giving Jewish and Christian first names: Joseph, Augustin, Maximilian and Esther as if to reweave a historical and religious relationship. In the Russian-Breton family, we assert our regional identity by naming the youngest Marlonn (Merlin in Breton), a claimed marker since the young boy receives schooling in the vernacular. Since 1993, the law offers great freedom in the choice of first names, provided that it does not harm the child. The Roman calendar is no longer the reference and the patron saints have reason to turn in their graves before the fanciful spelling and the originality of the first names, as evidenced by the parish registers.
In Hauts-de-France, families are reinventing their filiation under Anglo-Saxon and television influence. In Courcelles-lès-Lens, Audrey chose to call her sons Leeroy with two “e”, in reference to the series NCIS and Byron, in reference to the English poet Lord Byron. The young Trynyty with her three “y” in reference to the film Matrix, already has in mind the first names of her future children, Willyam for a boy and Sylvy for a girl, just to take her mother’s first name in a personalized way. In other families the Kevin fashion would have been inspired by Kevin Costner (Dancing with the wolves), the forgotten young boy of Mom I missed the planeexplains the documentary, or even Kevin from the series beverly hillsas already indicated Jérôme Fourquet in his book The French Archipelago (Threshold). This way of distinguishing oneself can itself become a social marker.
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In the global bohemian bourgeois family, we blur the tracks a little, while paying homage to our ancestors. The mother, who grew up in Rio, chose for her daughter Lua (Moon) in reference to her native Portuguese language. Her husband was named Atlas, in reference to his great-great-grandfather, Paul Vidal-Lablache, founder of French human geography, and their passion for travel. Their son is named Léon (lion in Brazilian). The documentary notes a new trend of giving old and forgotten first names to your children, a way of standing out and cultivating a good sense of self-esteem. Some families choose to forge ties in a subtle way by choosing first names that are both French and North African, such as Inès, which can come from Greek, Arabic or Latin. Finally, all families aspire to give roots and wings to their children, whether they are television, religious, social or unique!
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The France of first names or how television becomes an identity repository!